Which US Brands of diesel engines stay on the tracks best?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by UK_John, Nov 10, 2003.

  1. UK_John

    UK_John New Member

    I have almost finished a 12' x10' layout and I have some curves with too tight of a radius. The diesel engines and cars sometimes de-rail.

    The Atlas switches sometimes derail the trains too, I guess making a slight curve going into a switch is a no-no huh !

    If you have any experience that will help me select more diesel engine and rolling stock brands that will help me keep everything rolling, please let me know before I buy too many of the wrong brands.

  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Most brands of model engines as opposed to toy train set diesels are fine. Generally it will be a quality unit if the motor is mounted fore & aft in the middle of the chassis driving the wheels through worm gears and shafts. The toy train engines have an "East-West" motor that is part of one truck and the other truck is a dummy. Most of the plastic diesels such as Lifelike Proto 2000 (frequently refered to as P2K), all Stewarts, Kato, Bachmann Spectrum are using a copy of the Athearn drive. Be careful of Bachmann Spectrum 6 axle diesels. The trucks are on a kind of ball joint and they have a tendency to derail easily in curves if the track is not absolutely perfect. Before all those who swear by Kato, Atlas, or whatever their favorite brand of locomotive is jump on me, I said the drive is a copy of Athearn. These other brands hard wire their connections instead of using sliders, and they have can motors as standard equipment so they will run better out of the box than stock blue box Athearn. There are a few things to check however on all locomotives. Buy a NMRA standards gauge and use it to check that the track is in gauge and that locomotive wheel sets are also in gauge. Athearn is famous for having one or more wheel sets too narrow out of the box. If you hold the locomotive upside down and gently rock the wheels on an axle in opposite direction while pulling out or pushing in as needed, the wheels will move on the plastic gear until they are in gauge. Atlas track can also be the problem. The flex track is not bad, and even snap track is not bad except that buying 9" sections to do an entire layout is expensive plus it has potential for a lot of bad electrical connections. The problem with Atlas is the turnouts. The points are made of sheet metal riveted in place. They have a tendencey to loosen up over time and the points lay over increasing the spacing between the tracks right through the points. I repaired some Atlas snap switches by taking a piece of rail, cutting it about 1/2" shorter than the points, filing it to fit and gluing it carefully to the back side of the points with a little epoxy to reinforce the points. I came to the conclusion that the process was just too tedious. I have Shinohara turnouts now, but am not sure how much of an improvement they are. I'm thinking on my next layout to handlay all turnouts so the points will each be one rail all the way to the frog, with gaps cut near the frog to avoid shorts as needed. Other things to watch out for are bumps and dips in the curves on either rail. If one Rail dips in a curve, but the other stays level, the wheels will tend to step off the track at the dip. Turnouts that are not flat will also cause problems. A turnout on a grade will work as long as the gradient doesn't change through the entire turnout, but if the turnout is put into any sort of twist, it will derail trains. I realise this response is a bit long, but I hope it helps. There is probably something else that I forgot to mention, but someone else will contribute anything I missed.
  3. David Rosser

    David Rosser Member

    Russ, I agree with all your comments, have also noticed the sensitive tracking of Bachmann Spectrum. Our layout is 30 yers old in the 'old' section, where the base was sheet Homasote on a 2x3 framework. Years later I realized there should have been a bit more 2x3s and a bit less space between them. We have had some slight rolling surface effect. It is mostly corrected now, but we found that some of the cheaper locos like Model Power units had the least or no trouble. It may be that the units are a bit looser and thus floated over the waves better, or that the wheel flanges are a little deeper than true scale and thus will not ride up and over as soon. Less perfect detail, less perfect slow running, but always on track! That characteristic may be the most important one on less than perfect trackage. Dave
  4. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    It May Not Be The Engine

    John, It may or may not be the engine/cars that is causing the derailments. Check for a few things:
    1. If you are using Atlas turnouts with the top mounted switch machines make sure that something on the loco isn't hitting the switch machine. This can be a particular problem if you have used the Atlas "Snap Switch" which has a short radius thru it.

    2. Check the loco's to see if the front and rear truck swivel freely. With steam loco's make sure that the lead and trailing trucks swivel freely and that they are not hanging up on some detail part on the loco.

    3. On your cars make sure that the trucks swivel freely and that all wheelsets are clean and turn freely and that the wheel sets are in gauge.

    4. Sometimes cars are too light...reffer to the NMRA standards for weighting the cars.

    5. Invest in an NMRA track gauge for your scale...about 10 bucks US....Use it to check the gauge of your track where the derailments occur. You can also use it to check clearences between tracks and also the back to back gauge of the wheel sets on your locos and cars. Dirty wheels and/or out of gauge wheel sets or track probably cause 90 % of all derailments.

    6. Be sure that your couplers are working freely and are at the correct height. If you are using the horn hook style couplers that come with engines and cars consider changing over to a knuckle style like the Kadee's. Horn hooks will bind in a tight radius situation and cause derailments.

    Hope this helped.
  5. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    If tight curves is what you like, a shorter model such as a switcher or industrial may handle the curves better and look more at home. Shorter rolling stock my look and work better too. If you are not picky about what model or roadname Trainworld has a real bargain on a LL P2K Alco S-1:



    This is a good looking and running model. Highly detailed. They also have a good price on a LL P2K BL2 if you want something larger, but I've never run one myself.

    Another switcher that should hold tight in the curves, would be a bachmann 44 tonner. I've not tried the newer style, but it's said to run better than the old twin motor job. The old one had a habit of buring up motors and gears. Good runner; poor design.

    An Athern SW series run great and should do well too.
  6. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    I second and third the motion on the NMRA gauge..Be sure that your wheels and track is in gauge..Make sure the coupler trip pin isn't hanging to low and catching on the switch causing a derailment and watch your speed while going through switches unless you have high speed switches like #8s and above.Now if you do have a curve before a switch you will need to reduce speed through the switch when you take the diversion route..

    With proper coupler trip pin height and correct wheel and track gauge your layout should give you hours of trouble free operation.:D
  7. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One trick I use with Kaddees is especially important on a modular layout where someone may not build something like a grade crossing as low between the rails as it should be, is to turn the last little bit of the trip pin up like a letter"J". If it hits any sort of obstruction between the rails, it slides up and over instead of digging in and causing a derailment.

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