My layout is heavy on accessories, and I like for them to be operational even if not used frequently. My Balloon Ride accessory (6-24177) recently quit reversing the balloons when the base station balloon reached its limit, and instead made a loud ratcheting sound. (I think this sound is due to a safety clutch in the gear train.) From past forum posts, this is a common problem with this accessory. The trigger mechanism that reverses the motor when either balloon reaches its limit has several adjusting screws, but I could find no combination of adjustment that would permanently cure the problem. The trigger mechanism was apparently worn out, and a replacement is not available from Lionel.
Rather than retire the accessory, I found a way to manually control the rise and fall of the two balloons. This $15 DC motor speed controller from Amazon (see picture) has a reversing switch and a potentiometer to control motor speed. I installed it inside the little house on the base station, as follows:
1. On the built-in PC board in the base station, unplug the two 2-wire (yellow and green) connectors leading to the two micro switches inside the gear box. This disables the original motor control mechanism.
2. Disconnect the red and black wires from the built-in PC board to the motor terminals and instead connect them to the Power input of the new controller PC board. Check the plus and minus polarity of this connection; probably the red wire will be plus.
3. Connect two wires from the output terminal on the controller PC board to the terminals of the accessory motor. Polarity does not matter here as it will be controlled by the reversing switch.
4. Jumper across the two switch input terminals on the base station.
After the base station is reassembled, the balloons reconnected, and power is restored to the accessory, the new PC board will control the motor direction. Rise and fall of the balloons is controlled using the reversing switch, and in addition there is limited control of the balloon speed using the potentiometer.
An important restriction is that the operator must be alert and manually stop or reverse the balloon travel when either balloon reaches its limit (base station or ceiling).