I’m trying to restore a 6403B bell ringing tender to its original operating state, cosmetics notwithstanding. My initial problem was/is finding a wiring diagram for this one (or a 2403B or a 2203B.) I have searched the pages here and found discussions that talk about a wiring diagram, but have yet to actually find one. The previous owner had everything rewired to exclude the ringing bell circuit, so I am trying to determine the original wiring to the bell solenoid and especially the bimetal strip that serves to trigger the bell at regular intervals.

When first opened, I found both ends of the nichrome wire disconnected – the wire was wrapped around the bimetal strip, and some of the insulation that separates the two was missing. I decided that the nichrome wire needed to be reattached as follows: end near bimetal strip contacts – nichrome wire gets soldered directly to the bimetallic strip. Not an easy feat, nor is it recommended, but you deal with what you have - I suspect this wire was probably crimped under the contact rivet when new.


At the opposite end, near the bimetal strip mounting post, I attached the nichrome wire to the ungrounded end of the bell solenoid via jumper wire. This arrangement puts the nichrome wire in series with the bell solenoid, and provides an interruption in current flow to the bell when the bimetal strip is in the heated or open position.


This actually works, and provides a semi-regular frequency of bell rings, at least as good as a bimetal strip can provide – about one ring per second. The rings are not very loud, even at 14 volts, but they are reasonably regular. The problem is that Lionel would never have done things the way I just did.

Does anybody have this tender and a camera, and would be willing to open it up and photograph the bimetal strip to show where the connections are made? Or even just describe how the wiring is supposed to be?




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I believe that the tender bells for the postwar 1656 family, and prewar 227 (8976) family and 203 family are all wired the same.  The drawing below shows the bell wiring.  It also includes a little of the details of the teledyne and Magic electrol, which were prewar features.  This drawing is from the TCA Bulliten magazine, which is available on line if you are a TCA member.  It is from many years ago, but I do not recall the date.  I believe they are indexed.  

The wiring is not as you described.  The heater for the bi metallic strip is energized continuously.  The bell and heater get power from the lamp base on the underside of the lamp plate.  The heater is grounded on the lamp plate, the bell is grounded thru the switch to the tender frame.  You may have two wires that run from the tender to the locomotive.  One of those is a ground wire.  The four wheel loco has trouble keeping contact thru switches.  The other wire goes  from the accessory shoe on the tender truck to the front coupler.  When the coil coupler on the tender truck is energized, the front coupler on the locomotive is also energized thru this wire.  

I have seen warnings that some of the bi matilic strip heaters were in series with the back up lamp and use of the wrong lamp could result in overheating the nichrome wire.  But I can not recall ever seeing one wired like that.  

I do not want to take a tender apart to photograph it.  As I recall to see the under side of the lamp plate requires removing the lamp plate support bracket, which requires removing the rear truck, which requires unsoldering the front coupler wire.  I will see if I can find a spare part and photograph that.  It will probably be a prewar part, but I think they are the same.



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Here is a new lamp plate with the bell timing bi matilic strip on it.  Note that on the lamp holder the center contact is ground and the shell is hot.  In the second photo you can see where a rivet is used to connect the underside buss bars to the lamp socket shell.  In looking at the part it is not clear how the non contact end of the heater wire gets connected to the ground buss bars.  I would guess it is clamped in that riveted joint.  The large hole in the ground buss bar is where a mounting screw attaches the lamp plate to the support frame, which is screwed to the tender frame.  Other wires solder in the eyelets as required for the various tender models.

Also attached is a photo of the warning that I referred to in the previous post.  It is not as I recalled it.  This comes from Dennis Walden at Just Trains.  He still has these parts for sale.  




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What I mean is that the heater is not turned off with the bell.  The heater is always connected to power thru the contact on the bi matilic strip. The heater sits there turning itself on and off as long as there is power to the tender. This can be seen by watching the back up lamp.  The heater must draw a fair amount of power as it caused enough voltage drop that the back up lamp dims when it is connected. 

That was perfect, I understand now. The hookup you described and the schematic you provided are EXACTLY how I tried my first attempt. Using jumper leads, I hooked everything up the same as shown in the schematic. When I touched the last jumper to provide "hot" power from the A terminal on my ZW, I got quite a blue flash, and a large amount of deflection in the bimetal strip. My human side got the better of me and I just had to try it again, with the same result - another blue flash, and an audible hum emitting from the ZW - I knew that I was drawing far too much current. 

As you can see in my pic, the remaining amount of insulation on the bimetal strip is half or less, while the number of turns of nichrome are about 1/3 the number of turns shown in your pic. Checking the cold resistance, it's about 2 ohms, which means at the 12v setting I was using, it was sucking down 6 amps, or about 72 watts! Clearly there's a missing hunk of nichrome wire, and it's a show stopper for this unit. I will be giving Dennis Walden a call tomorrow.

