Maintaining an N scale diesel locomotive

Here is the last piece on the N Scale performance topics that I have been working on (If you have missed them, please use the navigation section below to find them) – maintaining an N scale locomotive, specifically cleaning wheels and cleaning truck mechanisms. Now, I only run diesels, so my methods are specific to diesel locomotives, but I am sure for steam locomotives it won’t be significantly different, may be just a little more complex.

In my last two posts I wrote about the maintenance side of things that make an N scale model railroad successful. While comparing with HO or bigger scale, N scale definitely has a weight disadvantage to achieve a clean wheel-rail contact. Especially if you run in DC cab control (Yes, I know it is a fast evaporating concept in HO, but there are many who still run their N Scale model in traditional way) to achieve that realistic slow speed at around 2V, you need a solid electrical connection.But along with that you’d also need superb mechanical performance of the locomotive as well. The electrical connection is dependent on both the wheel and the rail, but the mechanical side of the story is just within the locomotive itself – and you need both to achieve that consistent slow speed for an entire duration of an ops session. In my last post I talked about the cleaning of track and some advanced maintenance considerations of the layout, and today I will be talking about the maintenance of the locomotive.

Coming to the wheel rail contact, obviously you need to clean your wheels thoroughly and regularly – and I feel that it should be done for all the locomotives in your roster for an operating session before that session begins. Now, there are a lot of products that are available for wheel cleaning – the Woodland Scenics’ Roto Wheel cleaner, Minitrix brush cleaner etc. Out of the different variety, the only one I am curious about is the WS Roto Wheel Cleaner because it doesn’t use wire brushes to clean the wheels, and I definitely want to get hold of one someday. Moreover, if you are running short wheelbase N Scale steamers, my methods would definitely fall flat on its face. But leaving such specifics aside, in general the way I clean the wheels of my diesel locos would fit any situation and any modeler running diesel or electric locomotives (basically any loco motive that has two separate trucks)- it doesn’t matter if you are modeling in HO or N, using DC or DCC. What do I use? Isopropyl Alcohol and LINT FREE paper towel. If you have trouble finding a lint free type, you can look for coffee filter sheets or any other cloth – as long as it is lint free – it is perfect for the job.

The first part of the video here shows what I do to clean the wheels of my tiny N Scale diesel locos.

In part two of the video, I show how I clean the mechanism hidden inside the truck of the locomotive. Now that part is not for the uninitiated – you need certain level of skills before attempting to dismantle a small piece of machine like that, but if you desire solid performance from your locomotive and don’t want to spend money by sending it to the manufacturer every time the performance drops, it is a skill that every model railroader should have. The mechanical efficiency of these tiny machines are at least as important as the electrical connection between the wheel and the rail, if not more.

So, with this entry, and the YouTube video, I am concluding my 3 part series of ‘Reliable Slow Speed in N Scale’ series. I hope for those who are having issues with running their small little locos at slow speed consistently benefit from these insights. I definitely had my fair share of disappointments in the initial days of railroading because I never expected to spend time maintaining things. Today, I realize that maintenance is one of the most important aspects of model railroading and accept that only with proper maintenance I will have a model railroad that will provide enjoyment for years. Some of those things are regular chores and like any household chores need to be added to your day to day schedule of activities. And if you start planning for maintenance from the layout planning phase itself, things would always become easier.

Now, time to move on to some more exciting stuff!

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