7 Ways to Eliminate Model Train Derailments

model train

Are you frustrated because your model trains derail from time to time?

This was a major frustration for me. I would fix one section of the track and the next day the train would derail on another section. It frustrated me to the point of wanting to give the hobby away. A smooth running model train is a dream for most model train beginners. But it is actually quite easy to achieve with a little attention to detail.

Here are 7 ways to stop your model train derailing:

Ensure every joint on your track is level, aligned and properly fitted.

Sounds like common sense? But poorly assembled track joints are the worst offenders for derailing model trains. Slide your finger across the joint. It should feel level with the gap between the tracks kept to the absolute minimum.

I solder my joints because this stops any problems with expansion and contraction opening and closing of the joints. With a small file I am able to create a continuously level track and have a beautifully smooth running model train.

Check your track gauge on joints, turnouts and frog assemblies.

Another common problem for model train derailments is incorrect track gauge. A tight track gauge will cause the wheels to climb up and derail off the track. A wide track gauge will also derail your model train as the wheel flanges can not span the track properly.

The gauge can be adjusted using a soldering iron to gently heat the rail, moving the rail to the correct position and allowing it to cool.

Check your switch points for sharpness when they switch.

Some new switch points can be fairly blunt on the moveable section where it strikes up against the stock rails. This can grab on the wheels and cause a model train derailment.

A small file can be used to gently smooth the moveable part of the points to allow a nice smooth transition. Remember to check the gauge in both positions.

Check all your model train couplers.

A snagging coupler will cause model train derailments. Some new carriages can come with unpolished couplers which can catch and force derailments. Clean off any rough edges and adjust the couplers for proper centering.

The manufacturers usually provide these instructions.

Add extra weight to your freight cars.

I find that most freight cars are too light and sometimes all the wheels do not contact the rails equally. By adding a small amount of weight to the cars your model train will run smoother and you will eliminate derailments, especially on the tight radiuses.

Just make sure you add the weight as low as possible to the car and in the centre, keeping a low centre of gravity.

Check all your wheel sets for proper operation.

Wheel sets that are out of gauge, not aligned or moving freely will cause your model train to derail. Check your wheel sets and make sure that your carriages are not crabbing and forcing the wheel flanges into the rail, making it prone to derail.

The carriages should rock freely to take up any small imperfections in your track.

Lubricate the squeaks.

Sometimes the smallest drop of light oil will cure a problem with your model train derailing. An unlubricated or snaggy wheel, or coupler, can cause a slight tip over, or jar, which usually forces the wheel flange to snag the rail and derail your model train.

Oil attracts dust and can damage paintwork, so make sure you use only the smallest amount required.

Now you have no reason to put up with your model train derailing. It usually comes down to a small bit of maintenance from time to time. With the quality most manufacturers are producing today, and some ongoing maintenance, you can make model train derailments a thing of the past.

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Dan Morgan

Dan Morgan fell in love with model trains at the age of six when he visited an NMRA Convention in Seattle with his father. Forty two years later, his passion remains just as strong. After achieving a successful career in architecture, Dan’s particular interest is within layouts and buildings. With a wealth of knowledge on the subject, Dan loves nothing more than sharing this with others and is delighted in the forum of members who are brought together over the hobby they have in common. Dan lives with his wife Helen in Washington. As a professional painter, Helen has learnt through Dan about Model Trains and they now enjoy working on projects together. The only member of the family who isn’t allowed to join in is their over-enthusiastic Labrador called William who has been strictly banned from the workshop! You can find Dan on Google here!

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