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What exactly is a "pancake" motor?

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What exactly is a "pancake" motor?
Posted by Alcoboy12 on Friday, January 23, 2009 4:07 PM

Ok, I have some old Tyco/AHM/Model Power Locomotives and I am being constantly told that the motors in them are no good because they are a "pancake" motor.. What the heck is a pancake motor? The 3 locos I have that are made by Tyco/AHM/Model Power are as listed; Alco S1000, Alco C430 and another Alco C430.. Now, I am the type of teen who cannot leave anything alone.. I have had the shells off and the motors pook exactly like the ones found in today's model trains, they have the driveshafts and all except the S 1000 is eight wheel drive, However, on the S1000 there is a rod in front so it appears as it it could me modified into an 8 wheel drive.. Why do people keep criticizing these locos? Mine are great runners and I have had no problems with them at all, I have only had to replace a lightbulb. Am I lucky or are people just too anal these days? I think most don't realize that if you are on an extremely tight budget, these will get the job done and though there are no longer any replacement parts, I have found plenty of RC vehicles that can donate parts..

I love Alco's and Burlington Northern! HO scale forever! In the Roster: Model power Alco S1000, Model Power Alco C430, AHM Plymouth Switcher, Roundhouse products Alco RS3, Athearn SW-7, Walthers GP-20, Bachmann EMD GP-40, Athearn F45, Lifelike EMD F40, Lifelike GP 38-2, Rivarossi 0-6-0 Steam engine
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Posted by retsignalmtr on Friday, January 23, 2009 4:24 PM

i have a 42 year old fleishmann new haven electric loco that has what i consider a pancake motor. it is a relativly flat thin motor mounted verticaly with the armature at right angle to the frame. this motor turns the gears that are stacked up from the gears on the axles to the motor pinion gear. the motor is attached to the truck itself and would not be able to be connected to the other truck. it still runs great after all these years.

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Posted by don7 on Friday, January 23, 2009 4:25 PM
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Posted by Packer on Friday, January 23, 2009 4:39 PM

Basically, its junk

A pancake motor is a motor that sits on top of one truck, and powers only the wheels on that truck. Usually the other truck picks up electricity. I've never owned or ran a tyco, so I don't know much about them; however most of what I hear isn't good. Engines that aren't pancake motored usually have one motor, connected by 2 driveshafts to the trucks.

If your roster is all powered, your Lifelike F40 and Lifelike GP38-2 have pancake motors (I've owned them before) your athearn F45 and SW-7 should be like the latter.

I was in your boat about a year and a half ago. I used to have a bunch of the Lifelike (LL) engines (a total of 10). Then I bought a newer Bachmann train set with an F9 with the can motor. From that moment on,all my life-like equipment was sidelined for good, and soon after sold off. I then used the money made from ditching the LL junk for a P2K loco. I went on ebay and looked up Proto 2000, I got that brand name on some advice from a member of the local MR club. When I searched, I found a P2K SD9 in BN for $35 bucks with a few minutes left. That engine got me started in Modeling the BN. Around the same time I bought an Atlas hopper. I was so happy with these 2 pieces, that I sold everything off andgot more high-quality stuff.

It's not impossible to get good stuff on a budget, you'd probably have less stuff that before, but it'd work a whole lot better. (I went from 10 engines and 30 cars, to 1 engine and 10 cars). Usually you can find good stuff on ebay for cheap (I've snagged 6 P2Ks at once for a total of 70 bucks, usually they are in between 25-55 bucks each) I still have one of these that I haven't sod yet, might keep it and repaint it in BN (it's NYC now).

Vincent

Wants: 1. high-quality, sound equipped, SD40-2s, C636s, C30-7s, and F-units in BN. As for ones that don't cost an arm and a leg, that's out of the question....

2. An end to the limited-production and other crap that makes models harder to get and more expensive.

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Posted by jeffrey-wimberly on Friday, January 23, 2009 5:25 PM

 Here's a loco with a pancake motor.


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Posted by challenger3980 on Friday, January 23, 2009 5:28 PM

There were open frame motors that were truck mounted, and only powered the wheels of that truck also. A "Pancake" motor has a large diameter, thin armature, and is usually(if not always, in trains) mounted vertically, and powers the drive axles through SPUR gears. If it uses a WORM gear drive, then it most likely is not a pancake style motor( I don't know of any pancake/worm driven examples, but never say never)

  If they run well for you, I wouldn't worry what anyone else says about them, Enjoy them as long as they last. If I remember correctly, the tyco pancakes had problems with the copper on the commutators peeling off, but that was many years ago that I had any of those. I still have a very large collection of HO, but now I find the larger Lionels much more enjoyable to run and collect.







