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Author Topic: Lubricating a Spectrum Steamer WITH PICS!  (Read 18745 times)

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« on: April 28, 2010, 10:13:34 PM »


I've been wanting to do this for a long time.  I've read all the great past advice about care and maintenance of a steam engine, but until you've gathered your nerve and done it once, it is still a scary undertaking.  Yampa Bob (I miss him) had some great written advice on how to remove the shell, clean and lube the innards, but I really wanted some pics or drawings to help me through.

I granted my own wish.

I've had my two 2-8-0 Consolidations for about two years now.  They have run great.  Wish the bulbs were a little brighter, but, hey, doubt they'll ever burn out running that dim.  I've only cleaned the wheels and put light oil on the drive rods to this point.

Anyway,  I knew I had to swallow hard and lubricate these gals sometime.  So here we go... this is my first time cracking open a nice engine, so let's enjoy the ride together.

This my Connie.   There are many like her, but this one is mine...

I've gathered my heavy gear oil (worm gear), my conductalube (worm shaft bearings), a small screwdriver and a tweezers (just in case).

To open the shell:  
1) remove the screw that holds the draw bar.  Put the draw bar and screw in a safe place, unless you really want to go searching the garage floor for them... like I did.

2) Pull the front steps out of their holes in the boiler.

3) Lift the rear of the shell (gently please) and move the shell forward off the motor housing.  Please, please, please go slowly.  You may have to jiggle just a little, but it will come free.

Ahh, everybody safe so far?

Notice you can't see the motor, the worm gear OR the belt drive, yet.  We still have to remove the motor housing from the lower frame.

4)  Remove the screw that sits just forward of the draw bar screw.

5)  There is one more screw above the pony truck.  Soooo, you have to remove the pony truck as well.  Please remember how the truck parts came off.  You don't want to install it upsidedown later (can't imagine anybody doing that  Embarrassed).

6)  Once the second screw is removed, you can finally get a look at the heart of the engine, well the aorta anyway.  

Notice the white teflon grease Bachmann uses on their steamers.  It's different stuff from the diesels.  Also notice, there is still plenty of lubricant everywhere.  This baby probably would have run a lot longer without complaining.

Also notice a little grease is on the drive belt.  Let's help our Connie out, shall we?

7) Now it's time to clean up the mess a bit.  I sharpended both ends of a toothpick.
I also wadded up a paper towel.  These make shift tools are all I used to remove the old grease.

8.  A little lube is now in order... a VERY LITTLE LUBE.  The following pictures will be hard to make out, but I put a tiny drop of conductalube on the brass bearings that hold the worm gear.  The actual drops were much smaller than what I photographed.

You probably won't be able to tell, but, if you look at the second coil of the worm gear (starting from the left), I added a very small drop of gear oil.  Hard to see, huh?  Remember, you don't need much.

9)  OK, now we need to gather our receptacle of parts:

and put it all back the way we found it.

CAUTION.  Wash your hands before you put the shell back on the motor housing.  Thank you.

Well, that was my first time taking apart a Spectrum Steamer.  I feel braver now, don't you?

By the way, there was a definite improvement.  I thought the Connie was smooth and quiet before.  Holy Cow, Man!  She is now in stealth mode.  Can't wait to do this to my other Connie.

I was finally prompted to post this after reading some of the recent issues some have been having with their 2-8-0's.  I just had to open them up and find out what everyone was talking about.  I was impressed when I got these engines, and I'm still impressed.

I hope this helps anyone who was as nervous as I was about care and maintenance of a quality engine.


« Last Edit: April 29, 2010, 04:08:56 PM by jonathan » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2010, 10:32:44 PM »

Way to go!  I have to admit, I was as nervous as all get-out the first time I took a Bachmann engine apart; Model Railroader's reviewers for the engine when it was new advised against doing anything like this, because of things like getting the belt drive put back together, and of course I had never worked on anything like this before (andyou know how different these engines are from Bowser and Mantua metal jobs).  Still, it seemed to be running slower, and I figured, someone had to put it together before, I should be able to do so.  And I did. . .and so have you. . .and it feels great, as you know. . .

Now, I wonder how good that thing called DCC is?
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.

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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2010, 12:24:28 AM »

Very nicely done.  The photos really help.  Your posting ought to be in the FAQ section.


Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.

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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2010, 08:13:49 AM »

Thanks, Gentlemen.

I felt like somebody had to show a few pictures, just to clarify things.  There ought to be a manual for tinkerers.  Smiley



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« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2010, 05:26:59 PM »

Another engine that could use a manual like this is Bachmann's Shay, with a more complex than average drive train, and parts you have to take off in some places to reach other parts, and some interesing details as well, such as the pick-up arrangements from the trucks to the frame.  Of course, I've already done this and don't need to look it up again, but I could use some pointers on getting some of the slack out of the drive train, which leads to bucking and surging on downgrades, which is particularly noticable if the downgrade is something like the 8% that's in several places on the former Greenbrier Cheat & Elk Railroad, which we now know as the Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia.  Yes, I've tested my Shay on 8%--goes uphill beautifully, like the prototypes; main problem is comming down! I wonder if I'll have to adopt DCC to get working brakes on a caboose, thus give the engine something to drag downhill. . .

