Project Log: Lionel HO Freedom Train

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DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#1
Thanks to the power of Facebook marketplace I'm the happy owner of one of a classic Lionel HO American Freedom Train set. I acquired it without a box, with #4449 as the motive power but only with four cars (Official set with 4449 had five). I'm not too bothered by this at the moment, but I have ideas to make a few of my own additions, such as the Tool Car that joined the AFT with #4449.
IMG_20190210_140959877.jpg

So here is where I am stuck, I guess. I need to bring the cars up to spec so that I can run them on the club layout! They need metal wheels and Kadee couplers for sure. The cars are extremely lightweight and of course have truck-mounted horn-hook couplers. Weight I can do. I have wheel weights and a scale. Trucks and couplers? Those are tripping me up. I was thinking I would replace the original trucks with appropriate Walthers GSC metal trucks and wheels and install Kadee extended swing couplers on them. Conversions like this are a little different thing for me, so I wanted to ask about it here first. What would you guys do to bring these up to standard?

IMG_20190212_224320666.jpg
 

NP2626

Well-Known Member
#3
Mount the Kadees to the car's chassis. I would both Glue and screw the coupler boxes to the underside of the car. Look over the Kadee Website at https://kadee.com/htmbord/coupler.htm to get an idea of what couplers to use. You could simply nip off the truck mounted couplers and still use the trucks, if you want. Replacement of the wheels with metal wheel sets is a simple enough job. If you feel the trucks on the cars are incorrect than replace with ones that are correct. There is nothing magical; or, difficult to this process.
 

DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#4
There is nothing magical; or, difficult to this process.
I'm really just not sure if I am best served with Kadee Extended swing couplers like I was thinking or if a regular Kadee box and long shank couplers are good enough. My thinking is that since I am a young-ish guy with an uncertain future as far as model railroading, an adaptible system like the Extended-Swing couplers might be the better option.

Really hoping to get these ready to roll fairly soon. I want to get a newer loco with sound to tug them around.
 
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NP2626

Well-Known Member
#5
I see Kadee recommending a 24 TM coupler for Lionel Passenger cars. When I look at details about the 24 TM it shows a truck mounting system (Talgo Mount) for this coupler. If you want to mount the couplers to the trucks, than this is the way to go. My guess is the TM part of the nomenclature stands for Talgo Mount.

However, if you want to mount the couplers to the car's chassis, you need to do some further digging at the Kadee website to find what couplers will work for you. You can also ask them personally, by phone; or, over the Internet (see Contact Information)

I had some heavy weight passenger cars that all I can remember about them was I used the Talgo style of mount with Kadee No. 5 couplers and they worked fine. The Talgo Mount can cause problems when backing the train up as they can cause significant side forces which may derail the truck. I didn't really need to back my passenger trains up.

Now, I have MDC Roundhouse Overland 50 foot Passenger Cars and I simply cut off the Talgo coupler mount and mounted coupler boxes with No. 5 couplers to the chassis.

Good Luck!
 
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DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#6
Well Walthers had passenger car trucks on sale so I went ahead and ordered a bunch that match AFT photos. These are GSC trucks of some type which I forget at the moment.

I'm actually pretty amazed. These cars are what, 43 years old by now? They ride at the perfect height on Walthers trucks with proper 36" wheels if you use the Walthers Proto bolster adapters intended for these trucks. They have to be doubled-up and glued together but it works. IMG_20190216_2319183892.jpg
IMG_20190216_2316103602.jpg
IMG_20190216_2316353352.jpg
Here's a comparison of the new trucks vs the old originals. One definitely looks better than the other, and since I probably will not go super crazy with extra detail, the change offered by the new trucks is very welcome.
 

otiscnj

Active Member
#7
Dakota, not to be a knitpicker, but the 'window car' with the model Liberty Bell in it, went between the loco, and the 2 display cars, in 1976, when I saw it at Denville, Jct, NJ. I bought the cars from 'Hobbies For Men,' in the late 70's and the Lionel GS-4 from Charles Ro, about the same time. Haven't run any of them for years. Since then, a friend of mine has given me some Tyco Bicentennial box cars(3 actually) which I plan to run as part of the train..
 

DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#8
the 'window car' with the model Liberty Bell in it, went between the loco, and the 2 display cars.
You are absolutely correct. The two window cars were behind the tool cars & flats, and ahead of the walk-through display cars. Trust me, I've gone through a couple bouts of serious research into the AFT consist since acquiring this set. I'm now stuck on whether or not I want to model more of the AFT consist or not. I may opt to turn my set into a selectively compressed AFT consist of maybe 8 cars instead of 26.

3336.1297402359.jpg

Right now I just need to wrestle with what I have. The Walther's trucks look great, and the bolster adapters for them seat on the car bodies almost like they were intended to, but no glues I have seems to want to adhere to them.

