By John Branden
It took me a long time to figure out the best way to stop derailment issues on my layouts.
Because I use N gauge trains and track which is quite small and tricky the problem may be exaggerated but these rules apply to all gauges.
I would fix one section of the track one day and the very next day I would get a derailment on a different section. This is frustrating because it make you nervous about the rest of the layout.
When trains run smoothly on the rails you feel really good about the layout. When a model train derails it can be a nightmare but it is actually quite easy to put right with a little attention to detail.
So my 8 ways to curing your model train derailments are:
1 – Ensure every joint on your track is level, aligned and properly fitted.
This is the most common fault and often is difficult to spot but it is a critical issue.
Keep the gap between rails to an absolute minimum, if you can feel the joint when you run your finger over it you have probably found the problem. If you are seeking security solder the joints because this stops any problems with opening and closing of the joints caused by temperature change or layout flexing. Clean up the soldered joint with a needle file. Just like the real thing, this creates a continuous track.
2 – Check your track gauge on joints, turnouts and frog assemblies.
Constant use and wear to the track components has the effect of either squeezing or opening the gauge. This is common but more pronounced on small gauge layouts. If you install the moving track sections accurately and securely you should have no problems.
3 – Check the rail end at the switch points.
Some new switch points can be fairly blunt on the movable section where it strikes up against the stock rails. This can grab on the wheels and cause a model train derailment. A needle file should be used to smooth the moveable part of the points to allow a smooth transition. Make sure the gauge is identical in the open and closed positions.
4 – Carefully check all train and rolling stock couplers.
A snagging coupler will cause derailments. New locomotives are sometimes delivered with snags on the coupler, as do some carriages. The manufacturers usually provide instructions on how to clean up, smooth out couplings and also for centring.
5 – Add some weight behind the locomotive.
Very often there is not enough weight bearing down through the wheels on to the track, especially with plastic rolling stock. By adding a small amount of weight to the cars your train will run more smoothly. Remember that when everything is running smoothly the chances of derailments are very low. Don’t use excessive weight and make sure you place it over the wheels and make sure that any load clears all you overhangs like bridges etc..
6 – Check all the wheels on each piece of rolling stock.
Alignment of all the wheels in a set is critical and then each set on a carriage should line up with each other. This stops any crabbing and if the gauge measurement between the flanges is constant you can go the next carriage. Wheel alignment seems obvious but is often not seen as a problem because there should not be a reason for them to move askew, but it can happen. Carriages should be free to rock just to take up any track imperfections.
7 – If anything is stiff or squeaking, lubricate it.
Oil is the answer to so many problems associated with derailments but is generally not used because it is difficult to apply in minute quantities which is important. Go down to the hobby shop and get a precision oil can that will cost 50 cents. Too much oil attracts dust and can damage paintwork, so make sure get that oil can.
8 – Just make sure everything is clean.
All parts of the track especially moving parts, all rolling stock and locomotives. All electrical connections and controls. We call if preventative maintenance.
If you keep you system clean and follow the advice derailments should be a thing of the past. Great help is given by the manufacturers now as quality standards have improved hugely.
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