How To Prevent Unwanted And Frustrating Derailments


Anyone who has selected model railroading for their hobby can tell you that there is a necessity to develop hobby related knowledge in a variety of areas to be able to build a successful model train layout.  One must achieve a fairly high level of patience as well to create a realistic and smooth operating model railroad, and here in lies the rub:  if as a hobbyist you are not attentive to the smallest of details the result you create will fall short of your goals, and your railroad will not be as you visualized it to be.

Anyone who has selected model railroading for their hobby can tell you that there is a necessity to develop hobby related knowledge in a variety of areas to be able to build a successful model train layout.  One must achieve a fairly high level of patience as well to create a realistic and smooth operating model railroad, and here in lies the rub:  if as a hobbyist you are not attentive to the smallest of details the result you create will fall short of your goals, and your railroad will not be as you visualized it to be.Having said this, one of the problems that can occur and with far more regularity than you would like involves trains which derail on a constant basis.  Because this can be so terribly frustrating for the model railroader they may even decide to abandon the hobby which would be a sad loss.

If you are having problems with trains that derail there are actually a number of steps which can be done or executed to prevent this issue, and it may also be helpful to know that you are not alone. 

Derailments of model trains is a rather common problem for many hobbyist and the following information should prove to be a useful approach to correcting this unwanted and frustrating issue:

1.  As with any type of problem we’ll begin with the number one culprit for derailment of trains which is faulty trackwork.  Where this may seem like something which is rather obvious, it is none-the-less the most common reason for derailments. 

With that said, it is important that you take the time to inspect all of your track joints.  If you have a rather extensive layout this can be time consumptive but the reward will outweigh the effort that you’ve applied to solving this problem. 

Make sure that the track joints are level and that there is a minimal gap between each of the joints.  You can accomplish this by simply running your index finger over the your joints and if this is an obvious issue you’ll be able to see the discrepancy quickly.  Next, it would be a good idea to in fact solder all of your joints together.  The reason for this is because changes in humidity can cause your tracks to expand and contract.  If you have excess material or uneven joints which are kind of lumpy as the result of soldering take a small file and level the solder.

2.  When you purchase railcars or locomotives you should give some consideration to their length.  Experienced model railroaders will confirm that one other reason for derailments can be the length of your cars.  The bottom line is the shorter your locomotive or railcars are, the lower the probability that they will derail.

3.  If you apply the same safety principles which most drivers do when operating a motor vehicle to operating your trains, you’ll be taking a step in the right direction for reducing the possibility of an unwanted and even expensive derailment. 

At the very least you’ll be protecting the money that you’ve invested in your trains.  Therefore, when operating your trains, give consideration to their operational speed.  Too fast may cause a derailment.  Increase the speed of your locomotive gradually, and make sure you actually come to a complete stop before attempting to change direction.  Also, it would also be a good idea to check the routing of your switches before you make a crossing.

4.  When trying to determine why trains are derailing follow this principle:  If a car is continuously derailing at the same spot it is most likely your track.  However, if this is happening at more than one spot than it is more probable that there is something wrong with the car itself.

5.  If you have a locomotive or railcar that derails far too often you can then conclude that some adjustments are required for that particular car.  It may be a matter of adding more weight to the car, or the couplers may have to be adjusted.  Make sure that you check the car’s wheels as there may be a correctable issue there as well.