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Discussion Starter #21
I've never bought a used Lionel smoker with pill unit still installed that didn't need the shell to be removed and the pill unit itself cleaned out of years' worth of pill residue wrecking the smoke airhole (for puffing effect) and the clogged up unit that is easily cleaned out with a screwdriver or anything to break up the residue. Best of all, IMHO, is to replace the pill element with an easy to replace liquid smoke - it fits straight into the pill unit with a new cap and easy instructions and then great smoke. Pills are expensive and the residue will keep collecting after several pills have been used up. Needless old-tech when the upgrade is so inexpensive and more satisfying. My #2018 (same as #2037) is my best smoker, better than some modern bigger engines, etc...
I hear you. When I got this 2037 smoker the first thing I did was open up the pill unit. Fortunately, it was not clogged at all. For now, I'm staying with the pill unit because I don't think you have to worry about it as much as the liquid units (keeping the wick moistened all the time to avoid burning out the heating element) I'm using JT'S Mega Steam smoke Fluid, and it produces adequate smoke. Routinely, if I want more smoke, I just add 3 or 4 drops, and it's good to go.
What's nice is if I don't want smoke, I simply don't add any fluid. Simple. No switch or anything. And I was told the heating element is more robust.
 

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Yes. IIRC, a member here said liquid smoke will work fine and the element won't burnout if dry. And you could experiment with adding some pink insulation for better smoking. Should be easy to grab a small pinch from the attic ...
 

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I've never bought a used Lionel smoker with pill unit still installed that didn't need the shell to be removed and the pill unit itself cleaned out of years' worth of pill residue wrecking the smoke airhole (for puffing effect) and the clogged up unit that is easily cleaned out with a screwdriver or anything to break up the residue. Best of all, IMHO, is to replace the pill element with an easy to replace liquid smoke - it fits straight into the pill unit with a new cap and easy instructions and then great smoke. Pills are expensive and the residue will keep collecting after several pills have been used up. Needless old-tech when the upgrade is so inexpensive and more satisfying. My #2018 (same as #2037) is my best smoker, better than some modern bigger engines, etc...
Cleaning out a smoke unit is just something I consider to be part of the maintenance when I acquire or work on a Postwar locomotive. Overstuffing pellets was definitely a common issue back in the day. I've never needed to convert one of my rebuilt units to a liquid type element, which is essentially the same type of resistor that's used in more modern locomotives and that I've found to be much more susceptible to burning out if not kept wet constantly or if an ON/OFF switch isn't installed to kill it when smoke is not desired. If the heating element in mine is in good shape, it stays and the smoke unit gets cleaned and a new wicking pad is installed in the bowl (either a repro pad or pink fiberglass insulation as Mike mentioned). New pellet type elements can be acquired in the repro parts supply and seem to work just as well as the originals as I've found with the few that I've had to replace due to age. When rebuilt, the old style pellet units will work just fine with fluid and I haven't had one fail in quite some time. Obviously some of the original pellet elements are now approaching 60-80 years old, so they can fatigue and fail after so many years of heat cycling. I've only had to replace a couple though. Actually I've found that they work much better with fluid than the pellets and although I do have pellets in my collection, they haven't seen the light of day in a long time.

To each his own though. I've found the above to be true in all cases with my locomotives. Others swear by the liquid units and there's no issue there either if it works for you. They're easily converted either way, I just prefer to keep mine in original condition as they work just fine that way.
 
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