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Discussion Starter #1
Hi. I am renewing my interest in model railroading and need some help. I dug out the 4x8 railroad that I started with my son about 15 years ago. Right now its 2 trains, 1 running at a time. But my problem is that the loco wont run on the track, but runs slow with direct wires from the controller. Could it be from corrosion on either the track or power pick up on the locomotive? Remember its`been stored in a basement and how would I clean this up. Its an old Tyco set.
 

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Stuart,

Welcome to the forum! The problem you are having is not unusual for a set that's been in storage. The good part is it still runs.

There are two things you want to do before running the train: one is to lubricate. If it's been sitting for years, the oil on the bearing surfaces is gone and the grease in the locomotive's gears may be as hard as a brick. Neither is a good condition. Carefully apply a light oil at all points where the axles meet the frames that hold them (called trucks), and to any place where an axle passes through the frame of your locomotive.

In the case of the gears in your engine, see if you can open 'er up and get a look at it. If you have hard, caked grease, it needs to be gotten out of there: Q-tips, toothpicks, any kind of soft scraper will do. When you've cleaned it out, new grease goes in, and sparingly. I'd recommend white lithium grease: look for it at Walmart in automotive or hardware. Other people will suggest going to a local hobby shop (acronym'ed LHS on most written discussions) and getting some oil and grease designed for trains: it's your choice. Once this is done, you can run the train without damaging it.

Next item: cleaning. First rule: NO STEEL WOOL. NOT NEVER! Steel wool breaks and leaves tiny fragments. Your engine is full of magnets. The two do do not play well together.

Check your transformer wires: use light sandpaper to scrub the bare wires clean at both ends. Move on to the track: best thing here is a heavy plastic scrubbing pad like you'd use to get burnt gunk off the pots and pans, coupled with a light detergent. Wipe on, scrub the tops and inner edges of the rails, and paper-towel them dry. Go easy on the liquid: don't short out your track.
Next, wheels. Your locomotive and operating cars get their power from the track. If your wheels are coated with old oil and gunk, they get no power. Carefully scrub the metal wheels with the same plastic pad. A bit of 409 on a paper towel can help, too. Move on to the copper contacts where the axles feed power to the engine and make sure you clean them. Do it gently: don't bend them.

Now, check your track pins and make sure the connections are tight. Loose or dirty pins don't conduct well. Clean if needed.

At this point, I'd look it all over for any pools of liquid that will ruin your day. If you are confident you're dry and won't burn the house down, put it back together and give it a try. If it still won't work, come back and talk to us some more. If it does work, come back and show us some pictures of your layout!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Well after spending a good amout of time on the tracks and loco, it will finally make it around under its own power although rather slowly. There must be a better way because the tracks still look dull and even though the loco goes around it will not pull any cars. Still looking for additional help or should I just start over with new track or engine. I do not have that much invested right now. If I do start over could you recommend a brand or brands yhat would be best.
 

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Stuart,

Don't junk the old set. Buy a new one and set it aside if you want to, but don't junk it. As you get better, you'll probably realize what's wrong with it, haul it out and fix it. At the very worst, offer to send it to someone on this site if they'll pay the shipping! At worst, you'll end up with a very good friend, here, for the cost of a box and a trip to the Post Office.

Back to the track, though. Next suggestion is to go to your local hobby shop, LHS in forum shorthand. Ask for a Bright Boy or similar product. It looks like a small block eraser and will run you as much as $4. Use it on the metal wheels for your engine; use it on the top of the rails on your track. Finally, use it on the inside edges of your track and on the pins that connect your track together. All of those are part of the electrical cicuit your train runs on.

You didn't mention how the engine runs after the cleaning/oiling. If the engine runs poorly when wired directly to the transformer and you've cleaned everything you can, go back and look at it one more time with an eye to lubrication: did you miss any places? If not, put the engine on the track by itself and start it around the track. Let it run...and run...and run. Engines need to run to burn off internal corrosion: mine have been in storage from moving and are up to 70+ years old. Right now, they start off slow and then, after 5 minutes, they're racing around the track. Give them some time to warm up and get in the mood to work, again. If none of that works, look into a new set. For recommendations, go to the HO scale section of this site and pose your questions: I don't run HO, so I'm not in any position to recommend a product. Best of luck with it!
 

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i'd say throw away your old joiners and replace with fresh ones, only like couple bucks worth of... note if track ends are corroded and clean them as needed (although i probably wouldn't bother with anything other then Nickel Silver track material.)

as far as the engine, no doubt there is still oxidation built up in there. clean the engine brushes contacts, clean all the electric pickups. its not easy, but can be done. i revived several engines in condition and with symptoms similar to what you described.
as far as getting new stuff, thats more of a question for yourself
 

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Anton raises a good point ... track-to-track conductivity could be an issue with older track. Do you have a Dremel? If so, use a disc wire brush fitting (about the size of a quarter) to buff-clean the sides of the ends of each rail in way of where the track joiners will go. Cleaning up oxidation here (and new joiners, per Anton) could help quite a bit.

I've found that Goo-Gone on a Q-tip does a good job of cleaning gunk off of loco gears, brushes, etc.

TJ
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I have been doing alot of reading on this site and dcc seems to be the way to go. Instead on spending all my time cleaning my track and repairing my engine, what if I switched to dcc. Would this eliminate my rusty track problem? I am frustrated and thinking about starting over again anyhow. If I need to remove all my track to change connectors as someone suggested, I might as well start over. Any thoughts?
 

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if the track is nickel Silver, keep it.
DCC is excellent (but not cheap) way to go if your goal is to independently control more then 1 engine simultaneously. whether this is financially feasable on 4x8 i don't know, just how many engines can you run at once without interrupting on your layout? even if you want souond engines, you still can do it on DC. but again DCC is sure nice

However it will not solve poor running problem. you really want well running engine with modern motor that pulls minimum power.
 

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However it will not solve poor running problem. you really want well running engine with modern motor that pulls minimum power.
I think this is an excellent, important often over looked point. DCC will NOT fix anything, in fact it will usually harbor and expose poor track and make things work worse.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Finally got to the local hobby shop. Bought an eraser type track cleaner and took loco apart and cleaned and oiled it. It runs alot better than before. I now have to go over the track where the trains derail. Now i'm getting into it! Can someone suggest what guage wire to use so I can wire my switchs and other accessories I have.
 
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