I'm working on a Lionel 152 to run at a show in December.  After diddling around for some time as to what to do, I've decided on a full restoration, trying to make it look as exactly as reasonably possible.  As you can see in the photos, it's been repainted but the original decals are faintly visible.  Looking under the body, I see that it was originally dark green, which according to Greenberg shows that it was made in 1917 or 1918.  The whole run on this engine was 1917 to 1927. 

What pushed me over the edge on doing a full restore rather than just trrying to make it look nice wa that I found that reproduction decals are available.

My 152 has a riveted coupler, shown in Greenberg only for 1917 examples..  Models from 1918 and later have the twist mount coupler.  But my 152 has a type four motor which Greenberg says was begun in 1918.  Is it plausible that they made some 1918 locos with 1917 frames ?  The coupler difference requires a different frame stamping.

Another minor puzzle.  Now I see that I'm going to have to paint red rims around the windows.  Is there a standard red that Ionel used around that time ?  I'm trying to limit the cans of paint that I buy for just one restoration.

For those who may be coming to the TCA show in Hudson, MA in December, this engine will be running on our mebers demo layout with a sting oc contemporary cars.











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I think it quite probable that Lionel used leftover parts. They were in business to make money, and they did that rather well. Great project.

Any update photos or videos? I’d love to see some.



Last edited by TrainFam

Thanks for asking.  that posting is so old that I had forgotten about it, and my plan for running it at a show was overtaken by events of the time.  Since then I've acquired several other old engines in need of rehab so I'm choosing among many restore projects to occupy this time of social abstinence.

Given that my 152 is in the over 100 years old category, I have an additional incentive to move it to the head of the queue.  The New England TCA is going to have an operating exhibit at the show for the NMRA Northeastern Region convention in October.  Our theme will be model railroading of 90 to 100 years ago.  No kits then.  Only way to model a railroad then was to use what we now think of as toy trains.  It's a way of getting young model railroaders to be aware of collectible trains.

We will make some exceptions to the 1929 cutoff date - Lionel state series cars are a must, more realistic interior detail than most O gauge streamliners being produced now.

To go with the 152, I've got at least a dozen 603/604 and 629/630 series passenger cars that were in sets with the 152 and its descendants.  Several of them now move up in the rehab queue.

I'll post more about this project as I go.


One quick question. I love the 150 series of early electric locomotives. I have most of them but I don’t have a 152. I’m just curious were the lead weights included in the original 152 or were they added by someone at a later date?

I noticed you say there are decals available. In addition to decals there are also rubber stamps available and I think rubber stamps were used on all the originals.

I too am a member of NETCA so when we can finally have a meet, I will be looking forward to seeing your 152 on the tracks.

Jim Lawson 

I'm about to go down to the basement and dig out my electric loco restoration candidates.  I'll post some more phtos later.

As for rubber stamps, there is one problem for me and that is alignment.  With a rubber stamp, you've got to make a perfect hit.  with decals, you've got a few seconds to adjust the alignment - that makes a big difference for me.

I've heard that dry transfers actually give the best results.  I have the price list from J&A Hobbies, the firm that advertises in the National HQ News.    There is a set for 152 and others in that series, fairly expensive, $25, but it looks like there is one set for several pieces.  I've talked with Mr. Warnick there, recommended if you want to get into dry transfer.  He's a fond of info, has good instruction sheets and said he gives a free replacement for the first one if you mess it up while learning.

Malcolm Laughlin





Being that it's a very early 152 you may want to rethink the ink stamp? The end result is nicer than a water slide decal. I've done both and it takes some practice with the stamp. You can do them over if you get a mistrike just don't wait a couple days, redo it right away till happy. Photo attached of a resto I did with ink stamps20180623_061631


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Agree with John, the rubber stamp is the best.
Closest to the original.
Mineral spirits are the eraser. 
Plus you do not see the decal outline😀

Water decals are an eye sore on a beautiful restoration and would use ink stamps instead.

Years ago Janice Bennett took over for her father who was licensed by Lionel to make dry transfers after her father passed she took over for brief period of time then stopped altogether , she mentioned this in her letter to me when i had bought some from her the displeasure she had with Lionel.

Her dry transfers were spot on and look very real ,  still have some including for our 156 electric and have done some steam engines as well.

They are very old still stored in original package and look like the day bought and at a very very reasonable price back then.

I think I'm going to try a dry transfer on one side of the loco and the decals I've already bought on the other.  Then I'll have a good comparison.  I'm leaning towards dry transfer because the alignment is easier and I don't want to mess with ink and the challenge of lining up a rubber stamp.

I wonder if the dry transfers now sold by Warnick are those that Janice Bennett was handling.

