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(Guest)    J&C Studios O Gauge Archive    PC9850    Lionel 681 Turbine Restoration - From Start to Finish
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Topic: Lionel 681 Turbine Restoration - From Start to Finish
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Joined: Apr 8, 2011
Topics: 8   Replies: 3
posted on Feb 27, 2012 11:14 PM:
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They say the third time's a charm. Twice before I have tried to present this restoration as one thread, but was unable to do so. First was because of school, second because of the passing of my mother in January. But I am happy to say I have finally closed the book on this project and can present it in one sitting. I hope that this info will be of use to anyone interested in restoring a postwar Lionel steamer. So, let's get started.


Originally, this turbine wasn't in the worst shape. It was in typical "playwear" condition, and admittedly the cab stamps and keystone decal were fine. I originally planned to do light touch-up work, but a very pronounced and irksome blistering in the paint along the entire top of the locomotive pushed me over the edge and I decided to perform a full "frame-off" restoration, as it would be known in the Corvette world.


This part is pretty straightforward. Laying the parts all out neatly goes a long way. The only hiccup I ran into was in prying the lid off the smoke pellet chamber. Even just under light pressure, the chamber broke away from the bracket. In a situation like this, the entire unit should really be replaced. However, I used JB Weld to reattach the chamber, but this did not make for a good ground so a wire had to be soldered between the chamber lid and the frame when I reassembled everything.


91% Isopropyl Alcohol and a Q-tip make short work of the dirt and grime that builds up on the motor's commutator, brush plate, and E-Unit drum. Use lacquer thinner (much stronger) and a Q-tip for the wheels.

The rest of the internals I doused in Carburetor Cleaner and scrubbed with a toothbrush. The stuff is pretty potent, so do take caution when using it. The parts will all be squeaky clean when you're done (remember you will need to add fresh oil and lubricant wherever needed to replace the old gunk you just removed).

The E-Unit lever and tender hitch were pretty rusty on mine. I wire-wheeled them and then applied a coat of WD-40 to protect from further rust.


On my locomotive, I replaced the brushes, roller pickups, smoke unit element and wick and gasket, drive rods and hex screws, handrail stanchions, headlight lens, and smoke residue removal sticker (the original one can usually be saved by gently removing it before repainting, but mine got thrown out on accident). Of course, you may need to replace things other than these parts, but on mine all of these were pretty worse for wear. If you'd like to save the original drive rods on yours, wash them normally and then polish with Mother's Aluminum Polish. I got the best results with a Dremel polishing wheel. Here's some before and after shots of the chassis.

The tender that the turbine came with was incorrect. It was a Lionel Lines 2046W. I desired a Pennsylvania 2671W, so I sold the frame and shell from the old one and mounted the innards on a 2671W frame. Often the wiring for the whistle will be crumbling, so get the soldering iron out and replace it all with black 20 gauge stranded wire. I got mine from a hobby shop. Also be sure to lube the whistle if it needs it (usually does). For the shell, I got one of those nice new reproductions with silver lettering.


To strip the paint, I used a glass-beading machine. When the paint is totally stripped, you'll see that the casting has some horrendous flaws. This is why Lionel used such thick, baked-on enamels back in the 50s. Since modern day paints are nowhere near as thick, a bit of effort needs to be put into filing and filling the imperfections. Otherwise they will show prominently through the new paint.

Now for the actual paint, I went with the acclaimed and out of production Krylon 1613 Semi-Flat Black. Many have touted this as a spot-on match to original postwar Lionel black paint. I personally think it's just the slightest shade more satin. However, when not under a brutal side-by-side comparison with an original turbine, it is virtually impossible to tell the difference.

For a more thorough side-by-side comparison and further discussion on matching original postwar Lionel black, visit this thread. http://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/displayForumTopic/content/3682341338205342


After the paint has cured and everything is reassembled, the only things left are the keystone decal and the 681 stamp. Keystone decals are pretty easy to apply; they're simple water slide decals. The reproductions are a good representation of the original, but do be careful when cutting them to size. They're only a dollar, so order a bunch just in case you mess up.

Not so easy to apply is the rubber stamped cab number. I used a stamp and silver Speedball Ink from Olsen's Toy Train Parts in Ohio (Any new or replacement part I mention in this thread came from them as well). Begin by putting a glob of ink on a piece of white construction paper and then spread it in a thin layer with an Exacto chisel blade. The standard practice is to spread the ink on glass with a normal razor, but doing it my way is a lot easier. To remove ink from the stamp in preparation for another attempt, just stamp the paper until the ink stops coming off.

As you can see, it takes A LOT of practice to get the stamp just right if you're a novice like me. Keep a wet paper towel next to you so you can wipe away botched attempts - the Speedball Ink is very easy to remove when wet. Eventually you will develop your own technique to get the right amount of ink on the stamp, aim it properly, and make the final application evenly. Here are my final stamps after about an hour of effort:




Joined: Nov 15, 2010
Topics: 7   Replies: 9
posted on Feb 28, 2012 08:51 AM:
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Nice job. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions and photos. I'd really like to try a restoration some day and this will be a helpful reference.


Joined: May 14, 2008
Topics: 81   Replies: 516
posted on Feb 28, 2012 09:56 AM:
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Very nice! Thanks for the in-depth tutorial on this, excellent work.



Hugh Laubis
Joined: Nov 6, 2011
Topics: 43   Replies: 25
posted on Feb 28, 2012 07:13 PM:
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What a great job and as john said a very important tutorial for anyone who would like to try their hand at doing something like restoring a steamer.


Ken Walter
Joined: Jul 26, 2012
Topics: 0   Replies: 1
posted on Jul 26, 2012 09:01 AM:
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Joined: Apr 8, 2011
Topics: 8   Replies: 3
posted on Sep 9, 2012 10:57 AM:
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There was a question about my parts source via email and I figured I'd just post the answer here. As briefly mentioned in the original thread, all parts came from Olson's Toy Train Parts in Ohio.



Joined: May 14, 2008
Topics: 81   Replies: 516
posted on Sep 9, 2012 11:00 AM:
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Thank you PC9850! This is a great topic, with lots of interest. We appreciate the time and effort you've put into it. It continues to help fellow hobbyists.



Fred Steinacker
Joined: Feb 20, 2019
Topics: 0   Replies: 3
posted on Feb 22, 2019 01:53 PM:
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I would love to see it no pictures come up everytime I click on. What am I doing wrong? Have a 681 I would love to restore.


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