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Last week a young enthusiast and his mom came to my shop. In hand was a fairly new Lionel Lionchief / bluetooth  ES44 diesel engine. Only ran a few times since new. Popped the shell and I got a surprise! The 2 motors are like the light duty handcar motor. My first thought was the circuit board. Put some leads from muli-tester. Nope, getting voltage from the socket for the motors. Wiring looked good, so checked the motors with a ohm reading.  Both of them with open circuit. No good. Checked Lionel's website. Motors are not available.

 The young lad and mom were waiting and broke the news. Both motors burn't out, and no replacements available. needless to say both were extremely disappointed. The set was gifted to him. Now I told them, it may be only be temporary out of stock, or the motors may never be available again.

It is this type of situation that tends to turn first time customers return or forget about the hobby.IMG_0426IMG_0427  


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Last edited by Chuck Sartor
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Vicious circle.  They have to make the low end stuff inexpensive, so folks will buy it.  You cannot make inexpensive trains with expensive components.  You want good motors, graduate to $300 locomotives.  Even then, most of the 3-rail Diesels I have seen use Chinese windshield wiper motors.  They do last a long time.

@jhz563 posted:

Last time I saw those was in my DC only mpc era 2-4-0.  Isn't there another motor that will drop in?

Those motors should be source-able outside of Lionel. If they went that cheap, they're probably not even customized to the application and widely available from Amazon/Ebay or any number of electronics suppliers.

The worm gear is probably press-fitted plastic. If so, it shouldn't even be a major task to transplant them to a replacement. And if on the off chance it's a metal worm, it can probably be pulled off the shaft with some heat and moved onto the new motor without ruining it.


Agree with everyone else.  Can't believe they put those in an actual engine. 

I never once thought a handcar motor (nor two of them) would be strong enough to pull ANYTHING (aside from maybe a dummy handcar trailer behind it). 

I could see the little motor being strong enough to propel the naked truck around the layout.  Add the frame, shell, and that stack of weights shown, and forget about it. (and by the way, we probably should also account for it pulling at least the rolling stock that came with the set, right?)

Totally unacceptable design.


Last edited by Dave45681

I don't actually have trains with anything but the toy can motors.  Although not all are that tiny. No pitmann sized like I knew from the 70s and expected in at least a couple, my choices went from open frame to crap real fast.  The only saving grace is it should only cost $15-20ea. (I last paid $12 for the size at a pricey brick & mortar about 2014 because it was there. I could have got it for $5-8 online.)

(why do I doubt that price is still low all of a sudden 😒)

When I talk about how MPC did as much harm as good with can motors without rectification for ac, this is a comparable disappointment your experiencing. Now imagine 6ft stacks of returns at Sears and Kmart the first week after Christmas because folks cooked them instantly on their old transformer and track already set up around the trees. (note how many attic collections go from PW, to an mpc car or two, to a cheap cooked 70s-80s DC set then nothing else again)

  The magic smoke lingers about an inch past the sinuses for decades and only smoke pills can help the ill 

Yes, the engine is out of warranty ( by 3 months) Even if it was still in Warranty, doesn't change to availability of the motors. I haven't torn the trucks apart yet to see if the motors can be replaced. My concern is will they burn out again? I'm guessing the motor gets so hot,the brushes fall off the brush holder, second, if better motors can be installed, could be the RCMC handle the current? I'm guessing it probably close to being maxed out with the 2 small motors.

I have heard so many complain about MTH and say Buy Lionel. Last I heard Lionel is not even taking warranty items in for repair. One of my biggest issues has been and always will be promoting the hobby. How are we to do that when big companies charge the prices they do and do not back up their product. Yes MTH may be closing and people are saying "I wouldn't purchase anything from them now". Explain to me what the difference is as far as warranty or service. My heart bleeds for this youngster. I just got done visiting my 6 year old grandson whom I only get to see once maybe twice a year. He has Lionel (from the MPC era) that his Mom Mom and I gave him last year. We set it up while up there and I can honestly say I was so frustrated and disgusted that I now understand why he doesn't play with it. Breaks my heart so much. I love my trains and I love running them. They relax me and I have loads of fun. Even my grandson loves running them when he is hear at Thanksgiving time (we celebrate Christmas then with the family so they can all go to the in-laws at Christmas). Sure hope yo find some way of getting it fixed for them.

Shaking my head wondering what is wrong with the tried and true china drive? Williams used it on their Chuggington and Brewster / Thomas locos which they had a fire sale for $59.99 & they use it on all of their locos, at one time there was a lifetime warranty.

I know it's not the favorite for 2 railers, but it is a bullet proof drive.  And Lionel wouldn't need to add all of those weights because the actual trucks and flywheels would provide enough weight.

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OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
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