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The Polar Express Gateman was working properly on my layout.  Now only the light will come on.  The gateman will no longer come out of the house.  I am using the accessory activator track to activate the gateman.  How do I check to make sure the cellinoid that activates the gateman is functioning properly?

Thank you for your input.

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I have not used the plug-n-play version, but from what I can see in the manual, here's what I would recommend you check:

  • Are the insulator pieces on either side of the 10" piece oriented the same way, so that the insulated break is on the same rail?
  • Are any of the pins in the connectors damaged or loose?
  • Does everything else match the diagrams in the manual?

Beyond that, I can't easily find much troubleshooting info.

Also, in case you've misplaced your manual, its available here: 7228781063250PEPAutoGateman.pdf (


A couple questions;

1) when was the last time it operated correctly?

2) what voltage are you applying to the loop with the activator track?

The reason I ask, is I bought one of these accessories two or three years ago.  I was also using a FASTRACK accessory activator track with 18 volts (135 watt powerhouse) on the rails.  At first the gateman worked perfectly.  After a short time the door would only partially open.  Attempts to fix the problem appeared to be successful but it wasn’t long until the door would not open at all.  Further investigation of the problem (I think I just removed the bottom of the base) revealed that the solenoid had melted beyond any hope of ever functioning properly again.  I returned it for a refund since I had only had it a short time.

I hope you have a better outcome than I did, but I would check the solenoid for damage.

Reply to ZOOTV.  I figured out how to apply power directly to the gateman.  I used the accessory power on my transformer directly to the red and black feeds on the gateman circut board.  When I did this the light went on, but the gateman did not move.  Am I correct in believeing that the cellinoid is not working?


Your solenoid could indeed be bad, or you could have a bad electrical connection in the plug and play system.

1.) If you have a plug and play gateman the connecting cable coming out of it should look like this, except that the end of it with the bare wires seen here is actually inside your gateman's base (so it will not be visible without opening the gateman up:

You'll notice that the plug has three pins.  This means that there are two circuits, one for the light (which is usually not switched, so the light is on any time the track is powered), and one for the solenoid to open the door, etc. (which is switched on when a locomotive or car is on the activator track and straddling the two outer rails, and off when no locomotive or car is present.)

Since your solenoid is apparently not working, but the light is, it could be that this switched circuit is open (disconnected) at some point along the cable.  Check to make sure that the connector is seated fully because if it's not one or both of the two circuits could be incomplete, in this case the power circuit to the solenoid but not the circuit to the lamp.

2.) It could also be that the activator track has a disconnected wire inside it on the solenoid circuit.  In this case try one of the other outlets (it has 3 of the 3-pin type):

3.) It may also be that the switch setting on the activator track could impact things here.  If you have it set to 'AUX' the activator track is expecting you to connect an external power brick to the to it for powering the connected accessories independently.  If you have no brick connected then you must put the switch in the 'TRK' position for power to flow to the solenoid (sourced from the main transformer through the track) when a loco or car is present.

At this point if you're asking yourself the question "But the light works; why should the position of the switch matter?" it may be that the light is always powered off the track, but the solenoid can be powered either way.  If I remember correctly Lionel's instructions for the activator track are not too clear on this.


Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike
@jcmyers posted:

Thank you to all who replied.  I have ordered a new solenoid.  Does anyone know where I can get a set of instructions detailing how to replace the solenoid?

Thanks again.

It's 2 wires and they are NOT polarity sensitive.

Screen Shot 2023-12-10 at 10.06.13 AM

They connect to where the board says "OUT" for output- where the old solenoid coil is attached.


Images (2)
  • Screen Shot 2023-12-10 at 10.06.13 AM
  • mceclip0

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