Skip to main content

I'm having a problem with my Lionel #394 Rotary Beacon. This is the heat driven version. Mine will not operate at 14 volts. It will not rotate. I have tried numerous adjustments and to no avail. The only way it will work is if I turn the voltage up to 20 volts, and needless to say I burn out the dimple bulb quickly since it is rated for 14 volts. I have been through my fair share of bulbs and beacons trying to solve this issue, I even made sure there was no draft affecting it's operation. Anyone have any solutions other than replacing it with a noisy #494?

Original Post

One trick you can try is to shut all the vents on top of the beacon housing except for one or two on each end above the lenses.  That helps to better concentrate the heat flow out.  I remember reading about that trick in some back issue of CTT or OGR; can't remember which.

I've also heard that some reproduction beacons don't work as well as originals do; I believe Dennis Walron from Just Trains mentioned this a while back.

Last edited by John Korling

Just wanted to pass along my experience. I tried a 394 beacon and could not get it to rotate. I then tried a 494 beacon but did not like the noise. So back to the 394. I read somewhere ( on this forum, I think) how someone used an aquarium air pump and hose to direct a flow of air at the rotating lens. I mounted a Radio Shack mini cooling fan right behind the beacon, but the airflow seemed too spread out to have any effect. So I put an inverted cone (a cone from a craft store used to make "snow cones") over the fan with a flexible straw sticking up. I directed the straw to blow on the rotating lens. By just tweaking the placement of the straw, I can make the lens rotate at the speed I prefer. And the only noise is a soft noise from the blowing air. BTW: I power the beacon from my accessory circuit which is set at 12 volts. A little spray paint and no one will notice anything. Anyway, it worked for me.

I don't know about the new bulbs, but I originally tried 18 volts, hoping to generate more heat. The light was way too bright and still didn't turn the lens. I'm using the airflow to turn the lens instead of trying to generate heat from the bulb. One other thing I didn't mention: The Radio Shack fan runs off of 12vDC. So in order to run it from my layout accessory circuit I had to use a converter (12vAC to 12vDC).

I had the same problem with the rotary beacons working right until I read someplace about the aquarium air pumps. I have 3 train boards and each one has a rotary beacon. 1 Lionel, 1 Marx and 1 Flyer and I have used the pump trick on all 3 and it works great. You can pick up a dual port aquarium air pump on ebay for $ 10.00 which includes shipping. It includes the transparent tubing you'll need. I ran the tubing up the back side of the beacon (so you don't see it) and secured it with small zip tie wraps. You'll have to tweak the location a little but once you get it set you won't have to mess with it again.

I have one and it works great.   You have to play with the vents as mentioned earlier.   Open most of them slightly, open one on each side just a little.   Don't open them to much or the heat with not be enough to activate the beacon.   Don't over play the vents.   If they are open too much it will not work.   Keep the tower away from drafts

This has always been a problem accessory. 1st is try to find a original beacon top, there are plenty on Ebay. They work the best. Next is get a modern replacement top from me or Train Tender. The newest repo's. are made of lighter aluminum than older repops and work better. The current bulbs available with a dimple don't get as hot as the old GE 461 bulbs. They are rated at 14 volts, but to get enough heat they will need to operate at 16 volts. Finally where you live makes a difference. They work at sea level better than at 5000 feet. (like Denver).

Oh, and PS, the 494 beacon should make little if any noise at all. Try sprinkling a very small amount of powered graphite on the rubber driving washer.

Last edited by Chuck Sartor

I tried all fixes. None of them work reliably. There is a school of thought that running trains vibrate the 394 head and help it rotate. Didn't work for me either. I like the 394 because it doesn't have drive feet to wear out on the vibrator motor. I took a small 12 volt DC fan from an old computer. The fan looks like a small box and measures about an inch and a half square and half inch thick. I hung the fan on the handrails on a Marx light tower about 2 feet away from my 394 and angled it so the air flow spins the 394 head in one direction. The 394 is also elevated about 4 inches higher than the light tower. I powered the fan and the 394 tower off a separate DC wall power pack I had laying around. Works great! I have the 394 spinning anytime I enter the room without having to turn on the layout power. The noise from the tiny fan is about equal to that of a 494 vibrator motor. Later today I will post a photo or two of the set up.

I'll second BigO's technique. Those DC computer fans can be even smaller. I used a smaller one and attached it right to the base structure of a K-Line/Marx type on the far side, not as easily seen. Works like a charm.

I've also taken a very small DC motor, and put a piece of plastic (placed slightly off center) on to the armature of the motor. I attached it to the underside of the upper base of the tower using self-adhesive tape. The vibration makes the beacon top spin at a slower pace than does the fan.

But like BigO illustrated, the distance of the fan from the tower, will undoubtedly affect the speed of the rotation.

By the way Gandydancer, good to still see you around on the forum. Your 027 reefer cars are still an inspiration to me and I have one your posts on that bookmarked. That was a great project idea.

I've got some set aside on the project list, but am finishing up an 027 Alco FA repainted to the experimental Century Green NYC paint scheme. I like that paint scheme, however temporary it was on the NYC. When K-Line did the scale E-8, I was hoping they'd do the Alco FA in that scheme. Ah, sometimes you just gotta do it yourself!