So wiring the remaining nichrome heater wire in series with the bell solenoid is required in this case to limit the current flow - but at the same time, it is robbing the solenoid of the power needed to give the bell a good kick - clearly a compromise solution.

There are two remaining mysteries, the first being the instruction sheet where it says the lamp is being used as a regulator - my impression is that the lamp is wired to HOT and GND, and that certainly wouldn't be a regulator circuit.

The other remaining mystery is where the nichrome wire is supposed to be attached at the contact end of the bimetal strip. Looking at your pic, it almost appears as though they have done what I ended up doing which was to solder the wire directly to the strip. But I really can't quite see that in the pic. Interestingly, before I soldered my wire, there was absolutely no sign of any previous soldering on that end of the strip - that is why I assumed the nichrome wire must have been somehow crimped under the actual contact rivet. That said, this whole paragraph is a moot point if I will be buying one from Dennis  

One last comment on grounding, whenever a truck has a mounting post on it with a horseshoe or E clip securing the truck to the frame, I always solder a ground wire to the outer edge of a new E clip, then attach that wire to the car frame - you will never have a ground issue with that in place!

I found a couple of unused bi matilic strips.  At the contact end the nichrome wire is just wrapped around the strip three to four times.  There is no mechanical connection and there is no solder.  I was able to take tweeters and lift the end of the nichrome wire.  It is quite stiff.  

Your comments on grounding the truck was interesting.  On several 2227 tenders I have found a phos bronze strip clamped under the lamp bracket support against the frame.  It goes right across the top of the truck stud putting a fair amount of force against it.  I assume it is there to improve grounding. It is on some tenders and not on others.  I do not know if it is a Lionel running change or a service station retrofit.  The design of the phos bronze strip is consistent so I assume it is a factory made part.  But I have never seen it in a parts list and have no idea what the part number is.



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Well, I'll be... never thought they would just "wire wrap" the end of the wire like that. I did notice on your 1st pic that it appeared that 4 or 5 turns were wrapped around bare metal, but wrote that off to just careless workmanship - now I see it was part of the grand design! With 4 contact edges for each turn of the wire, it's a cheap way to make a connection! 

Just Trains offers a rewinding service, so I wrote and asked for a price. We'll see what they come back with.

Yeah, as far as the grounding, this is what I made to insure both trucks are grounded.


And since the die cast body has the two holes for wires & grommets, I will add those as well just in case this tender sees some duty with a prewar switcher (quick drawbar change required). For the 1615 pw switcher, it has the newer style drawbar, but with a contact spring under the drawbar screw and, for lack of a better term, a wrapped spring added to the end of the drawbar that fits into the tender, also to insure good contact. I will have to examine the best ground method from the drawbar receiver to the tender frame.

Thanks John and Chuck, for the great help. As many others have noted, it feels good to have assistance just a keyboard away!


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Not to just beat this horse into the ground, but look at this pic I found trolling the internet - blow up the upper right corner and check out the schematic. This one shows the nichrome wire soldered in SERIES with the bell solenoid, unlike the TCA version you displayed above, David.


I would love to see the rest of this schematic - anybody have this service manual and a scanner?



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Hello and I have a lionel prewar 203 and I am having trouble finding the correct wiring for jack pulgs, I know the right side is for the couplers but the other side hooks to what on the engine. Thanks 

Last edited by Harrison white

The left side picks up center rail power in the engine and powers the left plug.  In the tender the left wire should go to a connection on the back up lamp board. It solders to an eyelet which connects to the shell of the lamp socket and a bus bar which energizes the bimetal strip that rings the bell. 

Something I have run across before is that the prewar locos connected center rail power between the engine and the tender.  In post war locos the loco to tender jumper wire is outside rail power.  I believe this change is because the post war 0-4-0 wheel arrangement was too short to guarantee outside rail contact through some track work.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to enough prewar 201 and 203 locos to verify this with multiple observations.  On the 227 family of prewar 0-6-0  locos, it is clear that this the case.  The plug in the cab of the loco is part of the brush plate and is directly connected to the switch that turns the e-unit on and off.

I believe that Dennis’s very nice drawing, above, is for a postwar tender, 2403B and 6403B, which have the second engine to tender jumper wire as a outside rail connection.  For the 2203B prewar tender the jumper wire is a center rail jumper and the black wire should connect to one of the eyelets on the other side of the lamp socket, connecting it to the red wire.

You can't actually solder to the wire; it won't stick. You have to trap it in solder. Bending a tiny loop or 90° to the wire tip helps.

Note these wires are usually crimped on both ends

David Johnston posted:

Something I have run across before is that the prewar locos connected center rail power between the engine and the tender.  In post war locos the loco to tender jumper wire is outside rail power. 

On my 1656 switcher I solved that problem by purchasing a three terminal female jack, p/n 201-4  

and making connections to the center rail, outside rail and coupler all through a 3 wire tether. Worked like a charm. 


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