Lionel Atlantic 4-4-2

Tips & Modifications


To date I have only upgraded one of my Engines (the Lionel 4-4-2 Atlantic). During the Winter of  2001, following the tips found in George Schreyer's web page, on upgrades he made to improve the performance of his Atlantic Engine, I completely re-built my own Atlantic. Following most of George's tips and adding some changes of my own  this is now one of the best running engines I own. Below are photos and descriptions of the overhaul I performed on this Engine.

Additional Weight for Improved Tractive Effort

After cautiously disassembling the boiler and cab I performed the two most important changes. Tightening the cable ties that hold the can motor in place, my engine having low miles the motor was fairly snug but I was still able to tighten the cable ties pulling another 1/4 inch of cable tie in the process. I am certain not doing this would have resulted in excess motor movement and eventual gear slipping and gear damage down the road. The next change was to add almost 4 pounds of lead weight in the boiler cavity. The reason for this was obvious the first time I tried to run the engine in stock form with a consist of 3 Aristo-Craft Streamliners, It just sat there and gracefully slipped at all speed settings not even having the strength to move an inch. The boiler is very spacious but always check for clearance and leave room for future additions of electronics (DCC, on board RC, etc.). Then glue the weight in place with crafters Goop adhesive. Remember the motor wires and leave space to feed them back up to after the weight has setup.

Wiring Simplification 

The next additional upgrade I made, was an attempt to simplify the wiring in order to make future additions and changes easier. I did this by attaching a row of PC Board Terminals (Radio Shack p/n276-1388A) to a flat vertical surface behind the raised section of the boiler where the fire box would go, again checking carefully for clearance of the boiler top. I bent the legs over and soldered them together so all the connections to the right of center (I marked them red and green see photo) corresponded to power from that side of the rail and the opposite for the other side. This allows me to make changes and additions by simply loosening the lug screw and removing or adding wires as needed, this way I can add lights and control features in a matter of an hour or so depending on complexity of the change.

You can't see it but underneath all the terminals that are marked the same color have been soldered together so the are electrically the same. Meaning if you want power from that side of the rails to power something, any place that is that color is the same in all the holes that color.

I also attached a smaller PC Board Terminal up front inside the smoke box to make changing marker, headlight bulbs and Smoke units easier.

Cosmetic Upgrades

Marker Lights

In this photo you can also see one of the cosmetic changes I made by hand drilling and adding Radio Shack 12V Micro Lamps p/n 272-1092 to the previously non functioning marker lights I also did the same thing to the marker lights on the back of the tender and used George's Power connector tips (see wires under cab in photo below) to power them from the engine since the tender currently has plastic wheels. 

Cow Catcher

Below is one of my rainy day projects, where I used a Dremel tool and Xacto knife to "hollow" out in between the bars of the cow catcher, before this it was solid plastic that you could not see through.

Power Distribution

Most of the rest of the changes I made were cosmetic more than functional. I added cab lights and drilled out the fire box door indentions and placed a piece of red plastic and bulb behind it to show a red glow through the closed fire box doors. The way I did this is I think unique, instead of running wires through the boiler to the cab and fire box I used small spring loaded terminals to transfer power to the cab and fire box so that the connection is made by simply mounting the cab in place. So I can remove the cab or the fire box piece without worrying about wires. This method is the same basic principal as some rear SUV doors to power the rear wipers and glass defroster they make contact only when the door is shut, if you have this you will notice a row of brass bullet shaped contacts that mate to a row of flat brass squares when the door is closed, my method is the same only much smaller. My contacts were salvage pieces when I find a supplier I will list the part number and vendor name. See the photos below.

Below shows the backside of the boiler and the connections to power.

Firebox Glow

Above you can see the back of the fire box door showing the red plastic, Radio Shack Lamps and the metal pieces that contact the spring loaded contacts on the back of the boiler when this piece is in place. Below is a digitally enhanced photo showing the new drilled out holes on the fire box door where the red light will show through. I also painted some of the gauge faces white so the cab lights would make them show better in the dark.

Cab Lights

Below is a photo of the cab and the lights I did this a little differently also, instead of running wires around the cab I used a Circuit Works conductive pen to make conductive traces around the top of the cab to connect the bulbs. This trace then runs to two points on top of the boiler where the cab rests on it where there are two more spring loaded contacts, so with the cab screwed in place the assembly conducts power to the lights but is all hidden by the cab body itself. The two contact points are the two white dots on the ridge near the bottom of the photo (actually the front of the cab).

Drive Wheels

On another hot Texas day, or was it raining?. I decided, that since no one made replacement metal drive wheels, and I didn't like the solid plastic look. I would see if there was something I could to improve the look of the Atlantic's drive wheels. So I removed the drive rods and then removed the drivers from the undercarriage. With the drivers removed things looked dismal. I could not see any way to improve their look, and since they were pressed on to the shaft, I didn't want to take a chance on ruining the whole thing. Then while staring at the thing for a while I thought maybe I could simply remove the excess plastic on the back of the drivers like I had done to the cow catcher so the spokes were separate and not one solid piece of plastic. I took some measurements and found that there was plenty of material thickness and removing enough to open the spokes up would be structurally sound so I dove right in. Using a Dremel tool with a sanding disk (the barrel type) I started removing material checking the depth along the way by seeing if I could insert a x-acto from the front between the spokes. Once I could insert the x-acto knife in with out forcing it I stopped removing material from the back and cut the remaining material from between the spokes with the x-acto knife. Hopefully the following pictures will explain it better.

Before Modifications 

After grinding

Cutting out between the spokes


View from the front

The Finish product

The Completed project

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