Last Updated on October 22, 2022 by Dave Farquhar
Disassembling a Lionel 1001, 1060, 8902 or 8302 locomotive isn’t too difficult. The biggest problem is knowing where the three screws are that you have to remove.
These particular locomotives weren’t really designed to be repaired, but there’s some basic work you can do on them with household tools. The 8902 and 8302 locomotives can be cheap sources of a motor for other projects.
What you’ll need
Projects like this always go more quickly when you have what you need in advance.
- Medium-sized Phillips and/or slotted screwdriver
- Nut driver
- Household oil (synthetic 10W-30 recommended)
- Household grease (Lucas Red n’ Tacky grease recommended)
- Cotton swabs
- Mineral spirits
- Compressed air (optional)
You can find MPC-era Lionel 8902 and 8302 engines sold as-is for parts because the previous owner couldn’t get them working. The dirty little secret with these locomotives is that they ran on DC, not AC like most other Lionel O27 trains. When you try to run them on AC, they make a lot of noise and cycle between forward and reverse very rapidly, sometimes to the point where they don’t appear to move at all.
So the first thing to do to see if one of these locomotives works is to try running them off DC, rather than AC. If you don’t have a DC power pack (like the ones used for HO or N scale trains), a 6v lantern battery or even a 9v battery works for testing purposes. We’ll cover converting these locomotives to AC later.
Dropping out the motor
First it helps to remove the siderods. They are held on with one hex-headed bolt on each side. Hold the wheel tight while turning the bolt and it will eventually release. Then it removes easily, and the siderods slip out once the bolt is free.
Next, set the locomotive on its wheels and remove the single Philips head screw on the top, in between the cab and the first dome.
Finally, turn the locomotive over and remove the two screws in between the front wheels and the drive wheels and remove the plate they secure.
At this point the motor will lift out, probably with a lot of other parts.
While you have the motor out, it’s a good time to lubricate it thoroughly.
Let’s talk lubricants for a minute. I like Labelle 107 grease and Labelle 106 oil because they won’t degrade plastic, and these engines have a lot of plastic in them. Apply grease to the gears with a toothpick if you can’t get enough precision straight out of the tube. Then apply a drop of oil to the wheels where the axles meet the bearings with the needle oiler.
Something else you’ll want to do while you have the motor out is to clean the driver wheels. They are always filthy, even if they look clean, and will run much better after a cleaning. A cotton swab with some mineral spirits is the cheapest way to clean the gunk off them. Mineral spirits, if you’re not familiar with it, is a cheap and effective solvent sold in hardware and home-improvement stores in the paint aisle. It’s normally sold as a paint thinner.
Painting the shell
If you’re taking the locomotive apart to paint it, be sure to wash the body with a cleaner like Simple Green first and let it dry thoroughly. Prime the locomotive and then paint it using whatever paints you’re most comfortable with. These engines lend themselves well to painting, as the body has a fair bit of cast-in detail, especially given the price it was designed to sell for. When you paint it with flat paints, it helps bring some of that detail out and make it look like a costlier locomotive.
Ideally you should paint outdoors on a day that the temperature is at least 50 degrees, and on a sunny day so the locomotive can dry in direct sunlight. Since the body is plastic, don’t try baking it as you might a metal locomotive.
Follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions regarding drying time and between coats and before handling. A good general rule is to the paint dry thoroughly, at least 24 hours, before reassembling.
Changing the headlight
Some of these locomotives came with an E10 bulb and others used a smaller E5 bulb. If the locomotive has an E5 bulb in it that’s burned out, I recommend you snip the wires and solder in an E10 screw base socket so you can put a standard 1449 bulb in.
You might want to use an LED bulb to minimize the amount of light that bleeds out the underside of the locomotive, and to increase the bulb’s life expectancy.
Converting the 8302 or 8902 to AC
Converting to AC requires either a full wave bridge rectifier, or a Lionel electronic e-unit. The rectifier is the cheaper option but works in forward only.
Don’t worry about harming the collector value of the train by modifying it. Neither the 8302 or 8902 are worth much to a collector, and being able to run the train on AC makes it more useful and interesting to someone interested in using the train. The electronic e-unit is worth nearly as much as the locomotive itself.
Using a rectifier
A rectifier typically costs between $2 and $5. Get a rectifier with a hole in it, as that will make it easier to mount. It will have four leads on it: one labeled +, one labeled -, and two that will be either unlabeled or labeled AC.
