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Wheel Slippage on Grades

Ken who models in HO scale writes:

“Greetings, I’m trying to come up with the ideal track cleaning process that would protect my track from oxidation without causing my locos to spin their wheels at my overpass grade. I’m limited to space and my double continuous running oval has a ‘non-prototypical’ grade of about 4.5% – 5% at the trestle (but the trains look very cool climbing the grade). I used No-Ox ID as was suggested by some experienced modelers but it was a disaster! My locos used to pull 17-18 cars with no issue, and after the No-Ox ID my loco couldn’t make it up by itself! It was heart-wrenching! Should I just continue to use mineral spirits and clean the track weekly, or is there something else that will work better? Thanks in advance for your response.”

Suggestions welcome below.

19 Responses to Wheel Slippage on Grades

  • Tom says:

    That’s sad to offer something that did not work. I recommend you go back to that did work! 17 cars is impressive. Especially if you like the look. The only suggestion I could have would be to add more weight to your loco.

  • Jerry says:

    try using a brite bar eraser or 400 grit sandpaper on the track and lay a paper towel with alcohol on a straight track and run your locomotive until the dirt is completely off wheels

  • James Allen says:

    After polishing your rails say with a large stainless steel flat washer and then adding the No OX Id, you then need to really rub the No IoX ID until it is really gone from the rails. After a good rubbing possibly with a lint free cloth, there will be some residual weheel slippage for a shor while, but it will go away. Then I maintain my track by adding those Woodland Scenics track rubbers to a number of cars to keep the dust and dirt off the rails. My layout is in our garage which can get a little dusty, but I have not needed to add the No Ox Id or do any rail cleaning for about a year. The secret is really rubbing the No OX completely off the rails and the track cleaning rubbers. Good luck.

  • Jim Myrhum says:

    First off — your major problem, and you will hear this from all of the rest of the RR people — 4 1/2 % grade?? That’s part of the reason that the No-Ox did not work as advertised. I use it but very very lightly, and have no problems with my 2.5% grade pulling about 6-7 cars. If I put a powered “B” unit after the engine, I can get about 12 – 14 cars. Any more cars, and with my little 4′ X 4′ layout, it is like a dog chasing it’s tail. I know it looks neat and all, but you bound yourself to the elbow grease method of keeping the track clean!!!

  • Robert says:

    I use methylated spirits on a rag without any problems.

    • Robert says:

      I forgot to mention to clean your driving wheels when you do the track.

    • Rob2160 says:

      I use 99% isopropyl alcohol to clean the tracks, then apply a tiny amount of deoxit gold by finger running one or two drops around the entire layout. This keeps the rails oxidation free and improves conductivity while not affecting traction much.

      Personally I don’t use any abrasive to the track and have never seen a need for it with the deoxit being used once or twice a year since track was new.

  • Morgan Bilbo says:

    I strongly disagree with any abrasive or oil. I can’t help with grades. But. I clean my wheels and track with the Mineral Spirits. Then apply that very light dab of graphite. If your track is clean, and I mean super clean. The graphite will help with electrical pickup. Some have complained that graphite can be slippery too. It is a lubricant. But that means they’ve put too much on. I dab a 1/2″ bit every 6″. When I get 3′ or a flex track done, I then run a car over that track. I then commence to do another 3′. After the tracks are all done. And you run a train with clean wheels, that should be all that is necessary. What I can say is if that don’t work, or you still get slippage, there’s too much graphite. After running a car over that track, you should not see any graphite. The graphite is invisible when properly applied. I do suggest you do that instead of any abrasive, cork, and NEVER a bright boy. Do let us know what works, when you do get a satisfactory result.

  • Glenn says:

    Your problem, plain and simple, is the incline. Don’t bother jumping through hoops. It isn’t dirty track. Add another loco and your problem will be gone. Your locos can only do so much, on an incline that steep. Not only that but watching a MU’d pair of locos climbing that incline will be astonishing. Glenn

    • Dale says:

      Glenn’s right. If you can’t add a second loco as a helper you might look into replacing two (one on each side) of the driver wheels with ‘traction” type wheels. They will interfere with power pickup on those wheels so don’t use them on more than one pair.

      Full disclosure: I’ve never used them but a friend did on his HOn3 layout and could pull a 6 car logging train up a 5.5% grade with a single loco.

  • Frank Miles says:

    I use inox very sparely. It keep the conductivity of the rails. I have modified eome cars to carry a small piece of plywood underneath. It is attached with two tap washers with the ends removed. Running them all the time keeps the track clean. I now only use the inox to lubricate axles mostly. Hope this gives some ideas. Good luck.

  • Ralph Furth says:

    Remember that a 4% grade, you will need about 8-10ft incline.

  • Bob Horn says:

    I have used a very light coat of resin (like for a violin bow) to prevet wheel slippage. It works great! Resin does not conduct electricity so too much and the train will stop. If that happens just rub the tracks with your fingert to remove the excess. The resin will go into the grain of the metal track and the train will perfom fine without wheel slippage.

  • David Stokes says:

    4.5% is a very stiff grade. 17 cars is a heavy train for a single loco up a 2% grade so I am not surprised you have a slippage problem. Physics laws are very hard to break, so good luck.

  • Steve K Ohio says:

    I clean track with 99% alcohol. I also have stopped using anything like a bright boy which I am told does nothing but scratch up the track and make it susceptible to more dirt. I have noticed that track will get dirty and covered with stuff like glue and paint during the building process especially. I always will cover sections of laid track with blue painters tape when I am making scenery or gluing or painting around these sections of track. I now us a small pieces of 6mm thick Masonite with and with/out alcohol and rub any extra dirty parts of the track. It seems to get up the dirt but does not scratch up the track. I think the key part is regularly cleaning the track rails and keeping any grades to a minimum. I have tried to keep them to 2% as recommended. That’s a 2 inch rise over a 50 inch span and even at that I notice a very slight slow down of my locomotives when pulling cars on it, but they pull OK. 5% seems very steep.

    • Steve K Ohio says:

      I meant to say 2 inches over 100 inches is a 2 percent grade. 2 inches over 50 inches would be the 4 percent grade you have. I have one section of grade that starts at 0 in the center and rises 2 inches on each end of the table, over an 8 foot span in each direction. 16 foot long table.

  • Frank B says:

    If your track has modern nickel-silver rails, just keep it clean. You don’t need any oil or anti-oxidant, because any oxide on nickel-silver is conductive. Don’t use track rubber, it produces grit and rubber particles that reduce contact and traction. 
     Wipe the track with a (preferably lint-free) cloth or paper towel to remove dust, occasionally (only if necessary) remove any grease with a mild solvent such as lighter fluid (naphta).

  • Andrew Luchsinger says:

    I use denatured Alcohol. It works well and does not leave any residue on the track. You may also want to add some more weight to the Loco. You might also want to use only certain locos on the higher grades. At least the ones that work the best and the other locos on lower grades.

  • David Stokes says:

    Spinning wheels are not the result of dirty track – non spinning wheels is. If your wheels are spinning the volts are getting though.
    I see a suggestion of extra weight in the loco – that works, although be careful not to over load them to the point of burnout.
    The other two probble causes are too many wagons in the train, or too high a grade. If you are between 3% and 4 % expect problems. A pusher loco, or double consist may help. or shorter trains.

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