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Yard Master & Research
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So you have an old train? Well, you know what track,transfroemer and the engine are but what about an E- Unit? This thread is hear to help the E Unit challenged.

TO start it is the Gizmo under the shell that enables the Old Lionel to go forward,netutral, and reverse. That is the typical three position E unit that has been around for seventy years. E is not electronic, but electric becuase it replaced the manual switch on engines. E unit is a Lionel specific term. American Flyer enthusiasts know it as a reverse mechanism and basically works on the same principal.

In case you are having trouble even starting, here is a brief video of the E Unit in action.


 

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Yard Master & Research
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Discussion Starter #4
To break it down further, let's see the makup.
The noise is from the coil on top. The lever activates the coil by grounding it.
The opposite side is normally the center rail conection point for the motor.



Inside you see the drum, as this rotates the finger contacts rotate through the three, actuallly four settings. Neutral, forward ,neutral, and reverse.
The drum is turned by the pawl activated by the coil.


What is important is the drum. It has plastics nibs on the ends that allow it to rotate. It is here the drum breaks and shorts the engines. SO if you suspect a short do a visual on the drum.
 

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Yard Master & Research
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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
That's fine TJ. I may add more later.

Shown is the center rail connection or positive lead. Using AC, it is easier to think of the center rail as positve. From here, you will find a lead for the light and smoke unit. This feeds the positive to the E unit coil. To the right are the parts. The two and four finger boards, the drum, and spreader tool for removal.






Here are two fingers for one brush. The other board has four fingers.


To make sense look at the diagram and ignore the colors.



This is for engines in the postwar era and earlier. They run on AC transformers.
 

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Yard Master & Research
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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Modern era

Now, let's unravel some confusion. Starting in 1970 things get complicated. Two things happen. Lionel starts to use a can motor that runs on DC in started sets. Also the electronic age appears in trains with the electronic reverse unit.

Looking at this engine you can see the can style motor.



This is the reverse unit, and it does not hum at all. It operates by converting AC from the track to DC, to run the motor. So the old transformers will run this engine. If not installed, you will need a DC transformer to run it. Some exist with the Lionel Brand name.
 

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Yard Master & Research
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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Mpc era

From 1970 to 1980 was the MPC Era. It is important because beginner sets ran on DC only. Not all but some.

They were powered by the 4660 transformer or similiar. Output of 0 to 17 VDC. with 20 volts AC for accessories. It looks like an HO or N scale transformer. It always helps to read the tranformer specs, this is the first clue to what the engine is, AC or DC. If you can tell DC powered by AC. In modern times dozens of engines were made in a variety of ways so this basic information is important.

 

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yes the electro-mechincal syncro unit goes back a long way in history, Intoduced in 1924 by Ives with the all important forward, neutral, reverse
that everyone knows. Lionel lost out on key patents, and there for in the
early years had to settle for just a two position unit which was introduced
into the market place in 1926 it had only a forward and reverse
positions only the Pendulum reverse units. American Flyer as had a electro-
mechincal reverse unit but it too was limited by the Ives patents.

It has been written that it is one of the reasons for the
Ives buyout in 1928 was to get this unit for Lionel production. However,
lionel did not use the 3 position untill the early 1930s in its production, so
the reason for the buy out was mainly to keep competeing companys out
the market place. When Lionel finally decided to use the Ives unit it was
redesigned into the unit that most collecters know today.

Pookybear
 

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Yard Master & Research
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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Nice history lesson. I didn't have all the facts so thanks for the time saver!

Being an intro thread, I am remembering some newbie questions. I must admit I shake my head at some of them but when I try to find the answer here, it becomes a challenge. Then I sympathise with the newbie. This thread is expanding a little, it is covering some of the major differences in Lionel engines but not all of them.

The next obvious question is how to connect an electronic e unit .
I recently bought an engine (8604 steam 4-4-2) that had one. I sis the reverse idea and coverted it for DC use. Then a made an elctronic timer and set the engine up as a trolley with automatic back and forth.

I found this picture of the DC motor.



The thread that explains how to install it is 8604 TJ ask's

Seeing is believing,I got this from the Lionel supplement number 21.


 

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I could not find the information the other day in my short history lesson
of the origins of the E-Unit. But I have come up with the names of
the original patent holders: B.A. Smith and H.P. Sparks were the inventors
of the original device use in 1924.

So next time you stop your engine and back it up at will, Just remember
those two even if just for a minute.

Pookybear
 

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Bruce,

That's an interesting book link re: the early e-unit development!

I've been reading several books on Lionel company history, but haven't reat that one yet. In the books I've read, Lionel was the "big fish" to Ives' "little fish" in the booming 1920's. Your cited book flips that spin, and has Ives as the big fish to Lionel (Cowen's) subservient little fish status. I'm sure te truth lies somewhere between, but I find the differening perspectives interesting and fun to read.

Thanks!

TJ
 

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TJ,

The big fish little fish thing does have a year in which that all pivots. 1924 to
be exact. This date and before Ives was King of the American makers. After
1924 Lionel took the lead and never looked back.

Pookybear
 

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I recently inherited a lionel train from my grandfather and at first it wouldn't move. We have been able to get it to move but now it swiches from foward to reverse on its own. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix it? We believe the year of it to be 1970's or maby even 80's and the engine number is 8308.
 

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We lightly sanded the wheels and track to clean them and the engine still has a mind of its own along with the front wheels sparking.
 
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