Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
April 06, 2020, 05:37:53 PM
Home Help Search Login Register
News: Please read the Forum Code of Conduct   >>Click Here <<
+  Bachmann Message Board
|-+  Discussion Boards
| |-+  General Discussion
| | |-+  Requesting help/advice with public display
« previous next »
Pages: [1] 2 Print
Author Topic: Requesting help/advice with public display  (Read 5631 times)

View Profile
« on: July 09, 2007, 11:45:39 PM »

Hello All,
      Not sure if this should be here or in the HO section since there are so many "general" questions. If this should be in the HO section, I appologize to the admin and respectfully ask that this be moved to the proper location.

     First let me start by explaining a little about me and my work.
     I know next to nothing about these electric trains. So, please keep this fact in mind as I attempt to explain our set-up and problems. Also please forgive me if I do not know the proper term for some specific piece, part, tool or term. That is one of the reason I have joined these forums. I want to learn.
     I am a computer/maintenance Technician at a place called WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, TN. ( ) We have a train set-up that is a display in our “Far-Out Art Gallery”.
     Here is a brief description of the action of the track and links to some pics I took.
    The oblong track simply runs around the outside edge of the table then enters a tunnel where it makes a large loop inside/underneath the hollowed out “mountain” and table cavity. Then it exits the tunnel on the opposite side to do it all over again.
     The effect, or “illusion” if you will, is that it is very obvious that the train is much longer than the tunnel, and the way the table looks, it appears to be a solid piece of wood. The overall effect leads you to believe the train “disappears” for a few seconds after it enters the tunnel. And yes, you would be amazed at the number of people that this simple “illusion” absolutely dumbfounds. I have heard all kinds of explanations given by people. From, “there are mirrors under the table”, to “It is on a timer, and when it enters the tunnel the power shuts off for a few seconds then kicks back on”. That one has got to be the stupidest one I hear, because as I said, it is VERY obvious that the train is MUCH longer than the tunnel is. Anyways……

   Full front view:
   Right side:
   Left side:
   Inside Loop (under Mtn.)

     While there are 4 techs that work here (5, including the Technical Director), there are only 3 of us ( the TD and myself) that actually try to do any real work on, or even attempt to understand the workings of our train set-up.
     Here are some of the specifics of our train set-up:
   The track is approximately 35 feet (10.6 meters) long.
   We are currently running 1 (one) EMD GP50 (Norfolk & Western) engine (item # 61242), followed by 11 cars. Of which, all but one, I believe, are Bachmann cars.
It should also be noted here that the “coal carrier” behind the engine is attached to the engine by a one inch piece of thin monofilament fishing line and is also about 2/3 full of BB’s to add weight.
     We started having problems out of the original track, so it has since been replaced. Well, the outside track was replaced. The inner loop has not been replaced yet. That is the next thing to get done. Anyways, the outside track is now that “flex-track” stuff in the curves and all sections have been soldered together. (Soldering the sections together seems to have helped some). There is also some of that neoprene-like track underlayment under the track to help reduce the bouncing and vibrating. 
   There are 2 (two) Terminal Connectors (one each side of the track, one in front, one at the entrance to the tunnel) for power. We also have one section in the front that is one of those rerailer sections.
   Power is supplied by an MRC Power Command (Model 9500). Speaking of this unit, let me tell you what it is doing and my settings.
The track voltage fluxuates between 12 and 14, depending upon where the train is on the track.
The track current is approximately 0.1 - 0.2 when the train is on the outer track and 0.3 - 0.4 when the train is on the inner loop (the original track).
The throttle control is set to about 78 with the momentum switch set to Off.

     We do clean the track. We try to clean the track once a day, or at the least every other day or so. We are using cotton swabs (big Q-Tips) and a liquid track cleaner by Life-Like.

     The table, scenery and original track was custom built for us by an outside source.

