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Old 12-30-2017, 12:59 PM   #1
dadof32017
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Newbie here

As I stated in the introduction section, I recently inherited a bunch of N gauge train stuff from the plywood base that's already painted to all the décor that goes with it. It also includes about 150 cars and 14 locomotives. There is 3 separate tracks in total. 2 of which are on the 4'x8' piece of plywood. The biggest is a 35''x72'' loop, there is also a smaller separate loop inside the big on and is about half the size of the outer loop. There is also a separate track for around a Christmas tree, which is about 3'x3'. All of which is about 40-50 years old and has been in storage for about 25 years. My 4 year old son and I had a ball so far just breaking all of it out and setting up a very small section of track(a 3'x3' loop) just to test things out. At first things were not working at all. I found a bottle of track cleaner in with all the décor. Tried using that first with little to no improvement. I then decided to use a piece of fine grit sandpaper, which had a drastic effect. The trains are now moving around the small loop we put together, but not without problems. It seems like there is a lack of power to the rails. Can the power pack be going bad and not supplying the track with enough power to make it run smoothly? Or could it be because the locomotives have sat in boxes unused for such a long period? Any suggestions on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 12-30-2017, 01:38 PM   #2
mesenteria
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I am pleased to see your description of events, and pleased that you and your loved ones are having fun.

At this advanced stage of long storage, it is probably the heavy and dried lubes inside the locomotive that are causing things to run slow, not a faulty power supply. Probably, not certainly, but that's my bet. Your rolling stock needs some disassembly, cleaning, and lubing. You'll have to learn how to do this as you go, unfortunately, so be patient. Or look around locally for a rail club that has members familiar with the scale and vintage of rolling stock and ask one of them to show you what to do.

Good luck.
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Old 12-30-2017, 01:57 PM   #3
DonR
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Track 50 years old will be brass. Brass corrodes easily and
if that occurs you lose electrical conductivity. This can be
at the surface of the rails thus the loco wheels cannot pick
up power...and it also can be where the track sections
connect. The metal joiners corrode and again there is
loss of conductivity. All this is why we no longer
use that material. Today's tracks are nickle-silver and
have very good conductivity.

After you abraded the rails did you use something
to remove the resulting dust?

Secondly, as someone has advised, the trucks and
gearing of locos that old will have gelled lubes. This
will prevent smooth operation. They must be cleaned
out and plastic friendly lubes applied. LaBelle makes
both grease and dry lube for these applications. It's
available at most hobby shops. Do not use household
or auto oils or grease as they will damage plastic.

It is also imperative that the loco wheels be clean.
This can be done easily by placing a paper towel on
the track, add a few drops of alcohol. Run the front
wheels of the loco onto the wet spot, hold it by hand
as you run up the speed. Let the wheels spin in
the alcohol and they'll be cleaned. Do the same with
the rear trucks.

If you don't have a multimeter get one from Harbor
Freight (around 5.00 if not free). It will help you locate
electrical problems.

If you plan on keeping your layout running you might
want to consider replacing the tracks with the more
trouble free that is available today.

A power pack will have two outputs: One marked
track will send 0 to 14 or so DC volts to the track.
The other will have a constant AC voltage of around
14 volts for accessories such as turnouts and lighted
buildiings. The most likely problem with a power pack
is loss of voltage (speed) control due again to
corrosion or wear. Replacements on the used market
should run 10 to 20 or so dollars.

Good luck with your layout.

Don
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Old 12-30-2017, 08:52 PM   #4
jackpresley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dadof32017 View Post
There is also a separate track for around a Christmas tree, which is about 3'x3'.
I recently took a lot of stuff out of long term storage. Some of the oldest locomotives really benefitted from a dose of canned air that I use for cleaning electronics. Blowing out the motors and then running them on a small oval of clean anchored track brought them back to life.

Speaking of anchored track. Hardwood floors make terrible track bed. The centrifugal force can be enough to pull the track connections apart since there is little to no friction between the track and the floor. Crimping or replacing the connectors can really help, but setting it up on felt or fabric or even "sheet cotton" (for a snow scene) can be enough to keep the train from pulling the track apart.

