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Thursday, 14 July 2016

5 Tips for Beginner Locomotive Maintenance

5 Tips for Basic Locomotive Maintenance

First things first: Make sure to have a suitable hobby area to work at. If you're  working on small scales such as N or HO scale you’ll need about 24 in by 24 in space.  If it’s a larger scale such as O or G you’ll need much more space. Oh, and ask permission before using the dining room table…… interrupting mealtime or getting hobby grease on the heirloom table may not go over so well with other members of the household.


(This is Robby's hobby desk space - good light, hard work surface, simple table)

Second: Now that you have a work-space, make sure you have the proper tools. Also check to see if the manufacturer included any information on proper care and maintenance of your piece. 
(Suggested LIST OF TOOLS)-Light oil, paper towel or small weave rag or cotton buds, wheel/track cleaner or wheel cleaning kit.

Third: now you’re ready to start!  Remember that routine maintenance will help your model train to run its best and hopefully prevent any major repairs down the road. On the majority of Locomotives  light oil on the motor & wheel bearings, and a light grease in/on the gears may be needed- make sure that it is plastic compatible (Labelle & Woodland Scenics both have great light oil). Make sure to look at your manufactures instructions / specifications as they may have different requirements and may need something specific.




Take your time with this as a little goes a long way - 1 drop of oil per bearing or crankpin is usually enough (sometimes more than enough...), and a very little bit of grease on the gears.  Don't glob everything on there - you'll just have to clean it off later anyway (or it'll leak onto the track work and make a mess).  Have some paper towel or fine weave rag to help clean up excess and/or spills.

Forth: pay attention to your wheels! Dirt build up on wheels spreads back to the rails and can cause electrical pick-up problems. Excessive dirt on the wheels themselves can even cause a derailment.  There are some great cleaners and ‘helping hands’ when it comes to cleaning the wheels of your model train. We’ve done two previous articles on this and they’ll be listed below for you to check out too. 

If you run your finger along the wheel (where it meets the track) and your finger gets dirty, it’s time to clean the wheels.  Take a cotton bud and dip it in your track cleaner. Run it around the wheel until the bud comes clean. Make sure to remove any cotton left behind so it doesn’t get into your gears later.  You can do this with a fine weave cloth too.





Watch the Video for the Roto Wheel Cleaner CLICK HERE


Some locomotives have Traction Tires, it’s like a tiny elastic band of rubber on the wheels; make sure it’s not stretched, worn or broken. If it is then the tire can’t grip the wheel of the train so it will hesitate or not move. These can be bought/ordered from your local hobby shop. 

DON’T FORCE A LOCOMOTIVES WHEELS TO TURN! You can wreck the trucks, gears or worse! Be patient and if you’re uncertain, bring it to a hobby shop that has trained repair people!

Fifth: make sure your track has been cleaned too. Some people forget that cleaning the track, at least monthly, is important for a smooth running model train!

If you have done all the above and your train is still having issues, it could be the motor. Most common motor failures:
         a) no lubrication to motor bearings/bushings- motor either does not run            or squeaks loudly.
         b) over lubrication - oil/grease is everywhere causing debris to collect on the motor, retaining motor heat and fowling armature-brush contact.
         c) when motor brushes are replaced on the motor make sure it is cleaned & lubed, carbon dust from the old brush set is not cleaned from armature and motor housing.
         d) dirty or pitted motor armature
         e) worn brushes
         f) rust caused by moisture, which deposit on motor armature, armature
         shaft, motor bearings and brush holder


There are many books and articles available with so much information. Take your time when cleaning your locomotive and if you're in doubt, take it to a hobby shop that specializes in train repairs. Most of the time, they will be glad to show you some tips!


If you enjoyed this article and/or if you have a comment or something to share, please leave it below.  Also, make sure to check out our Website, Facebook and YouTube Channel for inspiration, learning and fun!


BONUS: For more info about wheels and wheel cleaning check out these great posts to learn more  “Replacing Model Train Wheels” and “Simple Wheel Cleaners For Model Trains”.


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Happy Hobbying!




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