Lionel 4-4-2 Atlantic

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General comments:

Lionel used to make a nice model of a Pennsylvania E6 Atlantic, 4-4-2. It's a reasonable looking model.

You see them on ebay, they often go for $250 "new" in the box. It's not a great drivetrain, and many people advertise them as new or mint, when they are really used, and have several things broken or missing. I watched ebay for about a year, this one cost $99, and is in "perfect shape", according to the seller.

The Lionel model # is 5110, or 8-5103, you used to be able to order parts, went there in 2014 and did a cursory look and found nothing. In any case, there is a link at the end of this article.

By the way, George Schryer has a nice page on tips for this loco. Click here to see his page. Recommended reading!

Useful notes:

Pick the loco up from the walkways above the drivers, NOT the air tanks, and keep your fingers AWAY from the fragile plastic valve gear. You will thank me!. (it's really easy to break the valve gear and side rods.)

Another danger is the axles slipping teeth or coming disengaged, and then you can break the side rods because you are out of quarter. There is a bit too much play up and down with the drivers typically, even after the modification George shows to hold the motor in place. If you pull downwards on a driver, you can disengage it from the gear, and thus get the drivers out of sync with each other, and the side rods will break of you do this. Save yourself some frustration and take George's and my advice, add some shims to limit this. More on this later.

Valve gear problems:

I bought one of these used. Before opening it up, I checked the valve gear. The eccentrics on the second drivers were a bit loose. Removing the long chrome screw in the center revealed the problem, the crankpins were split. I tried gluing them back together at first, but reinstalling the screw just split it apart again.

Investigating, I found that the crankpin has plenty of threads all through it, and the chrome screw is almost an inch long so I held the broken end of the crankpin on with small vicegrips or a piece of heat shrink. I then drilled 1/4" down from the end with a drill that would give clearance to the screw threads for that first 1/4" (otherwise the screw would split it again). I then epoxied the split crankpin ends together. JB Weld worked best in this case. (It's a very hard and tough epoxy found at auto parts stores)Now with the valve gear running well, I proceeded to take the loco apart.


Improving the gear train:

There is a single cable tie holding the motor in place. George found that this single cable tie did not do an adequate job, allowing the motor to rock and lose contact with the gears. He used a second cable tie. I used 3, they fit together nicely that way. This is one of the major reasons for stripped gears.

Another problem George observed is that often the gearbox cover does not limit the "down travel" of the axles, allowing them to disengage from the gear on the motor. If you look at the gearbox cover, there are small raised lands that are there to limit this travel, but very often they are not limiting enough. George also shimmed up the gearbox cover to limit the down travel of the axles. There is typically enough "slop" to allow the drivers to slip a tooth with the worm. He used shims of 0.020".

I checked my loco, my gearbox cover was also not doing the job. I measured mine and found that .015" styrene eliminated the slop. Since this only limits the "downtravel" of the axles, I believe styrene is fine. I strongly recommend checking this and shimming since it was easy to get the wheels out of phase. When this happens, the connecting rods can be snapped in two immediately.


I added weight to the loco inside like George did, he added over 3 pounds. I found some perfectly-sized 2 pound weights (called "rock cod sinkers") and put one directly over each driver. There is plenty of space in the boiler. With these 2 additional weights, total weight of the loco is 8 pounds 10 ounces. With the drive train now properly engaged all the time, the extra weight really adds to the pulling power.

Additionally, it should help things if metal wheels for the leading and trailing truck can be obtained. Someone suggested that Aristo Pacific leading truck wheels and bushings are easy to add, and would provide additional power pickup without any additional drag. I will see what I can come up with.

Finally, adding weight to the tender seems to be a good idea, it's very light and could help avoid derailments from long cars with body mount couplers, like heavyweight passenger cars.

Replacing the pilot and trailing truck wheels

They are plastic, yuck. The stock diameters are .955" for the pilot, and 1.625" for the trailing truck

Nico Corbo used a Bachmann Thomas spoked wheel for the trailing truck:

I'll get the part number and try it.

For the front wheels, he used metal wheels from Thomas the Tank rolling stock

At one time, I believe Gary Raymond made replacements for these. George Schreyer suggests FS133 are the front wheel replacements.

I saw some pictures of one so modified recently, looks like some weight was also added to part of the bolster cavity in the front truck.

I got this email from Gary Raymond two years ago.  He might still have those wheel sets.

"Ball bearing wheelsets for the tender which would allow electrical pickup are 133RDSE. $15.95 each (4 required).

Ball bearing wheelsets with no electrical pickup are 133RDSN. $15.95 each (4 required).
Ridgid axle wheelsets are 133RS (Plated $5.95 each), 133BS (Black $5.95 each), and 133US (Unplated Steel $4.95 each). (4 required).
Two packs of washers are necessary for the tender wheelsets. Part# W031B and W063B. $0.69 for each bag. (One of each required).
We have the pilot wheelsets. 133RF but they will not do electrical pickup. $5.95 each (2 required).