There is a wire attached to the frame. Attach it to the lead marked -. Another wire is attached to the pickup. Snip that wire, strip the two ends, attach the end from the pickup to one of the AC leads–it doesn’t matter which one–and attach the other end to the lead marked +. Attach one end of a new wire to the remaining AC lead, and attach the other end of that wire to the frame. Now the locomotive will run on AC, in forward only.
Once you’ve tested it working, attach the rectifier to one of the holes in the motor frame with a 6-32 nut and bolt. Be sure none of the bare wire leads touch the frame.
Using an electronic e-unit
You can get an electronic e-unit on Ebay for around $30. Or if you’re ambitious, you can build one yourself–but I’ll admit you’ll have to be more ambitious than me to do that.
De-solder the wire(s) from the motor that didn’t connect to the motor frame and connect it to the gray wire (W2 on the board) with a small wire nut. Solder the red wire (W4 on the board) to the vacant terminal on the motor. Disconnect the wire from the frame and connect it to the black wire (W3) from the e-unit. Connect the brown wire from the e-unit (W1 on the board) to the frame. If you’d like, connect a small toggle switch to W6 and W5 (white and blue) to allow you to lock out the e-unit.
Using the motor in another train
If you have a vintage 1001 or 1060 that has sentimental value to you, the cheapest way to get it running again and keep it running is to replace the motor with one out of a later 8902 or 8302. The motor in the original units is tedious to work on, so experienced Lionel technicians don’t like them. That said, you can fix one. So if you want to try, here are some tips for fixing those cheap Lionel postwar motors.
The motor unit out of an 8902 or 8302 will also fit a 2-4-2 or 4-4-2 Scout type locomotive, if you file down the mount where the screw goes in from the top of the locomotive. This is also the cheapest way to get these locomotives running again, since they also have the bad motor that plagued the 1060.
Replacing the motor
Reassembly is trickier than getting the locomotive apart in the first place. First, pop the drawbar back into place in the back of the motor, since it probably fell out at some point while you were working on it. It slides into a tab in the back.
Next, put the motor in the middle of the body and look at it from the top of the locomotive, adjusting until you can see the hole for the screw from the top. Put the screw in loosely.
Slide the front wheels into the plate. The words “Lionel” go to the bottom of the locomotive and the wheels go above. Slide the plate into the groove in the front of the motor, then slide it into place where the two screws go to hold it in. Replace those two screws. Flip the locomotive right side up and tighten the screw in the top.
Finally, slide one siderod into the opening near the front, and onto the post on the wheel and replace the hex-head screw. Repeat on the other side, and the locomotive is back together.
Overview and history of the Lionel 2-4-0 locomotives
I put this at the end since you probably already have one if you’re reading this, but if you want to know everything about this inexpensive 2-4-0 locomotive, here’s everything I know.
The 1101 was originally produced in 1948 and was Lionel’s first plastic-bodied locomotive. The 1160 came out in 1960 as Lionel’s least expensive locomotive. Interest in trains was in decline at this point and the 1160 provided a way to provide an inexpensive set to lower the barrier of entry. Unfortunately the build quality of the motor wasn’t up to par with Lionel’s higher-end outfits, nor was it up to par with its competitors’ least expensive trains.
At various times in the ensuing decades, Lionel has reused the 1101/1160 mold. The 8902 and 8302 used the old tooling with a DC motor in it, so the train was reliable, it just lacked the forward-neutral-reverse cycle that Lionel’s higher-end locomotives are known for.
Today the 8902 or 8302 makes a good Christmas tree train, because they tend to be very inexpensive when you find them. Since the can motor in them is reliable, there’s little to worry about unless someone burned it up trying to run it on AC and didn’t give up soon enough. It’s an inexpensive train that’s fully compatible with the multitude of inexpensive Lionel rolling stock out there today.
If this is the first time you’ve tried to fix a train, the Lionel 2-4-0s aren’t necessarily a bad choice. Parts are available, the assembly and reassembly isn’t too complicated, and if something does go horribly wrong, it’s cheap to replace.
I didn’t learn how to fix trains until I was well into adulthood. When I was a kid, I didn’t have anyone around who had much in the way of mechanical ability to learn from. I started picking this up when I unboxed the trains that had belonged to my dad growing up and some of his stuff didn’t work. That’s why I share what I’ve learned (and, let’s face it, what I’m still learning) in hopes of other people being able to use it to do the same thing.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful. If you have, please share a link, whether it’s on your own blog, a forum, a discussion group, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.