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I have brought several of my 'dead-whistle' postwar tenders back to life by fully disassembling and methodically cleaning everything and then re-wiring, lubricating, and testing them. 671W, 2671W, 6466W, 2046W, 2426W, 6026W

With my Postwar ZW (Kent Schwartz refurbed) transformer - the rebuilt tenders whistle every time just like you would expect them to - albeit with that inescapable and familiar Postwar armature rattle/whine. With the 1999 modern-ish ZW using both a 180w brick or a 135w brick the whistle relay starts to chatter/cricket a bit, when voltage increases past 8~10 volts - and occasionally the whistle will sound above 12~14 volts. When the Whistle switch is pushed on the 1999 ZW the 'chatter' changes/intensifies, but it usually doesn't fire the whistle relay to sound. The Bell  button on the 1999 ZW fires it every time and it will usually latch, sometimes permanently - or at least until I reduce the output several volts.

* My voltmeter finds roughly 0.2~0.5 volts of continuous DC on the A-U & D-U outputs of the 1999 ZW - but only a trace (0.009~0.01) of DC on the A-U & D-U outputs of the Postwar ZW.

* At typical conventional track voltage (9~10 volts) my voltmeter finds roughly (+) or (-) 2~3 volts of continuous  AC boost/cut when the Bell or Whistle is applied and (+) or (-) 2~3 volts of continuous DC on the A-U & D-U outputs of the 1999 ZW when the Bell or Whistle is applied.

* At typical conventional track voltage (9~10 volts) my voltmeter finds roughly (+) or (-) 3.5~4.5 volts of momentary AC boost/cut when the Whistle is applied and (+) or (-) 2~3 volts of momentary DC on the A-U & D-U outputs of the Postwar ZW when the Whistle is applied.

Any guesses?

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I do not have an answer to your problem of fixing whistles and bell in coal tenders.  You probably will not follow my cure for train whistles and horns, as it is not for everyone but I did make my train running life much easier by doing the following:

I installed a junker Lionel steam whistle in a building with open windows on the original train board and I installed a Bachmann HO Shell Oil Storage Tank that has a diesel horn in it on original train board.  Real Oil Storage Tanks come in lots of sizes.  I added another junker Lionel whistle and diesel horn on the new addition when built.  I put a button to operate each on each end of the both control panels each near the Lionel LW train control transformer for easy access.  Both control panels have buttons for horns and whistles on both boards.  This allows me to have whistles and diesel horns no matter which engine or coal tender is on the train board.

I find the Lionel whistle is much more reliable in a building because it does not have a middle rail pick up and a DC relay like when in a coal tender.  They do not require train transformer power and good transformer diodes for DC voltage.  It is just wired 14 vac directly to the whistle motor.

Many of the Diesels that have horns (F3, etc.) that require batteries.  I hate batteries in trains as they will leak and usually have expired when I get around to operating them.  I have too many engines to bother with batteries including the newer ones that are required for electronics.

The layout transformers do not have to have a working whistle or horn button meaning I do not have to maintain the diodes in the transformers to made DC.  None of them work on my 3 LW transformers and I do not care.

Most can not tell where the train whistle or horn sound is coming from on medium size layout.

Today I often buy locomotives without the coal tenders and coal tenders without whistles, often at a much lower price.  Whistling coal tenders also are heavy dead weight (not on the engine drive wheels), waste amps, and slow down the trains.  Only one or two of my diesels has a horn installed.

Just an idea to consider


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

I have done the same thing with my Lionel 2046W tenders reconditioned. I run ZW transformers and the late Model R. I even have one with whistle diodes. If the train is stopped the whistle works fine. On the run it hardly  works  and even activates the e-unit instead sometimes.  If I increase the voltage I get a better response but nothing like when the train is stopped. Track is clean.  Disappointed. Looking for answers too.

I apologize for posting so 'wordily'. My latent Irish blood urges me to use 50 words when 5 would do just fine

The root of my problem is that all of the whistle tenders worked poorly if at all  before I cleaned, lubed, and rewired them (none of the relays chattered)- NOW that they are all fresh and sounding better the whistle relays chatter while applying track voltage without pushing any button at all

I hear you. Mine does that ... Nature of the beast?

Sigh... yes, it IS the nature of our 70~90 year old "toys" I suppose. What wrinkles my forehead is that some of them worked ... ye know... just okay when they came out of the box after 30+ years, but with no chatter, before I cleaned them up. My cranky uncle used to say, "frustrating starts with F for a reason"

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