Fortunately the original Lionel trucks fit Intermountain 33" wheels no problem, so I may just run them like that for a little bit. I have a Bachmann #4449 in AFT colors on its way to me via mail as of right now so I'm really hoping I can get the consist in good enough shape to run at the club Sunday.

53103.jpg
 

DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#9
Finally got enough work done on my cars to run them behind a brand-new Bachmann 4449. The loco itself ran very well, although I did add some weight right out of the box. The loco is the Sound Value version, and it needs a little tweaking of the sound. At some point during the summer I'm going to have to paint the car ends and underbodies black, and I want to add vestibules also.

1.jpg
6.jpg
 

DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#10
So one thing I'd really like to address as I work on my AFT fleet is the locomotive. If you go searching Google for info on the Bachmann GS4's of today you'll find tons of information about the old ones blended with not much information about the newest ones.

As you guys can see I have the oldest Lionel version. Pancake motor and all that. There is a reason it's a peaceful shelf item now. I also had a (broken) Bachmann WP GS4 masquerading as a GS64. The driveline was OK, but we all know it had the frail axles. Two on that loco broke, true to form.I never had a Plus version, but I understand that they are nearly identical to the current line.

And now my new one. The most recent version. I am no expert locomotive mechanic but the few facts I've been able to put together are as such:

1. The locomotive frame is anemic, for whatever reason, and performance will benefit from the addition of weight to the frame.
2. The front pilot truck is the same story. It is under-weight, and in this case we don't want to use a spring to force it to the track because that will disrupt the already tricky balance of weight on the drive wheels.
3. The trailing truck is considered to also be the same case as the pilot truck.

All in all I like this loco, and I am convinced that a good one can be made great if the owner wants to.

So my 4449 clocked in at about 1 pound, 1-1/8th ounces before I did anything. Compare that to my Broadway Limited MILW S3 which is around two pounds and will rip the drywall down for you.

A few things to note with the loco which have impressed me. The frame is built like someone actually cared and put some thought into it. All of that drawbar force is put onto a heavy zinc plate that is bolted to the underframe with three screws, and locks up tightly. The shell is held on with three screws that are accessible once you take the trucks off. The motor is secured via two restraints, which again are screwed to the primary frame. Same deal with the headlight.

Now look at all of this room! So much room! I dare to say someone with a non-sound loco could even get the decoder up into here.

IMG_20190323_194039654.jpg
The Plus! GS4's had smoke units which this series does not, so we're left with plenty of dead space to work with. I'm told the smoke unit used to go where the headlights are now.
IMG_20190323_194519295.jpg
As I discovered on my first run of this loco at my club, the thing's weight is not balanced properly, with the majority of it being toward the rear of the loco. If your track has rough spots, the front drivers will try to bail off every chance they get. We need to fill up this empty space. For now I'm adding a solid ounce of lead to the big open cut. If I decide I need more weight, there is enough room to add 1/2 oz more of lead to the frame and as much tungsten putty to the smoke unit cavity.

IMG_20190323_200437111.jpg

While I'm at it, I'm adding as much tungsten putty to the trucks as I can. I'll be the first to say these are designed strangely and I had to be very careful not to jam the sticky putty into these slots where the axles live. I threw some scrap plastic down on top of the axles to make sure they wouldn't get jammed up.

IMG_20190323_203844714.jpg

The pilot truck, being the most problematic, got nearly 1/8th ounce of weight added. The rear being less of a concern to me got as much as I could stuff into it.

I'll report back here after operations tomorrow with my results. Everything I added to the loco got me two more ounces strategically placed.
 

NP2626

Well-Known Member
#11
If I can, I add weight to the pilot and trailing trucks to help keep them on the rails. This doesn't cause the drivers to loose weight like springs can.
 

DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#12
If I can, I add weight to the pilot and trailing trucks to help keep them on the rails. This doesn't cause the drivers to loose weight like springs can.
Yup, I did that. Tungsten putty!

The loco performed very well yesterday, and I ran it for about two hours altogether. I have a special club event coming up on Friday where my Freedom Train will roll, and I've been invited to guest operate with my AFT at another club elsewhere in the Twin Cities. If my 4449 doesn't get enough playtesting this week, I don't know when it will! I'll report back here on my loco's performance after these events.

8.jpg
10.jpg
25.jpg
 

DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#13
Halfway point update. This morning my 4449 ran her 4 cars for our special guest group at Hennepin Overland. On her 3rd trip around the layout, the engine started making a very unusual and strange clicking sound. Watching closely on a roll-by inspection I noticed that the pilot and trailing trucks were trying to party their own way under the loco. I pulled the engine and removed the trucks to find that the tungsten putty had gotten down to the axles and been wrapped around, so now I'm having to remove some.

