Good evening--

My old 1950s trains--including 6557 caboose--sit for 11 months, and get used around the tree this time of year. The GE 55 bulb was working as well as it ever has since I set it up this weekend with various degrees of flickering, but tonight I noticed it's completely dead. Swapped out the GE 55, wiggled the wires, checked the solder joints...but nothing. Dead. Any suggestions for a non-tinkerer here as to what may be going on?


Original Post

Do these resistor elements commonly just go bad? I added a few drops of smoke fluid to my 682 as I noted it wasn't smoking, but the drops I put in didn't cause it to begin smoking either as I ran it. It was then I noticed the light out inside the 6557.

Is it a coincidence the 6557 element seems to have been fried when I added drops to the 682 smokestack (while the 682 itself didn't begin smoking)?

Very frustrating!

?  Are you using two transformers. And if so are they phased together? That could cause a voltage doubling up.

Age is just as likely though. Genral rule of thumb, a bulb lasts half as long burning twice as bright if fed double normal voltage; and half as bright for twice the life at half voltage. 

The ceramic type element doesn't cook easy, but nothing lasts forever.

Resistor/fluid elements need fluid not burn up. Don't run them dry.

Before you wright it off, the element tab to bowl/well connection and wire insulation should be checked/cleaned.  

If the element IS cooked, and the break is one or two wraps near the solder, a resoldering may work. It would run hotter and make more smoke. The element wire wont hold solder; you have to "encase" the wire in a solder blob and don't pull on it 😉. Lionel wrapped the wire; then encased it. 

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


Hello Adriatic--

Thank you for weighing in. I am using our old ZW transformer that has capability to control 4 different trains, but only 1 of the 4 handles is wired up. Thus I don't think that's the issue.

Is it curious that both the 682 stopped smoking at the same time I noticed the 6557 bulb not illuminating, which was right when I added the fluid?

Hey Desert Center, the light bulb is an integral part of the smoke unit circuit. Here's the Lionel service manual on your caboose:

The search feature on this forum can sometimes be a little difficult to utilize. I have found Google to be easier and if there are topics on this forum pertaining to the search, they'll show up there. Here's a list of topics on the 6557. I haven't gone through this list, but you may find an answer...

Hello Brainel--

Yep, I get that no smoke will be produced if the light is out. My problem is that I'm not a repair person, and diagnosing what caused the bulb to burn out is above my pay grade. (I tried putting in another GE 55 bulb but that one didn't work either, so the problem is elsewhere.) No train repair shops in my area.

I suppose I will either look for a working one of these with broken steps where I can swap the chassis with mine, or I will start over and purchase another nice one.

I know this is a oddball long-shot situation, but is there an odd chance the new bulb is also dead?

If you hold the bulb(s) up to a regular room lighting bulb as background and turn it a little, you may be able to see if any of the filament is broken away from it's main structure.  You might notice an obvious piece hanging loosely from the filament, or a small broken off piece that will end up gravitating to whatever part of the bulb is pointing down.

I admit I've not done this a lot with train bulbs, but just did it with some old C9 Christmas bulbs a few days ago.  The principle should be similar. 

It may not always be a "smoking gun" observation if you can't see anything (bulb could still be dead, even if you can't see it), but if you do see loose filament flopping around, it's a safe bet the bulb you are looking at is toast.


Hi Dave--

I have had that happen before with bulb filaments, and I was hoping it might be the case here too. The filament does look intact on the GE 55, but it's not working. I swapped in my backup GE 55 spare--which is a new/old stock--and that one doesn't work either.

Running the trains this morning, I see that my 682 is now smoking fine. That's a relief. The 6557 is still dead as a doornail: nary a flicker from the bulb. Poking the 6557 wires with the cab off will not make the bulb light at all, so evidently the resistor element burned out somehow. Is the black internal housing all that needs to be changed out? I'm assuming the 2 wires inside it are the resistor element. I'm the world's worst solderer and I'm apprehensive to try buying the part and doing it myself.

To check the bulb, take it out, disconnect your transformer from the track, and touch one wire to the center terminal of the bulb, and the other wire to the outer casing. Turn up the power a bit, and the bulb should light.

If all the wiring is good in the caboose and the smoke unit does not work with a good bulb in the circuit, the smoke element is bad. Original elements are not available it seems, but you may be able to use the element out of a liquid smoke conversion kit.  Find a technician that can remove the old smoke element and install the new one. It should work.



Desert Center CA posted:

Hi Dave--

I have had that happen before with bulb filaments, and I was hoping it might be the case here too. The filament does look intact on the GE 55, but it's not working. I swapped in my backup GE 55 spare--which is a new/old stock--and that one doesn't work either.

Please check your bulbs for continuity - a must. Even 2 AA batteries to test.



Just got back to work from lunch...

I did the test as prescribed, whereby I disconnected the transformer from the tracks and touched the leads to the GE 55 under low power: nothing. Same negative result with the second bulb. I figured it was useless, but I retrieved my 3rd and final bulb to give it a try (I had one #55 in the 6557, and two NOS spares). Wouldn't you know it...the third bulb works! I put the cab back on the 6557, hooked the transformer back up, and sent the trains around the Xmas oval a few times while delighting to light wafts of smoke from the 6557!

In short, the original bulb in the 6557 burned out--even though the filament looks ok--and one of my two backup bulbs was bad.

I ran to my cell phone to quickly CANCEL my best offer bid on a 6557 being offered on eBay; whew!

Thanks to all for advice and support...

All's well that ends well. It's an Xmas miracle!

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