Everything on model trains, model railroads, model railways, locomotives, model train layouts, scenery, wiring, DCC and more. Enjoy the world's best hobby... model railroading!


Middle Rail Rollers

Tom has an O scale layout and asks:

“I have a couple of loco’s that the rollers has developed a groove and now does not want to run. Why is this happening?”

3 Responses to Middle Rail Rollers

  • Peter Bsays:

    Are the rollers grooved all the way around the circumference? if so that is normal wear so would not be making good contact. Or are the roller(s) grooved in only one place? If so then the roller is not rotation and is stuck. These problems are quite normal in older Lionel locos.

  • John Cockburnsays:

    Your problem could be caused by a variety of faults, for instance when did you last clean and oil the motor bearings. it could be a carbon buildup shorting in the commutator grooves, use a wooden cocktail stick to clean out the grooves or it could be the the brush’s worn right down and not making contact with commutator properly giving intermittent power to the armature. check all soldered joints (you did not say what manufacture the loco’s were made by so I am guessing Lionel for starters) having checked that the motor runs OK when power is supplied to the wires leading to the brushes if the motor runs continuously when power is supplied you need to look at the track and it’s connections if you have a test meter check each length of track to make sure that there is a continuous current supply, a rusty rail joiners, loose pin, broken wire or damaged soldered connection could be the problem.
    Now check the height of the centre third rail and see if it has worn down, to do this turn off all electricity to the rails or you could end up with a short circuit, if you have a steel rule place it across the two running rails and see if there is a gap between the rule and centre third rail, if there is you will probably need to adjust the bar holding the rollers by slightly bending it down, hold the end of the bar nearest to the pivot pin and apply pressure at the roller end, this way you will not damage the pivot pin.
    If the groove in the roller is very deep you may need to get a replacement set of rollers or you could make them yourself out of brass rod, obtain a piece as large a diameter as the rollers then find the centre of the rod and drill a hole the same size as the roller pin, if the roller is larger in diameter in the middle then the brass bar needs to be shaped in a lathe or in the chuck of a drill using a fine file being finished with fin emery paper, sometimes you can find spares on eBay but they can be quite expensive, I look for models that are being sold as spares or repairs making sure that all the parts are there that I want. Have you checked the controller, some controllers have a continuous winding round an insulated strip of mica or paxolene and contact is made when the arm fixed to the controller comes into contact with it and over time both items can become loose or worn down by continuous friction. I hope that you will find this list of tips helpful but it is by no means complete and perhaps someone else could take over where I have left off.
    Kindest regards john.

    • John Cockburnsays:

      I forgot to mention another method of rectifying the grooves in the rollers and it can also be used on Hornby third rail pick up spades and a variety of other worn parts that rub on another material without lubrication.
      For this you will need some low melting point silver solder (not ordinary solder which is soft) some flux (I use Borax if I can’t get easy flow) a gas torch and two very dry house bricks to use as a hearth (If you use them wet they will explode with the heat) detach all the rollers and wash them in petrol lighter fuel to get every vestige of grease and dirt of them a toothbrush is very good at getting into the nooks and crannies and finish of with a fine wire brush (In all types of soldering cleanliness is next Godliness) .
      The procedure is this, mount one house brick into the jaws of a metal vice if you have got one and about one inch from the long edge chisel out a shallow groove that matches the diameter of the roller (If you have not got a large enough vice then you will need a heat resistant soldering mat which you can buy from B&Q to put between the brick and work bench, and I stress that this procedure should only be undertaken in a very well ventilated environment as the fumes are toxic if inhaled) next cut or break the 2nd brick in half and place on the 1st brick in a V shape to act as a baffle to direct the heat to the far side of the roller approximately one inch away from roller so that when you apply the flame all the heat is directed at the work piece, mix some flux with a drop of water to make a thick past and spread it into the groove that needs filling with silver solder and I would stress that what you use to apply the flux with is perfectly clean and grease free, next place the roller in the groove in the brick and heat work piece until the flux looks as if it has turned to glass, dip end of silver solder into flux, heat and melt solder into groove, allow to cool naturally to avoid distortion, you can pick the roller up with clean pliers as soon as the solder has hardened and put behind the brick baffle so that you can work on the next one and so on.
      The silver solder is harder than brass so you will need to take care with filing to shape that you don’t take any of the brass away with the file, if you have a lathe you can profile to shape more easily.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add a photo or image related to your comment (JPEG only)

Download Your Free Catalog

N Scale Track Plans

Watch Video


Submit Your Model Railroading Questions!

Before you submit your model railroading question please add some feedback, answers or comments to other postings on this model train blog. What goes around comes around... so if you can help others in the hobby, someone else may help you.

Important - Please add plenty of supporting details to any question you submit (eg. scale, solutions you have already tried etc.) , as the clearest and best questions usually get the best answers. Also, please check your spelling and punctuation as all questions need to be approved by the blog moderator prior to publication. Approved questions are normally published within a week (if not sooner).

Submit your model train questions here.

Use Tiny Railroad Micro Controllers

A micro controller is basically a small programmable computer device to help the model railroader “make things operate.” It is clever way to realistically replicate the movements, actions and functions you are likely to see on a full size railroad.

Watch These Club Videos

Club members access helpful new resources each month: diagrams, video tutorials, articles, track plans and more. Watch the tour videos here.

Scenery Techniques Explained

Everything DCC



Model Train Help Ebook

Bringing Your Railroad To Life!

Scenery & Layout Ideas

Share With Friends


Submit Your Article

Would you like to write an article and have it published?

Preference will be given to articles that help others progress in the hobby, maybe suggesting an idea for their layout, a quick tip or two... or perhaps a little bit of good advice based on your model railroading experiences.

We are all in this hobby together, so the more we can do to share ideas and help each other, the better.

Submit Your Article Here

It’s YOUR Railroad!

Your rolling stock and locomotives might actually be the center of attention on your layout, but the scenic features that surround and envelop your layout is what's likely to make your train setup stand proud of the rest. Your selection of scenery and structures will add an element of customization that will make your railroad truly unique.

Scenery, structures, and fine detailing is a fundamental aspect of any good model railroad, particularly if it is intended to replicate a true-to-life railroading scene. How realistic or authentic you make your railroad is entirely up to you... and you alone.

Some enthusiasts like to replicate every tiny detail so as to accurately depict, in every aspect, a miniaturized version of a real life scene.

Others in this hobby adopt a more "free-style" approach and choose to mix and match accessories and features they personally prefer. Even though the purist will possibly be unimpressed with unrealistic or out of context elements, it is YOUR railroad layout so you can make it anything you personally want!

Model Railroading Blog Archive

Reader Poll

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.