Freight Cars-Preventing Derailments

As model train  enthusiast we run our trains for the sheer joy of this pastime.  We also spend a tremendous amount of time in creating a model train layout that replicates the real life prototypes in exacting detail.  This effort not only may take years to accomplish, but it also involves every aspect of railroading.  Out attention is devoted to creating a layout that is the best possible representation of a given era as is possible.  When our thoughts turn to what real life railroading is actually about, this results in a clear understanding that railroading is about transporting products in freight cars.  

With that said, one more reason that validates why this is such a great pastime, is because the modeler can purchase precise scale replicas of virtually every type of  freight car that is in use today as well as in the past.  Model train hobbyist also have the choice of buying freight cars for almost every scale which are highly detailed, or if ones budget is somewhat limited, freight cars can be purchased which are lower in price, and details can be added when the necessary finances are available.

After accomplishing the goal of recreating an era for your model train layout, and often down to the smallest of details….ensuring the smooth running or operation of it’s trains is the next important goal.  Nothing is more frustrating and disappointing then constantly experiencing unwanted derailments.  More often than not derailments are the direct result of problems with existing track work.

Although faulty track work may be one of the main reasons for derailments, there can also be other causes as well. For example, freight cars, if not adjusted properly can be another cause.  Fortunately, there are some preventive measures that can be executed through routine maintenance, and some other adjustments which can be made to ensure that this type of problem is not an issue.

Project Info:  To insure that your freight cars will not derail this type of project will take approximately 30 minutes, and of course it also depends on how many cars will need your attention.  You’ll need a NMRA Standards Gauge, and needle nose piers.  

To derail proof your freight cars simply follow these tips:

1.  If a freight car derails with some regularity, there is most likely a need to make an adjustment to its wheels or couplers.  In some instances the car itself may be too light, and by adding a little weight to the car you may find that this will correct the problem.

2.  You may also want to check the spacing or back-to-back gauge of the wheel sets on your freight car, and you can do this by using an NMRA Standards Gauge.  You’ll be able to determine if this is not the problem if the flanges fit into both notches on the gauge at once.  If this is not the case, hold the center of the axle with a pair of needle nose pliers, and gently adjust one of the wheels until it is in the proper gauge.  As an added note, if you do find that the flanges fit correctly, and you are still experiencing derailments the problem may be that they do not meet RP-25 design requirements.

3.  One uncomplicated way to determine the cause for a freight car that derails with some frequency is to run the car until you discover the cause.  It may be necessary to run your train at a slower speed to identify the problem, but this is an easy way to figure out where the problem is occurring.

4.  One other reason why you may be experiencing freight car and train derailments relates to changes in humidity and temperatures.  For this reason it is always necessary to routinely check your cars and track.

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