I also tried to do a strength test on the engine today with 13 of my coal hoppers, since they were the heaviest thing I had available. My 4449 was not able to get them up the 1.5% grade from our yard to the mainlines. To be fair, my lone Blue Box SD9 also could not. I'd estimate the total consist weight of the hoppers to be about 2-1/2 pounds.
 

DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#14
Removal of some of the tungsten putty did not seem to affect my 4449 on saturday, so it seems that the front truck works best with about 1/8th oz of extra weight added to it. My engine did find one switch on the North Metro layout that it did not like, but it's a switch at the peak of an uphill climb so I'm not sure I can blame my 4449. Perhaps more weight added to the front of the frame would help that situation, but North Metro is a far newer layout than my club's and has smoother trackwork over all. As long as she does well on my club's layout with its older, rougher track work I'm content to call her performance good for now. Tomorrow I'm rolling my Hiawatha consist, and I will put my 4449 on the front of it to see if she can muscle any of it on her own. It'll help give me an idea on how to handle my additions to my Freedom Train consist.

So as the loco is right now, there's 1/8oz added to the pilot truck and 1oz added to the frame.

Screenshot_20190331-081901~2.jpg
 
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otiscnj

Active Member
#15
Steve, like the rendition of the train you're building. Yes, 26 cars would be a very long train, even if you used shorties for some of the cars, or say 50's flats, instead of 89 footers. I believe the obs car at the end of the train was a former Reading Company car, and as such should have been about 73' long, not the 85 footer that Lionel made it out to be. I've considered getting a AFT T-1 from BLI, to make it a more accurate depiction of the east coast motive power. Most of my modeling is on hold these days, however love to see what you're doing. I figured that if I ever had an open house, with say scheduled 45 minute shows, when the AFT appeared, it would be the close of the show, sort of like what they used to do on the Pacific Southern, in Rocky Hill, NJ, or what Bill Hopping did with is Madison Central.
 

DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#16
Thanks Otis. I had forgotten I was going to do a progress update about my 4449. I did in fact playtest the loco with my 10-car Hiawatha consist. The reason I chose my Hiawatha is because it is perhaps my single heaviest train when assembled (about 3-1/2 pounds altogether) and best-maintained passenger equipment in my collection. My 4449 was able to haul these around with only a little bit of struggle, BUT that's not saying she could get the train up our Helix. For any serious grades a Bachmann 4449 is going to need help getting a train like this uphill. My Spirit of Union Pacific had troubles getting six Walthers passenger cars up our helix by herself, so..

My goal now is AFT cars which are about 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 ounces total, assuming no performance issues arise from this weight (this is the stock Lionel car weight). If I maintain that weight, eight AFT cars should be easy for 4449.

3.jpg
 
#17
Thanks to the power of Facebook marketplace I'm the happy owner of one of a classic Lionel HO American Freedom Train set. I acquired it without a box, with #4449 as the motive power but only with four cars (Official set with 4449 had five). I'm not too bothered by this at the moment, but I have ideas to make a few of my own additions, such as the Tool Car that joined the AFT with #4449.
View attachment 34317
So here is where I am stuck, I guess. I need to bring the cars up to spec so that I can run them on the club layout! They need metal wheels and Kadee couplers for sure. The cars are extremely lightweight and of course have truck-mounted horn-hook couplers. Weight I can do. I have wheel weights and a scale. Trucks and couplers? Those are tripping me up. I was thinking I would replace the original trucks with appropriate Walthers GSC metal trucks and wheels and install Kadee extended swing couplers on them. Conversions like this are a little different thing for me, so I wanted to ask about it here first. What would you guys do to bring these up to standard?

View attachment 34319
Do you have any detail photos of the engine I am repairing one to run.
 
#18
So one thing I'd really like to address as I work on my AFT fleet is the locomotive. If you go searching Google for info on the Bachmann GS4's of today you'll find tons of information about the old ones blended with not much information about the newest ones.

As you guys can see I have the oldest Lionel version. Pancake motor and all that. There is a reason it's a peaceful shelf item now. I also had a (broken) Bachmann WP GS4 masquerading as a GS64. The driveline was OK, but we all know it had the frail axles. Two on that loco broke, true to form.I never had a Plus version, but I understand that they are nearly identical to the current line.

And now my new one. The most recent version. I am no expert locomotive mechanic but the few facts I've been able to put together are as such:

1. The locomotive frame is anemic, for whatever reason, and performance will benefit from the addition of weight to the frame.
2. The front pilot truck is the same story. It is under-weight, and in this case we don't want to use a spring to force it to the track because that will disrupt the already tricky balance of weight on the drive wheels.
3. The trailing truck is considered to also be the same case as the pilot truck.

