Common running problems

Nothing is ever as straight forward as you hope it to be.  There are a few problems that you will encounter before very long, but luckily there are some simple fixes. As you can see, dirt is a common cause of problems. This can be less of a problem if you cover the layout with a sheet when not in use or, better still, keep running trains so it doesn't get a chance to get dusty.

Dirty track

You turn the power on but the train doesn't go. You give it a nudge, it jerks a bit and stops again. Quite commonly, this happens on one section of track more than others. The most likely cause is dirty track. This can be dust settled on the track or a fine layer of oxidation on the rail. I learned from my days with BHP that they didn't get rust on their steel products, they had oxidation. Use a track cleaning rubber, a bit like an old fashioned ink rubber, readily available from train hobby shops. Rub over the top surface of the rail and bingo, your trains run again. Once cleaned, you can rub a small amount of Wahl oil, used by hairdressers, over a few centimetres of track.  Trains running over it will spread it around.

Dirty wheels

This comes hand-in-hand with dirty track. Some of the gunge on the rail attaches to the wheels and the same result - poor electrical connection between rail and wheel. The easiest solution is to get a Minitrix Wheel Cleaner. Sit this on a piece of track, turn the throttle up to normal spead, hold the loco with the wheels on the metal brushes and let them do their work.

Dirty points

The easiest method of wiring train layouts is to power branches and sidings by switching the points and getting the power flowing from the leading track, through the point blade to the frog of the points and then to the trailing track. Switch the points and the current flows to the other branch. A problem can arise if the point blade doesn't sit hard up against the rail, most likely due to dirt or a stray piece of ballast.  Even the smallest of gaps means the electricity won't flow through. This may be hard at times to detect visually. You can test by using a screw driver, key or any other metal object. Put this at the tip of the blade to make contact with the blade and the rail to make connection. To fix the problem, scrape the side of the rail and blade to clean them up and you should be back in business.

This problem can be avoided by more complex electrical wiring, using a mircroswitch attached to the points to switch power to track feeders attached to the rails so that power to the frog and blade is not dependent on the electrical contact of the blade and rail.

Nothing works

No electricity.  Check it is plugged in and switch it on.