How To Troubleshoot a Lionel Train

Lionel Trains have been around for over 100 years and have a great history behind them 1. Many people believe the trains made in the two decades following World War II were the finest ones Lionel ever built 1. Lionel and all of their trains, though, are generally considered to be the best brand name in the history of toy trains 1. As with any toy or hobby item, however, you are bound to run into some questions on how to care for it or get it to work. Take the time and try to troubleshoot the issues yourself before calling a Lionel dealer.

How To Troubleshoot a Lionel Train

Check to make sure the transformer is not unplugged if the train will not run. Also ensure that the wiring is correct between the track and the transformer. Your owner's manual will explain proper wiring (See Resources). You might have a short circuit on the track. This is most often caused by a derailed car or locomotive. Metal objects, such as tinsel, can also cause a short circuit. Make sure all wheels of the train are set on the tracks and that all metal items are removed.

Ensure that all track connections are secure if the engine hesitates. The track may also be dirty. Clean off any dust or soil that may have accumulated. The pick-up contacts may also need to be cleaned.

Clean the engine wheels if the engine runs very slowly or overheats. The engine may also need to be lubricated. You can purchase a lubrication and maintenance kit from any Lionel dealer. If you haven't purchased such a kit, use a pin to dab some oil where needed. Never lubricate to excess. Do not lubricate the running surfaces of the wheels or the rails.

See if the manumatic uncoupler is installed correctly if the cars won't uncouple. It can be installed on any piece of straight track. Depressing the button causes the prongs to raise and the uncoupler to work. See your owner's manual for an illustration on how to install it correctly.

See if a light is loose or burned out if the train light does not work or is flickering. Unsnap the front of the broiler to change the front lamp, by pulling straight forward. You can then remove the lamp from the adapter by pulling it straight out. Your owner's manual will tell you which number lamp you need to buy for your particular locomotive. The rear lamp needs to be replaced by a Lionel Service Center.


Always check manufacturer recommendations before making adjustments to your Lionel Train.

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