All in all I like this loco, and I am convinced that a good one can be made great if the owner wants to.

So my 4449 clocked in at about 1 pound, 1-1/8th ounces before I did anything. Compare that to my Broadway Limited MILW S3 which is around two pounds and will rip the drywall down for you.

A few things to note with the loco which have impressed me. The frame is built like someone actually cared and put some thought into it. All of that drawbar force is put onto a heavy zinc plate that is bolted to the underframe with three screws, and locks up tightly. The shell is held on with three screws that are accessible once you take the trucks off. The motor is secured via two restraints, which again are screwed to the primary frame. Same deal with the headlight.

Now look at all of this room! So much room! I dare to say someone with a non-sound loco could even get the decoder up into here.

View attachment 35377
The Plus! GS4's had smoke units which this series does not, so we're left with plenty of dead space to work with. I'm told the smoke unit used to go where the headlights are now.
View attachment 35378
As I discovered on my first run of this loco at my club, the thing's weight is not balanced properly, with the majority of it being toward the rear of the loco. If your track has rough spots, the front drivers will try to bail off every chance they get. We need to fill up this empty space. For now I'm adding a solid ounce of lead to the big open cut. If I decide I need more weight, there is enough room to add 1/2 oz more of lead to the frame and as much tungsten putty to the smoke unit cavity.

View attachment 35379

While I'm at it, I'm adding as much tungsten putty to the trucks as I can. I'll be the first to say these are designed strangely and I had to be very careful not to jam the sticky putty into these slots where the axles live. I threw some scrap plastic down on top of the axles to make sure they wouldn't get jammed up.

View attachment 35380

The pilot truck, being the most problematic, got nearly 1/8th ounce of weight added. The rear being less of a concern to me got as much as I could stuff into it.

I'll report back here after operations tomorrow with my results. Everything I added to the loco got me two more ounces strategically placed.
Do you have a photo of the drive wheels from the bottom my front ones fall off.
 

Espeefan

Well-Known Member
#19
I was going to tell you to be careful of how much weight you add to the cars. That Bachmann GS is not a great puller. I owned several through the years, and they look good enough, and will negotiate tight radii, but they aren’t heavy enough, even with added weight to pull much. Keep your cars heavy enough to be stable on the track but disregard the NMRA standard. Your train will run as a unit and not be mixed in with other cars so if they’re all a little underweight it won’t matter. Fox Valley did the same thing with their Hiawatha train. Also be careful of body mounted couplers if your minimum radius is much under 30”.
 

DakotaLove39

Always Improvising
#20
I was going to tell you to be careful of how much weight you add to the cars. That Bachmann GS is not a great puller. I owned several through the years, and they look good enough, and will negotiate tight radii, but they aren’t heavy enough, even with added weight to pull much. Keep your cars heavy enough to be stable on the track but disregard the NMRA standard. Your train will run as a unit and not be mixed in with other cars so if they’re all a little underweight it won’t matter. Fox Valley did the same thing with their Hiawatha train. Also be careful of body mounted couplers if your minimum radius is much under 30”.
It's really quite frustrating. I now own three Bachmann steamers and they all can't pull what they theoretically should be able to, and the AFT theme kind of ties up one hand in helping this 4449 wrestle with a train. The Lionel cars, as standard, weigh about 3-4oz so I am hoping to keep my future additions in that same area. Since I am building the AFT tool car as one of my first additions, I may have the option of turning it into a powered booster later on if needed.

american-freedom-train-consist-076-tool-car-hill-800x.jpg


Otherwise I am waiting for my ScaleTrains Milwaukee Road bicentennial diesel to show up tomorrow. The real #156 never got anywhere near the AFT like some others did, but you can bet that I'll get her there.

I suppose I could just slap some Milwaukee diesels on the front and recreate the climb up Shortline Hill in St. Paul.

52590376_2072307846183767_251892560530767872_o.jpg


Do you have any detail photos of the engine I am repairing one to run.
As far as what specifically? I'm trying to become as much of an expert as possibe on the current Bachmann GS4, since it seems no one else is.
Do you have a photo of the drive wheels from the bottom my front ones fall off.
They fall off? It sounds like you have an older one with cracked axle gears. Older Bachmann GS4 models were notorious for this (as were other Northern locomotives from Bachmann). You'll have to get replacement drive axles if this is the case.

I have photos posted above of my 4449's base drive system without the shell. If your loco doesn't look like that under the hood, it's far older than mine is.

If you're trying to repair a Lionel one, it might not be worth the effort given its age. The one I got still runs, much to my surprise, but everything I read about them says that the internals are lacking and will eventually fail. Mine is EXTREMELY noisy and has a lot of slop in the gearing.
 





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