A look inside
one of Lionel's pre-Legacy
in the last Tips and Tricks I mentioned how the newer units are an improvement
over the older Lionel smoke units but that doesn't mean the the old units can't
be supped up for a better output. Thanks to Norm Charbonneau's tricks,
Lionel smoke units can be modified for a better output.
I have already "Normalized" this Lionel SD90's smoke unit once before
but in recent months it's output has waned so I decided it was time to look
under it's hood. I'll take you through the mods recommended by Norm as
well as a few other hints I've picked up along the way. As always, all
work you choose to do on your engine is at your own risk. None of these
procedures are recommended by Lionel and anyone mentioned in this article cannot
be held responsible for damage that may occur.
subject. Lionel's Centennial SD90.
opened we can see Lionel stuffs a fair amount of electronics into this
engine. What makes it even more difficult is the shell is very narrow
making it difficult to get past some of the components and motors. Add to
that the crew figures and wiring harnesses that run along the inside if the
shell. It makes for some great fun, sarcastically speaking. From the
outside the smoke unit looks like the standard Lionel issue.
full of "stuff" makes this engine a bit challenging to work on.
standard Lionel fan driven smoke unit.
the smoke unit is opened up we can see some differences from the standard Lionel
smoke unit. The smoke resistor doesn't have the Lionel sleeve, it was
carefully cut off, and the
bottom of the circuit board has a foil tape on it. Both of these are
Norm's ideas. The sleeve was always a disaster. Once it runs dry it
quickly burns up and hardens. At that point is no longer able to draw
fluid to the heating element so he eliminated it. The foil tape is
standard furnace duct tape. The thought is to keep the circuit board
slightly isolated from the heat and reflect it back into the unit for better
heating of the fluid. I'm not sure if that makes a ton of difference but
Norm's a pretty smart guy so I bow to his expertise. The wicking material
has scorched and it has baked onto the heating resistor. We'll take care
of both of these items.
wadding is in need of replacement and the element needs cleaned up a bit.
used a razor blade and carefully scrapped the burnt on residue from the
resistor, This is a slow process and with care can be cleaned up quite
well. At this time I also made sure my aluminum tape was still in good shape
and not contacting any electrical connections.
cleaned up resistor. Sometimes it works, sometimes you'll have to replace
Tiki Torch material, I cut of the harder out side material and pull the softer
wicking out. These are pretty cheap and I have only used 1 in about 2
cut the inner wicking material into the size approximately a little larger than
the units reservoir. Make sure that you don't over pack it because you
still want to maintain a good airflow to get the smoke out of the unit.
Before I close up the unit, remembering to re-install the gasket I saturate the
Tiki material with smoke fluid. Not enough to have a puddle but really
getting the wicking nice and saturated. Put the gasket back in and mount
the heating element board back to the housing. Hook up the connections.
There were reports of some of the fans running backwards. Looking at the
unit below one would assume that counter clock-wise would be the correct
rotation. If your unit seems to run backwards simply reverse the wires on
the fan connector. A small screw drive on the tabs will release them form
the connector or you can de-solder them at the motor an swap them. For me
the jury is till out whether that makes a big difference.
much better looking wicking. And it works well too.
I seal it all back up again I want to make sure that the unit smokes well.
Especially with the SD units where removing and putting the shell back on can be
quite difficult. Once I am satisfied, I check all connections again, look
for any potential issues before the shell goes on and clean up and fluid residue
I might have missed.
smoke unit now serviced is ready for testing.
shell is now replaced. There are a few other gaskets that need aligned
with the smoke unit and body but these will pretty much seat themselves.
Just keep an eye on them so they don't get caught where they shouldn't.
The SD's have wiring harnesses in the shell that can be difficult to get past
the electronic without snagging and with the smoke fluid residue the adhesive
holding them can be useless. I actually hot glues some of my wires to the
shell and them smoothed them out with a Popsicle stick to flatten them to the
the shell is on start 'em up and move out. I usually try to add smoke
fluid at the end of operating session with smoke. That way the wicking has
ample time to absorb the fluid and is less likely to scorch again. About
4-8 drops depending on how long I have been running with smoke.
Unfortunately this isn't an exact science so also look for signs of smoke output
declining. Add accordingly. Lionel smoke units have never been the
best prior to Legacy but you can definitely get some better results with a
is the smoke unit from the Pre-Legacy Lionmaster Big Boy. Although the
wicking procedure is the same, I refrained from adding the foil tape. This
unit is several pieces and you can get an idea of how it all goes
together. The Big Boy was much easier to work on and the smoke unit was
fairly easy to re-pack.
on any image below for a larger look!
the Lionmaster Big Boy
The multi-part smoke
The resistor mounted
via small screws and nuts.
Top of the
Lionmaster Smoke Unit
Re-installed in the
work is done at your own risk. Lionel, myself, and other parties mentioned
in this article are not responsible for any damage resulting in the modification
of your smoke unit. Lionel Electric Trains is not responsible for any
information in this article. I share these tips freely based on my own
experiences and results.
Email me with some feedback @ Marty@MartyE.com