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I have gone through four (4) PE Gatemans in about 3 months!  I set up according to the directions and they work (albeit sporadically) for a while.  Issues range from not opening at all, opening but not closing fully, and/or opening when a car passes but closing before the car leaves the isolated section.  For what this costs - VERY FRUSTRATING!  Any suggestions to get this to work correctly AND consistently ?

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You are powering a coil by depending on track activation based on conduction of the wheels from one outside rail, up the wheel across the axle and then down that wheel back to the rail while rolling down the track.

Then you get into how many times back to back and how long can you cycle the coil without melting it, at a given track voltage.

#1 STOP activating every pass of the train.

#2 control the voltage carefully to limit the current and heating- preferably a fixed accessory voltage.

#3 incorporate a relay or other track sensing setup for positive activation instead of passing direct coil current through the wheels and axles of passing cars for activation. Any number of add one items, be it a 153IR detector, one of these https://hennings-trains.shopli...al-driver-rev-2.html , or a DIY relay, or a manual switch for activation.

Last edited by Vernon Barry

Commenting to watch this thread.  I have a grim reaper gateman for halloween this is problematic as well.  It normally runs right of the track, which is at about 16 volts and constant for using lionchief locomotives.  this year I wired it at 18 volts 12 volts dedicated power and a push button.  the light went out - easy fix I hope, but the operation has never been smooth.  The figure doesn't pull back into the shed easy and can be bulky coming out.

Is there a tune- up guide for modern gatehouses?

Last edited by jhz563

What I find interesting while trying to find more links and just such topics about tuning and repairs, a topic where a gateman killed the accessory output of a CW80. https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/topic/22829636985380812

Which follows another theory of mine in that each time you activate and energize this coil, and then deactivate it, there is a several hundred volt inductive spike. And if you use insulated rail as your activation, or even in that topic a 153IR with a relay- that constant over and over triggering and a spike or multiple voltage spikes created- easily took it's abuse out on the transformer. If that same insulated rail section is direct track power and activation of the gateman coil- then potentially that voltage spike is shooting down the track, into your engines, your electronics, your control systems, and again- these electronically controlled transformers.

At the end of the day, this is a remake of an old school 1950s basic solenoid coil activated design. Back then there were no electronics, big heavy transformers, big heavy AC motors, big fat wires. You could arc and spark all day long, create tons of voltage spikes and do no damage. Follow that with conventional operation, typically lower track voltages, less plastic and more cardboard and paper style insulators, coil formers and so forth. They could take some abuse.

Then we get into the modern age of plastic- take the same low tech brute force design, attempt the same old school insulated rail activation- but if this is Lionchief and Plug and play modern- we probably have DC instead of AC power and a full 18V. So now, when we create a voltage spike, we get some serious kickback on DC. Then on top of that, the same coil on AC power VS DC power draws more current average over time and thus more heat at a given voltage. Being plastic VS paper and cardboard, the coil former that is a tube where the plunger must slide- now can melt and deform.

Take lack of user knowledge, call it "plug and play", introduce modern materials and construction techniques, change power sources, give a user a tiny oval of track with a set and a longer train so the net result is frequent and longer activation- insulate the bottom of the accessory with a cardboard base that also traps the heat, and then we "wonder" why these degrade and fail.

Last edited by Vernon Barry

Here is the link for Lionel Parts on the Polar Express gateman.

https://www.lionelsupport.com/...man-Plug-Expand-Play

The modern solenoid with plastic former tube the plunger has to slide freely in

Then in the plug and pray versions, there is this modern PCB and yes, there are diodes and capacitors, also appears to be PTCs, but unsure of exactly how this is wired at the moment and the true function.  Point being, if it really worked and protected the coil- we would not have topics about damage and people replacing a gateman 4 times in a row.

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@NoviceBen posted:

Thanks for the comments.  

In summary ‘Plug and Play’ is a misnomer - apparently this accessory is an over priced piece of junk that is not designed for use by the grandkids under a Christmas tree once a year.  

I might have to grant you that, there was a similar angry discussion over in another forum about a similar gateman, used on a bump and go trolley track (so frequent activation) and on top of that cherry- was using and complaining the CW80 might complain about current draw in that scenario. Decries of how could they not be compatible? and plug and play misnomer and so forth.

@jhz563 posted:

Commenting to watch this thread.  I have a grim reaper gateman for halloween this is problematic as well.  It normally runs right of the track, which is at about 16 volts and constant for using lionchief locomotives.  this year I wired it at 18 volts dedicated power and a push button.  the light went out - easy fix I hope, but the operation has never been smooth.  The figure doesn't pull back into the shed easy and can be bulky coming out.