     I guess the single most important thing that you guys need to know is that this train runs CONSTANTLY for about 15 hours every day. We are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Yes, including Christmas day, New Years and Thanksgiving. So this train sees A LOT more use than 99.9% of all other HO train sets on this planet.

     Now on to our problems;
   We constantly have to put this thing back on the track. I mean as much as 15 – 20 times a day. It mostly derails in the curve right before the tunnel and at the bottom of the inner loop. I have checked many times over for any nails sticking up or debris on the track in these locations. Sometimes this thing will run for hours straight without a problem. Then, BANG, you walk by and the engine is lying on its side next to the track. Or you walk by, notice the train is not coming out of the tunnel and upon looking under the “mountain”, you find the engine half off the track and just about every car behind it is off the track as well.
   Another thing this train will do every so often is get stuck trying to come out of the tunnel even though the downward and upward ramps in the tunnel are at very slight angles. The angles are just enough that the train just barely has enough clearance to go under the exiting track of the tunnel. Who knows, maybe the angles are still too extreme and in need of modifying to extend the ramp out further making for a slightly less uphill angle.

     A couple of things to note here in case it may help you guys. I don’t know if this info is important or not, so just to be safe, I’ll give you all the info I can:
   1 – We go through roughly one engine a week. Either from them burning out, or the “drive shaft” coming off of the little pin that connects it to the worm gear that runs the wheels.
   2 – The train slows almost to a crawl as it is trying to come out of the tunnel. The amperage drops to almost 0 once it enters the tunnel (probably from the momentum and weight of the other cars pushing it “downhill”), but climbs to 0.3 - 0.4 as it is trying to come out of the tunnel.
   3 – In running some tests, I found the following:
With only 5 cars, neither the voltage nor amperage changed nor was there any noticeable speed up of the train coming out of the tunnel.
With only the engine and coal car full of BB’s there was no change in the voltage and only a 0.1 drop in the amperage as it is coming out of the tunnel. Although there was a noticeable difference in speed of it coming out of the tunnel.

     Now for the questions;
   Would it help, or even make a difference, to use two engines to pull all the cars instead of one?

   Is there any limit to the number of cars that can be pulled by a single engine with out burning out the engine out over time or putting too much stress on it?

   Is there a better engine to use than the one we are using? (maybe one that has a better pulling capability or will just stand up to the constant use longer)

   By having the extra weight of the added BB’s in the coal carrier, is that actually helping or hurting?

   Would it help to add some weight to the engine itself? (There is enough clearance inside that housing that I could rig up some extra weight in it if you guys think it would help)

   Would it help to add a slight berm to the outside curves, and if so, what is the best way to do such a thing?

   Would it help to add another contact terminal? (Maybe right at the exit of the tunnel where the train likes to slow down)

   I have already told you what we use and how we clean the track and wheels, is there anything better to use or a better way to clean the tracks? How often would you suggest that we clean the tracks?

     On a final note: If any of you live near us, or plan on being near here, and would like to stop in to take a look at our set-up so you could (hopefully) give us some advice, please contact me (or just post here) and I am sure I can get you in for free. Just a way of saying “Thanks for the help”.

     I would like to thank you guys in advance for any help or advice you can give us on getting this aggravating &*$#@% running the way it should.
    I also wish to apologize for the length of this post, I was just trying to give as much info as possible.


the Bach-man

View Profile
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2007, 12:10:42 AM »

Dear Kat,
First of all,a locomotive that is running fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, should be lubricated daily. Use plastic compatible lubricants like our line of EZ Lubes.
Your track will require more than liquid track cleaner as well. Micro Mark offers many products to help clean your track and wheels.
If the derailments are always in the same spot, replacing track will be the best fix. There should be a hobby shop nearby where track can be purchased; perhaps someone from the shop will make a house call.
Good luck!
the Bach-man
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.

