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Of course, we already have Forums specifically for Lionel and MTH Tips-n-Tricks.

But what about a similar Forum applicable to all O Gauge trains?

Such a Forum could be very helpful to all of us, especially those new to our hobby.

I will share a couple of O Gauge 3 rail track  tips-n-tricks.

Modern steam engines and tenders are usually connected by a tether or drawbar. Consider trying to minimize connecting and disconnecting them, maybe even connecting them only once. In my experience the pins and sockets are delicate, and can easily be jostled so they don't align correct, resulting in the necessity of a repair. Now, whenever I take the steam engine and tender off the track, or out it on the track, I try to do it as one unit without disconnecting them from each other.

How about smoke fluid. This has been my nemesis lately. I thought a good tip was to put at least 2 drops of smoke fluid (Lionel Premium for Lionel engines and Protosmoke for MTH engines) before starting up the engine, see how it smokes at start up and when first running it, and add more (3 or 4 drops) if it doesn't produce much smoke. The idea is to always have enough smoke fluid in the engine so it doesn't dry out, but not to flood the unit with too much.

Unfortunately the above smoke tip isn't infallible. Yesterday, I did this with my MTH Proto 3 B-6 switcher, which has been a terrific smoker, and it stopped producing smoke, and I can't hear any smoke fan running.

Would love to hear from you folks about your smoke fluid tips and your other tips and tricks related to our O Gauge trains and layouts.

Arnold

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Arnold I agree with your comment about the tender tether but if you have a PS3 with the drawbar then picking both up together may create bigger issues. This is doubly true with MTH Premier steam. I picked up my N&W A that way to put it on the shelf when I started  expanding my layout and when I put back on the track it would not run. I found that I had cracked the drawbar when I picked it up. So be aware of picking them up as one piece.

Of course, we already have Forums specifically for Lionel and MTH Tips-n-Tricks.

But what about a similar Forum applicable to all O Gauge trains?

Such a Forum could be very helpful to all of us, especially those new to our hobby.

I will share a couple of O Gauge 3 rail track  tips-n-tricks.

Modern steam engines and tenders are usually connected by a tether or drawbar. Consider trying to minimize connecting and disconnecting them, maybe even connecting them only once. In my experience the pins and sockets are delicate, and can easily be jostled so they don't align correct, resulting in the necessity of a repair. Now, whenever I take the steam engine and tender off the track, or out it on the track, I try to do it as one unit without disconnecting them from each other.

How about smoke fluid. This has been my nemesis lately. I thought a good tip was to put at least 2 drops of smoke fluid (Lionel Premium for Lionel engines and Protosmoke for MTH engines) before starting up the engine, see how it smokes at start up and when first running it, and add more (3 or 4 drops) if it doesn't produce much smoke. The idea is to always have enough smoke fluid in the engine so it doesn't dry out, but not to flood the unit with too much.

Unfortunately the above smoke tip isn't infallible. Yesterday, I did this with my MTH Proto 3 B-6 switcher, which has been a terrific smoker, and it stopped producing smoke, and I can't hear any smoke fan running.

Would love to hear from you folks about your smoke fluid tips and your other tips and tricks related to our O Gauge trains and layouts.

Arnold

I overfilled an MTH smoker once.  Even bought a replacement fan motor.  When I took it apart, I blew off the oil and it started working properly.  A sure sign of fan not turning  would be smoke coming out of the engine from the bottom and sides.  I generally apply 30 small drops from a squeeze bottle with needle filler.

I let it go around about 5 minutes before I fire up the smoker.  As far as the drawbar is concerned, I like the plugs better.

A Tale of a Tether ...

Wire tethers aren't limited to medium- and high-end products. I purchased a Lionel JAMES loco and its accompanying tether for enjoyment by my young great-grandson, but I forgot to tell him about the connecting tether.  You guessed it ...

He lifted JAMES (only) off the layout, and the tether was ripped away.  I sent the loco and tender to HENNINGS for a replacement tether. They did the repair, and JAMES is now back in service -- lesson learned.

Mike Mottler     LCCA 12394

Arnold, I agree with you 100% about the possibility of damage to tethers from frequent connect/disconnect.  I always pick my steamers carefully as a loco/tender unit and have not experienced any problems.  Just don't twist the two units as you move them (and don't let your grandson do it!).

