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HO Engine Electrical Issue

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HO Engine Electrical Issue
Posted by kevschwen on Monday, March 30, 2020 10:27 AM

Hello!  I am basically a newbie to model railroading.  An adventure that I am taking with my 5 year old son.

Santa brought an HO scale Lionel Polar Express train for him and it has been working fairly well until this past week.

For background we are using Kato Unitrack.  The power pack was an old Tyco unit from when I was a kid, but we just switched to the Kato standard power pack.  My problem exists with both power packs.

The issue started when running the train it suddenly just stopped.  I started to eliminate possibilities.  I checked the track and power pack connections with a multimeter and it is getting power.  I tested each lionel passenger car and the LED lighting works.  I put the loco and attached tender on the track and when I power up the track the throttle only makes it about a third of the way up before it shuts down and gives me a red light on the power pack.

I put on an old Athearn engine and it ran just fine and the power pack was able to go to full throttle, so not a power pack issue I don't think.

Then, I disconnected the tender from the engine and only put the tender on the track.  It powered up fine and connected to the Lionel remote.  I was able to get the sounds--bell, announcements, whistle and the chuffing.

Then, I plugged the tender back into the engine and tried again with the same result of nothing powering up and the throttle only getting about a third of the way up before throwing the red light.

I've popped the cover off the engine to check for any loose wires but did not see anything that appears to be an issue, though admittedly I don't know anything about the internal workings of these things.  All wires appeared firmly soldered in place and very clean.

So, I reach out to you fine folk for any advice or input on what our issue could be.  Any ideas?  A short somewhere onboard the engine?  Any way I can test for that?

Thanks in advance!

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Posted by Mark R. on Monday, March 30, 2020 5:00 PM

If the train runs at all, you don't have a short. Based on your description of what you checked out, it sounds to me like the power pack you are using is slightly under-rated for your train. It will handle the current draw up to a given point, then beyond that, it overloads and goes into thermal shut down.

Mark.

¡ uʍop ǝpısdn sı ǝɹnʇɐuƃıs ʎɯ 'dlǝɥ

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Posted by BigDaddy on Monday, March 30, 2020 5:10 PM

Welcome to the forum.  Initial posts are delayed in moderation.

This is a much better first post than we are used to seeing. It tells us everything we need to know.  You have proven it is neither the track nor the throttle.

Don't have a kato throttle but red lights generally mean short/overload. I would look at the wires again, looking for any wires that are pinched or have the insulation abraded off the wire.  I don't know what Lionel uses for circuit boards, but I would think a wiring issue would be much more common than a circuit board failure.

The fix may be as simple as replacing a segment of wire, but you may not have the soldering tools or skills.  The good news is it should still be under warranty.  You don't want to muck around with engine, and it still doesn't work and then expect them to replace it under warranty if they say boogered up the wiring.

 

 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by BigDaddy on Monday, March 30, 2020 5:22 PM

Mark is one of the more knowledgeable electrical guys here.  The Kato throttle does not come with a power supply, and I don't know what you are using for one, but Tony's Trains specs it at 1 amp.  I don't have any locos, even 1980's vintage that draw 1 amp even if stalled.

The other point is it used to work and now it doesn't.  Something has changed.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, March 30, 2020 5:46 PM

Welcome
 
From your description I would eliminate the power pack and check for something binding up in the locomotive.  The Athearn operating proves that the power pack is OK.
 
Make sure the wheels have some movement and check the side linkage for miss alignment of a wheel.  If a wheel slips on the axle it will keep the motor from turning.  You might also check the axle gear to make sure it is not cracked or broken.
 
See if you can turn the motor shaft with your fingers.  If the motor is easily removable disengage it from the axle and see if the motor will run.  With the motor disengaged the wheels should turn freely.
 
A side rod screw may have fallen out causing the wheels to lock up.
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by Mark R. on Monday, March 30, 2020 6:37 PM

Ok .... maybe I read the diagnosis incorrectly ....

I was under the impression the train RUNS, but only up to a certain throttle position, then it just stops with the red light on, which lead me to believe an overload.

Re-reading, I now see there is no mention that the train STILL runs, but under limited throttle, but rather it stopped and that was it, in that it no longer runs, period.  If that is the case, then indeed it does sound to be a problem with the engine itself.

Sorry for MY confusion ....

Mark.

¡ uʍop ǝpısdn sı ǝɹnʇɐuƃıs ʎɯ 'dlǝɥ

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Posted by kevschwen on Monday, March 30, 2020 6:49 PM

Thanks, all, for the replies.

