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Motive Power

Motive Power

I had a small problem with my N-Scale Mikados  One showed a short to ground when placed on the track.  When I separated the cab from the tender, the short went away and loco ran fine.  When I reconnected the draw bar the short re-appeared.  The two brass strips inside the draw bar were very close to each other causing the short. I tried repositioning the strips but they would  eventually return to the original position.  I then dabbed paint between the two strips to insulate them.  The problem has not reoccurred.


I found a method of creating the Russia Iron paint used on nineteenth century locomotives on the  rec.models.railroad chat group Go to and select DSP&P Group Home Page. I found my answer in the DSP&P Equipment Color Data page.


Even though the locomotives I double head are identical, they never run quite the same. DCC would cure this, but I have a large investment in conventional controls. I managed to make false uncoupling happen much less often by doubling the Kadee coupler knuckle spring. It wasn't nearly as hard as it sounds to wind one spring inside the other for a stronger spring. This might also be a good way to avoid caboose uncoupling at magnets. BW, Southbridge, Mass

Steps towards dependable trolly operation.

1. I use the same type of poles on all my equipment. I use Wagner/Midco 4 spring sliding shoes. By standardizing the poles, it is easier to set up and adjust the overhead wire. I have operating sessions on my layout every two weeks, and rarely have a dewirement.

2. Hang the overhead wire real tight. This not only helps keep good electrical contact, but also keeps the pole from bouncing off the wire.

3. If your cars only run off the overhead wire and not 2 rail, solder jumper wires between the wheels and axles on your trucks. I have found that many of the power trucks I pick up second hand are insulated for 2 rail.

4. If you run command control, hook up the marker lights or interior lights directly to track power, bypassing the receiver. By doing this, you will be able to tell if the car has power or is on a dead spot. I've found that it's best to use 16 volt lights- 12 volt bulbs tend to blow out. I use the function controls to control the headlights, sign box lights, and any other lights I may have in a car. Make sure all wheels are uninsulated and grounded. This gives better electrical contact and allows use of a signal circuit from the Dec. 1934 MR. It's called the relayless signal circuit.


A lot of things need to be considered (for dependable operation of trolley cars and other electric motive power). I assume that overhead and track are clean and well connected to the power supply. I clean mine good about once a year, and then just running them (regularly) is sufficient. I use a fine sandpaper on the overhead wire, and a kitchen scrubber (NOT steel wool) on the track. Usually recommended are Bright Boys for the track. Also wheels need to be cleaned.

Make sure that the contact between body bolster and truck bolster is clean and good. I have been having to put jumper wires on some of my cars because of trouble there. Also make sure that you have enough slack in the leads to the motor to allow the car to take the curves on your layout. On the internal leads, I try to solder as many connections as possible, and depending upon 'touching' as little as possible.

If jiggling the pole makes the car go, clean the wire and the groove in the pole. Also, sometimes you need to clean the pivots at the base of the pole - use contact cleaner or Wahl Oil for this.

If touching the side of the truck makes the car go, then the problem is in the 'ground' circuit. Clean the contact between body and truck bolster, or put in a jumper. Use both trucks, and all wheels, if possible, to pick up current from the rails. Make sure that the power truck is lubricated; I do mine about once a year, and also when they get noisy from running.

One reason that my cars run at shows: if they don't run right, they go back in the box, and cars that do run are used. Then I work on the car at home.

- WB. Woodstock, NY

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