Feeling very discouraged

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by roryglasgow, Aug 18, 2001.

  1. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Well, I've been working out some of the kinks in my track, hoping that I can run trains again...but it ain't lookin' like I'm going to do that anytime soon...

    I have three engines: a Bachmann 2-8-0 Consolidation, a Life-Like F2A, and a Tomix Thomas the Tank Engine.

    A few months ago I made several modifications to the 2-8-0, including adding electrical pickup in the tender. It ran like a champ! It ran almost as smooth as the F2, and it was my best creeper. I put it in the box for a couple of weeks, took it back out again and it ran terrible--making a horrible clicking noise and wobbling when it ran any distance, but most often stalling every inch or two. I examined every square millimeter of the thing, including electrical connections and gearing. My determination was that the free-floating gears in the gearbox were jamming--I was actually able to observe this happening. So, I put the pieces away until I could figure out a solution.

    Thomas was a great little switcher. He handled those Atlas turnouts very well (considering that he's an 0-6-0), and was a decent little puller despite his size. But he started having problems, too. It started with what appeared at first to be electrical contact problems. I thought that the solution was to somehow add more weight, because I could gently press down on him and he'd continue on for a while. His performance got so bad that I decided to take him apart and examine his works. It turns out that his back wheels get out of sync somehow and put too much tension on one of the drive rods, thus jamming the mechanism. I fiddled with it for several hours this evening, but couldn't make it stay in sync.

    And to top things off, my F2 won't run worth a hoot. It has never had problems negotiating the turnouts, and ran smooth and quiet. Now it appears to be suffering from the same symptoms as the other two engines--frequent stalls. I took it apart and could find nothing wrong with it. The problem appears to be electrical, because when it stalls, the light goes off. If I push it a little bit, it will continue down the track for a while before stalling again. It hesitates over turnouts, too...which seems to indicate a contact problem somewhere (or an open circuit).

    All of the engines have been cleaned (including the wheels), and I've examined and removed any flash from the gears.

    I'm all out of ideas. Anyone had any similar problems? Any had these things happen to their entire fleet? :)

    Sorry for the long post!

  2. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Sorry to hear of your bad luck. Believe me, you're not the only one who's fallen victim to the "electrical gremlins"! I was having so many problems a few months back with turnout contact on my current layout, that I finally bit the bullet, ripped up everything, & started over. Now it's working great.
    You seem to be very thorough in your trouble-shooting, so you've probably already checked this, but you didn't mention track. Usually, one of the first bugs encountered with any layout is dirty, or poorly conected track. Is your track clean? Did you solder your rail joints? Are your feeder connections solid?
  3. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Yeah, the track was the first thing I suspected. The problems with Thomas and the 2-8-0 are definitely mechanical, though. I disassembled both and observed the gears while I manually turned the main drive gear. The 2-8-0's gears would bind when one of the smaller gears would turn slightly to the side. They sit on little pegs, but there is nothing that holds them "straight" on the pegs. Somehow placing a cap on the ends of the pegs would help hold them in place...

    Thomas, though, binds when the rear axle gets out of sync with the front two--essentially resulting in a tug-of-war between the front two axles and the rear axle, with the driving rod as the rope.

    I'm baffled as to what is wrong with the F2!

  4. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Now things are getting weird...

    My nieces were over today and they wanted to see the train run. I told them that it might not run very well, but I went ahead and stuck the F2 on the head of a train that was already sitting on the layout (from last night). And it ran PERFECTLY!!!

    We went out for a while, came back and started it up again, and it ran perfectly fine again.


  5. billk

    billk Active Member

    Rory - You sure do things different in Texas - usually everything works OK until you are showing it to someone, then all the wheels fall off. Just kidding, I wish I could offer some advice but I'm mystified as well.
    - Bill K
  6. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Feeling encouraged!

    Well, Bill, it gets better.

    Feeling hopeful from my unexplained success with the F2, I brought out the pieces of the 2-8-0 and began tinkering with it again. I learned that the siderods played a bigger role than I had previously thought. Originally, the siderods attached to the first and third axles--there are little "fake" joints on the other axles. Well, somtimes the connecting rod assembly that runs from the third axle up to the reversing sector (I think that's what it's called) would get out of whack (as opposed to being in whack) and create resistance that would cause the wheels get out of sync and jam in a similar fashion as they are with my Thomas the Tank Engine. (Whew! Long sentence.)

    Anyway, I drilled holes in the drive rod and attached it to the SECOND and third axles, and now it is running much better! By attaching the side rod on adjacent axles, there is less opportunity to get out of sync (since they are connected via the same gear). I completely disconnected the offending connecting rod for now. I have to also install longer wires from the tender. Once that's done, I think it will be back in service again! Woohoo!!!

  7. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Well, I've said it before, & I'll say it again -
    From the depths of frustration comes inspiration!

    keep 'em on the rails Rory!
  8. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member


    I know a lot more about computers than I do about model trains (not to claim that I know all that much about computers! ;) ). If a computer acts the way your trains have, I'd check the enviroment first- was it significant more or less humid when the trains wouldn't run? Hotter or cooler?

