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How to disassemble a Lionel 2026 or 2037 locomotive

Years ago, I tried to take apart my dad’s Lionel 2026 to fix it, and I gave up trying to figure it out. Today I scored a similar 2037 locomotive at an estate sale in fixer-upper condition. To my knowledge, no book has ever gone into detail on how to disassemble this model, so I’ll explain it here. This time I was able to drop the motor out to get at what I needed to repair it.

There are also five additional Lionel postwar-era locomotives, the 637, 2016, 2029, and 2036, that come apart the same way.

You’ll need a Phillips-head screwdriver, a traditional slotted screwdriver, a hammer, a long nail (yes, as in hammer–seriously), and a digital camera. I recommend snapping photographs at each step of the process to aid reassembly, so you don’t have to try to remember where everything goes.

First, cut or file the pointy tip off the nail. Ideally, file it so that you can round off the end a bit.

Next, remove the Phillips-head screw on the top of the locomotive, near the bell. It’s a long screw, so be patient.

Now flip the locomotive over. You’ll see four round-headed slotted screws near the side rods. Leave the two flat-headed slotted screws alone, but remove the round-headed screws. There were two silver 6-32 screws and two black 4-40 screws on mine. They aren’t interchangeable, so remember where the silver ones go and where the black ones go. Be careful not to lose the two linkages when you remove the black screws. (Someone had lost one on the 2037 locomotive I bought.)

You’ll now notice that the motor almost drops out freely, but catches on something. That something is a black rod near the back of the locomotive. Examine the rod carefully. You’ll note that one end of it is knurled, and the other end is smooth. Flip the locomotive over so that the knurled side of that rod is facing upward. Place the nail on the rod, then strike it a couple of times with the hammer. The rod should move slightly. Once you’re sure you’re driving it outward, strike it a couple more times and the rod should come free, as should the motor.

When it comes to cleaning and lubricating the motor, I’ve written about it more extensively here.

Now that you’ve cleaned and lubed the motor, you’re ready to re-assemble. Reverse the steps above, starting with the bar that holds the motor in place. I suggest lining the bar up first without the motor, so you can see how it goes in. Draw a pencil mark to help you line it back up, then put the motor in place, line up the bar, and tap it into place with your rounded-off nail and hammer. Replace the linkages and the cowcatcher assembly and screw the four screws into place. I find it easier to replace the black 4-40 screws that secure the linkages first, then replace the two silver 6-32 screws that secure the cowcatcher assembly. Now flip the locomotive over and replace the black Phillips head screw on top.

It’s not intuitive, but it’s not exactly difficult either. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to practice on a family heirloom, but if you’ve got a junker you picked up at a train show or an estate sale, don’t be afraid to jump in and try it.

Postwar Lionel trains were built exceptionally well, and when serviced with today’s lubricants, they’re pretty much assured to last a few more generations.

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4 thoughts on “How to disassemble a Lionel 2026 or 2037 locomotive”

  1. Hello Dave
    I read your very detailed repair instruction regarding disassembly of your Lionel locomotive. You wrote: “Flip the locomotive over so that the knurled side of that rod is facing upward. Place the nail on the rod, then strike it a couple of times with the hammer.” Since the knurled side of the rod is larger, shouldn’t it face down instead of up before striking it?

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thanks for the question. The knurled end does need to face up, because if it faces down and you strike it, you’ll drive it deeper into the locomotive body. And if you strike furiously enough, you can damage the casting. Give the knurled end a few taps with the hammer, and it will come out of the tight opening, and having just that end free gives you enough play to drop the motor out.

  2. hi,just trying to replace or figure out how to replace contacts and where to get them,thanks its a 2026 and it contacting on and off they pretty worn out,do i have to disassemble

    1. Hi Ralph,

      If you’re talking about the pickup rollers, no, you don’t have to disassemble. Grind off one end of the rivet and they come off. Any Lionel repair shop will have that part, and they’re only a few dollars. If you don’t have a local shop that repairs Lionel, Olsen’s Toy Train Parts has them. They also have diagrams so you can see how the parts go together.

      I hope this helps.

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