Lionel 1-18406 Maintenance Car (MPC) fix!

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  • Member since
    February 2014
  • 124 posts
Lionel 1-18406 Maintenance Car (MPC) fix!
Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, December 2, 2019 10:17 PM

I was volunteering during the final day of operations for the season, at the Trolley Museum I'm a volunteer at, and noticed an MPC-era Maintenance Car (product number 6-18406) that they had for sale. I had forgotten about it, having seen it there many times. It had the original box, just missing the sign, and a price of $30, and had not sold all year! I only had $20 on me, but decided to shoot my shot.. and I scored! 
After reading up online, I found that some people cite this car as having problems with running very poorly, and shooting a lot of sparks. Well, when I put mine on the layout, that's exactly what I got! But I was quick to note two things- For one, I knew about the collection the car had come from, and the guy mostly collected his trains and kept them in the original boxes, he didn't run many of them, and didn't run them much. So I was pretty sure it had never been serviced. Another big 'uh-oh' which some may have overlooked, was a huge difference between the MPC production item, and the 1960s No. 69 made by the original Lionel Corp, namely being that whereas all postwar Lionel No. 50 gang cars and 69 Maintenance Cars have a chemically blackened chassis, the No. 6-18406 has a black painted chassis. Since the chasis of the car is partially responsible for grounding out the car, I thought that perhaps the grounding out of the car was compromised somewhat by the use of paint, which unlike the chemical blackening, will not conduct electricity. 
When I opened the car up, I also discovered what seemed to be a bigger contender- the free-wheeling axle, where the copper contact runs from the bumper slider, to ground out, was coated in light rust, and looked to have never been oiled once in its entire life! There was similar light rust on the armature shaft below the windings. And then there was the god awful lubrication job lionel gave it. The grease from the MPC era, I have found, by 2019, turns into a congealed, sticky mess that will slow down and hang up a motor, instead of lubricating it. And Lionel didn't use the grease sensibly. They applied grease to the armature shaft bearings (top and bottom!), instead of oil! I don't know what they were thinking with that last move. At any rate, I gave her the full serviceand then, carefully, I used a file to remove paint from the chassis, in all the places where the bumper slider made contact with it. I got rid of the rust by using a polishing wheel on my dremel to spin the rear wheels, while I held a piece of scotch-brite gently against the rusty axle. Did the trick! I also, very carefully used the polishing wheel, with some polishing compound, to remove the rust from the armature shaft. Also, I have to say, if my unit is anything typical of these cars, then beware- the commutators are made with poor material! Mine was covered in tiny pits, rather than being a smooth, shiny surface like on a proper comutator. No clue what was up with that. But it didn't seem to ruin the car's operation! When I put everything back together after a full service, she ran perfectly! Low motor noise, smooth operation, and no more sparking than a well maintained Gang Car/Maintenance Car should have. This OGRR forum topic also advises removing paint on the chassis
Hope this can help some of you folks with problematic Maintenance Cars (and for that matter, gang cars with the same issue) made by MPC Lionel!

PS: I shot footage of me working on the car, and I'm planning on editing it into a 'how to' video on servicing it, will post it here when it's live.

"If it don't work, then gosh darn it, get a' fixin!"

Can I fix trains? Mostly. How long have I been doing it? Took me years to get much success beyond the "taking it apart" step. Where am I at now? Well, does she run?

  • Member since
    December 2005
  • From: Hopewell, NY
  • 2,896 posts
Posted by ADCX Rob on Sunday, December 15, 2019 9:46 AM

...The grease from the MPC era, I have found, by 2019, turns into a congealed, sticky mess that will slow down and hang up a motor, instead of lubricating it.

This is a good reminder for anyone putting New, Old Stock equipment(or any equipment coming out of long term storage) into use, especially as the train sets come out for Christmas this time of year. The old Lionel Lubricant from any era really is way past its "expiration" date and should be cleaned out and replaced with modern synthetics(grease, & oil as needed).


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