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Discussion Starter #1
I bought a Bachmann n scale GE 44 ton switcher for my (planned) Skaneateles short line. It regularly stops at turnouts. I have atlas code 55 turnouts and track. When I push it across by hand it seems to stick or catch. I’ve filed the turnouts to eliminate any high points and my Broadway Limited F3s go across without a problem.

Is the short wheel base the problem or more likely mechanical? I’m worried about ruining my turnouts if I file too aggressively.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

thanks, Dave
 

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Explain a bit farther...does the motor stop, or does the loco hang up on something on the turnout, or both? You said it sticks when you push it...has the motor stopped prior to that?
 

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Are there electrical pickups on all wheels of both trucks?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Explain a bit farther...does the motor stop, or does the loco hang up on something on the turnout, or both? You said it sticks when you push it...has the motor stopped prior to that?
It stops, the wheels aren’t turning. But when I push it across by hand it seems to stick and then will restart after a couple of inches.
 

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Those are the pickups. Clean the wheels and pickups, retest, and report back.
 

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I bought a Bachmann n scale GE 44 ton switcher for my (planned) Skaneateles short line. It regularly stops at turnouts. I have atlas code 55 turnouts and track. When I push it across by hand it seems to stick or catch. I’ve filed the turnouts to eliminate any high points and my Broadway Limited F3s go across without a problem.

Is the short wheel base the problem or more likely mechanical? I’m worried about ruining my turnouts if I file too aggressively.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

thanks, Dave
Dave;

Your post raises several possible issues. First of all, with a very few specific exceptions*, there is no good reason to ever use a file on a commercial turnout. There are however some good reasons not to use a file on them. These reasons involve making things worse, not better, and possibly ruining your turnouts. You said that you're using Atlas code 55 turnouts. I think those have a metal frog, do I have that right, or is the frog plastic? If the frog is metal, it should have a tiny terminal where you can solder a wire onto it. That wire powers the frog and helps locomotives with less-than-stellar electrical pickup get through the turnout. However if all eight wheels of your 44 tonner are picking up power, it should be able to smoothly travel through even a plastic frog turnout, if they're actually all picking up power. You can test this with a nine volt battery. Hold the loco in one hand, or lay it on a table, wheels up. A locomotive cradle, like the one shown below (photo 1) , is very handy for this test, and for general locomotive maintenance.
Hold the two terminals of the battery on two of the wheels directly opposite each other & mounted on the same axle. The loco should run. Repeat this test with each set of wheels, on each of the four axles. If the loco runs every time, then it has all eight wheels picking up power.

You also mentioned physical binding when you tried to push the loco through the turnout. This could be a problem in either the loco, or the turnout, or both. Does the 44 tonner bind on any of the track, or only on one, or more, of the turnouts? Does it bind on all your turnouts?
Since your other locomotives go through the same turnout without problems, that tends to point at the 44 tonner loco, rather than the turnout (s) However, Atlas turnouts have their full share of problems too. To test both the loco, and the turnouts, you need an NMRA gauge. (photo 2) Check all the wheels on your 44 tonner. They should fit the "wheels" notches on the gauge exactly. Not too wide, or too narrow. Also the wheel flanges on the loco should not be deep enough to raise the wheel's "tread" ( the part that actually rides on the top of the rail) above the side of the "wheels" notches on the gauge. Eventually you should check the gauge of every set of wheels on your railroad.

The turnouts have many critical areas that can, and definitely should, also be checked with the NMRA gauge. The direction sheet packed with the gauge shows the tests that should be done on a turnout. The attached file, "Improving Atlas Turnouts" , starting on page 8, shows how an NMRA gauge is used on a turnout, and how to cure one of the most common derailment causes, flangeways that are too wide. You can skip the first eight pages. They apply to a different,( HO-scale) Atlas turnout than the ones you have. The remaining pages though, apply to all turnouts. The second "Improving Atlas Turnouts" file covers issues specific to N-scale turnouts.

* The exceptions to the"no filing rule" are filing the points thinner, and filing the guard rail flageways of Micro Engineering turnouts a tiny bit wider to meet the specs. of the NMRA gauge.