Doug

May your flanges always stay BETWEEN the rails

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Posted by lvanhen on Friday, January 23, 2009 5:39 PM

It's a motor made by Aunt Jemima Whistling

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Posted by challenger3980 on Friday, January 23, 2009 5:42 PM

Just remember, Maple syrup is Good on your Breakfast pancakes, NOT SO GOOD on your Pancake Motors.

 

Sorry about that, I resisted as long as I could,

Doug

May your flanges always stay BETWEEN the rails

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Posted by Alcoboy12 on Friday, January 23, 2009 5:54 PM

Ok, Thanks guys! I only have one loco with a pancake motor right now.. It is an Old AHM Plymouth switcher and it has later model TYCO running gear.. I lost a gear for it but I remember that it ran like a top..

I love Alco's and Burlington Northern! HO scale forever! In the Roster: Model power Alco S1000, Model Power Alco C430, AHM Plymouth Switcher, Roundhouse products Alco RS3, Athearn SW-7, Walthers GP-20, Bachmann EMD GP-40, Athearn F45, Lifelike EMD F40, Lifelike GP 38-2, Rivarossi 0-6-0 Steam engine
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Posted by Driline on Friday, January 23, 2009 7:54 PM

Alcoboy12

Ok, Thanks guys! I only have one loco with a pancake motor right now.. It is an Old AHM Plymouth switcher and it has later model TYCO running gear.. I lost a gear for it but I remember that it ran like a top..

 

I guess if you've never run a quality locomotive before on your layout, you would'nt know any difference so for you these loco's are fantastic. It's like growing up without a cell phone. If you never had one, why would you miss it. But once you own a quality locomotive and especially if you switch to DCC, you'll never go back. I would gladly trade 100 AHM or lifelike engines for one Atlas Gold line engine. They're that good. So save your money up for a nice Atlas engine.

Modeling the Davenport Rock Island & Northwestern 1995 in HO
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Posted by Wdlgln005 on Friday, January 23, 2009 7:56 PM

 It's a motor that smokes & fries before your eyes. Some early Nscale lokies were notorious smokers.

A 2-6-4T Q1B steamer comes to mind. 

Glenn Woodle
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Posted by ICRR1964 on Friday, January 23, 2009 7:59 PM

 Here is a picture of a Bachmann running chassis with a pancake motor. Now Bachmann produced these for years and it was used in the train sets that were fairly low cost. They made F7's, GP40's, GE-B units. Liflike also uses this almost very same drive in there GP38's low nose and High nose units, F7's, F9's, FP45's and a few others. These types of running chassis were also used in the low priced train sets.Both were even sold as individual engines to in LHS.

Both Bachmann & Life Like produced allot of these for years, and I think that Life Like still does at the present. The motors I swear were used in the AFX slot cars I had In the late 70's and early 80's, in other words very tiny, and did not like getting hot. The single powered truck picked up power from the other rolling truck, so this made this engine a 4 wheel drive unit, and almost all of them had rubber tires on 2 of the wheels for added pulling power on the powered truck. 

I am pretty sure that Bachmann got away from this type of drive a few years ago and went with a 8 wheel drive system with drive shafts, but no flywheels. Much better than the old pancake motor. 

Now the AHM Alco 1000 you have does have a small can motor that has a drive shaft that goes to one trucks, but it picks up power via the other rolling truck. I looked on HOseekers web site for the drawing of the 1000, and it is not there for some reason, but I do have the drawing myself and would be happy to email them to you. Now the other AHM units you have, I need to have a look at them with the cabs off, there were 2 different version of these as far as power units. AHM stayed away from the pancake motors pretty much, They used 3 pole motors that were quite large or a simple open frame 3 pole motor. If you want drawings of your drawings, go to HOseekers web site or let me know I do have almost all of the older stuff you might be looking for.

 

 

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Posted by Midnight Railroader on Saturday, January 24, 2009 1:23 AM

Alcoboy12
is an Old AHM Plymouth switcher and it has later model TYCO running gear.. I lost a gear for it but I remember that it ran like a top..

In circles and really fast? Yeah, that's about right.

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Posted by lvanhen on Saturday, January 24, 2009 8:36 AM

Midnight Railroader

Alcoboy12
is an Old AHM Plymouth switcher and it has later model TYCO running gear.. I lost a gear for it but I remember that it ran like a top..

In circles and really fast? Yeah, that's about right.

