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Locomotive Operational Problems

Frank has HO and asks readers:

“I purchased a used loco that moves reluctantly: on powering the lights go on, it makes realistic idling sounds and then cuts off. It had moved slowly previously. What may be the problem here? Thank you.”

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11 Responses to Locomotive Operational Problems

  • Leon Edward Zaharissays:

    The first thing I would do is check the connections to the DCC board or boards and also the wiring to the traction motors.

    The second thing I would do is clean the contacts and wheels as it sounds as if it dies on a dead spot.

    If you were testing it on a single section fo track I would clean that as well,

  • Edward Carrollsays:

    After you do everything that Leon suggests since they are the proper steps in the proper order, I would suggest looking at the total number of contacts feeding the electrical system of the locomotive. If it is a steam locomotive, then adding wiper contacts and wire to the tender might help. If it is an older diesel consider replacing the older brass contacts with newer phosphor bronze wipers.

  • Chrissays:

    Based on what your problem is; there are 3 things that you need too consider. Does my loco need to be lunicated; are your rails clean and are your track connections tight.

  • Hank Tellersays:

    DCC/Sound locomotives are very picky about power. When one looses power it starts its “startup” procedure ALL OVER AGAIN! Check to make sure the capacitor is connected and working properly. It should help the engine run with intermittent power smoothly. Hank

  • Hans de Bruijnsays:

    Is the number of steps, for example 28, equal to the decoder and the dcc controle?

  • Briansays:

    Frank, when cleaning electrical contacts/gears etc use methylated spirit as the cleaner. This will dislodge and dissolve any grease, other foreign substances and it evaporates leaving no residue. Remember to lubricate any gears etc before use, I use mechanical watch oil with a darning needle as the dipper.. The spirit shouldn’t harm any plastic parts, but advise caution. Use the spirit to clean your track with a piece of sponge/cloth/cotton wool dampened with the spirit. Please USE WITH CAUTION when using the spirit as it is FLAMMABLE, and finally make sure room is well ventilated. Good luck Brian

  • Franksays:

    I am running a simple DC controller and did clean and lube. (Other locos work fine.) I’m new at this and not familiar with locomotive internals. However, I’ll continue trying your suggestions and learn in the process.
    Thank you for your support.

  • Tim Morloksays:

    It sounds like you have a DCC equipped locomotive that is not set up to run on DC.

  • Richard N Albrechtsays:

    After cleaning tracks as Chris recommended, then make sure your loco wheels are CLEAN. You can have crystal clean track but dirty wheels will cause at least irregular power to motor.

  • David Stokessays:

    Have the CVs for start up and run speeds been set really low for deliberate slow speed running for yard work and shunting? Basic question I know but…

  • Frank Bsays:

    Very old locos, even if converted to DCC, may need cleaning of the motor commutator, and cleaning and fresh greasing of any gearbox parts. This could account for the previously slow running.
    Try this if cleaning the pickup contacts and wheels is not effective.

    Does the loco shutdown even when just idling, or only when power is applied to move it ?

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