Good Luck;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Dave;

Your post raises several possible issues. First of all, with a very few specific exceptions*, there is no good reason to ever use a file on a commercial turnout. There are however some good reasons not to use a file on them. These reasons involve making things worse, not better, and possibly ruining your turnouts. You said that you're using Atlas code 55 turnouts. I think those have a metal frog, do I have that right, or is the frog plastic? If the frog is metal, it should have a tiny terminal where you can solder a wire onto it. That wire powers the frog and helps locomotives with less-than-stellar electrical pickup get through the turnout. However if all eight wheels of your 44 tonner are picking up power, it should be able to smoothly travel through even a plastic frog turnout, if they're actually all picking up power. You can test this with a nine volt battery. Hold the loco in one hand, or lay it on a table, wheels up. A locomotive cradle, like the one shown below (photo 1) , is very handy for this test, and for general locomotive maintenance.
Hold the two terminals of the battery on two of the wheels directly opposite each other & mounted on the same axle. The loco should run. Repeat this test with each set of wheels, on each of the four axles. If the loco runs every time, then it has all eight wheels picking up power.

You also mentioned physical binding when you tried to push the loco through the turnout. This could be a problem in either the loco, or the turnout, or both. Does the 44 tonner bind on any of the track, or only on one, or more, of the turnouts? Does it bind on all your turnouts?
Since your other locomotives go through the same turnout without problems, that tends to point at the 44 tonner loco, rather than the turnout (s) However, Atlas turnouts have their full share of problems too. To test both the loco, and the turnouts, you need an NMRA gauge. (photo 2) Check all the wheels on your 44 tonner. They should fit the "wheels" notches on the gauge exactly. Not too wide, or too narrow. Also the wheel flanges on the loco should not be deep enough to raise the wheel's "tread" ( the part that actually rides on the top of the rail) above the side of the "wheels" notches on the gauge. Eventually you should check the gauge of every set of wheels on your railroad.

The turnouts have many critical areas that can, and definitely should, also be checked with the NMRA gauge. The direction sheet packed with the gauge shows the tests that should be done on a turnout. The attached file, "Improving Atlas Turnouts" , starting on page 8, shows how an NMRA gauge is used on a turnout, and how to cure one of the most common derailment causes, flangeways that are too wide. You can skip the first eight pages. They apply to a different,( HO-scale) Atlas turnout than the ones you have. The remaining pages though, apply to all turnouts. The second "Improving Atlas Turnouts" file covers issues specific to Atlas N-scale turnouts.

* The exceptions to the"no filing rule" are filing the points thinner, and filing the guard rail flageways of Micro Engineering turnouts a tiny bit wider to meet the specs. of the NMRA gauge.

Good Luck;

Traction Fan 🙂
Thanks Traction Fan,

Lots of good things to review. I do have a NMRA gauge, so I can check things. I haven’t used it much because I don’t really know how to fix something out of gauge! Appreciate the article, I think it will be useful for all my turnouts. They seem to be were I have problems.

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Dave;

Your post raises several possible issues. First of all, with a very few specific exceptions*, there is no good reason to ever use a file on a commercial turnout. There are however some good reasons not to use a file on them. These reasons involve making things worse, not better, and possibly ruining your turnouts. You said that you're using Atlas code 55 turnouts. I think those have a metal frog, do I have that right, or is the frog plastic? If the frog is metal, it should have a tiny terminal where you can solder a wire onto it. That wire powers the frog and helps locomotives with less-than-stellar electrical pickup get through the turnout. However if all eight wheels of your 44 tonner are picking up power, it should be able to smoothly travel through even a plastic frog turnout, if they're actually all picking up power. You can test this with a nine volt battery. Hold the loco in one hand, or lay it on a table, wheels up. A locomotive cradle, like the one shown below (photo 1) , is very handy for this test, and for general locomotive maintenance.
Hold the two terminals of the battery on two of the wheels directly opposite each other & mounted on the same axle. The loco should run. Repeat this test with each set of wheels, on each of the four axles. If the loco runs every time, then it has all eight wheels picking up power.

You also mentioned physical binding when you tried to push the loco through the turnout. This could be a problem in either the loco, or the turnout, or both. Does the 44 tonner bind on any of the track, or only on one, or more, of the turnouts? Does it bind on all your turnouts?
Since your other locomotives go through the same turnout without problems, that tends to point at the 44 tonner loco, rather than the turnout (s) However, Atlas turnouts have their full share of problems too. To test both the loco, and the turnouts, you need an NMRA gauge. (photo 2) Check all the wheels on your 44 tonner. They should fit the "wheels" notches on the gauge exactly. Not too wide, or too narrow. Also the wheel flanges on the loco should not be deep enough to raise the wheel's "tread" ( the part that actually rides on the top of the rail) above the side of the "wheels" notches on the gauge. Eventually you should check the gauge of every set of wheels on your railroad.

