What's On Joe's Mind?

Try The Simple Fix, First!

     I was recently perplexed by a stalling problem (over a 45 degree crossover) I had with a modified Lionel handcar where I added an electronic reversing unit in a trailing ore car, similar to my project published in CTT, Oct. 2005. One major reason for this project is to eliminate stalling! Because the handcar I used was an eBay acquisition, it needed many repairs (not to mention an exorcist) to get it up an running, so I was attributing this sporadic stalling to something with the handcar's prior mishandling and botched repairs. As a last resort, I removed the wheelsets from the trailing ore car's truck, washed them with a toothbrush and some dishwashing detergent, then gave them a good wiping down with alcohol, and popped them back into the truck. Since these wheels collect current from the track by way of a snap-in pick-up with center rail roller, if these wheels weren't clean, they couldn't do their job, which was the case. Then I remembered that the first time I did this project I cleaned the wheelsets in paint thinner to remove what I assumed was an oil film to prevent rusting while they are stored at the parts supplier. The film is almost invisible, but it is there. If you are having problems with activation of an insulated rail, or poor performance in general, just give the wheels a good cleaning. Now I do a quick cleaning of the wheels on the handcars with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol most of the time, as well as wiping down the rails with the alcohol, but in this case there was a fair amount of film preventing the electrical contact just as it was preventing possible rust. (We toy train enthusiasts may become spoiled by the usual excellent performance of our large flanged wheels and 3 rails. People who operate smaller scales know how dirty wheels and rails can really foul up the smooth running of their equipment.) So if you are having some sort of problem with stalling or erratic operation, try the simple fix first, like a good wheel (and rail) cleaning, and you'll be amazed at the improvement.
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