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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a small video of the problem I am having. I have a short somewhere on these two switches causing a spark on the caboose and engine whenever they travel over the switch in the "switched inside" position. There are no sparks whatsoever when the train is traveling in the oval direction, only when switched to the inside track. Making it even more difficult is the fact that it doesn't happen all the time. After seeing the video, I would appreciate any tips or advice on how, where or what to troubleshoot.

 

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The link worked for me but the dim lighting makes it difficult to see just what is happening. It almost looks like the third-rail roller is contacting one of the switch points. The cabin seemed to only do it when backing through. A thought to check out further.
 

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I'd also closely check the wiring to the roller. Turn the caboose over and look for arc marks. Close up pictures of the underside of the caboose may show something.

Carl
 

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I can’t tell from the video exactly what is shorting, but I had a similar problem with a Gargraves 42” diameter switch. The inner (hot) rail was too close to the outer rail and for certain cars, the inner flange of the wheel would contact it thus causing a short as the car took the diverging branch of the switch. I solved the problem by moving the inner rail away from the outer rail and I also painted the side of the inner rail with brush on insulation. You can use electrical tape if you don’t have any brush on.
 

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Something is contacting the rail, stop the video at 0:48, then advance to 0:49. Or the rail is contacting the train?
I can't make out what it is, but you can see it on the underside of the caboose.
Post pictures of the underside of the caboose?
And of the switches?
 

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Looks like you have arc strikes on the inner flange of some of the caboose wheels. I couldn't see the switch photo well enough to tell if there are any on it. I would make a close examination of the switch to see if there any arc strikes on it. If so, that's the spot you need to isolate.
 

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There are lots of well documented problems with Scaletrax. I'm using it too and I'm also coming across some undocumented problems. Check the resistance across from the closure rails to the middle rail as GRJ suggested; do this with nothing on your track. The closure rails have to be completely isolated from anything. There are other areas of the switch that need to be isolated too but I'd start there. I'm having a similar problem with one of my O-72 switches and I'm having difficulty isolating the problem. If you can't isolate the problem and correct it, call MTH and ask for a replacement, they should be able to give you RA # and send you a new switch after they get yours back to them.
BTW, one of the "undocumented" problems I've come across is on the 0-80 curves. Seems like almost every one of them has the center rail extend too far on one side. I've have to grind down the rails on almost every one of them, sometimes the outside rails are mis-aligned too. I didn't notice this until I started putting track together and wasn't able to get a tight fit with them. Very frustrating.
They are supposed to have made some corrections to the known problems, but who knows.
Good luck!
BTW, why are you not using the MTH switch machine? Interesting modification but I've had no issues with the MTH switch machine at all. The toggle furnished with the switch is a different story and I've thrown them all out and replaced with good quality toggles and I am also utilizing the Atlas non-derailing board.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for all the replies. That is metal powder in the roadbed. That is also cut marks from a dremel tool. My failed attempts at isolating the issue by widening any potential contact points. This first layout has been a nightmare. I went with MTH Scaletrax because I like their products and I like the look of Scaletrax, however, many frustrating months of switch machines burning up and track problems have all but made me regret my choice. The hard part was supposed to be the scenery, not the basic trackwork. Lol, my wife has already been coercing me to rip it up and just start again with Lionel Fastrack but the idea of throwing away all that money on Scaletrax (not to mention my prideful refusal to admit I made a bad choice) keeps me from doing so. Hopefully, lessons learned during this will make me a better layout builder. Unfortunately, my poor grandchildren are having to endure a lesson in patience while I continue troubleshooting the simple part before moving on to the more challenging.
 

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Adam, don't use the toggles that come with the switch, they get stuck all the time and will cause your switch machine to burn up. I replaced mine with good quality toggles (SPDT, momentary on-off-on) and have had no problems in that regard. I also decided to use the Atlas non-derailing circuit board because I liked the idea of the 1 second capacitive discharge pulse to throw the switch. And also, yes, make sure all the metal filings are vacuumed up, they can make contact and cause a short as well. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Gunrunnerjohn you were absolutely right about that part of the switch being the culprit at least in part. I found another source of the sparks coming from the guide rail on the spur. My next question is how would isolate these? Is there some sort of non-conductive paint or coating I can use? Or, is there a simpler method?
 
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