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Why Does The Train Stop and Power Up Again?

Victor from New South Wales in Australia asks:

“I run one HO engine on my modest layout and want to know the probable cause of it running a short distance then stopping and powering up again, then doing the same thing a metre or so later. I don’t know enough about trains, but I don’t think it’s a dirty track problem. It was going ok when I last ran two months ago. Any thoughts please?”

13 Responses to Why Does The Train Stop and Power Up Again?

  • philsays:

    I would first check to see if you have a faulty rail joiner, especially if it’s in the same area. If you’re sure the track is clean, check your locomotive wheels. You didn’t say if you’re using brass or NS rail. Also are you having problems with just one engine. If just one, open her up and check wire connections. The problem may be a intermittent short. that’s a little more troublesome. If block control turn all blocks off then, with 1 powered engine run to the next block. Switch it on and continue around the layout switching on each as yo go or until your engine either stops due to lck of power or develops a short.

  • kimsays:

    easy way to test, try another loco!!

    dirty track or wheels has always been the cause for me

  • Carl R Branninsays:

    I assume your running DC. Check your power pack with another train. If it runs fine then its probably a problem with lubrication in the one thats not running. Also check to make sure the gears don’t have a broken tooth. Clean your track real well too.

  • Ernest Lafleursays:

    The most times it’s a faulty conection don’t rely on track conecters to transport power, conect every strip of rail to your bus wire. and make sure the wheels are clean.


    Be sure your cars are properly weighted. If this is happening on a curve or perhaps a sharp sectionof a curve joining a straight, it is possible the trucks are rocking a bit around this area. My coal tender has the pickups on it and is a very light car. If backing up the consist at an angle, it tends to rock a bit. If this is the cae, add some weight to the car with the pickups ( lay a weight on it as a test before making it permanent.

  • If you’re running DCC the locomotive will stop when it loses even momentary power from the rails. Most probably it’s dirty track, poor electrical connections, loose rail joiners, or dirty track. Most causes of this in DCC are simple.

  • Anthony Germagliottisays:

    Check the engine with test leads if the engine runs then it is your track also check the pickups on the engine to see if it is dirty

  • Vicsays:

    Thanks everyone. After more testing and believe it’s an electrical issue. Will investigate more.

  • Herveysays:

    Victor it is unclear from your question what type of system (DCC or DC ) you are using. I have encountered the same problem on my DCC Digitrax Zephyr system. This type of erratic action occurs when you have “stolen” a loco and not released the original loco entered. The system is switching between the inputs. The latest “version” you are sending commands to to make it move, the original is not receiving any command so it stops. Hence it runs a short distance then stops then runs.
    To correct it release the loco from the system and start over. Remember you have the loco registered twice in the system and you must release it twice. If your not sure how to do this refer to your owners manual. You may have to purge your entire system and reset it to its original setup.

    • Grumpy Bensays:

      I have spent a large number of hours cleaning track, having my engine cleaned (by an expert), resetting my decoder, and nothing changed the stopping and starting problem. I was ready to just live the situation or retire my engine. Then I read your response to Victor….could it be the problem was in my Zephyer (DCS51)? So I followed your advice released my duplicate address from the throttle.
      It worked!!!! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!!!! I am in your debit.

  • Frank Bsays:

    Some power packs / controllers have a thermal cutout to protect against overloads or short curcuits.

    Older locos that take a high current (or are taking a high current due to pulling a long train) can cause low powered modern controllers to cut out for seconds to minutes whilst they cool down.

  • Morgan Bilbosays:

    One thing I don’t see addressed is: Clean your track carefully. A rag over your finger, dipped in alcohol and wiped over the track. Be especially careful on turnouts. Or use acetone, but acetone can harm plastic, so be careful to wipe just the top and inside edges of the rail. The latest advice now is to use mineral spirits. Your decision. The final stroke is graphite. Again, use a cloth over the finger and wipe the rail, especially the inside edge – very lightly. If you can see the graphite, it’s too much. i.e Just an extremely light wipe. Also, not continuous, let your cars carry it along. Dab a bit for about an inch, and go a foot along and dab again. The cars carry it over the rest of the railroad. Large layouts take a little longer. But once you do this, cleaning is “maybe” twice a year. This treatment conducts electricity very well on nickle silver rail. For me, that eliminated a lot of stops/starts. The other suggestions about joiners, and gaps and such is good and should be addressed first.

  • Bruce Webbsays:

    If I read it right you have one engine that goes for about a meter then stops goes for another meter then stops and so forth. If this is your problem then don’t over think things just clean all contact points on the loco. If this doesn’t work then look for wiring problems with the loco.

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