View Profile WWW
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2007, 03:03:33 AM »

Fifteen hours a day is a lot of running.  Could you cut this time down by using a motion sensor so that the train runs only when there are people nearby to see it?  At the museum where I volunteer we use passive infrared sensons similar to motion sensitive outdoor lighting controls.

With all that running, you may be wearing the flanges off the wheels.  Buy an NMRA wheel and track gauge at your local hobby shop and check the wheel profile and the distance between the wheels.  If the car wheels are worn, new wheel sets (wheels plus axle) would help with metal wheels being preferred.  While you are changing wheels, reaming the axle holes with a truck reamer (also from the hobby shop) will help make them roll easier and reduce the load on the locomotive.  You can also lubricate the ends of the axles with graphite (Kadee "Greasem" at the hobby shop.) 

Canting or "superelevating" the track will not likely help.  A tiny amount of oil light oil (Labelle 108 from the hobby shop) on the rails will help more.  But do not over do the oil or you will lose traction.  One drop on each rail is often enough.

Two locomotives would definitely help.  They should be identical so that they run at the same, or very close to the same, speed.  If single locomotives are lasting only one week, I would guess that pairs of locomotives would last a couple of months.  Regular lubrication would also help.

Using two locomotives would also allow you to run them at a lower voltage.  Twelve volts is the design maximum motor voltage for H0, but if you have to run the train at that voltage to get it to move, then you are putting a lot of strain on the mechanism.  If you are running at that voltage just to get lots of speed, you may be running too fast. A reasonable speed would be one train car per second.  Much faster can contribute to derailments. 

I am not sure of the thinking behind the one inch of monofilament and very heavy car.  I would think that this gives quite a jerk and bump when the locomotive goes from pulling to being pushed.  This, combined with truck mounted couplers, is a recipe for derailment.  Body mounted couplers cause a lot fewer derailment.

Reliable operation can be achieved.  A group of us at the museum where I volunteer have a layout which runs up to about 6 hours a day (it runs on demand.)  We have reduced derailments to about 1 in every 10,000 trips around the track.  If that increases to 1 in 1000, we consider that we are having major problems.  At 2 minutes per circuit, 1 in 1000 would be 1 derailment in 2 fifteen hour days.  One in 10,000 would be one derailment in three weeks of 15 hour days.  With a motion sensor reducing your duty cycle to 25% or so, I could see you reducing derailments to 4 or 5 a year.


Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.

View Profile
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2007, 06:32:22 AM »

It sounds like there is a rail problem if the derailments are constantly in the same place.  A track gauge should tell you if you have a problem with the actual gauge of the track.  I, too, wonder about the heavily weighted "coal car" attached with fishing line.  A picture of this car would help.  Is it an open car like you see in a modern train, or is it part coal, with a deck?  Lubeing and using two locomotives should really help.  It sounds like you have two power leads - several more may help. 
You said you clean the track daily.  How often do you clean the wheels?
I hope this helps.

Chief Brass Hat
Virginia Tidewater and Piedmont Railroad
"Only coal fired steam locomotives"

View Profile
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2007, 10:15:11 AM »

But why would a GP50 have a tender?  Grin  Only steam locomotives have a tender behind.

Chief Brass Hat
Virginia Tidewater and Piedmont Railroad
"Only coal fired steam locomotives"
A Derailed Drag Racer

View Profile WWW
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2007, 10:42:14 AM »

A tad off topic Gene....but....

According to Wikipedia....

"Sometimes a tender will be used for a diesel locomotive. This is typically a tank car with a fuel line that connects to the locomotive and MU connections to allow locomotives behind the tender to be controlled remotely. The Burlington Northern used fuel tenders in remote territory where fuel was expensive. Diesel fuel could be bought cheaply and loaded into the tender. A common consist was two EMD SD40-2s with a tender between them. Some of the tenders survived the Burlington Northern Santa Fe merger but retain the black and green BN colors. The Southern Pacific also briefly experimented with fuel tenders for diesels. Some slugs have fuel tanks and serve as fuel tenders for the attached locomotives"

I knew I had seen pics of a diesel with a fuel tender, but can't find them at moment......this clip from Wiki will have to suffice as evidence. I know it's not a "coal" tender specifically, but a tender none the less.