We do not have the trailing truck wheelset (1.625" dia.). The largest we currently have is 1.280" dia. F26RS. $5.95 each. Some customers have been using our F26RS. However it is significantly smaller. 1.625" vs. 1.280". It will fit but changes the angle of the yoke. That can be corrected by lowering the pivot point of the yoke.
State tax if in Calif 8.75%
Please email or call for shipping."


Tender modifications:

The trucks on the tender look small, the wheelbase of the trucks is 1-3/4, the truck sideframes are about 2.3" long, and . The stock plastic wheels measure about 0.95" in diameter (tread diameter at the flanges) and the overall length of each truck is 2.9" (over the flanges). The axle tips are 0.12" in diameter. 

There looks to be room to have slightly larger truck wheels, plenty of clearance between the wheels and the underside of the tender, over 1/4".

I found good replacement wheels, the Bachmann 92422 "24.5 mm Small Metal wheel set". At the flanges the wheels measure out about 0.98" The axles are longer than the stock ones, but they snap in no problem. Be sure to gauge the Bachmann wheelsets, mine were undergauge, and I pulled one wheel and spacer off and then added a small washer in the center, reassembled, and that put the back to back spacing right on.

Now I needed to add power pickup. I was thinking of doing the "eyelet thing", like AristoCraft does on it's tenders and heavyweight passenger cars,  but the tender trucks have a rectangular slot the axles go into, not the typical round hole, so there was no easy way to get the eyelets in, and the bachmann wheels are insulated from the axle anyway.

I sat for a while looking at the trucks and a set of AristoCraft carbon brush pickups.

I finally figured out that if I milled a bit out of the AristoCraft pickup housing, and trimmed a bit off the tang of the Lionel truck, the brush pickup housing bolts right on with a 2-56 screw.

The tender also needs weight. Even after putting the big 3" speaker in it, it only weighs 1 pound 12 ounces.I'll add some more after I get a backup light in place.

Smoke unit:

The stock smoke unit is pretty small, I did not even try to use it. I don't know what voltage it runs at, George speculated it was a 24v Seuth unit, but who knows. Since i run DCC, and I have QSI, I'll probably fit a fan-driven unit later and make it "chuff" with the pistons.


Repair notes:

Often the springs behind the brushes are collapsed from overheating. You can most likely use Kadee coupler springs, the original springs are 0.142 diameter, slightly over 1/2" uncompressed length.

All finished and ready to go:


More information on the Atlantic:

(click on the links below)


Wiring for DCC / QSI install / Speaker installation

Part numbers and how to order parts:

Harold / Hap from MLS gave me the pointers on a few things, like where to find the parts, and some other common problems like the connecting rod and the crankpins can break if the loco goes out of quarter.

Note: the exploded diagrams do not show the leading "8" in the part number

Santa Fe is model number 8-5103, other atlantics are 8-5102 (NYC), 8-5106 (Chessie), 8-5107 (GN)

the Santa Fe tender is 18-5103-T01, 18-5102-T01 (NYC), 18-5106-T01 (Chessie), 18-5107-T01 (GN)

Prices & availability as of September 2008
santa fe is model number 8-5103, other atlantics are 8-5102 (NYC), 8-5106 (Chessie), 8-5107 (GN)

the santa fe tender is 18-5103-T01, 18-5102-T01 (NYC), 18-5106-T01 (Chessie), 18-5107-T01 (GN)

Prices as of September 2008

818-5101-052 - connecting rod screw - #4-40
818-5101-090 (818-5003-120) - 00.70 - Brush spring (power pickup, there are 4 in the loco)
818-5101-138 - 00.40 - Headlight bulb and socket (note: 12 volts)

818-5102-115 - Headlight body (the outside shell) **** not available
818-5102-135 - 00.30 - Headlight lens
818-5102-580 - connecting rod (front to rear driver)
818-5102-586 - front wheel and axle assembly
818-5102-930 - 00.50 - Bell bracket
818-5102-940 - 00.80 - Bell, Silver
818-5102-596 - 14.35 - Rear wheel and axle assembly

818-5102-626 - 03.00 - drive rod and crosshead assembly - right hand
818-5102-631 - ecc crank mounting screw - #2 x 3/8
818-5102-636 - 03.00 - drive rod and crosshead assembly - left hand

818-5104-120 - Brush (power pickup, there are 4 in the loco) **** not available....

818-7401-022 - crank mounting screw  - #4 x 3/8"

Click here for an exploded parts diagram of the loco

Click here for an exploded parts diagram of the tender

Here's the link to order parts:




Click the links below to go "deeper" into details on indivudual motive power by manufacturer

  4-4-2 Disassembly     Atlantic wiring & DCC install    Atlantic drver fix    





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