Repairing the Lionel 342 Culvert Loader

(Courtesy of Lyle Leverich)

I recently dug into my 342 to correct its long standing tendency to drop the pipes just short of the center of the car. The service manual has cryptic comments like "bend the base" and "bend the linkage" with no clear definition of which linkage ! Here is a hopefully clear procedure. This assumes that the vibrator is working correctly, the linkage is moving, etc. I should note that part of good operation requires the "hook assembly" that moves back and forth to NOT be oiled. Oil can interfere with the way the slide hook moves; use a dry graphite if it drags. First, watch the motion of the hook assembly; it should move over the waiting pipes far enough for the inside hook to drop and the outside fixed part to almost touch the pipe (on the track side). When it grabs the pipe, it should then travel over directly above the car and drop the pipe so it falls directly to the center.

In my case, it came short and the pipe would roll sideways on one side of the guide. There are two different adjustments possible, so its important to decide which to make. If the travel is OK, you can twist slightly the vertical linkage that goes from the bottom oscillating pulley to the top, inside the control house. This will move the drop point but also the pick-up point. In my case, possibly due to wear of pivots or just factory tolerances, the travel was too short and if it dropped in the center of the car, it would not pick up the pipe without "hand help". What needs to be done in that case is to shorten, very slightly, the linkage that goes to the bottom of the tall center post. I did this by bending it up with two small pliers at one end, then back in the center, then up at the other so the pivots do not bind. You can only bend a bit at a time to avoid breaking the linkage. This increases the total travel of the hook. Then the vertical part can be twisted if needed to center the drop.