View Profile
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2007, 01:42:26 PM »

   First, thanks to all of you for the quick responses.
   Next, as for the constant running of the train; originally the train was set up on a button with a timer that the customers could just push to activate the train. But after rebuilding the track (which we thought would help solve our derailing problems) the train still kept derailing and burning up engines. So the TD thought that maybe all of the constant start-stop action of the train was causing some of our problems so it was just set to run constantly. (again, none of us know hardly anything about these things,, so it sounded good, at least from a mechanical stand-point)
   But if you guys say it should actually work better by being on a switch/timer, it is nothing to put it back on one. I will speak to the TD here about it.

   Next, the "coal car", I apologize for not knowing what it is properly called. I did some searching and found the actual car we are using (or atleast one that looks very much like it). It is the 40' Quad Hopper (item #17642)

   It is actually hollow under the platic plate that looks like coal. So the TD opened it and filled it about 1/2 to 2/3 full of BBs to add weight, then re-glued it back on to hide them. I remember him telling me why he did it, and the reasoning behind it. But I can not for the life of me right now remember what the reasoning was. I will have to get back to you on this once I get to work and can talk to him.
   Now the monofilament  idea stems back to the original set up when it was on a switch/timer. Because of the constant jerking of the hundreds of start-stops every day, the monofilament was added to help decrease the severity of the jerk when the train starts. But I have noticed that as the train goes downhill on the inner-loop, the weight of the cars cases them to catch up to, and actually bump into the back of the train. This may be one of the causes for the derailing in the loop. But if it was, wouldn't that happen every time the train went into the loop?? Like I said, sometimes this thing will run for HOURS without a problem. Huh?

   Mr. Bach-man, thanks for the advice. I didn't even know that you could lube an engine, much less that it needed it daily. This will definitely be something that will be implemented as soon as we can order the lube.

     Mr. Banner,
   "With all that running, you may be wearing the flanges off the wheels.  Buy an NMRA wheel and track gauge at your local hobby shop and check the wheel profile and the distance between the wheels.  If the car wheels are worn, new wheel sets (wheels plus axle) would help with metal wheels being preferred.  While you are changing wheels, reaming the axle holes with a truck reamer (also from the hobby shop) will help make them roll easier and reduce the load on the locomotive.  You can also lubricate the ends of the axles with graphite (Kadee "Greasem" at the hobby shop.)"
    I now have a gauge, and the track, along with all wheels, will be checked tonight. All of our cars have metal wheels. But I will get a reamer for them. Again, this is one of those things that I didn't even think you could do, much less have a specialty tool for. But when you think about it, you go, "DUHH!!, I should have thought of that".   Embarrassed
   Thanks also for the info on using two engines. I will relay this info to the TD, and I feel confident that he will allow me to start using two engines now.
   And now that I know, we will also turn down the voltage on the track.

   I am not sure what you mean by "truck mounted" and "body mounted" couplers. Again, sorry for being so ignorant about this hobby. But I will try to find some more info on this and see if it is something we can implement. 

   Mr. SteamGene, Thanks for the advice on adding more power leads to the track. I kind of thought that would help, but wanted to ask about it before taking it to my TD.
   We clean the track once a day, or at least once every two days. The wheels are cleaned at the same time the track is cleaned.

   I read somewhere that when cleaning the track I should use a clean cloth. Is it ok, or efficient, to clean the tracks and wheels with Q-tips, or should we be using cloth??

   Once again, I thank all of you for your advice and timely responses. 