Regarding the quantity of smoke fluid, it sounds like you're not using enough.  I use 10-15 drops as a minimum after the smoke output diminishes to a wisp.  I arrived at this formula after lots of trial and error, but I won't be surprised of some Forum members disagree.

Bryant, if smoke is blowing out of the engine - even from the bottom and sides - the fan is probably working.  The most likely culprit is a bubble in the stack.  I always blow down the stack after I fill it.  Some engines are more prone to bubbles than others.

John

My Lionel b6 killed me with a loose tether. It would just cut out on turns and such. I took the gel superglue and put a small dab (I'm talking tiny, less an 1/16" across) on a tooth pick and then applied the glue to the corner formed by the plug from the tender and receptacle under the cab. You can't see a thing and I haven't had any problems with the tether coming out anymore.

I always run my trains for 15 minutes or more at a time. Consequently, I usually give my smokers a short squirt before start up. It probably equates to 15 drops or less if I had to make a guess. That seems to get me by but I usually run for a while too. I wouldn't refill after a short run session. This is horribly unscientific but I guess I just learned how much to put in based on my usual run sessions.

Filling smoke units my procedure is based on how long the locomotive has been idle as in not run. If I have not run it in the last several weeks I treat as a new locomotive and add smoke per mfg. recommendations if RE entry run I judge by the amount of smoke it is producing. I have all my locomotives set on medium to minimum due to very sensitive smoke alarms and a low ceiling in the basement.  

Arnold, I've heard pros and cons about adding fluid when the smoke element is hot, so - to be safe - I always shut the engine down before I add fluid.  I just shut it down, I don't wait for it to cool completely.  It works for me.

Bill, I'm not familiar with the Lionel tether you describe, but I solved problems with loose MTH "wireless" PS2-3 tethers with a black twist tie.  After a bit of experimentation you can figure out how to secure the tether at the tender end.  This fix, of course, requires you to take off the engine and tender as a unit until it's necessary to separate them.

Also Bill, I agree there is nothing scientific about how well engines smoke!  Some of mine smoke well 10 minutes, others 20 minutes, on the same amount of fluid.  There are probably a number of variables that affect smoke production, including the temperature of the heating element, fluid retained by the wick and airflow through the smoke unit.  I can't explain it, you just have to get used to the idiosyncrasies of each engine!

John

Here's another tip/trick.

Let's say you have an engine or car that derails. This could turn out to be a good thing. In fact, it could be an opportunity to improve your layout.

How could that be?

Try your best to figure out why the derailment is happening. If the derailment occurs in one place on your layout, look closely at your trackwork in that spot and consider using a shim to make the track more level or adjust it in some way.

I recently did the above with my recently acquired 18 inch passenger cars (which are long for the 031 curves on my layout). After I adjusted the track with a shim, the derailments stopped, and my trackwork has improved.

Again, thanks for the smoke fluid advice.

When the smoke stops and adding fluid doesn't work, what tips/tricks can you recommend to getting it to smoke again?

And, if the engine is within the warranty period, do you return it to the manufacturer to get it to smoke again, or do you take the shell off to fix it yourself?

And, what about a new MTH engine that stopped smoking. Do you return it to MTH for a warranty repair or try to fix it yourself?

Arnold

I just solved my MTH Proto 3 B-6 steam switcher smoke unit problem. This simple fix can be regarded as a tip-n-trick.

Last night the smoke did not work after adding a few drops of smoke fluid. The layout and engine were shut down overnight so the engine had plenty of time to cool down.

This morning, before starting up the engine, I added 8 smoke fluid drops and blew down the smoke stack. When I started up the engine using DCS, still no smoke.

Then, using DCS I shut off and started up the smoke unit. Voila, the B-6 switcher (currently my favorite locomotive) filled the basement with smoke. Hallelujah!

Here's the $64,000 question (1950s TV show): why did the smoke unit stop working before?

Do some new locomotives have an automatic shut off of the smoke unit when the smoke fluid gets to be low? If so, is the problem solved by shutting off and starting up the smoke feature using DCS, which apparently worked for me?

