PW Pellet Smoke Unit from 2046 Lionel Engine- Repair or Upgrade??

Hi Everyone-

Need some advice on a repair I am doing for a friend on his 1953 Lionel 2046 engine smoke unit. It is the old style pellet type with nichrome wire-wound heater element. Several wires on the heater element are broken, but the batting is in surprisingly pretty good shape with no burn marks nor is it "flooded" with pellet material. 


A) Would anyone with experience on these old smoke units recommend doing a replacement trying to use a replacement nichrome wire heater of the same design?? Are these available?? Part numbers??

B) OR should I just go ahead and do a conversion to liquid smoke parts into the smoke unit??   Kit numbers???

I understand that if I do the liquid-type  conversion, that my friend will need to remember to keep smoke fluid in the new liquid smoke unit all the time. The old style pellet heater seem to not burn themselves out if pellets are not always in the smoke unit??

Any other pluses or minuses here that I should be aware of on repair this old smoke unit??

Carl J

Original Post

Replace the element with the same type after cleaning out all the residue. You can use pellets or fluid with these. Fluid burns much cleaner and won't clog up the unit. All of the repro parts guys stock these. is one source. There are many others.


The 2046  was my favorite postwar steamer. They run, smoke and pull great. I have 3 or 4 of them.

Fix it! Find some of the ni-chrome wire and rewind it. A couple tips: you'll need to count the winds around the core, and get a similar length of wire. Too long and it won't get hot enough. Too short and it will get too hot and break again. Also, ni-chrome doesn't really solder. If I remember correctly, there is an eyelet that you can tie the wire to, then put a drop of solder on, to hold it in place.

Bingo, the wire is encupsulated in solder vs being adheared as usual.

  The fluid works too. But over time, as the pellet residue builds, mixing fluid in producess a slimy gunk that seems to slow the wicking process no matter what is used.  I would stock up on a few bottles of pellet and stick with them.(testing a suppliers pellets before committing to a bunch as some crummy smoking aftermarket ones existed years ago) 

Also, in the resivoir, there is a raised boss and hole for air. Note the height so you can guesstimate how much fluid it may hold.  The wire element can run dry without damage if fluid is used.

   Rewound ones can usually be found on de-bay. Remove a half wrap at a time then test to find the sweet spot. 

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


I think the wire gauge is 32. You can find it but it will be on a roll and likely cost much more than a few elements.  The early elements were 16 ohms. Some of the repros are 18-20 ohms and don't smoke as well. The ones from Jeff Kane at the Train Tender should be 16 ohms. If you get one that reads more than 16 ohms then you can unwrap a turn or two if you are not satisfied with the smoke output.



Thanks so much for all your responses on keeping the smoke unit a pellet type, and replace the heating element or rewinding with new nichrome wire. I did find a number of suppliers of the replacement heating elements.

Just as a future reference for part numbers:

671-169 original wire wound heater

671-225 updated wire wound heater w/ ceramic

671-212 smoke heater liner (fiberglass?) 

671-181 stack gasket fits on top of heater between die-cast engine stack.

Carl J

Carl J posted:

PW Pellet Smoke Unit from 2046 Lionel Engine- Repair or Upgrade??

 Just for the record, the conversion to liquid only is really a downgrade, not an upgrade, as the performance of liquid & pellets is so much better with the nichrome heaters, and the elements last so much longer.


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