Welcome aboard.
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Old 12-31-2017, 10:20 AM   #5
dadof32017
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Thanks mesenteria and DonR. After my initial post yesterday I
came across a small bottle of conducta cleaner/lube(not sure if it
was the right stuff to use) I removed the top cover of the loco and the
cover to the trucks to expose the inner workings and the gears. I then
used the cleaner/lube on the gears and the what looked to be the
bearing/shaft area of the motor itself. Was a huge improvement,
its running much smoother. Even got throttle response back. So I'm
thinking there is wrong with the power converter. DonR to answer
your question about the resulting dust from the abraded rails.
Yes, after I did so I ran along the track again with a clean shop rag
and some track cleaner. My plan is to try to get this set up and
running as close to original as possible to pay homage to my great
uncle whos set it was. Also want to see if its something I can see
myself getting sticking with for the long haul. And to use it as a
learning curve so to speak before I start spending a bunch of money.
So my next set of questions are... Is the conducta cleaner/lube enough
or should I be using something else? Do I need to completely take
things apart? Meaning taking the gears out as well? Would rehabbing
and reusing all the track pieces I have be a bad idea? Should I start
with new track right out of the gate to lessen the chances of issues?
Thanks again for the info and look forward to learning as much as I can
from everyone here.
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Old 12-31-2017, 01:04 PM   #6
DonR
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The preferred grease lube for gear trains must be plastic
friendly such as that sold by LaBelle. After cleaning
out the old gelled lube apply fresh new grease. Put a tiny
drop of Labelle's 'oil' on the motor bearings.

Apparently the 'conducta' cleaner lube did not
damage your plastic or you would see it. Sounds like
an electrical conductor cleaner.

If you plan to continue your layout you would do
yourself a favor to replace the brass track with
today's nickle/silver. The brass requires continuous
attention. It corrodes and you lose electrical
conductivity at the joiners.

Don
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Old 01-01-2018, 02:25 AM   #7
dadof32017
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Hey Don.

Thanks again for the info your providing me, it's a huge help. I was and still am just shooting from the hip so to speak with a lot of this. It's not a hobby I planned on starting, but was always interested in and admired what could be done within an even average set up.

How do I go about cleaning the gelled lube, the proper way? The conducta cleaner/lube (we'll just call it cleaner) I used seemed to break it down and it came with 2 tiny brush applicators. 1 I have been using to clean things up a little and the 2nd for applying the "cleaner" again as the "lube".

I will also definitely look into this LaBelle's you speak of. I'm guessing they have a complete line of products, by your wording "grease lube" and "oil". I would like to rehab and keep as much of the original stuff I was given. At least for this initial set up. As I said before this is going to be a trial run for me. After which, if I continue it will be slowly and with an all new set up. Would like to jump into DCC.

When you ask about "my plastic" what are you referring to? So far, the cleaning/lubing I have been doing has only seemed to improve things. I haven't noticed any damage that I have done... separate from breaking off a section of the tiny railing running along side of one of the locos.

With the track, I understand what you are saying, but I was trying to spend a little as possible for this "trial run" of things. I did find 30'' pieces of flex track for around $5 a section, but have not purchased anything yet. I have been leaning towards replacing the track for a couple of reasons. The biggest of which is, I don't want the performance issues of the older track to cause any unneeded frustration. Which could cause me to not pursue what could become a lifetime of enjoyment for myself and children. I also want to make this decision sooner then later. Once I get a couple locos up and running I would like to started on the set up with laying the tracks.

I have couple other questions...

How important is track bed? Can I get away with not using it for this "trial run"?

What type of hammer do you use to pin the track down, and where do I get it? Or should it be glued? I only have normal sized hammers lol.(Thought about using a nail set)

How important is climate control? Right now everything is in my 2 car attached garage which is unheated and gets a little chilly sometimes.

That's all I can think of right now at almost 2:30am. I'm sure there is more, but that will be for a different time.