Arnold



Do some new locomotives have an automatic shut off of the smoke unit when the smoke fluid gets to be low? If so, is the problem solved by shutting off and starting up the smoke feature using DCS, which apparently worked for me?

Arnold

Not in these units.  I do know sometimes using the DCS remote you have to actually look at the remote to confirm the state of the smoke unit even though the button was pushed.  I always make sure it says the smoke is on or off and don't assume just because I pushed the button it's on or off.

Arnold, I’m glad to hear about your success with the B6!  It proves you can, sometimes,  fix things easily with a bit of experimentation.  I have an MTH Camelback that stops smoking as it coasts to a halt.  I found tapping the stack with my finger gets it smoking again.

I believe some smoke units shut down when the fluid gets too low, but I don’t know which ones.  The safe thing to do is be sure the smoke units from any manufacturer don’t get too dry.

Regarding an earlier question, I wouldn’t remove the shell from an engine under warranty.  It could definitely void it.

May your train room continue to be filled with smoke!

John

John,

I also have an LC+ Erie Camelback (IMO a gorgeous scale sized engine with excellent detail) that stopped smoking a while ago. When that happened, I turned off the smoke feature.

Later, I will turn on the smoke, try tapping the stack like you did, and try other experiments to see if I can resurrect the smoke.

Long live O Gauge smoke! LOL, Arnold

@Steam Crazy posted:

Arnold, I agree with you 100% about the possibility of damage to tethers from frequent connect/disconnect.  I always pick my steamers carefully as a loco/tender unit and have not experienced any problems.  Just don't twist the two units as you move them (and don't let your grandson do it!).

Regarding the quantity of smoke fluid, it sounds like you're not using enough.  I use 10-15 drops as a minimum after the smoke output diminishes to a wisp.  I arrived at this formula after lots of trial and error, but I won't be surprised of some Forum members disagree.

Bryant, if smoke is blowing out of the engine - even from the bottom and sides - the fan is probably working.  The most likely culprit is a bubble in the stack.  I always blow down the stack after I fill it.  Some engines are more prone to bubbles than others.

John

Blowing down the stack is the first thing.   90% of the time it works.   When there is way to much, blowing down the stack won't help.  You need to remove the shell and clean out the assembly.  Then the next trouble shooting step.  I don't know how absorbant the wick is.  That is why I don't turn smoke on for at least 5-10 minutes.  I will say, the oil that they use in the factory is pretty rank.  It takes a while to purge it with new fluid.  I have not tried the neutrilizer that Just Steam offers. 

A couple of issues I have had with smoke units is when the fluid blocks the stack creating a bubble.  A small blower / solder sucking bulb is always on hand to break the bubble.

MTH impellers seem to have the tendency to slip on the motor shaft on steam engine due to the braking for the puff from the stack.  It's not wide spread but I've seen my share of this.

Last edited by MartyE

If the wick doesn't seem absorbent or the smoke stinks, the cause is usually a burnt wick.  It will need replacement.  If you suspect you may have overfilled the smoke unit, check the bottom of the engine.  The presence of smoke fluid is a sure sign of overdoing it (exception: I have one engine, a Lionel Mogul, that just plain leaks, even though it smokes well.  I turn it over every couple of times I run it to clean it up).

Arnold, yes, you have created another great thread!

John

This has been very helpful and an eye opener for me, regarding smoke units.

I bought a Joshua Cowen Hudson a few months ago.  It was in really great shape, but hadn't been run in a long long time.  It took me a week of lubricating and tweaking, and now it runs absolutely great.

When I took the shell off, I could tell that the smoke unit had never been used.  It looked absolutely mint.

I recently thought about getting the smoke unit fired up, but having heard about the issues with smoke units, I think I'll just pass.   I like the engine now, and don't want another frustrating issue.  And, if I ever sell the loco, it won't hurt to say that the smoke unit is mint.

@Steam Crazy posted:

Bill, I'm not familiar with the Lionel tether you describe, but I solved problems with loose MTH "wireless" PS2-3 tethers with a black twist tie.  After a bit of experimentation you can figure out how to secure the tether at the tender end.  This fix, of course, requires you to take off the engine and tender as a unit until it's necessary to separate them.