View Profile
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2007, 03:30:44 PM »

You do not need to lube the locomotive daily.  I think the standard is something like every 50 hours or so. Make sure you use an oil that does not attack plastic - Labelle is ideal for the job.  Use also need just a drop.  No, not that big a drop!  A small drop on each bearing surface (the diesel guys can help here better than I can.
I'd remove the monofilimant. 
Most cars weigh less than they should.  However, with modern cars with metal wheels, extra weight, especially in a hopper, might not be necessary.  If you do keep the weight in the hopper, keep it where it is - heavy towards the front is a good rule of thumb. 
Q-tips are fine for cleaning - easy to see when they get dirty and get thrown away.  The cheapest cleaner is denatured alchohol.   Normally it works fine.  You might want to wipe the rails down after cleaning. 
The reamer is used to clean out the "journals" of the trucks.  Use the gauge to check all the car wheels and the track gauge around where the train normally derails. 
You probably don't have any truck mounted couplers.  What that means is that the coupler pocket is actually attached to the truck, not the car itself.  This used to be quite common, to allow cars to negotiate 15 inch radius track.  On decent cars these days they are very rare with the exception of some passenger cars.  Body mounted means the coupler is attached to the bottom of the car, just like real ones. 
Let us know how things progress. 
BTW, don't feel like the Lone Ranger -  Grin

Chief Brass Hat
Virginia Tidewater and Piedmont Railroad
"Only coal fired steam locomotives"

View Profile
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2007, 03:33:26 PM »

Hey, Bear, I have a picture somewhere of a tender forward Russian decapod pulling a string of 100 ton covered hoppers.  That doesn't mean a museum would set up that configuration as a common occurance!  Shocked

Chief Brass Hat
Virginia Tidewater and Piedmont Railroad
"Only coal fired steam locomotives"
Joe Satnik

View Profile WWW
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2007, 08:11:28 PM »

Dear Gene,

I always enjoy reading your input to the board.  Thanks for all your help. 

I may have found something here, though.  You said:

"You probably don't have any truck mounted couplers.  What that means is that the coupler pocket is actually attached to the truck, not the car itself."

I'm guessing that you meant to say:

----"You probably .. have .. truck mounted couplers.  What that means is that the coupler pocket is actually attached to the truck, not the car itself."----

Dear Kat,

The truck, of course, is the device that is attached under the body on a swivel mount that holds (at least) two axels and twice as many wheels.

Somewhere I have read about "3 point mounts".   One truck is mounted so that it both "swivels" and "rocks" a little.  The other truck is mounted tighter, so that it only swivels, with very little rocking motion. 

The tighter mount keeps the car body from rocking as it goes down the track, while the looser mount allows all the wheels to maintain contact on uneven track.

Hope this helps.


Joe Satnik     


If your loco is too heavy to lift, you'd better be able to ride in, on or behind it.

View Profile
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2007, 10:04:17 PM »

I fully agree with using timers, motion sensors, or other means to limit train operation to the times guests are present. That will really cut down on the wear, problems, and both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. For long trains and heavy duty service, the sudden application or removal of power by a switch contact is also hard on the equipment, including power supplies, motors, gear trains and couplers.

You need to use a voltage ramping device or circuit to make a 'soft start' when the detector contacts close. It would also be good to use a voltage decreasing device to 'cushion' the stops. There are some on the market, or one of your associates or volunteers can build one. There are several techniques that are simple, inexpensive and reliable. Since some of the finest engineering minds in the free world reside in Tennessee (I'm thinking Oak Ridge National Laboratories), you should be able to get some good local help on power control. Cool Cool Cool

I'm also certain the advice here can help improve your RRs reliability and hopefully some experienced person will live in the neighborhood. Is this a permanent installation, or is it a temporary display?

