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Discussion Starter #1
Hello. This is my second post on the forum .

I have a 1973 Lionel Southern Express set that I set up for the first time in years last year and now again this year. This is a beginner Figure 8 layout - about 2.5 X 5 feet in size.

I'm not sure if my problem is the track or the engine, but I'm guessing probably some of both due to age/lack of care.

I've been able to get it to start and make a complete circuit or two around the track but it will lose its connection routinely and stop on various places on the track. It can take some time to get it working again and it's consistently inconsistent.

The track is actually in decent shape - not much if any rust or corrosion that I can see. However, getting the track sections to push together completely is tough to do.

I've read through suggestions for track cleaning and engine cleaning but I'd also like to consider upgrading the track.

So - here are my questions.

Can I run this O-27 engine and cars on Lionel Fastrak? I'm confused about the curve radii. I've read some things but have not been able to grasp the concept. It looks like the shortest Fastrak curve is O-31?

Are there alternatives similar to the Lionel Fastrak product?

Would you recommend trying to salvage what I have?

Will the O gauge track that Menard's sells work with my O-27 train and cars?

I'll continue to review the articles and threads on cleaning/restoring but would greatly appreciate any answers to my other questions!
 

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Yes, it will run on Fastrak. You ought to clean the wheels and pickup rollers on the loco.

You may be able to clean the track - it may look good but still be only semi-good at connectively. A track cleaner eraser and so elbow grease, or a soft pad with iso-alcohol and some rubbing, should clean it nicely.

there are alternaitves to Frastrak but frankly not any that are better overall, particularly for a set you assemble and then disassemble and put away.
 

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I believe your loco has an "E-unit" for F-N-R function. Each time power is applied, the E-unit will switch to the next state. That is, cycling power will move the loco's direction control from forward to neutral then reverse, then neutral then forward and so on.

When dirty track, wheels, center rail pickup rollers, etc. cause a momentary power loss, the E-unit cycles - likely from forward to neutral. Some "finagling" gets it running again only to lose power and move to neutral once again.

With everything clean and running fine, this can still happen on the crossover - a momentary loss of power due to the XO configuration - putting the Loco in neutral once again.

The easy fix is to lock the loco in the forward state. That will prevent the E-unit from cycling to neutral. The train's momentum can then carry it across the momentary power loss and keep running.

To lock the engine in forward, run it forward and shut the power. Then move the E-unit control to the other side (switch atop the boiler). That will lock it in forward.
 

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While O-27 track served model railroading for decades and more, it is notorious for being difficult to work with from basic assembly/disassembly problems-injuries to tarnishing that affects electrical conductivity. It's also noisy as wheels cross the slight gaps. Don't underestimate the effect of dirty wheels. They must be clean to provide ground conductivity to outside rails. I stubbornly stuck with O-27 mostly for nostalgia but at least I bought new track when I resumed the hobby 5 years ago. It was also partly because I had a ton of accessories from childhood that only worked with O-27 track. YMMV.

The other part of troublesome layouts such as yours is insufficient power. My new O-27 track was fine electrically but I still had irritating problems here and there. After getting a used ZW transformer, those niggles went away.

After 5 years of random headaches that wore down the nostalgia, I have upgraded just this weekend to Atlas. Wish I had done it long ago. Take a serious look at changing to Fastrack or one of the other less serious/costly tracks that hold up to setup and tear down.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Thank you for the quick replies.

There is something I forgot to ask.

I have the Lionel controller that works with the AC1803000 transformer. The controller has a dial for speed control, with two buttons on the left front face (I think for direction and sound).

Will that work with Fastrak? I'd rather not have to get a new transformer/controller.
 

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I have the Lionel controller that works with the AC1803000 transformer. The controller has a dial for speed control, with two buttons on the left front face (I think for direction and sound).

Will that work with Fastrak? I'd rather not have to get a new transformer/controller.
Yes. The hookup for the Fastrack does not use the same hookup as the O-27 track. Hot wire (red) on the center rail. Common (black) on one of the outer rails.

http://www.lionel.com/products/fastrack-accessory-power-wire-6-12053/
 

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Thank you for the quick replies.

There is something I forgot to ask.

I have the Lionel controller that works with the AC1803000 transformer. The controller has a dial for speed control, with two buttons on the left front face (I think for direction and sound).

Will that work with Fastrak? I'd rather not have to get a new transformer/controller.

A quick search of that part number for the transformer shows that it is a 77 watt transformer. If it runs what you have then it should work OK with the Fastrack upgrade (as others stated, it's still a two wire connection) although you may need to figure out a hookup method to mate the two. Fastrack starter sets generally have two wires coming from a feeder section with little connectors on them meant to be hooked up to terminals on the transformer with nuts to hold them in place. As I recall, the transformer you have would just have two wires coming out of the back meant to connect to a track lock-on with the older tubular track. You'd likely have to come up with a quick connect splice of some sort to mate the two, or install the female spade connectors that hook up to the power tabs on the bottom of the fastrack section to the wires on your transformer.

77 watts isn't very much at all as far as transformers go. Again, if it runs what you have now it should work ok, but if you were to add on to your set with a bigger locomotive, lighted/animated cars, etc. you might need to look into something bigger.
 

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Besides cleaning your track, wheels and pickups, you could also add wires to the furthest point from the transformer. I do this with even small loops to keep power drop offs from happening.
 

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All good suggestions. Your transformer: power pack and speed control is rated for 18 V at 3 amps. That will power most trains until you get into the "big boy" leagues. I have O-27 track and it runs reliably. All track and loco's need cleaning after a while. There's no magic solution to that fact.

I suggest you get your existing layout running well before moving to new track. As mentioned before, clean the track and the loco's wheels and rollers. And check the track-to-track connections. While O-27 can be as reliable as any other track (IMHO), repeated assembly/disassembly tends to loosen the inter track connections by spreading the track rails that receive the pins from the next track. You should examine those rail ends and close any gaps with a needle nose pliers to ensure a tight fit.

Track.png
 

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[O-27]'s also noisy as wheels cross the slight gaps.
FastTrack is much, much louder than O-27. Under our tree we have a "twice around" in O-27 track and outside of that a loop of FastTrack for my son's Thomas. There is no comparison, the FastTrack is louder.


Don't underestimate the effect of dirty wheels. They must be clean to provide ground conductivity to outside rails. I stubbornly stuck with O-27 mostly for nostalgia but at least I bought new track when I resumed the hobby 5 years ago.
Absolutely, but newer track won't clean the wheels.

I agree with @Millstonemike, get your current layout running well before you think about switching track.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
I went ahead and purchased enough Fastrak to make an oval layout. The transformer/controller are working well with it and the locomotive ran great on it.

It's a good starting point. I'm not worried about the noise. The set I have has a tender that has a mechanical sound effect that is pretty loud on its own. And the layout is in the basement.

I'm going to clean up the engine and cars to match the brand-spanking new track.

Thanks for all of the great replies!
 
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