Also Bill, I agree there is nothing scientific about how well engines smoke!  Some of mine smoke well 10 minutes, others 20 minutes, on the same amount of fluid.  There are probably a number of variables that affect smoke production, including the temperature of the heating element, fluid retained by the wick and airflow through the smoke unit.  I can't explain it, you just have to get used to the idiosyncrasies of each engine!

John

The tether on the b6 is just the pin style I believe. It's flat. Runs from the tender to just under the cab.

Yeah It seems like there are a lot of variables involved but I do wonder how much I affect it. I usually turn the smoke down on long runs compared to yard work so that probably adds another layer of complexity to the equation. I have overfilled locomotives before and it sure is messy!

Manny, having a mint smoke unit won't hurt, -as you say - but I don't think it will help much either, since the engine has been run.  To me, half the fun of running a steamer is watching it smoke, so I say give it a try!  Just put in at least 15 drops of fluid, because the wick on your engine must be very dry.

Folks reading this thread shouldn't be discouraged by the smoke problems described.  Most steamers smoke just fine without any problems as long as they're not run dry or overfilled.  Let em smoke!

John

@Mannyrock posted:

This has been very helpful and an eye opener for me, regarding smoke units.

I bought a Joshua Cowen Hudson a few months ago.  It was in really great shape, but hadn't been run in a long long time.  It took me a week of lubricating and tweaking, and now it runs absolutely great.

When I took the shell off, I could tell that the smoke unit had never been used.  It looked absolutely mint.

I recently thought about getting the smoke unit fired up, but having heard about the issues with smoke units, I think I'll just pass.   I like the engine now, and don't want another frustrating issue.  And, if I ever sell the loco, it won't hurt to say that the smoke unit is mint.

Like John, I love smoke and have never turned off a smoke unit. However, IMO, the most likely thing to go wrong with a modern MTH or Lionel engine is the smoke.

For those who are goid train doctors, confident and are almost always successful at repairing modern trains, the risks are very low for running smokers. You will be able to fix a smoke unit that doesn't work. Many of you on this Forum are very good at train doctors.

If, however, you are like me and usually don't even attempt modern engine repairs, when you run engines with their smoke units on, you run the risk of having to pay an expert to repair the smoke unit when it stops working.

I run that risk because smoke is my favorite locomotive feature, and if I need to pay someone to fix a smoke unit,  I usually feel I can afford it, and then I'm fine with helping a train doctor make a little more money.

Another thought just occurred to me. I have certain engines for a long time that are great smokers and I've never had even a hint of a problem with their smoke. One that comes to mind is my MTH Proto 1 Jersey Central FM Trainmaster. It is a marvelous locomotive in every way and the smoke unit has been flawless for 20+ years.

My plan now is to run my very reliable smokers frequently, and whenever I'm in the mood to run it. My other engines whose smoke units have either been problematic, or which are recent acquisitions that have not yet stood the test of time, will be run more sparingly. I will run them when I have an audience, or when I make videos of them to post on the Forum. This plan should significantly reduce the chances that I will need to pay someone to fix a smoke unit.

Arnold

One more tip about smoke. There are some very good YouTube videos about fixing modern O Gauge smoke units. If I had a better track record at fixing my own trains, I would study those videos and take a stab at fixing a faulty smoke unit.

Unfortunately, my track record is such that I have, at times, attempted a locomotive repair and made it worse. On the other hand, whenever I fix anything, I'm euphoric. LOL.

I know from reading this Forum extensively for the past 3 years, that many of you are great at fixing your own trains and other's trains. I tip my hat to you. Arnold

Regarding smoke fluid, is it advisable to add it when the smoke unit is hot when the locomotive has been running for a while? Could doing so cause damage to the smoke unit?

Arnold

Not sure about most smoke units, but I have read that applying room temperature smoke fluid to hot glass bulb heating elements in the early (ca 1946) 671 and 2020 turbines, as well as those used on early Berks, is a bad idea - the bulbs could crack when they're hot. I run fluid in my 671 but have not been willing to apply it to a hot bulb - FYI, the bulb design was supposed to use #196 Smoke Pellets

George

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