How hot is too hot for American Flyer?

I'm new to AF and more accustomed to solid state engines which run relatively cooler. I only run AF around the Christmas Tree on a small loop of traditional track. One thing I'm a little nervous about is burning out armatures. I guess re-wrapping them wouldn't be impossible according to Thomas B. Barker's guide, but I'd like to avoid going there! I favor the vintage diecast (heavier) livery and cast steamers running at slow speed since the loop is small. After letting them run an hour or so they are fairly hot, particularly the reverse unit lever. I'm thinking the armatures will run hotter at slow speed due to the strain? Is the heat factor typical for AF? I do a complete break down and servicing to the engines before running them each Christmas which includes cleaning the commutators and lubing. Are there any indications the armatures are overheated such as visible smoke or smell?

Also, the #740 hand car runs real hot despite the bushings being in very good condition and the brushes being centered (I actually purchased it as NOS). I don't let it run more than 20 minutes or so due to the high heat. Is this normal for the hand car? These trains must have been somewhat sturdy as they were run by youngsters back in the day!


Original Post

The 740 is not the best engineered unit. The best you can do is keep it clean and well lubricated. I find that using a power supply with a non sinusoidal output such as the MRC Dual Power O27 helps. The pulse like nature of the output gets the unit running at a lower voltage which slightly reduces the heat build up.

From your description and the other post is sounds like you are operating a SIT steam engine with the reverse unit lever protruding out the top of the engine casting. If it is hot it sounds like the engine needs cleaned but you have already done that. It is possible the brushes could be worn and the springs weak. My diecast steam engines can run for an hour without becoming more than warm. Finally it is possible that running the engines slightly faster will reduce the heat generated in the motor windings.


After 33 years of running Gilbert AF Atlantic, Pacific and occasional Hudson Locos on the Capitol Holidays Layout during the Christmas in the Oregon State Capitol in Salem and train shows around the Northwest, we have never burned out a Gilbert armature.  Originally we depended on the Capitol Guides to turn it off for about 10 minutes every 20 minutes or so, but they were not always able to do so with there other duties.  

After five or six years, we installed a push button for kids to start the engine and it would take one trip around, then stop until the button was pushed again.  Good for when no one was around, but the kids still can keep the train going until the parents drag them away.

The only heat damage we ever had was melted plastic pilot truck and trailing truck wheels when a couple of derailments left a short open on the track.

The handcars are another issue altogether.  They use a very small armature which can get overheated and burn out as well as melt the body after constant running.  For years, some of my collection was on static display at what was then known as The Gilbert House Children's Museum.  Lionel had donated some of their Flyer PA locos for the operating layout.

One day when the Lionel engines were being balky, a staff member pulled my AF handcar of the shelf to run around the layout.  I don't know how long it ran, but I was able to salvage the lanterns and the two people.



Keizer, OR

I appreciate your input guys. With the SIT Hudson, after 45 minutes the shell is warm but the reverse lever (in shell) is much warmer. My springs are in fair shape, the brushes have all been replaced. Seems like the spring length compresses in time. Maybe I need to stretch them a bit. Is there such thing as having too much pressure on brushes? Is too much better than too little? I have a small Lionel tranx that has a square wave output. Not much power. It’s the one they include in RTR sets. I’ll give it a try.

Shame about the hand cars. I even disconnected the linkage to Mike and Ike thinking that might help. Guess it will be a shelf queen.

Wow Alan, I take it the shell deformed and the armature burned.



You may find the fingers to drum contact is light and causing extra current to go through them, in worst case scenario the heat can distort the drum and tracking on it.

It may be worth dismantling the reverse unit and cleaning the drum and the ends of the fingers. They fingers may also need to be adjusted to put some extra tension on them by setting them to about 40 degrees and then replacing back again. Just be careful as to how you remove them from the tabs that hold them in place and putting them back on again.

it could also be something nice and simple like heat generated from the coil that is energised going into the lever.

I have a pacific and atlantic chassis on my bench that I use to test smoke units,  some times I run them for over 30 minutes at a time.  The fields will get a little warm but nut hot.  Mine pull 1.5 amps at 12-14volts, have you tested with an amp meter???   They will tell you a lot ...


"Buy another round of track for the boys"

Is there a reasonably encased amp meter I can mount with my transformer avaiable anywhere? I can check the web, but unsure of which are of decent quality.

I only run vintage engines at Christmas time and only for a few years now. Seems like each season I need to spend a considerable amount of time tinkering with them, which I guess is part of the fun. I think most of the problems are more than likely associated with the fingers.

All the engines have the four cycle reverse units. Seems like no two of the engines are wired the same so I’m a little confused about polarity. For instance, I’m guessing polarity doesn’t matter with hot and common to the bulb socket or  order in which leads connect tender to engine (2 wire type)?

Also confused why some of the old wires won’t take soldier (seems to repell) And some of the old soldier requires a lot of heat and duration to melt. I’m using a Weller 2 heat gun.

Sorry for the all the questions, you can see I’m electronically compromised!


Regarding the handcars - Steve Blackburn at SnS trains will convert the handcar to a DC can motor - it requires some machining, so you have to send him the handcar.  And, unlike some other can conversions, you can't restore it to the original, poorly performing AC open frame motor.  here's a link:

There may be others offering the same/similar service...  I haven't done this yet for my handcar, but its on my list...

- Rich

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