I've decided to proceed with giving the recently acquired Lionel 253 a refurbishment; this process, at least for me, falls somewhere between a clean/polish process and a full-on restoration. To be honest, most of my projects fall in the former and rarely in the latter (I don't think I've ever done what most would consider a full restoration), but occasionally the piece is so battered it needs some body repairs, some parts replaced/straightened, and a bit of new paint. After pondering this for a couple weeks, I think this is the best choice.
Here's a montage of the 253 as received:
It doesn't look too bad in these photos, but a close examination reveals a number of problems.
The biggest is the broken tabs on the body's front and end pieces. They are held in place by four tabs, two on either side. The top two remain in place on both ends, but the bottom pair are broken off or damaged. Without the tabs, reattachment will likely require a judicious solder job. I say judicious because you can't blob it in there or it will interfere with reattaching the brass inserts. Fortunately I have a friend who is an excellent solder-man, so I might go to him for some help.
You can't solder on something that's painted. Sure, you can scrape away a bit of paint in the area you need to solder, but the heat of the solder will likely damage the remaining paint in the area (and on the opposite side). You have to make sure these things are well-painted for posterity, not to mention the beating they'll take over the next 100 years (should anyone have any interest in them). That, together with the multiple scrapes and chips, not to mention numerous dents and bends, makes stripping this body of paint necessary. You hate to get rid of original paint, but sometimes you have to.
But before you can do any of that, you gotta take all of the detail parts off, at least the ones that can be removed. In this case, I was able to get everything off except the two handrails at the top. Those seem firmly anchored and no amount of plier work seemed to get them bent to a point where they can be removed. You can't beat/work on them too much for fear of damaging the sheet-metal. It's not optimal, but I'm going to leave them in place and try to work around them.
Before I start the bodywork, however, I want to take a look at the motor and get it on the test-track. If it's shot, likely just a shelf-queen or a source of parts. Plus, I want to give the frame a careful examination, as I like to leave them as is, just a good clean and polish.