Troubleshooting Electric Trains

Here are some basic steps for troubleshooting your electric train set.

1. Create a test track by hooking up a separate feeder track and a couple of feet of flex track to your transformer to test the engines. Placing your engine on the line, add power slowly. If the engine does not run, your problem is there. If it runs slowly, the motor may be dirty or dying out.

2. After washing your hands, run two fingers along the track slowly to test for rail connection issues. These can include glue, debris or dust on the track. If you feel bumps or gaps, inspect the track for mismatched or disconnected rails. Mixing different rail codes is a common cause of this as well as uneven surfaces and it can account for derailments and sudden power loss.

3. Remove the shell of the engine and check for dust or debris in or around the motor, wheels and axles and brush away any foreign particles. Lack of track maintenance often causes this problem resulting in poor performance, burning smells and loss of power.

4. Try and locate areas of the layout where engines seem to lose power and try adding additional feeder tracks. The Power degrades as it travels the rails, so the longer the total length of track, the more electrical feeder points you will need to implement.

5. Sweep out your turnouts with a small brush to clear debris and inspect for contact issues. Ensure the switch fully opens and closes without a train on the track. Adding a small amount of oil to the moving parts can help if the connection is stuck or operates inconsistently.

6. Inspect your wiring from underneath the layout as well as at the feeder tracks. Most wiring issues are either weak connections at the rails, or loose or damaged wiring underneath. Dry solder joints are often the culprit.

7. Check to make sure your polarity is consistent throughout the layout. The best way to be consistent is to wire all right-hand rails to the positive DC terminal with red wire and all left-hand rails to the negative DC terminal with black wire.

8. Replace old light-duty wires with 12 to 14 gauge wire if you continue to have power issues, especially on large layouts.

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