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I recently bought a nice set of Lionel postwar Santa Fe 2333 F3 engines from 1948. Unfortunately, they have repro snap-in porthole lenses. I’d like to replace them with original lenses but understand one needs a special tool to do this because those lens were flat and don’t just snap in.

If you have experience with this, I’d like to know if this is true. I see a listing for original lenses that says you can soften them in warm water and get them in by hand, but I’ve not heard of that before. Any and all advice would be appreciated. Thanks

Chris Dunn

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There is a tool that watch makers use to put the lens in a watch.  It looks like a pair of players with a ball on one side and a cup on the other side. It cups the porthole lens so it can fit in the hole, then when it is released it tries to flatten out holding it in place. If you have an old fashion watch maker in town take the shell and porthole lens in to him and see if he can help.

Being one of those “old fashion watchmakers” (thanks), a watch crystal press is too big.  The diameter of the smallest crystal that uses this type of press is nearly double the size of the porthole lens.  You could, probably, make your own press with a C clamp, a socket (slightly smaller than the diameter of the porthole) and a ball bearing or marble. Your porthole glass should be just 2 or 3 thousandths larger than the hole in the shell, larger and it will craze, that is develop stress cracks.  You only a little bit of pressure to bend the crystal so be gentle.

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