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Fixing Problem Crossovers and Switches

Derek asks readers:

“Bachmann nickel silver #5 switches and #6 crossovers look good, but don’t operate that well. I’m having problems with derailments when a train enters a turnout. The rails seem to move a fraction, just enough to create a gap. The frogs are okay. The first 4 or 6 engine wheels usually make it over the turnout without a problem. However, problems can happen when the wheels on the following trucks pass over the same spot. They often want to go in a different direction.

I thought I might have a go trying to fix it with my Dremel tool by grinding the stationary rails so as to create a small notch where they touch the moving rails. I wondered about strengthening the springs underneath the turnouts, but I’m not sure if this is a good idea or how to go about it.

I would really appreciate some advice from others who know more about these problems than I do. Thanks.”

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14 Responses to Fixing Problem Crossovers and Switches

  • Frank Whittlesays:

    I saw a video relevant to this problem and the guy added a piece of plastic to one of the rails and this stopped the derailing problem. I believe I was just looking for setting points up for dcc.

  • Jimsays:

    I am having the exact same problem and haven’t found a solution.

  • The Track Ratsays:

    Sorry you are having so much trouble. Honestly, I would junk them. If you want track work that will function flawlessly and look like the prototype build it your self. Let me kmow if you have any other questions.
    ,The Track Rat

  • David Stokessays:

    I’d be careful with the running rails and the Dremel. I’d be more inclined to sharpen the closure point rail with a small file, but more importantly stop the point rail from moving once set. Not being familiar with the Bachmann point I am unsure how one would do that. Sounds like a design fault to me. Good luck, but truly, I’d be ditching them for Peco or Atlas, or one of the more upmarket point systems.

  • Edsays:

    I”ve had the same problem and my engine run fine over the rails on the turnouts, but some of my cars would derail just at the turnout rail. Sometimes this is cuz by the rail vibrates a little from the train running and one guy told me to install a slow motion motor to the turnout This did help cuz the motor holds the inter rail to the outer rail and so far, I haven’t any problems.

    • richsays:

      i have the same problem try checking your coupelers if they are kaydees that is your problem

  • Frank Bsays:

    I don’t know this type of switch, but on typical switches the moving part is held to its position (on each side) by a small “over-centre” spring (like an electrical toggle switch).

    Your description suggests that this spring is not firmly holding the rail all the way out to each side.

    So it may be worth taking the spring out, and trying to stretch it a small amount to increase the force holding the rails in place.

    (If this works please let us know.)

    • Sheldon Clarksays:

      I’d be very careful with this suggestion. I’m not familiar with the switches in question, but I’ve found that with Peco N Gauge switches it’s impossible to re-install the spring once it has come out. I have a problem with these switches where I am using “wire-in-tube” to operate them, because the wire is piano wire supplied in coils and even in PTFE tubes, the friction doesn’t allow the spring to exert enough pressure to maintain electrical contact when the operating wire is longer than about 6″. One of my solutions has been to “tweak” the ends of the switch rails VERY gently & carefully. I’m puzzled about your crossing problem – are the trucks diverging from the intended route there too? If so, you may have a problem with your wheelsets – tread width, flange depth & thickness or back-to-back measurements may not be compatible with the crossing. If the trackwork and wheelsets are to compatible standards (NMRA, in USA), I cannot imagine what the cause or solution may be.

  • Robertsays:

    Try this article, it has a couple of solutions.

  • donj1044says:

    You can try gouging a little under the throw bar to make room as it moves sideways!. It sounds like you have a bulge under the switch. See if the switch rails are in gauge? for both positions. That is all that comes to mind about your problem. Good luck Don J

  • Gregsays:

    It could be the point rail is not high enough. I use a dpdt switch to throw the turnout and to change the polarity of the frog. It also holds it tight!

  • Phillip Collinssays:

    I had a similar problem with older Atlas points. My solution was to replace with Peco which has a decent over-centre spring. Unfortunately Peco was more expensive. I think the blades were moving because of play in the rivet.

  • Vicsays:

    Are you running a Bachmann engine? I have found that some of my older Bachmann engines going over turnouts is due to the distance between the plastic gear cover between the wheels. I used my dremal

  • joe hsays:

    I was wondering if the wheels on the following trucks are in gauge(the correct width). Get a NMRA Standard Gauge for the scale of railroad you are running,for example; N scale or HO scale. With the gauge check the clearance between the wheel flanges to make sure each set of wheels are not too narrow or wide and make any adgustments as needed. I would check this out first before trying to modify the switches or replace.
    Hope this helps out.

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