The turnouts have many critical areas that can, and definitely should, also be checked with the NMRA gauge. The direction sheet packed with the gauge shows the tests that should be done on a turnout. The attached file, "Improving Atlas Turnouts" , starting on page 8, shows how an NMRA gauge is used on a turnout, and how to cure one of the most common derailment causes, flangeways that are too wide. You can skip the first eight pages. They apply to a different,( HO-scale) Atlas turnout than the ones you have. The remaining pages though, apply to all turnouts. The second "Improving Atlas Turnouts" file covers issues specific to Atlas N-scale turnouts.

* The exceptions to the"no filing rule" are filing the points thinner, and filing the guard rail flageways of Micro Engineering turnouts a tiny bit wider to meet the specs. of the NMRA gauge.

Good Luck;

Traction Fan 🙂
Well, in the quick result file, one set of wheels are too close together. It is a brand new loco. Is that unusual? I guess I’ll research how to fix it next.

thanks again.
 

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NOT unusual sorry to say. Best answer? Return to manufacturer under warranty. You may fix it, but also fix something else! Not so easy to warranty a loco with plier or screwdriver marks!!😅😂🤣 Just My Opinion...
 

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In some cases wheels can be re-gauged by hand without the use of tools.
 

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Yikes. What a downer. Don’t know squat about N, but unless they’ve pulled an about face
with quality control, Bachmann has been less than stellar in my long experience over
the prior decade with both American and British ranges. I have a preponderance of
B’mann in my junk box. Maybe it will improve now, with our new president elect.
 

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Thanks Traction Fan,

Lots of good things to review. I do have a NMRA gauge, so I can check things. I haven’t used it much because I don’t really know how to fix something out of gauge! Appreciate the article, I think it will be useful for all my turnouts. They seem to be were I have problems.

Dave

Dave;

How to fix things that are out of gauge:

1) The easiest things to adjust are the wheels on cars. Usually you can pull the offending "wheelset" (the assembly with two wheels on the same axle) then hold one wheel in one hand and the other wheel in your other hand. Then, gently twist the wheels in opposite directions, while either pulling the wheels outward, or pushing them inward, to get them to fit the gauge.

2) Next in order of increasing difficulty would be the wheels of locomotives. These too can sometimes be adjusted the same way as car wheels, but many will require prying with a very small screwdriver.
Be especially careful adjusting driver wheels on model steam locomotives. Scribe mark the wheel center hub, and the end of the axle before doing anything else!
Some model steamers have serrated axles set into internal groves in the wheel hub. These need to go back together exactly where they were before disassembly, or the locomotive mechanism will bind . It's best not to pull the driver wheel all the way off the axle, but they have been known to come off accidentally, hence the importance of scribe marks.

3) Track (meaning plain track, as opposed to turnouts) It's actually rare for model track to be out of gauge, unless it's been damaged. Usually a defective piece of sectional, or flex, track can easily be replaced with a new piece. It is possible to make slight adjustments to the spacing of the rails (aka the "track gauge") by heating the rail slightly with a low wattage soldering iron, and pushing the rail to the desired position when the plastic tie strip is soft enough to allow rail movement. This can be tricky, so replacing the track is often the better option.

4) Finally comes everybody's favorite PITA turnouts! Some brands of commercial turnouts, (notably Peco & Micro Engineering), are very reliable, right out of the box. Others, (like Atlas "Snap Switch" turnouts, and Bachmann EZ-Track turnouts) are NOT, to put it mildly!
With the exception of Micro Engineering, every brand of commercial turnout I have ever dealt with has "flangeways" (the channels between the guard rails and the main rails, and the channels next to the frog, that the wheel flanges pass through)
that are both too wide, and too deep, to meet the specs. built into the NMRA gauge.
Micro Engineering's flangeways come very close, but are often a tiny bit narrow, rather than too wide, like all the other brands. This is simple to correct. A single pass with a Dremel tool, or a little filing, will widen the flangeway enough to meet the gauge specs.
A flangeway is supposed to keep the wheels from going onto the wrong side of the frog point., and derailing the car. If the flangeway is too wide. it won't do this job consistently, and things will derail.
Flangeways that are too deep let the wheels, drop into the frog, and then get pulled back up when the wheel hits the frog point. This causes the cars to bounce up-and-down, and sway from side-to-side. Sometimes this action is severe enough to cause a derailment, but usually it just looks weird. Generations of well meaning, but ignorant, modelers, (including myself when I was young and stupid, before advancing to old and senile) have tried to "fix" this "frog bounce behavior by filing down the frog point. This, first of all doesn't fix anything, and second, can actually create additional problems. The real cure for both too wide, and too deep, flangeways is to fill them in with thin styrene shims, until they are no wider, or deeper, than the "flangeways" tabs on the NMRA gauge. Doing this, and filing the points sharp, will make turnout-caused derailments drop dramatically!
Turnout rails can also be out of gauge, just like any other rails, and can usually be adjusted to match the gauge.

