7 Ways to Stop HO Model Train Derailments

Published: 05th July 2010
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What happens if your model railroad keeps falling off the track? Thankfully, I have gathered seven tips to help model railroaders avoid model train derailment. Here is how:

First Tip

See to it that all connecting points on your layout are level, aligned and fitted properly.

Poorly constructed track joints are the most reason for derailing HO model trains. Check for gaps by sliding your fingers across the joints. The gap between the tracks should be held to absolute minimum and must be felt smoothly. It is a good suggestion to fuse the joints together to stop any problems with opening and closing of the joints. For a continuously level track, use a small file.

Second Tip

Check your track width near track connections and track turnouts.

Incorrect track gauge is a frequent cause for model train derailment. For HO model trains, the track gauge should be 16.5 mm at every part of the track. The gauge may change at joints, which usually are weaker parts along the track.

If a track is tight, the train cars will climb up causing it to come off the track. If it is too wide, the wheel flanges cannot properly stand on the track, causing the train to derail. You can adjust the width by gently heating the rail until it is hot and malleable. After having the rail track in correct position, allow it to cool before proceeding.

Third Tip

Your switch points must be sharp when they switch.

Once the switch points go blunt on the movable section, it will strike up against the stock rails. This may grasp on the HO train wheels that will cause the train to derail. When this happens, fix by using a file to smoothen the movable portion of the switch points. This will allow a smooth transition of the train. Keep an eye on the gauge between each of the positions.

Fourth Tip

Check all your HO model train and railroad fasteners.

Model train derailments are often caused by a snagging coupler. Check the carriages that you use as most come with unpolished couplers that can catch various things on the track and cause your HO model train to derail. To fix this, check the train manual for instructions on cleaning the couplers, or you can do it yourself by sharpening any rough edges and adjust the fasteners properly.

Fifth Tip

Supply your transportation cars with extra weight.

There are freight cars that are too lightweight, which causes the wheels to lack equal contact to the rails. So to get your train to run smooth, add an ample amount of weight to the cars. This will also allow your trains to go around tight bends without derailing. Allow a low center of gravity to your HO trains by placing the weight at the center as slow as possible.

Sixth Tip

Are your HO train wheel pieces in good condition? Make sure they are.

Your model train will derail when the wheel pieces move easily, are not aligned and are out of gauge.

Check that your wheel sets are not crabbing and forcing the wheel flanges into the wheel. Make sure the wheel sets are not too tight to be able to move freely so they can navigate the tiny inconsistencies in your track.

Seventh Tip

Your HO train layout must be well-lubricated.

We know what a drop of oil can do to wheels. Sometimes the only reason why your model transportation cars are prone to falling off the track is an unoiled wheel or coupler. This can cause a slight tip over which forces the wheels to catch the rail track. A good solution is to give your trains a regular maintenance, but make sure to use only the smallest amount of oil required as lubricants attract dust and dirt.

Now that you have the seven helpful tips to stop your HO model train derailment, it is your turn to put them into practice. This article does not just wish to provide the simple strategies, but to help the HO model train enthusiast make the most of their model railroading, and bring the reality of smooth running HO model trains.

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