Thanks again,
Doug
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Old 01-01-2018, 03:46 AM   #8
mesenteria
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dadof32017 View Post
Hey Don.

Thanks again for the info your providing me, it's a huge help. I was and still am just shooting from the hip so to speak with a lot of this. It's not a hobby I planned on starting, but was always interested in and admired what could be done within an even average set up.

How do I go about cleaning the gelled lube, the proper way? The conducta cleaner/lube (we'll just call it cleaner) I used seemed to break it down and it came with 2 tiny brush applicators. 1 I have been using to clean things up a little and the 2nd for applying the "cleaner" again as the "lube".
Conductalube is a hobby-suitable lube designed to conduct electricity as well. It would be used between the backs of metal wheels that are meant to pick up electricity from the metal rails. and the phosphore bronze wipers that have wires at their other ends running up to the motor or to a decoder. Be careful where you apply it. I would think it should soften hardened grease somewhat since it is an oily substance, so if it worked, and doesn't turn the old stuff stiff and waxy, I would urge you to continue to use it. Just don't spray it all over the place or you might cause a short bridge between two wires that were never meant to run electrons between them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dadof32017 View Post

I will also definitely look into this LaBelle's you speak of. I'm guessing they have a complete line of products, by your wording "grease lube" and "oil". I would like to rehab and keep as much of the original stuff I was given. At least for this initial set up. As I said before this is going to be a trial run for me. After which, if I continue it will be slowly and with an all new set up. Would like to jump into DCC.

When you ask about "my plastic" what are you referring to? So far, the cleaning/lubing I have been doing has only seemed to improve things. I haven't noticed any damage that I have done... separate from breaking off a section of the tiny railing running along side of one of the locos.
He means any plastic on the locomotive, including insulation around those tiny wires. It also applies to the thin finely applied craft paints over the 'shell' of the locomotive. Locomotives have a frame, motor mounts, something like a gear tower or transmission, and a plastic or metal shell which makes it look the part...a locomotive of a given type. Solvents are lethal to styrene shells and to the paints on them or on their metal counterparts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dadof32017 View Post

With the track, I understand what you are saying, but I was trying to spend a little as possible for this "trial run" of things. I did find 30'' pieces of flex track for around $5 a section, but have not purchased anything yet. I have been leaning towards replacing the track for a couple of reasons. The biggest of which is, I don't want the performance issues of the older track to cause any unneeded frustration. Which could cause me to not pursue what could become a lifetime of enjoyment for myself and children. I also want to make this decision sooner then later. Once I get a couple locos up and running I would like to started on the set up with laying the tracks.

I have couple other questions...

How important is track bed? Can I get away with not using it for this "trial run"?
Yes, provided your supporting surface is both scrupulously clean (no dust bunnies, dander, human hair, pieces of wool, etc.) AND flat. It doesn't even strictly have to be level, but it has to be quite close to a plane so that your track pieces don't kink at the joints or otherwise undulate or roll. Roadbed is meant to lift the tracks so that if you ballast them, with tiny grains of sand so that it looks like real tracks, you will have the elevation profile to make it look realistic. Real tracks not in a switching yard, but out on the main, are elevated above the surrounding terrain or ditched to keep water out of the ballast and from rotting the ties.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dadof32017 View Post

What type of hammer do you use to pin the track down, and where do I get it? Or should it be glued? I only have normal sized hammers lol.(Thought about using a nail set)
You don't use a hammer. Not with scale tracks. You stand a very good chance of at least changing the gauge between the rails by bending the tie if the nail goes too deeply. You may twist and flatten a rail, thus wasting the expense of it. Instead, use needle-nosed pliers and press the small track nails into place in the holes provided midway along some of the ties. On Atlas Code 83, you'll have to invert the lengths of flex and either press a nail tip through the indentations, since they are blind holes, or drill through them with a 1 mm bit.

Micro Mark sells a spike-setting pliers and another for removing them once they are pressed flat against the tie holes.

