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Engine Problems With Train Set

Mark Rauen makes this observation of a model train set he purchased:

“I cannot speak to anything other than what I have but…

Bachmann Diesel Express Train SetI purchased a used Bachmann Diesel Express HO Train Set. In addition I purchased a new unopened Bachmann Track Pack (Steel Alloy E-Z Track with black bed.) When I run the train around the fixed circle track it runs fine, when I run it on an oval it is fine up to about 80% throttle. When I use the turnouts the cars derail almost every time no matter what the speed. These are remote activation turnouts. And here is what happens. (Gleaned from keen observation over a few hours of trying variations of numerous adjustments and work arounds.)

When the turnouts are set for the straight away the cars can be run up to full speed without derailing. When the turnout is switched to the curve the cars derail as soon as the trailing end of the engine starts the turn.

Here is my opinion of the problem; poor design and cheap construction.

Let me explain.

When my engine is traveling straight everything is fine, when the engine starts into the the 18″ radius turn the coupler moves a bit to the left or right. (I have the old style HO Universal Horn Hook couplers.) This pushes the coupler on the rolling stock coupler, which is still moving straight, to the right or left. At up to 80% throttle the rolling stock can handle this pressure and stay on track. At full speed it will derail 1 out of 5 times. When it hits the turnout it will ALWAYS derail at any speed. The reason is the locomotive coupler pushes sideways on the stock coupler too hard and the taper of the cheap plastic wheels forces the forward truck of the stock to move in the opposite direction of the turn. This causes the front wheels of the forward truck to ride up on and over the rail. The lighter the rolling stock the easier it is to derail. I tried adding weights to the front of the stock and saw a minor improvement, 1 out of 10 times it stayed on the track at up to 40% power.

This is where I place the blame squarely on the design. From my experience the rolling stock is far too light. They added a lot of weight to the engine for obvious reasons but then they made the cars as light as possible to save on cost. It would have been nothing for them to add a weight in the base of the car or even in the trucks of the stock themselves.

In my opinion this ‘toy rolling stock’ offers nothing but frustration to new people like me and my grandson. I suspect that the weight needed to keep these cars on the track would cost the manufacturer a few cents per axle? I think this is right because that is what I paid for the material and I am not a factory buying in large quantity.

I have bought my last Bachmann product, not even used.

4 Responses to Engine Problems With Train Set

  • Kevin Chingsays:

    Hi Mark
    There is a number of reasons why this happens the wheel sets can be out of gauge the turnout is to sharp the plastic wheels could be untrue the trucks could be trying to turn to much and catch on the body of the car if the coupling on the engine is body mounted and the coupler on the car is truck mounted or vise versa the turnout may be to tight in the frog ie not enough room for the wheel flange or all of the above. Some of their cheaper sets are not that good. to fix the problem i would change all the track to Peco and use long radius turnouts however this may not fix your problem.

  • Melton Gregorysays:

    If the problem is what you say it is, it may be that the screws holding the couplers on are too tight, not allowing the couplers to swing as freely as they should. Start with doing only the loco and see how it goes, that may be the only ones you need to do, but check the ones on the rolling stock too if they seem stiff. Being as you bought it second hand someone else may have gone through them and torqued them a bit too tight. If that doesn’t help, consider installing different couplers. Have you tried pushing the stock through the turn out with the loco? How did that go?

  • Gerald Hyinksays:

    Trains aren’t slot cars. Slow down. Ensure couplers move freely. Change them to Kadee style if you are into having a layout other than around a Christmas tree. Make sure your track is level going into turnouts.

  • Billsays:

    Mark,
    Start with the easy stuff. First, check the track. Are all joints smooth? Are there any joints where one side of the track has ridden up over the joiner?
    Next look at the couplers, make sure they move freely and return to center. Check that the trucks move freely and that all 4 wheels are in contact with the track at all times. If necessary loosen the trucks to allow for some movement left to right.You should be able to rock one truck slightly and the other should be just tight enough to prohibit rocking.
    There are recommended weights for rolling stock. For HO it is 1oz plus a 1/2oz for each inch of car length. Train set cars are probably under weight. Adding weight should be done in such a manner that both trucks carry the weight equally.
    Check the wheels. Do they turn freely? Plastic wheels are prone to more issues. They collect dirt quicker than metal. Make sure the wheels are clean.
    If none of this resolves your issue then you are looking at more expensive options such as metal wheel sets and possibly different trucks. Changing the couplers for Kadee couplers.
    My first model railroad was built on Bachmann E-Z track (steel) and it functioned well for years. Since you don’t seem to be having problems with erratic locomotive travel that should be ok.

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