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K-4 Repairs

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  • Member since
    November 2003
  • 594 posts
K-4 Repairs
Posted by robert sylvester on Monday, June 17, 2019 9:24 AM

YesOops - Sign A few weeks ago I described what I thought was a gear problem with a Spectrum K-4 Penn Steamer. The engine was doing fine when all of a sudden it stalled on the tracks, sometime the main drivers would turn but no grip. When I tried to push the engine I noticed the wheels turned but not enough momentum to move the engine, the wheels just rotated sporadically. Then the day before yesterday the engine would not operate at all. The motor would not run and my signal lights went out, thus indecating a short.

Now I could have sent the engine to Bachman, but some folks suggested I try looking at it myself, so out with the tool box and I began to study the engine and remove screws where I thought I should in order to remove the shell. I finally did it, little tricky but successful, off with the shell.

I also removed the bottom pieces that hold the wheels in place. Becarefull, small screw alert and little springs. So, there it was stripped down to the gears which were down in this little square hole. The first thing I noticed was the pin the traverses through the motorized mechanism that holds the sprocket wheels in place. It had slid all the through the motorized unit, thus the sprockets fell off the pin and feel deeper into the hole. I grabbed the sprockets with a pair tweezers and lined them up with the hole and reinstalled the pin. I did check the sprockets, no cracks or breaks. Success, the sprockets were now back on the pin ans thay turned. I evened the pin up and super glued the ends to the motor chassis. I know maybe I shouldn't have but I wanted it secure.

I then noticed the two lead wires from the motor were touching so I unsoldered them, separated them further apart and resoldered back in place. I super glued the bronze tabs to the motor so they would stay in place. No more short. I placed the motorized unit back on the tracks and voila it worked, smooth as glass.

I then reassembled the shell to the chassis after sanding the opening for an easier fit. Screwed everything back together I now I have a K-4 that runs better than ever and I did not have to send it off for repairs. Just watch the little pieces and take your time.

Robert Sylvester

Newberry-Columbia Line, SC

  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 10,445 posts
Posted by dknelson on Monday, June 17, 2019 10:17 AM

I'm sure that must be a big relief and a good feeling. 

I will say that with the prices of todays models, it takes the nerves of a riverboat gambler to open 'em up and start to tinker.  (Perhaps the prices also make the annoyance level higher.) 

It was a lot easier back in the early 1960s.  Not that the models seemed cheap to us back then, but at least not scary-expensive, and some like the Athearn Hi-F (rubber band drive) diesels seemed cheap even at the time. 

What's more, most of the ready to run models back then were, in essence, assembled kits.  Even with no exploded view drawings, repair was more intuitive.  Some of today's RTR really discourages home brewed disassembly.

Maybe it was also easier back then because at that time, a firm that made model trains was therefore also a firm that sold parts and often those parts were available at the LHS.   Indeed Varney used to advertise its sale of parts rather heavily, and many hobby shops had Athearn parts for sale.  And what you could not fix, the helpful guy at the LHS could fix.  Often, for free.      

Dave Nelson

  • Member since
    October 2006
  • From: Western, MA
  • 8,375 posts
Posted by richg1998 on Monday, June 17, 2019 12:16 PM

I have seen a fairly good breakdown of the loco at the TCS decoder site site for a decoder install in the loco. They removed the smoke unit and motor. Quite a loco.


If you ever fall over in public, pick yourself up and say “sorry it’s been a while since I inhabited a body.” And just walk away.

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