    Glad that you discovered the problems that you have, though. Hope all runs smoothly!
  9. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Good question

    Humidity could be playing a factor. The layout is located near the front door and under a window. In addition, there is an air vent that blows down a little past the layout (on the other side of the love seat that the layout backs up to). I did have the foam subsurface screwed down to the hollow core door it sits on, but a few weeks ago I removed the screws so I could work on some wiring. Does insulating foam warp? That could distort the track and make the trains run jerky...
  10. Virginian

    Virginian Member

    Hi Rory,
    Have you checked all your wire and connectionss under the foam? Perhaps the pressure of the foam, or a tiny bit of moisture or debris is 'shorting' somewhere.. I know the foam is pretty lightweight, but so is hook up wire... or maybe you have metal contact somewhere along the line...if you lifted the foam, then put it down again, that might have 'fixed' the problem, at least temporarily.
    Good luck
    VGN :cool: ("gonna be a bright, bright, sun shiny day")
  11. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Try this first, make a small cradle to hold your loco's in upside down. Take two wires from your controller, turn it on, and see if the loco's run. If they do then the problem is at the track not the loco's. Also check to see if you have plastic rail joiners in the right place otherwise shorting will apply.

    Good hunting.
  12. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Loco locos and wacky track


    I'm pretty sure that the wire connections are good: they are all soldered. But it's possible that my common rail connection is causing a problem: I only have one. However, I've tried "fiddling" with the joiners between the track, and have even picked up the locomotive and placed it on the track that has the common connection and it still acts flaky. The other day I was messing with the F2 and it started acting crazy again. So, I held onto it and turned the power pack up to full blast so I could try and figure out if there was a mechanical problem. It seems to be binding somewhere--it's jerky and "clicky." I'm going to take it apart again and see if I can find if something has gotten into the works.


    I did find an interesting problem with my Bachmann Consolidation. It has a rather flaky wheel construction where each set of drivers fits in on either side of a gear. If the wheels get inserted too far into the gear, they touch--metal to metal! And that causes a short. It took me a few minutes to figure out why everything worked fine until I put the Consolidation on the tracks! :)

  13. Big Al Slyde

    Big Al Slyde New Member


    I'm new to this BBS but have been building an N Gauge layout on and off for about five years. i have two Bachman steamers a 0-6-0 and a 2-6-2. Neither of them runs very well. I have tinkered with and tuned them. i believe the problems are two fold. The first is related to the fact that my engines are fairly inexpensive- the gears bind. The second is probably more to the problem - track dirt. i find that pickup wheels get dirty very fast. Additionally, because the circuit passes from engine to tender it isn't verty tight electrically. Basically, I have purchased and "newer" 1950 diesel switcher which i will use until I can afford a better steamer.

    Hang in there with your gauge.
  14. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Big Al,

    I still haven't gotten the 2-8-0 to cooperate and be a "good" engine. The wheels keep slipping out of sync, causing the driving rods to bind. I have one more idea, though... I'm going to attempt to use CA adhesive to fix the wheels onto the axles. I don't know if it will work, though, because of the type of plastics that are used. If that doesn't work, then I might just have to make one of those displays that people put in towns on their layouts: the Good Ol' 2-8-0 that used to be the mainstay of the railway but now sits inside a chain link fence with a plaque hanging outside saying what a special part in the local history it played, etc., etc., etc... Fortunately, I only paid like $20 for it. I think I've gotten $20 worth of play out of it.

    I'm really interested to find out how the new Bachmann 2-8-0 will run. So far, though, I don't think they've publicly shown it running. I hope it runs as good as it looks! The Roundhouse 2-8-0 sounds promising. When I get the extra $$$ I might get one of those and some of those new passenger cars they sell to go with it...

  15. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Rory, The Roundhouse uses rubber traction tires. Wobbles a lot due to this and the tires foul the track.Bachmann's Spectrum 2-8-0 is a good runner but like most N-Scale steam tends to stall on turnouts when creeping over them at switching speeds. Tends to derail on #4 turnouts. They are pricey though. Good Luck, T.R.
  16. Big Al Slyde

    Big Al Slyde New Member

    Looking forward

    If and when you decide to bite the bullet for a new Bachman 2-8-0 let us know what you think of it. Right now as winter soon begins, I will return the construction of the Avalanche & Little Park R.R. (ALP). The ALp is a fictious turn of the century hard rock mining short line. It is being built on a 3.5' x 6' desktop. The basic layout is done and up and running (more or less in the midst of the dust). The focus now is upon building the buildings for the town of Little Park. Once done then onto the scenery etc. Happy Roading!
  17. Cactus

    Cactus Member

    Do you have a cat?

    My Atlas GP-38 began to run erratically, stalling over turnouts and needing a push, etc. The track and loco wheels were clean as a whistle, rail joints all soldered, etc.

    I discovered the problem to be the fine underfur of my cat (who is the only one in the house who walks on the layout), nearly invisible stuff. It had wound itself around the axles, working down the decreasing axle diameter to the points right at the end. This, on my loco, is the place where the electrical power delivered from track to wheels is transferred to the pickup circuitry inside the loco. The loco when clean has electrical pickup from all 8 wheels. With the cat hair in place, I was down to 2-wheel pickup -- easy to stall on turnout frogs or rail joints.

    The problem was completely invisible from the outside. I had to probe the axle ends with a pair of watchmaker forceps to get the stuff out. 20 minutes later, my loco runs like new.

    Just a thought.

  18. billk

    billk Active Member


    And he (the cat) probably doesn't have to actually walk on the layout to cause problems, either. I'm constantly cleaning gunk out of my computer mouse which I'm sure is mostly cat fur, and our scaredy-cat won't go near the computer, so the stuff must be air-borne. Wonder if one of those ionized-air filter thingies would help?
  19. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member


    Nope, I don't have a cat, but the problem with the F2 was gunk built up behind the wheels...sounds like the same problem you were having, except mine was just regular dust and dirt. I didn't realize this, though, when I first cleaned it 'cause I didn't think to look there (like you said, it's not visible from the outside). I was able to pull the wheels off and clean everything out. Now the F2 runs like a champ again! (Althought it is buzzy when running forward...haven't figured that out yet.)

    Here's a cat-and-railroad related page:



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