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Gentlemen, I have recently acquired one of these beasts, and it's giving me a bit of a problem. It was new in the box.

It's not a terribly smooth runner but I don't expect too much out of what is basically a glorified 736, however it slows drastically around curves, sometimes outright stopping. This is with only the tender behind it.

I already took it apart and checked for the dreaded motor bearing problem, and the motor is definitely NOT the problem. For one, the armature has no side to side slop and very little front to back - the armature doesn't contact the rear casting nor does it touch the brushplate. 

The issue is CLEARLY in the chassis, as when rolling the motorless chassis down the track, the force required to push it is somewhat uneven, varying as the wheels turn. Just like when it's under power, rolling the chassis into a turn practically causes a dead stop. 

-The rods do not seem to be causing the problem. There's nothing bent nor clamped down tight. 

-The driving wheels appear to all be in quarter.

-The rear driving axle has very little (almost imperceptible) side play, while the front three axles all move side to side a small amount.

-Sometimes spinning the rear wheels (locomotive fully assembled) by hand they will hit a spot where they will stop, if I reverse direction they will open up and then I can resume spinning them.

Any of you repair guys have any suggestions?

ETA: I have also lubed the locomotive.

Last edited by Frisco Chris 1522
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My Wabash 4-6-2 #672 was like that when I ran it for the first few times since 1986 or so.   It had only been tested to make sure it ran before I got it this year.   Every night I ran it, it got better.   And took less throttle.  Oiled it once a week for 4 weeks.    Now it even takes less throttle.    Just crank up the voltage and make sure it is oiled!  Hope that works for you! 

 Edit.   Mine would stop in 0-36 curves also.    Now it just glides on through! 


Last edited by carsntrains

Check the back issues of OGR.   There is an excellent article on how to fix this engine and the DLW.  The problem is the parts it was manufactured with.  If I recall the motor guide bushings are incorrect.  The article is several pages  with color pictures, mfg parts needed, and procedure.   I would start with that.  I have an 18001 mint and was going to dump it just based on its bad reputation, till i came across the article.  I found some of the parts at last York.  I  just haven't had time to work on it.  Supposed to be great after the bushings are changed.

Hi Frisco Chris:   Just a note.  If the  side-toside- play in the armature is okay, then shim the vertical movement of the armature to within 0.010ths which is the spec. set by Lionel. Additionally, align the poles of the armature even with the pole of the field so that the laminations line up. That's what the  671-XXX shim washers are for; either add below the poles or at the end of the shaft.   Finally, if you haven't noticed, this loco has an additional magnet at the front end of the chassis for the magna-traction. The added magnet will have  "MORE GRIP" on the rails and that is what you may be feeling as you push the motorless chassis with your hand down the track  The earlier design of the  736 had the concept to have two magnets, but the Lionel Corp. engineers decided not to follow thru with there plan.  And as all the others have stated: " LUB,  LUB,  LUB and run it in.  Let us know how you make out.   Dennis M.

It seems like it's getting better around curves. It's still not a smooth runner, compared to my 736 or "pullmor" equipped diesels. It's just "sluggish". Takes a lot of power to get it going, and has no low speed operation; just stopped and medium speed on up and a little jerky.

This morning before leaving for work, I took all the rods off, but left the motor in the chassis. It was still sluggish. I did note the smoke unit lever may be responsible for some of the uneven force required to push the chassis on straight track - when I spin the front drivers (now disconnected) you can feel the force required to operate the lever. It doesn't seem to bind or anything, it's just the way it's designed. The cam works very close to the pivot point and the lever is very long, so the cam is just at a lot of mechanical disadvantage. Not a huge deal.

None of the wheelsets seemed to bind when spun by hand. I'll take the motor out on my lunch break and try rolling it without the rods then.

I am starting to think that CARSNTRAINS may have it - it may just need to break in. I can't seem to find anything specific wrong with it, it's just "tight". 