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« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2010, 06:28:43 PM »

Very nice job.  You have posted here what is certainly missing from the box that every steamer comes in.  A simple, easy to understand, step by step instruction of "How to lube your steamer".  Nice JOB!!!

Southern New Hampshire around 1920 in HO
NCE Power Cab DCC
Long live B&M steam!

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« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2010, 07:19:33 PM »

Thanks.  I wholeheartedly agree (the missing instructions part).  Perhaps I will post again when I pick up my next steam engine.  I presently have my eye on a Berkshire, 'er a Kanawha 2-8-4 (they have a good price on one at the LHS).  The guts of that one is a bit different than the Connie.


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« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2010, 09:30:05 PM »

WOW!  Thanks for posting that!
I just sent mine to the service dept this afternoon.
The pics you posted kind of shows Why i chose to send mine in.
I have never un-assembled  one of these and figured that i would most likely break it and make things even worse.
Perhaps even void the warranty.
I would never guessed about those front steps.  Even with the explosion chart handy.
Think i shall book mark THIS thread even, for future reference!
« Last Edit: April 29, 2010, 09:32:12 PM by jbsmith » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2010, 12:36:07 AM »

Thanks!  I think the lack of lubrication combined with sitting on the shelf, does these things in prematurely.  I would advise ANYONE buying a new loco(especially the old black-box runs), to carefully check and make sure everything is OK before going through the break-in period.  Perhaps it's a simple oversight, perhaps they somehow "missed" getting greased at the factory, or maybe the amount of oil/grease applied was so small that it "evaporated" and went dry during shipping?  Don't forget these things are coming from half-way around the world and will spend WEEKS bouncing around on a cargo ship before getting here...  Just a thought.  Nonetheless, I'm going to give my Connie another chance to prove itself...


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« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2010, 11:23:15 AM »

Thanks...I just bought 2 of these good lookers about a month ago
and have been disappointed in their performance so far,,,...I dabbed a dot of oil on all pivot points to insure no binding, and it seemed to run better...
someone suggested running the locomotive at 3/4 throttle for 5 mins.
in forward and then in reverse  and that would spread the grease across
the gears.    still now I will try your "off boiler" surgery and see what happens..
luckily I have a relative in the industry, and he is helpful with some of the
repairs that have been needed to my other locos steamers and diesels.
heck, even my 50 yr. old "clatter-box" steamers sill run ok and look good.
all in all I have liked the look and performance of my Bachmann locos.
now, if only they would do some GP-7 or GP-9 's in eastern coal hauler
p/c wbr/dsps


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« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2010, 12:25:13 PM »

Car Guy,

Breaking in does help smooth the engine out.  Here are a couple of other suggetions:

One of the more common issues with the Connie is the low hanging wiring.  I once thought I had a serious problem with jerkiness.  It so happended that the cluster of wires that come out the bottom have little rubber ring things wrapped around them.  They were catching my track nails (especially in reverse).  A quick adjustment solved that.  I moved the wires from the left side of the draw bar to the right.  You can also solve it by moving the tender post to the farther back hole in the draw bar.  

Speaking of wiring, make sure the plugs to the tender are seated properly.  When new, it took me a couple of minutes of checking to make sure they were clicked into place.  I never, ever unplug them.  I even "kitbashed" the black box, so the engine could be stored all put together.

The most delicate part of the machinery is the contact wipers resting on the drive wheels.  It doesn't take much to get these kinked so they don't make good contact with the wheels.  I adjusted one with a couple of straight pins (working slowly and carefully).  It is not too difficult to get them back into shape.  Though I found it a little hair raising, due to the small and delicate nature of these tiny parts.  I think, in the production phase, these are the easiest parts to get mangled in assembly.  It would be difficult to see during a quality check.  They are hard to see in any case.

I haven't figured out how to clean the wipers, yet.  I may try wiping some 600 grit sandpaper in between the wheel and the wiper (grit side to the wiper).  I'm not that brave, yet.

Lastly, clean track and wheels are a must, if you want cool runnings.

I'm not saying any of these things are causing your Consolidation to run poorly, just some suggestions from things I've played with.


« Last Edit: April 30, 2010, 01:50:50 PM by jonathan » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2010, 04:37:33 PM »

Jonathan, thanks for the excellent photo instructions post!


Grew up next to B&O's Metropolitan Branch - Silver Spring Maryland

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« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2010, 11:46:07 AM »


Brilliant !  Thanks a million !  Now I have to get to some of my LS stuff, in addition to HO.

Best Wishes,


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« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2014, 11:13:15 PM »

Yeah , all of Jonathan's pics/explanations should be a regular addition in the loco boxes !!

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« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2014, 06:39:52 AM »

Nicely done!
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