Good Luck & Have Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Dave;

How to fix things that are out of gauge:

1) The easiest things to adjust are the wheels on cars. Usually you can pull the offending "wheelset" (the assembly with two wheels on the same axle) then hold one wheel in one hand and the other wheel in your other hand. Then, gently twist the wheels in opposite directions, while either pulling the wheels outward, or pushing them inward, to get them to fit the gauge.

2) Next in order of increasing difficulty would be the wheels of locomotives. These too can sometimes be adjusted the same way as car wheels, but many will require prying with a very small screwdriver.
Be especially careful adjusting driver wheels on model steam locomotives. Scribe mark the wheel center hub, and the end of the axle before doing anything else!
Some model steamers have serrated axles set into internal groves in the wheel hub. These need to go back together exactly where they were before disassembly, or the locomotive mechanism will bind . It's best not to pull the driver wheel all the way off the axle, but they have been known to come off accidentally, hence the importance of scribe marks.

3) Track (meaning plain track, as opposed to turnouts) It's actually rare for model track to be out of gauge, unless it's been damaged. Usually a defective piece of sectional, or flex, track can easily be replaced with a new piece. It is possible to make slight adjustments to the spacing of the rails (aka the "track gauge") by heating the rail slightly with a low wattage soldering iron, and pushing the rail to the desired position when the plastic tie strip is soft enough to allow rail movement. This can be tricky, so replacing the track is often the better option.

4) Finally comes everybody's favorite PITA turnouts! Some brands of commercial turnouts, (notably Peco & Micro Engineering), are very reliable, right out of the box. Others, (like Atlas "Snap Switch" turnouts, and Bachmann EZ-Track turnouts) are NOT, to put it mildly!
With the exception of Micro Engineering, every brand of commercial turnout I have ever dealt with has "flangeways" (the channels between the guard rails and the main rails, and the channels next to the frog, that the wheel flanges pass through)
that are both too wide, and too deep, to meet the specs. built into the NMRA gauge.
Micro Engineering's flangeways come very close, but are often a tiny bit narrow, rather than too wide, like all the other brands. This is simple to correct. A single pass with a Dremel tool, or a little filing, will widen the flangeway enough to meet the gauge specs.
A flangeway is supposed to keep the wheels from going onto the wrong side of the frog point., and derailing the car. If the flangeway is too wide. it won't do this job consistently, and things will derail.
Flangeways that are too deep let the wheels, drop into the frog, and then get pulled back up when the wheel hits the frog point. This causes the cars to bounce up-and-down, and sway from side-to-side. Sometimes this action is severe enough to cause a derailment, but usually it just looks weird. Generations of well meaning, but ignorant, modelers, (including myself when I was young and stupid, before advancing to old and senile) have tried to "fix" this "frog bounce behavior by filing down the frog point. This, first of all doesn't fix anything, and second, can actually create additional problems. The real cure for both too wide, and too deep, flangeways is to fill them in with thin styrene shims, until they are no wider, or deeper, than the "flangeways" tabs on the NMRA gauge. Doing this, and filing the points sharp, will make turnout-caused derailments drop dramatically!
Turnout rails can also be out of gauge, just like any other rails, and can usually be adjusted to match the gauge.

Good Luck & Have Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂
I have been running a dremel disc along the flangway to deepen it to get rid of that bounce ☹ I guess that isn’t the best thing to do. It seemed to have helped with some turnouts. Getting smooth operation of these turnouts is by FAR the most frustrating thing I’ve run into.
Dave
 

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A lot of very good suggestions...but I haven't seen a major
factor...when the loco pauses on the turnout...does the light go out.?

