model train set on track

Under the Hood of the Black Ike

e*Train Issue: Nov 2003   |   Posted in: ,

By John S Halajko
TCA 84-20653

To those of us who visited the TCA meet at York this October, Weaver treated us to something very special. The ACE Trains A4 Pacifics have arrived. In real life, there were 35 of their beautiful engines of which the British Railways Board No. 60008 Dwight D. Eisenhower (ex-London & North Eastern Railway No. 4496 Golden Shuttle) is on display at the Nation Railroad Museum in Green Bay Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, you can’t see the real engine at this site. However, the Brits do things right and you can get reasonably good photos of the English styled locomotives at

After a few moments you can take the extended tour of this worthy site or cut to the chase and select the interactive tour icon to view MALLARD, the world’s fastest steamer, and the real big bother to my Black Ike. Please note the high gloss paint job on the real Mallard. Looks like the high gloss finish that Jerry Williams used to give us at no extra charge has its roots in real stuff.

Dwight D. Eisenhower became Lord Eisenhower and as part of the English appreciation of his leadership in the War Effort, one their fabulous high speed A4 Pacifics, was renamed to honor him in September of 1945. The ACE model you will see here has his name on the engine before the new paint job. During the war all the A4s were painted black and had their skirting removed.

This engine is the first die cast offering for ACE Trains. It features a fully functional six wheel flanged drive train which has been optimized to run on O-Gauge tubular track, O42 curves or larger. The durability of its energy saving dual motor drive system will soon become legendary. It is guaranteed for 500 hours of operation which translates to about 50 Christmas seasons for the average operator.

When I performance tested this puppy; I used a DC transformer of 8 watts. However, I was successful in running only the engine on my faithful 5.6 watt HO transformer for about 30 minutes before the transformer circuit breaker blew. Many have asked me why I run an ACE trains on DC power packs. It’s for the convenience of having the reverse at my finder tips. The ACE reverse board allows for AC or DC operation. The AC has a manual reverse feature. With DC operation, the reverse button is on the HO transformer.

When I test run new engines, I like to break them in on a Teflon lube like the one sold at your local Radio Shack as “Archer Professional Lube Gel”. I ran on the factory lube for 15 minutes and was experiencing the raspy sound that was noted in the owner’s manual. So I popped some Teflon lube onto the gear train, ran the lube into the gears by manually rotating the main drive gear with my thumb. Voila, instant peace and quite resulted.

With a consist of five of the older design ACE coaches, the engine sans its boiler shell does not have enough traction. The wheels will just spin. Put on the boiler shell and she takes off and cruises. I test ran this beast using on an 8 watt HO transformer to see how well it will hold up for a 15 minute run of pure railroading fun. Result: absolutely no problems although the transformer was warm to the touch. Note, my double heading tests of two of ACE’s former engines made it on only 5.6 watts HO transformers for over one hour. The secret to this superior performance is the use of high torque battery powered screwdriver motors. One really slick design. However, I wish Andries and company used the same mounting system as Lionel or MTH with flywheels, but I guess Europeans like to accel and decel manually. I have almost gotten the bug after a few minutes. Real engineers just do it so try it out for yourself when you run next time.

No sound, no smoke and no electric couplers, equals less hassles.

My test track is Lionel tubular O72, but the unit will run on O42 track as shown on the Weaver flyer below. One note of caution: this puppy is optimized to run on tubular track. If you run it on Atlas, MTH or Gargraves T rail track, clean the track and place some foam rubber under each tender spoons using double-sided tape. This will add more pickup force to the spoons and help compensate for the dirty track. Expect the angle on the drive wheels to make only point contact to the inside edge of the T rail track. This will lower the consist pull capability, but I am not a big fan of running long consists. There are just too many problems with those younger engineers. So I keep my total train length to less than 12 feet.

Like other ACE engines, I could not get this puppy to run through the Atlas High Speed Switch. Normal O72 switches are no problem. To allow Ike to do more, I added an American coupler to the tender by using a junk box K-Line GG1 unit and a metric screw that I purchased from my local ACE Hardware store. Yepper, ACE is the place to get those hard to find metric screws for your toy trains. One can also use the coupler from MTH Rail King steamers or the one from the Lionel Post War diesels like the GP9. Both of these couplers are just a tad too long, but they will work satisfactory. One note of caution if you elect to add a Lionel styled coupler to the A4: the box may not accommodate the coupler. Test before removing the foam lining.

Both Thomas and Percy admire the
craftsmanship of this near museum quality engine that has a detailed crew cab with firebox glow and lots of other details. Percy, just being a Percy asked, “Why does his firebox door stay open all the time?” Thomas knew why; something this large is always hungry. The fireman has to shovel often to keep up steam. They both look forward to the many new adventures that the Black Ike will share with them.

Inside the box is a set of die cast seats, a nice touch for your shelf display of this piece. Anybody know of a good source of engineer and fireman figures in English uniforms? In the mean time, a pair of Legos guys may show up in my crew cab.

Save Energy, Run ACE Trains.

Dr Brass
The Engine Surgeon