Now I have to get the right dark green from Train Enamels.

I've reduced the 152 entirely to kit form and completed stripping the old paint.  Here is the kit ready for a new coat of paint.  


Here is another 152 that may actually be a 153.  It has a reverse unit.  According to my reference sources, the 153 differed from the 152 only in having the reverse switch.



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Looking great so far! if you don’t mind me asking, what did you use to strip the old paint? Whatever it is seems to work good.



Here's a photo of the stuff I use for paint stripping.  It's strong enough that I wear gloves, and I have pretty tough skin.  You apply, let it sit for 15 minutes or more and then wash off with soap.  That usually suffices for large smooth surfaces.  Repeated smaller applications are often necessary.


The next photo is my cleaning tool set.  The toothbrush is essential for getting into corners and under things like handrails.  My old King Kut knife (red knob) helps in corners where it's not likely to leave visible scratches.  The bamboo toothpick and Exacto knife are good for making custom scrapers for scraping around handrail posts, corners and other details.  The photo below shows the toothpick turned into a 1/32 thick scraper.  The bamboo is great for stiffness


My final step is sanding.  I use several grits from coarse to fine in succession finishing with 3000 Emery paper.  I'll leave a coarser finish in hard or reach places that aren't likely to affect the overall appearance.  Many minor defects that I can see at six inches won't affect the appearance of the final paint job from two feet away.  The first roof photo is finished with the 3000 emery paper.  There are a few dents that I'll use to experiment with Bondo.  The underside of the roof I shows the scratches from 600 grit paper.


The last two photos show that I've left some roughness in places that are almost impossible to do finely.  I don't think they'll be noticeable after I've shined the brass handrail post and put the handrails back.



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Interesting process, I sometimes use vinegar when doing a restoration and also use a toothbrush to scrub off hard to reach paint, but I was wondering what other people use because sometimes the paint just will not come off. Did you have to do any work on the motor?



LOL did I have to do anything to the motor ? !!!Definition of miracle - 100 yr old tinplate motor that doesn't need work.  I could write a book, Prewar Tinplate Motors in my Life

My apologies to trainfam - not making fun of you, but there is no short answer to that question.  It's actually very interesting.  Tomorrow (or the next day) I'll take some more photos and write about the details.

For now, the short answer is that any time I get a prewar motor the first thing I do is take it apart for cleaning and to fix whatever is wrong with it.

Hehehe, it’s ok, I’ve been there before too. Right now I’ve got a number five with almost everything wrong with it including the motor. Every time I try to work on it something different goes wrong. Makes my head want to blow up like an atom bomb! But I am looking forward to seeing your updates.



I've taken to boiling parts in an old crock pot with a bit of Arm & Hammer detergent added to the water.  It makes very short work of old Lionel paint and just about any other paint.  Even removed the stubborn MTH paint used on new MTH tinplate...

Dennis I tried the Ultracleaner and that worked well on Lionels prewar paint and did not even remove the MTH pain only grassed it and it was in the solution for over a week. Question, how much Arm and Hammer do use for a gallon of water?

Getting back to the motor.  didn't mean to blow off TF's question, but I keep diverting myself from one project to another.

I have yet to find a motor of that age that doesn't need some work.  fortunately most of them are simple electrically.  There is almost always wiring that needs new insulation.   Here are a few examples.  On the left is the 152 motor that started this conversation. 



The pendulum reverse unit has the flaking rubber insulation that is typical of these units.  The headlight tab shows the a wire after I stripped the insulation. 

e3         e6

It and those stripped wires next to it are from a 253 that I'm stripping to sell for parts.  The 253 motor will have a complete set of original wires.  On the right is a 153 motor.  Obviously it's been rewired.  I'll replace that colored wire with black that looks more like the original.

For replacing insulation, I use these fabric sleeves that I buy from Dr. tinker.  It's easy to slip them over the old wire, as I'm doing in the photo.


When I'm doing a restoration, I try to use only original parts, and that includes the wire.

Another typical problem is a break in the wire connecting the field to the brush holder.  Here you can see that I've used a new piece of wire for the brush connection (looks new but it is black).  After soldering, I'll cover it with a small piece of electrical tape.  The second photo shows that same wire where I had to unwind it a bit from the field to strip and get an end that would hold solder and have a good mechanical attachment.


On most motors, I will take off the brush holder to check brushes and armature.  On this one, the armature looks pretty good, but I'll polish the brushes to be sure that the carbon buildup isn't slowing down the motor.


And that pretty much sums up what is needed to get the motors running.  Dealing with the reverse switch or pendulum reverse units is a story for another time

Malcolm Laughlin


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