If so, that indicates it has lost power from the track. The 44 is a very small
loco...it's power pickup wheels may not be far enuf aparrt to maintain
power when they are on the plastic (insulated) frog. You can check that.
Run the loco very slowly into the turnout. Look closely where it stops. Are
it's wheels ON the PLASTIC frog?

As was stated, those brass 'fingers' that rub on the back of the wheels
are to pickup power from the track thru the wheels...check to see that ALL of them are
definitely pressing against the wheels.

Fill us in on the above and we'll see where to go next.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter #17
A lot of very good suggestions...but I haven't seen a major
factor...when the loco pauses on the turnout...does the light go out.?

If so, that indicates it has lost power from the track. The 44 is a very small
loco...it's power pickup wheels may not be far enuf aparrt to maintain
power when they are on the plastic (insulated) frog. You can check that.
Run the loco very slowly into the turnout. Look closely where it stops. Are
it's wheels ON the PLASTIC frog?

As was stated, those brass 'fingers' that rub on the back of the wheels
are to pickup power from the track thru the wheels...check to see that ALL of them are
definitely pressing against the wheels.

Fill us in on the above and we'll see where to go next.

Don
Hi Don,

Thanks for the tip. I thought it was getting stuck not losing power since my other locomotives ran fine. You can’t see the headlight with the room lighting so it was a nighttime experiment. Anyway it showed dead track. I replaced the switch (which took a while given where it is) and now it is running smooth!

Thanks again to everyone,

Dave
 

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I have been running a dremel disc along the flangway to deepen it to get rid of that bounce ☹ I guess that isn’t the best thing to do. It seemed to have helped with some turnouts. Getting smooth operation of these turnouts is by FAR the most frustrating thing I’ve run into.
Dave
Dave;

I'm glad to hear that replacing the turnout fixed your problem! You never did say whether the frog of your Atlas code 55 turnout was metal, or plastic. Also, did you replace the Atlas turnout that was giving you problems with another Atlas code 55 turnout, or a different brand? Finally, and just out of curiosity, did you ever find the underlying problem in the original turnout?

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Dave;

I'm glad to hear that replacing the turnout fixed your problem! You never did say whether the frog of your Atlas code 55 turnout was metal, or plastic. Also, did you replace the Atlas turnout that was giving you problems with another Atlas code 55 turnout, or a different brand? Finally, and just out of curiosity, did you ever find the underlying problem in the original turnout?

Traction Fan 🙂
I replaced it with a micro engineering turnout. It is a #6 so I had to change around some other track. The frog was metal but unpowered. Not sure why but the loco was losing power near the through check rails.

I have to say the ME turnouts are much nicer. I wish I had gone with them from the beginning. Unfortunately, I already laid almost all my track - and had a track plan with #5s.

Dave
 

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I replaced it with a micro engineering turnout. It is a #6 so I had to change around some other track. The frog was metal but unpowered. Not sure why but the loco was losing power near the through check rails.

I have to say the ME turnouts are much nicer. I wish I had gone with them from the beginning. Unfortunately, I already laid almost all my track - and had a track plan with #5s.

Dave

Dave;

Yes, Micro Engineering makes a very nice turnout! They look quite realistic and operate wel. The only problem I know about with Micro Engineering turnouts are that the guard rail flangeways are sometimes a tiny bit narrow. You can easily check this with your NMRA gauge. The regular "Flangeways" tabs should slide freely through the guard rail and frog side flangeways. If the gauge binds, try one tab in the guard rail side by itself, with the other tab outside the turnout. You may well find that the tab binds. If so, run a dremel through the flangeway gap to remove a tiny bit of material from the guard rail, not the running rail. Be careful not to take too much. The amount needed is very small. Some loco and car wheels may have problems getting through the slightly too narrow flangeways. Of course, if you have no problems, leave it alone. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." When you say " The frog was metal, but unpowered" I assume you're talking about the Atlas turnout you removed. The Micro Engineering turnout you replaced it with also has a metal frog that is unpowered, and isolated. That's a good thing for DCC operation. That electrically isolated frog, and the factory jumpers between adjacent stock & point rails, form the "DCC friendly configuration. Some locos that don't pick up power from all their wheels may stall on the M-E turnout's frog, as may have been the problem with the original Atlas turnout. If that happens, you can overcome it by powering the frog. A wire from the frog to a "frog juicer" circuit board, or to the Common terminal of a micro switch will change the polarity of the powered frog, to match the route the turnout is set for.

Keep Having Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂
 
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