scroll down or click here for loco maintenance)
It is important to know that there are two types of track. the older coated
steel rail, and the more modern, nickel silver rail. According to Hornby the
nickel silver rail only requires to be "infrequently wiped over with a soft
cloth". This is due to the rails resistance to oxidation. The steel rail
however requires regular cleaning, with a "scotch" pad (according to
Hornby). The three methods listed below have been proven for both types of
three ways to clean the track:
1. Track Rubber
This is the best method for removing stubborn dirt or to give your layout a
spring clean after a long time not in use. It can be time consuming, but the
result of a clean track is good running, which everyone can agree is a good
Track cleaning car
The track cleaning car like the Hornby example below are only really any
good maintaining a clean track. This means they need to be run regular. This
Hornby model has a very fitting maintenance livery which gives it true
purpose for running. Probably best to make up a maintenance train which on
occasion you bring out and run. The coach that has been used (4
wheel Coach) is fictional and was never built in reality. This may put
off some modellers that are looking for accuracy above anything else.
This model works by rubbing two abrasive pads which are spring loaded under
the car along the track. It is meant to be pushed rather than pulled along
but I find this leads to derailment at any minor imperfection in the track.
Best to pull it behind a shunter (or any other powerful loco).
3. Electronic cleaner
Gaugemaster make an electronic track cleaner. This is what Gaugemaster have
to say about how it works:
"The 12v D.C. controlled output from the
controller is passed through the unit. Connection between unit, power source,
controller, and track is completed via six terminal connections. The unit
superimposes a harmless high frequency signal over the output from the
controller. When a poor contact between loco and rail is detected the unit
switches on, ionising the gap and burning off the dirt, switching off again when
contact is restored." (Gaugemaster website)
This sounds great. If it works which I am assured it does, this should mean
no more cleaning by hand.
This is on my list of purchases. If anyone already owns one please review it
in the forum.
If you do not feel comfortable with carrying out any maintenance, there are
many local model shops that will do this for you for not much money. Again
the methods below have worked for me. They may not be suitable for every
situation. Read the maintenance instructions that come with your loco.
Hornby recommend lubrication every 100 running hours or every 6
months. I use the simpler method of applying oil when ever the
train seems to be noisier than normal. This should be done with
a light machine oil like 3 in 1. You must be careful when
lubricating not to get any on to the body as this can
deteriorate the condition of the polystyrene plastic that they
are made out of.
Pour some of the oil in to the top of a bottle lid (or
anything suitable). With a small screwdriver apply the smallest amount of
the oil to any moving parts. If you can see oil than you probably have used
to much. Wipe off any excess if you have added to much. Avoid getting the
oil on the wheels as this will result in a loss of traction and will be
transferred to the track. Wipe off any excess.
There are lots of things that can go wrong with a loco here are
some solutions to the most common:
Check that all the gears still have all their teeth. I
have a class 90 that has lost only 1 tooth on one of its gears (See below). this
has resulted in a intermittent loss in traction in one of the two sets of
powered wheels. Symptoms of this problem are lack of traction and an increase in
noise. Replacements have been brought and fitted.
Wheels: As you well know the power
for the locomotives motor comes from the track up through the wheels.
Because of this it is very important to keep the wheels clean. In my
experience good performance is 90% clean loco wheels and 10% clean track.
There are many solutions to this, but the one I like the best is as follows.
Turn the loco upside down being sure to support it. Connect your controller
to the un-powered wheels (the ones which pick up power but don't move). Then
power up the controller so the wheels are going round and then with a track
rubber polish the dirt of the wheels. This will only work with the powered
wheels, but it does a good job. With the un-powered wheels use the track
rubber again, rubbing off the dirt. A damp cloth (Very dry!) is also very
good, although its important not to get any water in to the electrics.
Hornby recommend a "scotch" washing up pad on stubborn dirt.
Tyres: Check that the locos traction tyres are all
still in good condition. If you managed to get oil on the traction tires it
is best to change them, giving the wheels a good clean before putting on the
new ones. Bad traction tyres result in poor traction. In some circumstances
the tyre can become too lose to grip the wheel so check that you can't move
the tyre around the wheel. If you can replace them.
Carbon brushes: Occasionally the carbon brushes will
wear out and will need to be replaced. Every motor and manufacture has their
own motor designs so it is best to find the service sheet for your
individual loco before you do this. If you do find it there are a few things
I feel I should emphasize. First, the springs that pushes the brush against
the commutator are under tension. When you remove the plate covering them
they are likely to fly off never to be seen again if you are not careful,
and second the brushes only go in one way, make sure that the flat end goes
The commutator is
the slotted copper segments at the end of the armature on an
electric motor, which transfers the current from the
brushes to the coils wound on the armature (definition courtesy
This is best cleaned with a cotton-bud, making sure none of the
cotton enters the motor. Clean off any black deposits which have
accumulated from the wearing away of the brushes and from dirt
that entered the motor. In some locos this is possible without
opening up the motor. On Hornby "Ringfield" motors there is a
gap to insert the cotton-bud. By rotating the gears you can
access all of the commutator without opening it. When servicing
my Lima models (illustrated below) I found it easier to open the
motor to clean the commutator.