Repairing an Athearn Challenger…

So this is my tale of repairing an Athearn 4-6-6-4 Challenger. SPOILER ALERT: it has a happy ending.

I had bought the Athearn Challenger back when they were first released. I believe in 2005 or 2006. And it has been a solid performer ever since then.

While working on other projects, I will quite often get 2 or 3 trains orbiting the layout. It’s really nice to look over and see the passing trains while sitting at the workbench. I will get them going and match their speeds as closely as possible to avoid a collision.

This particular time I happened to look up and see that the Challenger was struggling to pull its consist while another train was about to catch up from behind. Jumped up and started shutting everybody down before the impending impact.

Having stopped all trains, I walked over to the Challenger and as I was picking it up to see what was wrong I noticed that the front set of drivers spun freely.

I debated what to do. My first thought was to contact Athearn, but since the engine was 14/15 years old I figured they would probably not cover it under warranty. I decided to tear it apart and see if I could figure out what was wrong and fix it. Being pretty sure that parts would be available. Very happy I chose this route.

I got the engine to the workbench (had to clear the current project at hand out of the way) and looked it over trying to figure out how to get it apart. Had that DUH moment and grabbed the owners manual with the exploded view.

The disabled Challenger on the bench for repairs.

Turns out that there are two screws that hold the super structure / shell to the frame. One under the sand dome and one under the steam dome.

To remove the superstructure you need to remove only two screws. Plus pull the front of the smokebox off.

Plus you have to pull the front of the smokebox forward as there is a pin on the top and bottom that helps release the shell. Also you need to pull the rear grab bars (?) out the holes on the back of the cab.

Once the shell is off (it won’t go far as there are wires for the head lights attached to it) you encounter the circuit board on top of the weight.

The circuit board on top of the drive. Made a diagram of where the wires go.

The black caps pull off and the wires can then be removed. Made a quick diagram of where the wires go.

Circuit board wiring diagram.

With a working diagram of where the wires go once I started putting things (hopefully) back together, I pulled the plastic caps off and removed the wires. A couple of screws got the circuit board off and more screws released the top half of the weight. With the top weight removed the layout looks pretty much like any Athearn diesel.

Motor and drive set-up, just like the diesels.

Looking at the setup and marveling at how it was very familiar, I absently reached out and pressed on the front tower clip. With a little pressure it clicked back into place.

The tower that popped off.

That was it. After 14 years the front tower had popped off. The engine was fixed. Problem solved. How very anti-climatic.

Since I had it apart i figured I should add an Engineer and a  Fireman.

Source of the engineer and fireman.
Engineer and fireman installed.

The engine is now fixed. It not only is running as well as always, it has a crew in the cab.

Another problem encountered and solved.

Till next time, Stay Safe…






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