To DENNIS M: The armature has more back-n-forth travel than .01", for sure. Not enough to cause the commutator to rub on the brush plate nor enough for the windings to rub on the bottom casting of the motor, but more than .01", maybe .03", would need to get out a scale for an accurate measurement. 

I checked the wheel gauge versus the 736, and they seem the same. Checked the side to side play in the axles and the 736 is even tighter on the rear (NO perceptible play at all) but looser on the front. The 736 spins freely with the motor mounted (it takes some force but will spin in both directions). The Rock Island I can only spin the wheels forward. Backward is seizes up.

A few thoughts, some of which will repeat what has been said:

1 - smoke lever causing binding: I have noticed that some Modern era engines have a problem with the smoke lever trying to push the piston past it's end of travel. I've fixed this by adjusting the bends in the lever

2 - article about fixing engine: It would be a good idea to find a copy, and read. As I recall, most of the fixes were about removing burrs from the side rods, and maybe reaming them.

3 - binding rods / out of quarter: Try running the engine with the rods removed to isolate the problem.

4 - Side to side play on rear (driven) axle:

A- Sometimes one of the wheels will rub against the frame or magnet, This can be fixed by putting a small washer between the wheel and the frame. I usually use 671M-23 or 671M-19 washers for this.

B - Sometimes the worm wheel (gear) rubs against the side of the well it sits in. It might need to be centered.

IMHO, neither of these issues can be fixed by opening up the gauge a bit. If you eliminate one source of rubbing this way, you will create another.

Actually my Polar Express engine acted just like my Wabash.   Even had a little wobble and wouldn't run at slow speeds to start with.  Would slow down in 0-36 turns.    Right before I had to send it in to have some control issues resolved it would creep along in super slow speed that a legacy engine would be proud of : )  

At lunch I went home and put her back together, but before I did, I did all of the following:

-disassembled the motor, and added a thrust washer to the brush plate end. This eliminated all but a tiny hair of the motor's back-and-forth backlash. It also perfectly aligned the armature laminations with the field laminations.

-spun each disconnected axle by hand but detected no binding.

-repacked the worm well with lubriplate white lithium grease.

-lubed the axle bushings again.

-reassembled all the rods and valve gear, placing a tiny dab of grease on all bearing surfaces.

-adjusted the motor set screw to provide the same gear backlash as my 736.

What I mean by the last one - These locomotives have a small set screw under the motor, between the mount screws. Instead of shimming the motor up and down, you turn the screw. The worm/worm wheel fit on this loco seemed tighter than most postwar locos, so I fiddled with it until I could spin the wheels by hand in both directions. 


Still, it all made no difference. It just doesn't run well unless it's moving at a good clip. Creeping into a turn, it often will stop completely and even dumping full voltage into the track may not make it move! 

Last edited by Frisco Chris 1522

Yep after it stops in the corner sometimes full throttle wont make it go.    Just like my Wabash except it does have a pull more motor in it.   Polar express has a non serviceable can motor in it.    Both ran like yours at first.    Something else I notice.  When I would run two trains at once.   I would have to crank the throttle way up just to make the Wabash run ok while my diesel on the other track was running too fast.   Now the Wabash is running too fast when the diesel runs ok lol

You know, as I delve "deeper into the internet" looking for people's experience with these locomotives, I'm starting to wonder if the two magnetraction magnets might be the problem.

I've now read two seperate reports of people removing the second magnet and the locomotive running much better. 

I will say this - this thing has some powerful magnetration. I recently moved into a new house, so the trains are just running on some tube track laid on the floor. The first time I lifted this locomotive off the track, it took about half the oval of track with it! This might have something to do with the "excessive chassis drag". 

We have had this problem w/ these 2 locos since they were introduced.  The worm gear has just enough side play to draw the driver up against the frame / magnet and causes a temporary bind. We have made up some non magnetic washers to be placed on the axle between the wheel & frame to minimize side play. Has always worked well.  Harry 

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