Switch trouble, loco trouble, or am I just loco?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by FiveFlat, Jan 15, 2006.

  1. FiveFlat

    FiveFlat Member

    Currently the only locomotive I have is a Bachmann standard 2-6-2 praire.
    I have 4 Atlas switches and then had to go back to LHS for another and the saleman talked me into Peco electrofrog for such a small loco, and I think I see why because I don't have any trouble with my Peco. My little loco ALWAYS stalls when I'm trying to crawl across a switch. I doesn't have any trouble if I'm up around 50% (I think because it just zooms across the plastic frog)
    So - what can be done other than replace all the switches? That's $60 in Atlas switches and I'm sure that something can be done?

    Next question - help shed some light on locomotives for me. What do you all normal run your loco's at during continuous operation? 40%? 60%? I think it really looks cool to see my loco crawling around bends and stuff down around 20-30% but it can't run below 20% and if I slow it down below 20 it stops and if I try increasing power it stays stalled - even at 100% unless I just simply touch it and it goes right off. Is this because it's a Bachmann Standard or do I have some other underlying problem maybe?

    Lastly - When I am running my loco continuously around my mainline - it's kinda 'jerky' like it's not getting power. It stops for 1/2 a second and then all of a sudden it goes again. So again, loco or me?
  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Your stalling problems sound like dirt to me. Probably on the wheels, probably also on the rails. Check the threads on track and wheel cleaning. Also look for dirt on the electrical path to the motor, but as you described it, it seems like a lump between the wheel and the rail.
    Not sure about the Atlas switches. Is the frog metal or plastic? Their metal frogs can be wired up to a switch that's on some makes of switch machines.
    Also: check the pickup pattern on your loco. See how many of the wheels are supposed to pick up and whether thay all are. (Use wires toughed to the wheels when the loco is upside down.)
  3. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    A good way to avoid stalling on frogs is to install pickups on your tender--basically extra wipers on the tender trucks so you are picking up power from more than one spot on the tracks.
  4. FiveFlat

    FiveFlat Member

    I looks like my tender has those... there are wires that follow along the 'hitch' to the locomotive, but that where they end. How do I get it from the 'hitch' to the contacts on the locomotive?
  5. skipgear

    skipgear Member

    There a a few things you can do to that loco to turn that average little loco into a fairly decent performer.

    #1 - The little wires you noticed on the draw bar. Most for them from the factory are not soldered well. Remove the tender from the loco, and touch a soldering iron to the points where they are attached to the drawbar. I suggest that you first get them oriented so they are straight and then wrap a piece of tape or something to hold them in place before you touch up the solder joint. It keeps them from moving around when you resolder them.

    #2 - Scrape off any paint on the hitchpin on the loco where the drawbar connects. This is a contact point for the power from the tender to the loco.

    #3 - Add about a 1/4 oz. of weight in the tender, it will improve pickup.

    #4 - Make sure the wipers on the tender pickup are not bent and dragging too much on the wheels. Also make sure that they are contacting the drawbar properly.

    #5 - Loosen the screw holding the motor in (bottom) and the shell on (top in stack) just about a 1/4 turn or so. Wiggle things a bit to make sure they are loose. This will allow the motor to self allign better and it will make the slow speed performance much better.

    #6 - Taking #5 farther, the main reason for any binding of the mechanism is because of the black tape they use to hold down the motor insulator plastic. Remove the screw from the stack, remove the shell, remove that tape, and replace the shell.

    #7 - Run time is the best thing for it.

    I also like to remove the leading and trailing trucks and turn them into 0-6-0's. I had problems with the lead truck derailing in some switches. The rear truck is just fine but they don't look right with only a rear truck on them.

    I have a half dozzen of these loco's plus we have one running on our display at the hobbyshop I work at. It was actually a return from a customer that said the loco didn't run to his satisfaction. That was 3 months ago and the loco has run 10 hours a day every day since then. It has out lasted every diesel that we have tried on the layout. I have a few of the previous versions with a little wieght and the above mods that will pull close to 20 cars.
    A few shots of the mine on the display layout before we finished it.

    Attached Files:

  6. FiveFlat

    FiveFlat Member

    Hey skipgear,
    Thanks a bunch. I actually got to looking closely at the loco and found out that the where the drawbar connects to the loco is metal so that IS the connection point, like you said. I did scrape that point on the loco and bent the wires on the drawbar so they contact much better. It isn't jerky anymore after that!
    So I actually did your #1 and #2 last night :)
    I like your idea of #3, I thought of that last night, but couldn't figure out how to get it done.
    #4 - I think you are right on here. If I look very closely I will see that the front axle of the front truck is not rolling- it is dragging. This is probably due to the wipers!

    I will do all this before I get to #5 & #6

    #7 - you mean run time as is just letting it go 'round and 'round right? Any specific speed? I'm certain that from my basic electronics background, an electric motor should be broken in with various voltages applied to it, but specifically for this motor, I don't know.

    Again, thanks for all the info! I think I am on the right track!
  7. skipgear

    skipgear Member

    With any steam loco, break in is very important. If you are happy with how it is running now, just keep having fun and it will get better over time.

    Many will set up a loop of track and let the loco with no load for a couple of hours, switching direction around the loop and forward/reverse ever 15 minutes to 30 minutes. There have been plenty of discussions on break in on this and other forums that go into more detail.

