Dirty Track?? Rough running

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by dealy663, Dec 3, 2006.

  1. dealy663

    dealy663 New Member


    We have a fleischmann set that is about a year old now. We've got two locos, one is old the other is new. The old engine is really having a tough time on our layout, stopping, and not running smoothly, so I brought it into the local train store to have the brushes replaced. When he put the loco on his track it ran much smoother with no pausing or hiccups. He then replaced the brushes and it worked pretty well.

    Back on my track at home, it is still running just as poorly as ever. I have a bright boy and have been cleaning the track fervently for over a week. Our newer loco runs pretty well, though not perfectly smooth. It can easily make a complete circuit around our layout. The old loco stops, and sometimes wont start without a push.

    Is it possible that the transformer they had at the store is putting out better/more quality power? Is there something else that can be causing problems on my track? Is it possible that the track connecters aren't doing a good job of conducting electricity through? I just don't know what else could be wrong. I'm using an inexpensive transformer that they sold me with the original starter set.

    Please advise on how to get things working smoothly again.

    P.S. Oh and by the way, the old engine was running fine on this track when we first got it.


  2. kitsune

    kitsune Member

    Sounds more like a loose connection in the locomotive, or mayhaps a short somewhere. When it stops running, is the other engine also on the tracks? If so, does it continue to run also?
  3. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I doubt the transformer is the problem. Some questions I would like to ask. How old and what type and manufacturer is the old loco. How many wheels pick up electricity on it and on the new one. I would clean the track real good, clean the wheels real good. Then put some Wahls clipper oil on a rag and wipe the rails about 4 - 5 inches. This must be a light application too much will cause troubles. Run the train trough the oil and around layout. See how this works.
  4. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    When it comes to having clean track that stays clean, you might want to try this. It was posted by one of the members of the Model Railroader forum. It worked for me. It's called 'GLEAM'.

    QUOTE: (Originally posted by Semafore)

    I'm talking GLEAM!: ULTRA_SHINY and Smooth rails can now be had with my 'WHAT box?" approach to this conductivity problem. An HO modeller since 1970, I know the problem WELL!
    1] On an appropiate-sized block, use 400 wet/dry paper to remove the extrusion milling left on the railheads. The block must span both rails.
    2] Now use 600 or finer, repeat process.
    3] Using an appropiate-sized STAINLESS-STEEL piece, apply moderate pressure and BURNISH the rails! The more you slide back and forth, the smoother and shinier the rails become! [ the GLEAM part ]. This is because you have removed the ridges, bumps, and pits. Burnishing helps seal pores with metal, eliminating traps for dirt and tarnish; almost like a MIRROR!
    4] [For Bob H.] Use BLUE MAGIC or equivalent metal polish to deep-clean the remaining contaminates.
    5] Last, buff the rails to your eye's content!
    The shine is 5x more lusterous than just polish alone. The wax left behind is minimal, is not insulating, and virtually eliminates rail cleaning.
    This is a process HOT OFF THE PRESSES! [Of my brain] I've only been at it 6 weeks with amazing results! {I just added the wax step today.} prior to that, though, the NS HO rails I'm guinea-pigging (300') sans wax STILL gleams today, with slight tarnishing, so I'm gonna wax 'em next!
    I will also try some classic brass rail to see how that stands up.

    Or you'll just ruin your mirror finish, and will have to gleam and wax AGAIN!
    Dry-wipe with paper towel or cotton. You can always polish anytime; wipe away excess.

    I've had DCC and DC locos/lash-ups creep at a scale 3-5MPH around the staging level loop 100' with NO STALL or FAULTER. gotta love it
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    If one loco runs smoothly and the other has problems, I would look at the loco.
    Did the store test it on curves or just a straight track? Does yours have problems on straights and curves? Just curves? If you turn it around, do you still have problems?
    Can you see black stuff on the wheel treads? Is there any stuff where the electrical pickups runb on the wheels? (assuming there are pickups visible).
  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    If it ran well at the store, and the newer loco runs fairly well on your layout, it sounds to me as if it's a combination of an older locomotive on possibly suspect track. How is your track set up? Is it fastened to a tabletop or permanent layout, or is it merely sitting loose on a table or floor? While I'm not familiar with your locos, a newer one is more likely to have more wheels picking up current and is also more likely to have at least some of those wheels sprung (if the loco is a steamer). This affords the wheels, which pick up the current, better contact with the rails. If the rails are not fastened in place, it's likely that there are unnoticeable irregularities in the track, which might be severe enough to cause the older loco's pick-up wheels to lose contact with the rail. While a better quality transformer will give better control over the trains, it can't fix this problem. There is also the possibility that the rail joiners are intermittently losing contact, although this should also cause a problem for the newer loco.
    I notice that you said that the older loco ran smoothly when it was run on the hobby shop's track, but only "pretty well" after the brushes had been changed. Usually, a new set of brushes will have flat ends where they contact the commutator, so there is only a very small contact patch. After the loco has been run for some time, wear on the brushes will allow the contact patch to conform to the shape of the commutator, and performance will improve. Some modellers use a small round file to manually shape the new brushes, before installation, to more closely conform to the commutator, thereby eliminating most of the "break-in" period.