Never press the caps on the nails down more than where they just contact the tops of the holes. Any more and you cause the ties to bend in the middle, thus drawing the rails closer to each other...meaning you change the gauge.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dadof32017 View Post

How important is climate control? Right now everything is in my 2 car attached garage which is unheated and gets a little chilly sometimes.
Pretty darned important for at least five months of each year. You'll need modest temperature control, but humidity is the big problem. With wide fluctuations, the wooden framing and roadbed will change length or width, depending on the grain. When the wood dries too much, it shrinks and draws the ends of the flex track or set track tighter together, often resulting in buckling. Or, if you built the framing when it was dry, and the humidity rises to over 70%, it will expand and draw the ends apart, leaving gaps. A good way around this if you can't afford to run a dehumidifier, or to purchase one, is to use a decent quality of 1/2 or 5/8" plywood. Paying a bit more for G1S (Good on One Side) makes the operating surface on which you will lay your roadbed or tracks directly that much smoother, but it's not often strictly necessary.

That's all I can think of right now at almost 2:30am. I'm sure there is more, but that will be for a different time.

Thanks again,
Doug[/QUOTE]
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Old 01-01-2018, 02:22 PM   #9
DonR
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Mesenteria has done an excellent job of explaining
your cleaning and track installation questions.

One other substance we use for keeping the tracks,
loco and car wheels clean is plain old alcohol. (not
the rubbing type).

Since you have old locos their wheels are likely
loaded with old grime which interferes with
electric pickup. There is an easy way to
clean loco wheels. Place a paper towel on the
track. Drop a few drips of alcohol on that. Run
the front truck of the loco onto the wet spot. Hand
hold the loco as you run up the power thus spinning
the wheels. The alcohol will clean them. Do the
same for the rear trucks.

No need to get involved with the foam track base while
you are experimenting with your gear. But you might
find it helpful to use the 1/4" paper covered foam panels
available from Walmart craft section. Attach it on your
plywood base with small dabs of Elmer's white glue.
Then use the same glue to temporarily hold your tracks
to the foam.
USE GLUE SPARINGLY. You can then easily pull it up
when you get other ideas.

And again agreeing with Mesenteria...a hammer has
no place around a layout. Screws and bolts are the
preferred fasteners when adhesive won't do it.

Outside climate is not a friend of model layouts.
There is the expansion and contraction Mesenteria
mentioned, but there is also the effects on
electrical conductivity. The joiners between track
sections are critical for good current flow and these
can be negatively affected by humidity. The garage
door will be open a lot exposing the layout to dust and
grime that will blow in. It would be necessary to
clean your tracks before any operating session to
avoid grime building up on loco and car wheels. Some
sort of cover would be helpful.

Don
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Old 01-01-2018, 03:50 PM   #10
traction fan
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West Some help with a first railroad

Quote:
Originally Posted by dadof32017 View Post
As I stated in the introduction section, I recently inherited a bunch of N gauge train stuff from the plywood base that's already painted to all the décor that goes with it. It also includes about 150 cars and 14 locomotives. There is 3 separate tracks in total. 2 of which are on the 4'x8' piece of plywood. The biggest is a 35''x72'' loop, there is also a smaller separate loop inside the big on and is about half the size of the outer loop. There is also a separate track for around a Christmas tree, which is about 3'x3'. All of which is about 40-50 years old and has been in storage for about 25 years. My 4 year old son and I had a ball so far just breaking all of it out and setting up a very small section of track(a 3'x3' loop) just to test things out. At first things were not working at all. I found a bottle of track cleaner in with all the décor. Tried using that first with little to no improvement. I then decided to use a piece of fine grit sandpaper, which had a drastic effect. The trains are now moving around the small loop we put together, but not without problems. It seems like there is a lack of power to the rails. Can the power pack be going bad and not supplying the track with enough power to make it run smoothly? Or could it be because the locomotives have sat in boxes unused for such a long period? Any suggestions on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.
dadof;

You may want to look over our "Beginner's Q&A" section. Also you might want to check out theses attachments.

Where do I start (revised version).pdf

MODEL RAILROADING ON A BUDGET.pdf

good luck;

Traction Fan
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