Hery, don't make fun of it!!!   I still have one, and it will outrun my BLI, Atlas, or any others by about 200 smph!!Whistling

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Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Saturday, January 24, 2009 10:29 AM

Those Tyco drives are pretty unique, huh? All exposed, paper-thin gears, plastic wheels, and a motor that's only about 1/10th the size of a more standard motor. BUT! They DID have very low current draw for their time, and they're actually fairly quiet, and the lack of motor torque let's it start up kind of smoothly.

The definition of a "pancake" motor in trains is:

1. very short length-wise
2. slightly larger diameter to compensate for the lack of length
3. flat commutator (the part that alternates power through the motor's poles at it turns)

They're usually made very cheaply, have a short life, and have a very high RPM (around 18,000). There are some, however, that are actually very good quality, like the ones made by Marklin and Trix. (http://www.trixtrains.com/american.html PA-1 diesel set uses pancake motors, with two axles driven in each diesel. They can pull over 200 cars, according to MR) Older toy train companies, like Lionel and Marx, used pancake motors that could outlast their owners.

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Posted by New Haven I-5 on Saturday, January 24, 2009 12:12 PM

They are usually terrible. They run at a super sonic speed, then burn up.

- Luke

Modeling the Southern Pacific in the 1960's-1980's

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Posted by MRTerry on Sunday, January 25, 2009 7:15 PM

Per Darth: "They're usually made very cheaply, have a short life, and have a very high RPM (around 18,000). There are some, however, that are actually very good quality, like the ones made by Marklin and Trix. (http://www.trixtrains.com/american.html PA-1 diesel set uses pancake motors, with two axles driven in each diesel. They can pull over 200 cars, according to MR) Older toy train companies, like Lionel and Marx, used pancake motors that could outlast their owners."

Darth is absolutely correct. The "pancake" (basically, flat commutator) motor design is not inherently worse than other designs, but some badly engineered and cheaply manufactured versions have given it a bad name among North American modelers in HO and N scales. I've seen Lionels with this type of motor run despite all sorts of abuse - I personally rehabbed one that had been left in a barn and had filled with mud. A little cleaning, oiling, and some new brushes and it ran like new. For the European crowd, most Fleischmann and Marklin trains are similarly bulletproof. Many of them have five-pole armatures as well, which also adds to the operating quality.

In fact, pancake motors have an important advantage over worm drive (vertical or cardan shaft) motors, namely that their spur gear trains impart no thrust forces on the armature bearings. Not only is that easier on the motor, but the armature is basically its own flywheel in this design. The flywheels that we've come to expect on a quality locomotive are actually a mechanical Band-Aid to compensate for the poor contact inherent in wheel-to-rail power transmission and for the fact that a single-lead worm design basically stops dead if the power is interrupted. (Multiple-lead worms are a different story, but I don't remember ever seeing one in a model.) A spur gear drive will usually have some gear whine, but it can also coast a little with the power off. You don't see them as often these days in part because of their bad reputation, but two other reasons are important as well: To power all the wheels in a diesel using these motors means using two motors, which costs more, and they have to be custom made for the application, so you can't use an off-the-shelf motor.

My point is this: The "rule" that you should never buy a flat-armature motor is one of several model railroading myths. The real differences in the operating quality and durability of model locomotives are almost always due to engineering or build quality.

One of these days we might do a story on model railroading myths. Thanks for reminding me that we should include this one.

Most of all, thanks for reading MR,

Terry

 

 

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Posted by rivabruc on Thursday, October 12, 2017 5:43 PM

i agree with you  they have done me well over the years they are  not that bad for me with a limited income they fine, and   people just like to pick certain things apart and nick pick most of these people have plenty of money  and care less about you and me just enjoy them and forget about what people think like i do

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Posted by rivabruc on Thursday, October 12, 2017 5:46 PM

long live pancake motors

riva bruc
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Posted by rivabruc on Thursday, October 12, 2017 6:02 PM

yes i have  had quality dcc and ran them also but i still  like the older locomotives ahm life like model power etc, i do collect also what gives you right to find fault with me and others of the same interest you are no better than me

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riva bruc
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, October 12, 2017 8:02 PM

If one of these pancake motors was made to a high quality standard I can see a few applications where this drive could be useful.

.

-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, October 12, 2017 10:19 PM

rivabruc
what gives you right to find fault with me and others of the same interest you are no better than me

Hi rivabruc:

I don't think you should take other peoples' opinions about locomotive quality as a personal attack on you. We are each entitled to our opinions. You like pancake motors, others don't. It's your railroad and you can run what you want.

I have one pancake motored Tyco switcher and I have to admit I get a kick out of seeing the small amount of smoke and smelling the ozone when it flies down the track at rocket speed. I have never cleaned it up. If I did I'm sure it would run much better and without the 'special effects'.

