Model Train Express - Articles & advice for model train enthusiasts

Model train maintenance tasks

These maintenance tasks should be performed to your model train layout on a regular basis to ensure your trains run without any problems and to protect them from damage. They shouldn’t take you to much time to complete, even less if you perform them on a regular basis.

Track maintenance

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Clean tracks are important for the smooth running of your trains. Tracks come in two common types, steel rail and nickel silver rail. Steel was used in the manufacture of older tracks and on some cheaper modern day tracks, nickel silver is used on quality modern day tracks. If you have nickel silver tracks you won’t need to clean them as often as steel tracks because the nickel prevents oxidation.

If you don’t run your trains very often you should cover your layout with a protective sheet. When trains are not being run dust can build up on the tracks, a protective sheet will prevent you from having to clean your tracks on a regular basis and prevent dust from building up on the inside your train.

Cleaning tracks

Tracks can be cleaned using a specialised cleaning rubber that are sold by hobby stores. Cleaning rubbers have a very fine abrasive that will remove any dirt from the track. If you have track that is particularly dirty a specialised liquid cleaner and dry rag is the best cleaning method. Never use anything too abrasive when cleaning tracks is this can create small crevices in the track that will only attract more grime in the future.

Locomotive and running car maintenance

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Lubrication

Moving parts should be lubricated at least a couple of times a year, more if you run your train for extended periods of time and on a regular basis. Before applying lubricant clean parts so they are free from any old lubricants and built up grime. You should only use specialised hobby lubricants that come in a small tubes with pointed nozzles that allow for small doses of lubricant to be applied, excess lubricant will attract dirt that can clog up moving parts.

Wheels

Clean wheels will ensure your train runs quiet and smooth. The easiest way to clean wheels is to flip your train upside down and clean each wheel individually using some cleaning alcohol and a cotton swab. Any hard to remove grime can scraped from the wheels using a small flat head screwdriver.

You should also check that wheels are sitting at the correct width for your gauge. There are tools available for checking wheel gauge. If you find some wheels are not sitting at the correct gauge they can usually be removed and adjusted without too much trouble, alternatively you can fit a new set of wheel stock to fix the problem.

Couplings

Couplings can become loose or damaged, this leads to derailments. You need to check the height, swing and bindings of couplings on all locomotives and running stock on a regular basis. Coupler height can be checked using a coupling height gauge, coupling swing should allow for lateral movement between carriages and return to center alignment freely, bindings should lock with minimum force.