Happy RRing,


Sequoia Pacific RR in 1:20 / 70.6mm
Boonville Light & Power Co. in 1:20 / 45mm
Navarro Engineering & Construction Co. in 1:20 / 32mm
NMRA Life Member #3370
Member: Bay Area Electric Railway Association
Member: Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources

View Profile
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2007, 10:36:30 PM »'s a couple of suggestions:

1) lose the monofilliament line this could be a lot (most) of your problems due to the train slamming back and forth.

2) check your cars, if the trucks have talgo (truck mounted) couplers, get rid of then, not just the trucks but the cars. I find that for reliable operation 40 and 50 ft. Athearn boxcars can't be beat, stay away from cars such as flat cars and covered gondollas, these don't seem to me to have as good weight distribution or center of gravity and will be a lot more trouble. OR maybe passenger cars would work better for you, the Rivarossi passenger cars track great, although they might not be in production at this time, many hobby shops probably still have them. Walthers also makes nice passenger cars but these are a little pricey. If  you go with the Rivarossis purchase metal wheelsets (I.H.C.) makes wheels especially for these cars, AND an N.M.R.A. standards gauge. Use the guage to set the wheels EXACTLY in gauge. If you go with the Athearn (or any other) freight cars you deff want to use metal wheels also, the I.H.C.  ones will work or you might want to try Intermountain ones, these are a little less expensive and are more realistic (the IHCs are bright nickle  plated, the Intermountains are blackened) the Intermountains also have the added advantage of having allmost every set in proper gauge right out of the box so they need a lot less adjustment to work properly (still always check them). You can also get a truck reamer, I don't use them, but from what I read they work great.

3) tighten your trucks on the cars so that one os quite tight, so that it swivels freely but does not rock back and forth AT ALL, the other should be a little looser so it has a little rocking action.
If you do these things you should have pretty much derailfree operation, this is what I do to my cars and I can usually run for hours on end without any problems.

4) for track cleaning a good cleaning car can't be beat, I use the one manufactured by Tony's Train Exchange, it's a little pricey but worth it. It has a tank for the cleaning fluid (I use Life Like also) and a foot to put a piece of cloth on or a piece of drywall sanding mesh, you will also need to keep your loco's wheels clean, you will need TWO good diesels to use this as it is very heavy and the foot creates quite a bit of drag, put one on each end of the car, I find that that works pretty well. A good choice for those diesels would be a pair of the newer Bachmann DCC on board ones (you can use two diesels at a time with no problem and probably should on your trains also) Atlas, P2K and Kato are also good but are a lot more expensive. Atlas and P2k make nice sound equiped locos that would add a little interest to your display but might run into money if you continue to go through them  like you are (I suspect that a good maintainence program and good quality, NOT TRAIN SET, locomotives might take care of this)

5) you can NEVER have too many power jumpers to your track and adding a couple would probably take care of your power variation problems.

6) I know you like your MRC analog power pack but you might want to look into the Bachmann DCC system, this would probably give you more consistant speed control. 

good luck P.M.


View Profile
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2007, 11:04:41 AM »

But why would a GP50 have a tender?  Grin  Only steam locomotives have a tender behind. Gene

Sorry, Gene, brain-dump there...doh.

« Last Edit: July 11, 2007, 11:13:55 AM by tac » Logged

View Profile
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2007, 03:45:51 PM »

You may also need to weigh each of your cars. has a lot of info that you can use, dealing with all kinds of things model trains related.
As a side thought, you may want to invite your local hobby shop guru over to make a house call. Maybe work out a 'swap deal'. You buy the parts and they show how to make it run right and you let them visit on occasion.

The Duke....


View Profile WWW
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2007, 05:57:47 AM »

It may be a good idea to buy 3 or 4 locos, take turn to run them, maybe each loco runs for 5 hours a day.  When it is not run, you can dissemble it and clean and lube it if needed.  Once you get used to it you can dissemble, clean, lube, adjust, assemble within 15 mins.
Probably better than buying a new loco every few days.


Pages: [1] 2 Print 
« previous next »
Jump to:  
Powered by SMF | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!