And an 027-ized Lionel U-Boat shell, cut and chopped down to fit a K-Line MP-15 frame. The first Conrail one came out so well, this is my second one of this project... only in NS this time. I've always wished Lionel had made a modern scaled down 027 equivalent to the 1950's Alco FA ... they didn't. SO I DID!

The way the "fan blades" are stamped out, is it possible to smooth the blade edges with needle files to improve the air flow? Can the "bearing surfaces" be cleaned or improved? Could a clear plastic cylindrical liner be inserted into the beacon head to help duct the airflow better?

A friend had a 394 beacon and it never turned reliably. He joked about it, said he blew on it occasionally to get it going. I bought a 394 tower missing the beacon part and turned it into a water tower, because the replacement beacons are expensive and problematic.

Last edited by Ace

I am with LV 601 above ... Yea you can play with it over and over and over, but the fix is Air and end of problem. Aquarium air pump is a great solution, and in expensive. I have an air compressor I use for various thing, car tires and such, so I taped into for the air source. I used 1/8 outside diameter clear tubing, it is soft and flexible, drilled an hole in the bottom of the beacon  tower in the corner I wanted to run it up to the top, tacked it several times to the corner strut  with a dab of glue on a tooth pic held it in place with a stick. There are slots below the bulb socket, the heat from the bulb pulls air through them to turn the beacon, I was able to squeeze the 1/8 in OD tubing through one of the slots just enough for the slot to hold it. I used a pressure regulator to reduce the pressure to 20 psi, then a brass needle value to set the air flow to the speed I wanted the beacon to turn. I had all of that stuff because I worked in the pneumatic controls industry. I like LV601's aquarium pump solution... simple and low cost .... don't know if he used an aquarium needle valve to adjust the speed but once you get the tubing just a tad through the slot a valve will adjust the speed. No noise, it just works great ... Every time I look at it I just smile, and think now that was a well worth while little project ... no more fiddling with thing over and over to get it to work.

Hope this helps,

Rick B

brianel_k-lineguy posted:

I'll second BigO's technique. Those DC computer fans can be even smaller. I used a smaller one and attached it right to the base structure of a K-Line/Marx type on the far side, not as easily seen. Works like a charm.

I've also taken a very small DC motor, and put a piece of plastic (placed slightly off center) on to the armature of the motor. I attached it to the underside of the upper base of the tower using self-adhesive tape. The vibration makes the beacon top spin at a slower pace than does the fan.

But like BigO illustrated, the distance of the fan from the tower, will undoubtedly affect the speed of the rotation.

By the way Gandydancer, good to still see you around on the forum. Your 027 reefer cars are still an inspiration to me and I have one your posts on that bookmarked. That was a great project idea.

I've got some set aside on the project list, but am finishing up an 027 Alco FA repainted to the experimental Century Green NYC paint scheme. I like that paint scheme, however temporary it was on the NYC. When K-Line did the scale E-8, I was hoping they'd do the Alco FA in that scheme. Ah, sometimes you just gotta do it yourself!

And an 027-ized Lionel U-Boat shell, cut and chopped down to fit a K-Line MP-15 frame. The first Conrail one came out so well, this is my second one of this project... only in NS this time. I've always wished Lionel had made a modern scaled down 027 equivalent to the 1950's Alco FA ... they didn't. SO I DID!

Any chance you could post the links you bookmarked?

brianel_k-lineguy posted:

I'll second BigO's technique. Those DC computer fans can be even smaller. I used a smaller one and attached it right to the base structure of a K-Line/Marx type on the far side, not as easily seen. Works like a charm.

I've also taken a very small DC motor, and put a piece of plastic (placed slightly off center) on to the armature of the motor. I attached it to the underside of the upper base of the tower using self-adhesive tape. The vibration makes the beacon top spin at a slower pace than does the fan.

But like BigO illustrated, the distance of the fan from the tower, will undoubtedly affect the speed of the rotation.

By the way Gandydancer, good to still see you around on the forum. Your 027 reefer cars are still an inspiration to me and I have one your posts on that bookmarked. That was a great project idea.

I've got some set aside on the project list, but am finishing up an 027 Alco FA repainted to the experimental Century Green NYC paint scheme. I like that paint scheme, however temporary it was on the NYC. When K-Line did the scale E-8, I was hoping they'd do the Alco FA in that scheme. Ah, sometimes you just gotta do it yourself!

And an 027-ized Lionel U-Boat shell, cut and chopped down to fit a K-Line MP-15 frame. The first Conrail one came out so well, this is my second one of this project... only in NS this time. I've always wished Lionel had made a modern scaled down 027 equivalent to the 1950's Alco FA ... they didn't. SO I DID!

Thank you, appreciate your ideas and comments

Just aquired a 394 aluminum original  for cheap and came across this thread of comments. First of all I had to buy replacement head and bulb which installed today. Been running at 18 volts with no problems yet, approximately 30 minutes. I don't like the cheap head because the color of the Fresnel lens isnt  right compared to original but what I really question is the bulb itself. It just seems to me that the dimple on the bulb is too big to accept the delicate needle point of the housing correctly and would have problems getting centered and going. Figured I'd ask the post war guru guys about this but am refusing to use a fan for something that I feel will work?

John

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add Reply

Post
OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
330-757-3020

www.ogaugerr.com
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×
×