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Years ago in the 90s, I purchased a couple of cheap Lionel train sets.  One was Crayola train set #6-11813 and the other was Atlantic Coast Line #9-1687.  I also had a couple of handcars---one with Mickey & Minnie, and the other with Mickey and Donald.  When Christmas time came, didn't want to bother with anything intricate, so I decided to set up four simple loops around the tree.  Three "O" gauge loops powered by AC, and one Large Scale loop powered by DC.  I ran all of them for a couple hours or so each day until it was time to take the Christmas stuff down in January.  It was then that I took a good look at the boxes for the two sets.  Both had instructions for connecting the lockons to the DC terminals.  ACK!!!

Years prior, I had set up an over and under, O27 gauge, figure-8 track powered with an AC transformer.  Being a kid, I wondered if my Marx Union Pacific HO engine would run okay on 2 of the 3 rails.  So I put the engine on the track and gave it power.  The engine took off with the headlight burning brighter than I'd ever seen before.  It was GREAT and it was COOL!  It went around the track maybe one and a half times before it suddenly stopped with the headlight still on.  I turned the power off and back on, but only the headlight would turn on.  The wheels wouldn't turn.  I took the shell off, and I found one of the wires going to the motor had burned up.

Now, the motors in the Lionel engines didn't burn up, but I don't know if it was just because I didn't run them as fast as the HO UP engine or not.  Did I shorten the lives of the motors on the Crayola and Atlantic Coast line locomotives or are the motors built to be powered by either AC or DC?  I've always wondered about that ever since.

Last edited by phrankenstign
Original Post

phrankenstign, either your memory is faulty or those two Lionel engines had been previously modified with an in line rectifier. Both of those engines as made were DC only and came in sets with a DC power pack. If you had put them on track with AC power, they would not have run at all and the longer you left them on the track with AC current, the more likely you would have ruined them.

The vast majority of trains made with DC motors (and there are many) have a rectifier in the reverse unit circuit board, which allows those engines to run successfully on either AC or DC current. Although some engines with DC motors that have other features, such as sound, may not be able to run on DC current without causing damage to the sound boards. Lionel locos with "Trainsounds" are an example where the instructions warn not to run the loco on DC even though it has DC can motors. That's a case for paying attention to the instructions that came with the loco.

There are many who consider the DC only engines by Lionel to be a mistake. Of course, this was an intentional cost saving avenue so the retail price would be less. One drawback to these sets was the Tyco style DC power pack that was included that started off with 6 volts to the track, so you could not run these engines at a crawl or even slowly.

My own layout has the option of running on either AC or DC current. I like those low cost DC only locos. They are easily improved visually and by adding internal weights to the engine (space that would have otherwise been taken by a circuit board), these engines will run both slowly and pull a nice train of 10 cars easily.

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