I would make one other minor point and that is that the thread you responded to was from 2009. Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with resurrecting an old thread, but just understand that it is unlikely that you will get a response from most of the original posters. Rich and Darth are still around but I don't recall seeing any posts from the other participants in the thread for quite some time. I guess the rest of them have moved on.

Cheers!!

Dave

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Posted by Bernd on Friday, October 13, 2017 7:17 AM

I purchased 22 pancake motors from E-bay to power various engine's and free-lance power designs down the road. Here's an example of a repowered Hustler using an SD40 truck and a pan-cake motor.

For further info on this project go here.

Bernd

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, October 13, 2017 7:20 AM

 At least one of the previous posters in this thread is sadly no longer with us. 

Tyco wasn;t always pancake motors, their original power truck had a more standard motor in it. It was later, closer to the end, that they switched to a rather poor quality pancake motor in everything (even the steam locos - tender driven, with a diesel truck!). What's funny is that when I had HO slot cars, I always like the Aurora cars better than the Tyco ones. Tyoco had a regular motor with the armature running fore and aft. The Aurora cars had a pancake motor with spur gears on top.

 That horrible motoor Bachmann used in their train set level stuff in the 80's was another one. As mentioned in the thread - it's those kind of junk motors that gave the pancake motor a bad name. There's nothing inherent in the pancake design that says you can't build one that is ever bit as good as say a Kato can motor. Old Lionel trains were almost ALL pancake motors, wound field universal motors and not permag DC types, but still pancakes - and when you aren't trying to run them fast enough to roll off the track on curves, they have very good slow speed running ability. Very smooth and quiet. The noise from Lionel trains is noot the motor or gears. 

                          --Randy

 


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Posted by areibel on Friday, October 13, 2017 1:03 PM

Hey Bernd, that doesn't look like a TT Scale locomotive!  Are you cheating on us?  LOL!

Actually I have a soft spot for Tyco locomotives, they're what I cut my model railroading teeth on a few years back (40+, actually)   And there are still a few crazies like me that enjoy tinkering with them, there are a couple Tyco forums out there and I've followed a couple of threads where they took the old pancake/ vampire truck and made them smooth pullers. 

One of the problems when Tyco cheapened everything up were the magnets they used, they were really cheap.  Add a little abuse (forward to reverse at max speed) and no lubrication to them, plus probably running on snap track on carpet and it wouldn't take long to smoke one of them.  I have one C430 torn apart on the bench that is waiting for a little time and TLC to see if I can improve it a little.

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Posted by gthomson on Friday, October 13, 2017 2:48 PM
I bought a F40 LifeLike train off Kijjii with a pancake motor but really wanted it because it was marketed with GO train colours and emblem (local commuter train). It lasted about a year and was less than smooth. Noisy as heck to boot. It died so I bought the same engine at local hobby store (used obviously) and swapped the chasis. Anyone recommend where to buy a replacement engine for this train? Preferably one that's quieter.
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Posted by Bernd on Friday, October 13, 2017 3:02 PM

areibel

Hey Bernd, that doesn't look like a TT Scale locomotive!  Are you cheating on us?  LOL!

No of course not. If I get bored with one I work on the other. Right now I'm working on both scales.

I have one C430 torn apart on the bench that is waiting for a little time and TLC to see if I can improve it a little.

Here's something I've been working on. I haven't got it written up on my web site yet. I've converted several Tyco engines with those pancake motors. I've also replaced the wheels sets on these with the newer Atheran wheels sets. No pictures of those yet, the wheel sets.

Bernd

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Posted by Bernd on Friday, October 13, 2017 3:30 PM

I took a couple of pictures of the wheel modification.

I made a new axle using Acetal plastic. Had to make a washer on the opposite side of the gear to keep the wheels in the proper position.

Next I need to figure out the mounting of electrical pickups.

Bernd

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Posted by Southgate on Sunday, October 15, 2017 1:22 AM

A nine year old thread can be made interesting!  

Great work, Bernd, on that Tyco truck conversion, and other little critter.

How about a pancake motored, worm drive, twin flywheel, all wheel driven and electrical pick-up, shorty industrial switcher? Perhaps ALCO's answer to the GE 25 tonner... Actually  the "prototype", as most here know was a photoshopped ALCO short hood posted on some website, and I fell for it. Glad I did too! 

 Hosted on Fotki

 Hosted on Fotki

With it's old hobbytown metal body, it currently weighs in at over 6 oz, and by the time I get done filling all the cavities in the body with lead, and thick brass sideframes added, it'll tip the scale at over 9 oz. The truck is a Kato unit originally with Blomberg truck detail.   Dan

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