Is there a tune- up guide for modern gatehouses?

Lionel recommends 12v-14v for these gateman as well as most other operating accessories. Running them at 18v is asking for trouble.

I run all of my accessories at 10v, including the Halloween gateman from a separate accessory supply. Which is a 180 brick set at 10v output from an AVC unit.

As far as the CW80 transformer is concerned. I originally had 2 from sets that I used for the accessory power. They even ran the accessories poorly, lights flickered etc.

My 180w brick runs the accessories smoother and more reliably at 10v than my CW 80s at 14v.

Last edited by RickO
@RickO posted:

Lionel recommends 12v-14v for these gateman as well as most other operating accessories. Running them at 18v is asking for trouble.

I run all of my accessories at 10v, including the Halloween gateman from a separate accessory supply. Which is a 180 brick set at 10v output from an AVC unit.

As far as the CW80 transformer is concerned. I originally had 2 from sets that I used for the accessory power. They even ran the accessories poorly, lights flickered etc.

My 180w brick runs the accessories smoother and more reliably at 10v than my CW 80s at 14v.

I got to thinking about this after I wrote it.  I actually had a 12v output wall wart running the gatehouse and a couple other push button items.

Rick O - thanks, but I’m confused.  I didn’t see anywhere Lionel recommended running the Plug & Play Gateman at 12-14v.

In fact, the Plug and Play item is intended to ‘plug’ into a set like the Polar Express set, which comes with a wall wort at 18vdc.  Or the set could be run off of a 180 brick (i.e., 18 vac).

If these voltages are too high, maybe this shouldn’t be marketed as a simple ‘Plug and Play’ as the Lionel videos depict.

#2 control the voltage carefully to limit the current and heating- preferably a fixed accessory voltage.

I would go with a variable accessory output and adjust it for best operation at lowest possible voltage, AND use AC, not DC. AC is noisier, but runs the coil cooler.

..another theory of mine in that each time you activate and energize this coil, and then deactivate it, there is a several hundred volt inductive spike. And if you use insulated rail as your activation, or even in that topic a 153IR with a relay- that constant over and over triggering and a spike or multiple voltage spikes created- easily took it's abuse out on the transformer...

Exactly correct. A bidirectional TVS diode would clamp those spikes. This is a perfect illustration as to why TVS use is mandatory, fast-acting breakers are optional, as breakers provide no protection for this damage.

There's always the brute force approach:  Stick a postwar 145 solenoid into the little indefinite and run it on 18 VAC with a pushbutton. 

I do this with a 145 at the museum and the kids love "Little B****rd" (so named by one of the ladies at the railroad who pushed the button, was startled by the gateman's abrupt arrival, jumped back a few inches and shouted, "Oh!  You little b****rd!") 

Mitch

Appreciate all the expertise and input; nonetheless I still see this product as excessively priced with poor quality.  It’s marketed as a simple ‘Plug and Play’ and shouldn’t require kit bashing to adjust voltages, modify electronics, etc.  Advising the kids not to run the train around the Christmas tree too many times as you may overheat the solenoid seems a bit ridiculous doesn't it?

Assuming the accessory works as it should and its the starter set components that are the issue, the problem lies not in the quality of the accessories but rather the ability of Lionel and its dealers to get information to the public that starter sets are just that, basic starting items not really meant to be expanded on without an upgrade of some sort and yes, more $$.  How many other toys out there work for a few weeks and get tossed? Here tho we have a generation that sees Lionel on the package and remembers, to no fault of their own, the day when a starter set was pretty much bullet proof and 50-60 years later you can still find a Scout engine in an attic, clean it and oil it and it will run fine. Back then tho there were knowledgeable staff at hobby stores and even dept. stores that could explain to folks that the small scout set transformer would not run much beyond the set it was in and could make educated suggestions when it came time to expand the set. Or the gateman is truly a piece of overpriced junk...

@NoviceBen posted:

Appreciate all the expertise and input; nonetheless I still see this product as excessively priced with poor quality.  It’s marketed as a simple ‘Plug and Play’ and shouldn’t require kit bashing to adjust voltages, modify electronics, etc.  Advising the kids not to run the train around the Christmas tree too many times as you may overheat the solenoid seems a bit ridiculous doesn't it?

3 strikes and your out. That's your 4th gateman. Return it, get your money back, and move on.

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