  7. dealy663

    dealy663 New Member

    More details

    Both locos have 6 wheels, I'm not sure how many of them pick up power. Also both locos are Fleischmann, I suspect the older one is well over 10 years old. I tried turning the old one around and it runs about the same. I've given both locos a good wheel cleaning with my dremel. They certainly look clean.

    At the train shop the old loco was tested on a section of straight track. The transformer was considerably larger than mine. The old loco seems to run just as poorly on straight or curved track.

    The track is mouned on 1/2" particle board. It is all modern felischmann track. I have it divided into several sections with isolators, and the points all have the bridging wire removed so current only flows in the direction the switch is pointed to. Do the track connectors require cleaning over time? Is there something better for cleaning than a bright boy?

    I was panning on getting more track for my son for xmas but it doesn't make sense if what we have now isn't working well.

  8. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    First, welcome to The gauge forums Derek.
    Is your Fleischmann layout HO or N scale ?
    I purchased a Fleischmann N scale digital starter set 1 year ago and have more or less the same problem with the loco.
    I soldered all the rail joiners ,polished the rails with a Bright Boy and cleaned the locomotive wheels but the loco is still pausing or moving with hiccups.
    The loco is a small steam engine with tender. The motor is in the tender and the current pickup is made on the loco wheels.
    Imho that's what is causing the problem: 1) the loco is very light, so the contact between rails and wheels is not that good. 2) The Fleischmann loco doesn't have any flywheel.

    Just to be sure I purchased a MRC Tech 4 200 DC controller ( I'll need the AC voltage output to power the Fleischmann turnouts ) and a Life Like GP 18 diesel loco ( with a flywheel ) and guess what: It works very smoothly on my Fleischmann layout.
  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Relying on rail joiners for electrical transmission in the smaller scales like n or ho is not going to work very well for very long. The rail joiners will make a good mechanical connection, but absolutely aweful electrical connections. You will notice that the various forms of track with the plastic roadbed usually have some sort of electrical connection built in to the roadbed so that they don't have to use the rail joiners for electrical transmission. In ho & n scale, you need to permanentely mount your track down to a board, and then solder drop wires to each piece rail on the layout. The drop wire is then soldered to a buss wire that is running under the layout. You need two buss wires for each block you have on your layout. I would add that if the hobby shop only ran the locomotive on a straight section of track, he couldn't really test the locomotive completely. Many locomotives will run fine on a straight test track, but have problems when they encounter a curve. A curved track will introduce side loads on the locomotive electrical pick up connections which may cause the locomotive to suddenly have an open where the pick ups either lose connection with the track or they lose connection with the locomotive. The problem is now if you are relying on rail joiners to make an electrical connection, and you locomotive is only beig tested on a straight section of track, you don't know if the problem is poor electrical connections on the track or someting losing contact inside the engine.
  10. dealy663

    dealy663 New Member

    This is an HO scale system

    So the rail joiners could actually be contributing to the problem then? That's interesting to hear. I'll work building a separate electrical bus for carrying the current. Is it necessary to solder wires on to each section of track to get a good solid flow of power? Are there any tricks or suggestions for building such a wiring system when using the switches to control the flow of power to each block?

    If anyone can provide web links to sites which discuss these kinds of issues, I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks, Derek
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm not exactly sure what you are asking, but I'll give it a go. The best way to solder is to do it on the outside of the rail and then run the wire directly down through a hole drilled in the table between the ties right here you soldered. Most rails should have a drop wire soldered to them. The exception might be switches.

    If you are using common rail wiring where one rail is common and the block divisions are on the other rail, you can use one buss wire for the common rail. For the other rail, make an individual buss for each block.

    On your question concerning using switches to control power flowing to each block, are you talking about power routing turnouts? If so, just wire the switch to feed power to the buss wire for whatever block the switch is selecting. In effect you use the turnout to select the block that will be hot.
  12. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Can someone please give more details about what " an appropiate-sized STAINLESS-STEEL piece " is ?
    Where can I get that ?
  13. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think by "appropriate sized" he means a block slightly wider than the distance accross the rails and small enough to fit comfortably in the hand. I suspect a piece of stainless the size of a bright boy track cleaner would work. As far as where to get it is concerned, I think you would have to check a metal fabrication shop. If there is one locally that does anything in stainless, they might have a small scrap piece that you could have. You could also check with a metal supplier, but most likely they will only have long or large pieces available. If you bought a large piece, you would pay quite a bit, cut off a small piece, and have no use for the remainder.
  14. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    I use the handle of a stainless steel spoon, folded in an 'L' shape.
  15. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    I have a couple of ideas here too. First, is the wheels dirty? They may need to be cleaned. If the track is clean, are the sections making good electrical contact? Even with the simple oval around my Christmas tree, I have 4 electrical connections. This keeps power evenly all over the layout. I hope this helps.

  16. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I thought about that, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one . Now, I'll have to convince my wife to get rid of 1 spool from her "Italian set "
  17. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I just found the best stainless steel " tool" for N scale : a teaspoon.
    Not the handle, but the spoon " cup" itself.

    It just fits the 9 millimeter gauge perfectly.
    Thanks again jeffrey-wimberl

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