As for the power from the packs--the original pack I was using supplies up to 18V to the track and my multimeter clocks it at 18.1V but we only ever kept it about half throttle and controlled the engine with the LionChief remote.  It was with this pack that the loco was working and then suddenly stopped.  The Kato pack supplies 13.4V at full throttle as measured by the multimeter.  Per the manual for the loco it will start with 7 to 8V but shouldn't exceed 16V to avoid possibly damaging electronics.

When I get the loco on the track and slowly throttle up I can hear the engine hum (it doesn't move or anything, just hums) but then when it reaches a certain point on the throttle it stops and I get the red light on the Kato power pack.  When I switch to the 18V pack I get no humming from the engine at all.

I will recheck the wires on the loco and all the connections to the wheels.  When I had the cover off I was able to turn the motor and visibly see all the drive wheels turn so there doesn't seem to be an axle issue.

Since they are an authorized Lionel dealer, I reached out to my local shop to see if they take drop-offs for repairs during our virus-related shutdowns but not sure anyone is in the shop to get the message!

Thanks again for all the responses.  My son is eager to hear the whistle again--my old engine just isn't as exciting, I guess:)

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Posted by mbinsewi on Monday, March 30, 2020 8:47 PM

Is this DCC  or DC ?  I kind of agree with Mark.  Sound takes a lot of power in DC.  The Athearn running OK would be normal, as there is NO sound.

Mike.

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Posted by kevschwen on Monday, March 30, 2020 9:08 PM

mbinsewi

Is this DCC  or DC ?  I kind of agree with Mark.  Sound takes a lot of power in DC.  The Athearn running OK would be normal, as there is NO sound.

Mike.

 

DC Powered track. The sounds are triggered by the Lionel remote.  Just not sure why it would run great since Christmas and then just kaput.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, March 30, 2020 9:13 PM

He has tried two power packs and the Athearn runs good on both at max throttle, the Athearn runs so that eliminates the track, wiring to the track and both power packs.  Look for a problem in the locomotive, something is keeping the motor from running. 
 
Could be the motor but I would look for something binding.  As it is a steam locomotive I would make sure the side arms are OK and that the wheels are OK.  The older Lionel steam locomotive were relabeled Bachmann and the Bachmann wheels were famous for slipping or just falling off.  
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by Mark R. on Monday, March 30, 2020 9:41 PM

I would just like verification as to whether the engine runs at all or not. (?)

Mark.

¡ uʍop ǝpısdn sı ǝɹnʇɐuƃıs ʎɯ 'dlǝɥ

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Posted by kevschwen on Monday, March 30, 2020 10:27 PM

Mark R.

I would just like verification as to whether the engine runs at all or not. (?)

Mark.

 

Hi! The engine does not run at all. Sorry for any delays, as a new user my posts go under review, I guess:)

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Posted by NVSRR on Monday, March 30, 2020 11:37 PM

Does it move in reverse or just sit?

 

shane

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

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Posted by kevschwen on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 11:13 AM

NVSRR

Does it move in reverse or just sit?

 

shane

 

It just sits.

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Posted by Wolf359 on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 2:34 PM

kevschwen

 

When I get the loco on the track and slowly throttle up I can hear the engine hum (it doesn't move or anything, just hums) but then when it reaches a certain point on the throttle it stops and I get the red light on the Kato power pack.  When I switch to the 18V pack I get no humming from the engine at all.

I will recheck the wires on the loco and all the connections to the wheels.  When I had the cover off I was able to turn the motor and visibly see all the drive wheels turn so there doesn't seem to be an axle issue.

 

That's really strange. The engine humming, but not moving sounds like a bind/jam, but, being able to turn the motor and the drivers by hand seems to eliminate that theory. The only thought I have as to what could be causing this is maybe the drivers only bind under the weight of the engine for some reason. Or that the engine has somehow developed a short. Have you tried contacting Lionel themselves about this to see what they think? If it's still under warranty, I'd go that route.

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Posted by kevschwen on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 11:24 AM

Wolf359
That's really strange. The engine humming, but not moving sounds like a bind/jam, but, being able to turn the motor and the drivers by hand seems to eliminate that theory. The only thought I have as to what could be causing this is maybe the drivers only bind under the weight of the engine for some reason. Or that the engine has somehow developed a short. Have you tried contacting Lionel themselves about this to see what they think? If it's still under warranty, I'd go that route.

Yeah, I think getting it into an authorized Lionel repair shop will be the best way to ensure a fix though from what I have heard they are notorious for saying things aren't covered by the warranty.  When I tried to reach out to Lionel customer service about something else I never heard back, so I don't have any real expectations of them.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 11:46 AM

Looking for a used locomotive might be better than an expensive fix if they won’t repair it under warranty.
 
 
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 

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