Hi all,

I have been looking at the 6-8960, SP U36C. It's a neat little loco and I have been considering purchasing one for my semi-scale collection. The single motor has me worried. I like to run trains with several cars and I don't want to spend money on something I can't use. That happened with a dual motored Lionel RS-3 from a train set that I sold because it really couldn't pull more than a few cars.

Any feedback on how many cars they can pull and how they handle grades would be greatly appreciated.


Michael DeSandro

Troy, AL

Original Post

In my experience, if you were not satisfied with the dual motor RS3, nothing will please you... My guess your problem is one of the following:

  • Expecting too much
  • Lack of maintenance/lubrication of the locomotive and/or rolling stock
  • A extremely demanding track plan

This is a 30 year old locomotive with traction tires on two wheels.  The drive is basically an extended postwar 4 wheel truck and motor with blind wheels on the added axle.  The blind wheel sets add very little if any traction.  It should walk away with about 8-9 MPC cars on level track.


Mike, the U36C you referenced is an MPC model that has an open frame AC motor versus the DC can motors. I've never had any pulling problems with my MPC era locomotives, though it goes without saying, you'll want to check the motor brushes and make sure you have fresh lubrication. That engine was manufactured in 1979, so it is now 40 years old. If it was well cared for and maintained, it'll serve you fine.

As far as your RS-3, most of the recent ones have come with a single motor and have a plastic frame versus a sheet metal one. So you must have had an RS-3 from a mid-1990's or earlier set. Again, I've never had any serious trouble with dual DC can motored engines. Did you by chance buy that used? Maybe it was missing the weight that is included inside the locomotive shell.

The Mabuchi can motors used in many of the traditional starter types of locomotives is hardly a precision motor the way a Pittman one is. They are though, reasonable for what you are paying. But once in a while you can get a dual motored engine where one of the motors is seriously dragging, or out of speed synch with the other motor truck. That happened to me once, and I ended up replacing the motor, and the engine ran much better.

And as with any locomotive, regardless of the cost, you want to make sure the gears are clean and you have a fresh lube on it and that the traction tires aren't worn and/or are slipping.

Adding some additional weight inside the shell of the engine on the frame (wherever there's room) can also improve your pulling power.

Gramps beat me to it.  The MPC-era six wheel truck has all axles powered.

Adding 6-8 oz to the fuel tank will increase pulling power, but also increase wear on the bearings.  These traditionally-sized locos were designed to pull MPC-era plastic cars with fast-angle wheels.  As long as the wheels are round (and some weren't!) I would say it should pull 15 MPC-era freight cars on a flat O31 oval.  They aren't scale models, and will look undersized with scale rolling stock.

If your train is very long (and presumably so is your layout!) then do what the real RRs did, and add a second powered unit.  The Pullmor integral motor truck double-heads very well!  With a tether arrangement, you can even drive both motors from one E-unit.  Unfortunately you can't add a second Pullmor motor, because it's too wide to fit inside the narrow end of the hood.  If you MUST have dual motors, then you'll have to make the leap to an MTH or Legacy scale version with can motors.

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

Thanks to everyone for your responses.

I am looking to pull about a dozen cars with it. I want one more traditional size loco to round out my Southern Pacific roster. I haven't been able to find anything from the other manufacturers that appeals to me like the U boat does. So I may go ahead and get one and buy a second powered unit if I need more pulling power. I want a traditional size loco for my traditional size rolling stock. I am a little weird about how I run my o-gauge trains. I don't usually mix my scale and traditional size equipment. I don't run different road named locos together on the layout at the same time either. I have plenty of scale motive power for my scale size trains.

As far as the RS-3 is concerned, it was all plastic everywhere and was a poor puller. My K-Line MP-15's and Alco's are very similar to the RS-3, but far exceeded the performance of the RS-3. I even have a Lionel U36B, which is very similar Mechanically to the RS-3, that pulls great. Maybe the RS was a lemon.

BMORAN4, Plenty will please me and plenty does. I have about 240 locos in three scales and the RS-3 was the only one that disappointed me enough to get rid of it. If the RS-3 performed like all of my K-Line MP-15's, Alco's and my Lionel U36B (which are all very similar in design) it would have been fine. I am not comparing it to my other locomotives because that comparison would be unfair. As far as your bullet points are concerned, I maintain my equipment very well, I have very reasonable expectations and my track plan on my portable is a fairly straight forward twice around over and under with 042 and 054 curved tubular 027 track. All of my other traditional sized stuff runs fine on it with a decent consist. Most of my scale stuff runs okay on it as well.

Ted, I am glad you told me about the unit not having room for the second powered truck. I found a NOS powered truck for that loco on the bay and considered buying it and dual motoring the loco if I decide to buy it.

Michael DeSandro

Troy, AL

Lionel has made at least THREE versions of the RS-3. 

The first had a stamped metal frame, plastic trucks, and 2 truck mounted CAN motors.  These only had the horn, headlights, and reverse board in the shell.

The second is the real cheapie you describe, with the plastic everything.  These are mostly found in the cheapest of the starter sets.

Finally are the LionChief Plus class of RS-3.  These return the stamped steel frame, but also have die-cast trucks, fuel tank, and pilots, vertically mounted flywheel-equipped CAN motors, digital sound system, and fan-driven smoke unit. 

Unfortunately, the die-cast trucks are EMD Bloomberg trucks which are improperly sized for the loco, so that the mounting steps and pilots jut out beyond the frame... an OSHA no-no.



Dominic Mazoch posted:

The SP U36C came as a powered and unpowered set.  Power the unpowered.

I thought about that option. I don't know if the powered truck will be a drop in upgrade. I know it is impossible on some stuff, such as my Railking F3's. I bought a powered chassis for that but the frame was different and it wouldn't work.

Michael DeSandro

Troy, AL

I have an mpc era u36-b that I was playing with as a project loco.  That long hood is quite narrow.  I started a project to fit the shell to a wbb gp-9 frame with dual can motors and add dcs, never quite got finished, but I am pretty sure if you want two ac pullmor style motors in one unit you are going to need a full with hood unit like an Alco PA or something similar.  If you go with  twin can motors with flywheel route like me, the next issue is the height of the rear motor hitting the inside of the radiator boxes in the u36 shell.  I found these are hollow boxes.  I carefully was able to grind them off the inside with a dremel tool to make room.  

I really should get back to that project on of these years - its probably about 80% done!

May God Bless us all.

I have a MPC Uboat also, with a dummy. After a good cleaning and lubrication it runs fine. Can pull 5 aluminum coaches without a problem.

2018-08-25 09.19.252018-08-28 07.34.242018-08-25 08.14.08

A also have a RS-3 that was a poor puller (the all plastic model). A second motor solved that problem and with them wired in series it has a decent low end speed.

Three Rails Are Better Than None 


Photos (3)
Mike D posted:

John I was considering adding another motor, but Ted said that is a no-go with the U boat because of the way it is designed.

Buy two powered units.  If you want a different cab number, buy the dummy.  Swap shells between the dummy and one of the powered units.  Sell the new dummy to recoup some $$.  Voila!  two powered units with different numbers for about 10 minutes work.

Frisco, MoPac, and T&P near Rolla, MO

Dominic Mazoch posted:

The U36B shell was made so it could fit on the GP frame.  Has anybody put a U36B or GP 7/9 shell on a Williams GP7/9 frame?

Yes - see my note above.  The biggest issue is that the handrails don't quite line up and the Williams motors are tall enought that they hit the inside of the radiator boxes molded into the u36 shell.

May God Bless us all.

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