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Cork Track Base

Jeff asks readers:

“I have an old HO scale setup on a 4’x6’ sheet of plywood. The old track is on a raised cork bed. The train barely moves on the track. After applying several cleaning methods, unsuccessfully, I’m told I need some new track. I would like to purchase new updated tracking but am unfamiliar with it. Most importantly will it fit on my previously installed cork bed. Any help to get me started would be greatly appreciated.”

Add your comments to assist Jeff below.

4 Responses to Cork Track Base

  • Frank B says:

    How old is the track, and what type is it ? If it is steel track, there may be rust issues, but most modern track just needs simple cleaning with a cloth or tisssue, any light solvent to take off oil and grease.

    Have you cleaned the loco wheel rims and pickups (electrical contacts from the wheel/axle to the motor connections) ?

    You will benefit from reading a basic book on model railroading, which will answer many of your questions (all the ones you will ask next !)

  • Nigel says:

    If you’ve cleaned the track and the tops of the rails are shiny, then it’s unlikely that the track is the cause of your problems.

    That then points to the locomotive, the controller or the wiring. Starting with the controller & wiring, are you able to test the layout with another locomotive (that you know runs faultlessly on other layouts) to see if that is similarly affected? If it runs fine, then it’ll be the original locomotive where the problem lies. If you get the same problem, then it’s either the controller or the wiring. In this case, disconnect the controller from the layout and run a couple of wires straight to the wheels on the locomotive you know works OK. If the wheels turn freely, the controller is fine and it’s your wiring where the problem is. If the wheels don’t turn, then it’s the controller that’s faulty (as a double check, try touching the contacts of a 9V PP3 battery against the wheels and they should turn freely.

    If the controller and wiring check out OK, that leaves the locomotive (which I suspect is where the problem actually is). As Frank suggests above, start by cleaning the wheels and contacts – isopropyl alcohol on a Q-tip does a pretty good job but keep it clear of the paint on the model as it can damage it.

    If that doesn’t solve the problem, then it’s a case of removing the body and stripping the locomotive down – there may be fluff or congealed lubricant clogging the gears or a wiring problem. If the motor is open and you can see the armature, then the commutator (the bit the brushes connect with) or the brushes themselves may be dirty or worn. Again clean everything with a drop of alcohol on a Q-tip and replace the brushes if necessary.

    If all that sounds a bit daunting, there are plenty of people who’ll be happy to help, either at your local model railway club or via the small ads in model railway magazines.

    Good luck!

  • phil johnson says:

    If you’re using brass track/rail joiners that may be your problem. Also, check the wheels on your locomotive. And also check your power pack to insure it’s putting out the proper DC voltage

  • geoff says:

    Who told you need new track? Did they explain why?

    As others have said, it’s highly unlikely that the track is the problem- it’s more likely to be the route the power takes from the wall socket to the motor – ie the pickups on the locomotive or the power controller itself. Ideally, you would try out the locomotive on a different layout, or try a different locomotive on your layout. Failing that, you need a voltmeter to check the output of the controller, both at the terminals and on the track itself. A helpful local hobby shop might have a test track you could try your locomotive on.

    That said, it you should need to replace the track, you need to measure it to determine what radius it is and get curves of the same, plus the appropriate length of straight track. However, if you get to that point, you should check with your local hobby store because if your locomotive and rolling stock is old old, it may need code 100 track and while you can still get it, most of what is on the shelf is code 80 or 75 (meaning the height of the rail is slightly smaller, and that in turn means the flanges of the wheels may be a bit too large and the wheel rim will not actually sit on the rail.)

    The other issue would be how the track is fixed to the cork. It is is pinned, well and good. If it is glued, you could destroy the cork getting it off.

    Good luck.

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