    I break in my loco's at about 30-40% throttle on a figure 8 test loop so I don't have to worry about flipping the direction around the loop. Most steam will show a big improvement in just an hour or two of running. Some will take longer. Break in will improve slow speed performance, pulling power and noise. It helps wear in the gears, the axle bearings and the motor brushes. There are a lot of moving parts on a steam loco that need to wear in and mate. It is best to do this with little or no load at first. Once I see a distict improvement in the performace of the loco, I will start adding some cars to give it a little load to help speed the break in process.
  8. FiveFlat

    FiveFlat Member

    Wow! I 'pinched' the leads from the tender so they make better contact on the hitch pin of the loco and it will CRAWL across even my plastic atlas switches at 15-20%!!!!
    I let this little guy run for about 3 hours yesterday at around 25-30% and the slow speed is amazing now! Really smooth, and quiet!
    I only have one more slight problem. It's with my front loco trucks and front tender trucks. I did have a problem with the front loco truck derailing, but I just loosened the screw a bit and it stays on track now.
    Front loco truck:
    The left wheel doesn't roll. It slides along the rail. I can take the loco off and roll the wheel with my finger, but it just won't roll by itself. (probably because it is so light)

    Front tender truck:
    both axles bind once in a while and I'm sure it's because of the wipers, but I can't seem to loosen the axles up.
  9. skipgear

    skipgear Member

    The front truck issue is why mine get removed first thing. There is just no way to get them to track reliably, I have tried. Like you mentioned, the pilot truck is just not heavy enough and the way the wheels mount on the axles is not exactly friction free.

    For the tender pick up, the best suggestion I can give you is too pull one of the axles, the will allow you to rock out the wipers. Make sure that the wiper area is perfectly flat and that the tab on top is bent just enough to make contact. If it is pressing too hard on the drawbar contacts, it will drag on the axles and cause the axle pickups, which need to be flat, to bend. I use a set of flat jaw (no serrations on the gripping area) pliers to flatten the contacts.

    They just take a little fiddling to get them perfect. I have had a few that were fine out of the box and I didn't touch. Usually the problem is with a wheel that got dislodged in shipping and bends the pickup tabs.

    Contrary to a lot of the whiners on the other forums, this is what model railroading is about, tinkering to get things just right or better than new.
  10. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Check the back of the front wheel. There may be little lumps left on that the wiper is snagging on, or that are catching on the frame.
    You can try adding weight to it. A bit of plasticeine or modelling clay to start, then the lead shot if that seems to help.
  11. FiveFlat

    FiveFlat Member

    I've done something very very horrible last night. I was so pleased with my little Prairie, it ran like a little champ except for the slight problem I was having with my front trucks. So I decided to try taking those front ones off like skipgear suggested. Then, like he said - it looked kinda funny as an 0-6-2 so I attempted to remove the rear trucks. Now, after putting it all back together, the six drive wheels are lop-sided. It kinda hop, skips, and jumps down the track.
    What have I done? This guy was a real champ before. :(
  12. FiveFlat

    FiveFlat Member

    bump. Anyone?
  13. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Did you take out the drivers as psrt of this operation? If you did, did you get them back in the right way round? Flat in the bearings? Are the pickups that bear on the drivers in the right spot?
    Even if you didn't take the drivers out, is the valve gear back where it should be? I have a couple of locos on which the valve gear turns itself inside out if you turn the loco over. You could have a bit of valve gear that sticks up and bumps against the superstructure.
  14. skipgear

    skipgear Member

    I really don't have an answer. To remove the lead and trailing trucks, you don't need to disturb any of the running gear or drivers. The only thing I can think of is that when you replaced the screw that holds on the trailing truck, it also holds the motor in the chassis. If you over tighten it, when you put things back together, it could cause a bind in the worm gear. When you remove the trailing truck, the spring can be removed but the bracket assembly needs to stay. It acts as a washer for the motor hold down screw. If the bracket is still there, then try backing that screw off a quarter turn or so.

  15. FiveFlat

    FiveFlat Member

    Hey guys, thanks for the replies.
    I played around with it (alot) tonight and I think I got it.
    I was fiddling around trying to get the rear truck out and ended up 'accidentally' taking the drivers out. I think I bumped the siderods a little because I was able to rotate the siderod on one side and even the drivers out. It's running really smooth again, but seems that I need to give it about 25% throttle now to get it rolling instead of 15%
    The good news is that it pulls 6 cars up a 2% grade better than my new Spectrum F unit! (I'm still giving those F-units time to break-in I'm not making any assumtions yet)
    again, thanks!
  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I found that after my layout had been running for a few years my locos could pull a longer train up the grade than they could to begin with. I don't know if the rail had some shine worn off it or the drivers or what.
  17. coaster

    coaster Member

    There's a prototype for everything . . .

    And yet, if you check out page 42 of the latest Classic Trains(Spring 2006), you'll find a photo of " . . . A rare 0-6-2," snapped while still hard at work at Birmingham's Thomas Works in July 1963. Regards,Paul
  18. tommann

    tommann New Member


    I'm putting my 2 cents worth in here because I have similar issues to those mentioned above.

    I have 2 Bachmann Steamers. A Spectrum 4-8-2 and a Standard 0-6-0. I added decoders to both and, in the process of playing around, I also removed the plastic plate that hold the drivers in place. (Please don't ask why, it was stupid on my part.) Any way, I can't seem to get the drivers re-installed correctly and the locos "bump" down the track as mentioned.:cry: I also had a problem with the pilot truck on the 4-8-2 derailing on turnouts. I tried adding a spring above the screw mount to put more downward pressure on it, but this didn't help. As mentioned above, it seems the pilots on steam locos need more weight and all of my steamers have the same:curse: problem. (I have a total of 7.) Two questions:

    1) What is the proper way to re-install the drivers so the don't "bump". They seem to be seated properly and the siderods don't look like they are binding.

    2) Anyone have any ideas about helping the pilot trucks on N Scale steamers stay on the track?


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