Although rolling stock maintenance and repair is not quite as complex as what is required for powered locomotives, insuring trouble free operation is just as important. When you decide to add rolling stick to your layout, you’ll discover after making a trip to your local model train hobby shop, that you have more than one choice available. You can buy ready-to-run or easy to assemble kits. You also have the choice of purchasing craftsman type kits, and with these the assembly process is much more involved. Before you add any type of rolling stock to your layout there are a few things which you should check on rail cars before making them part of your fleet, and they are as follows:
It’s important that you check the wheel gauge and trucks. This should be done by using the NMRA gauge for your scale and also the practices which are recommended by the NMRA. In so doing, you’ll avoid unwanted derailments and prevent bottoming out at turnouts and crossings. Remember to check the entire truck assembly to ensure the best possible operation. It is also important to check the weight of your rolling stock because it is very important for reliable operation. Once again, follow the NMRA standards which are pertinent to the scale you’re working with.
Rolling Stock Maintenance
As previously mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article, rolling stock maintenance is not nearly as involved as it is with powered locomotives. However, having said this it is important to give some thought to the care of your rail car fleet. In general, most model railroaders give very little thought to maintaining their rolling stock, and deal with problems when they occur. The problem here is that it takes more time to execute repair work than it does to perform routine maintenance, and often these problems happen because of a lack of maintenance. Follow these easy to perform maintenance steps, and you’ll reduce operational problems significantly:
Keep Rolling Stock Wheels Clean
Frankly, it only takes a couple of minutes to clean the wheels on a rail car, and the time spent doing wheel cleaning relates more to the size of your fleet. If its large, the entire project may only represent an evenings work. Incidentally, cleaning your rolling stocks wheels is just as important as keeping your locomotives wheels clean. If you don’t invest some time in cleaning your rolling stocks wheels they will absolutely soil your tracks.
The process for cleaning wheels involves wetting a piece of paper towel with WD-40. Next, lay it across a piece of track.
Quick Tip: You may want to attach a few feet of track to a board or a cut piece of plywood as this will make the wheel cleaning task easier, and you will of course have it for future use. The time invested in making this is time not wasted.
Now, place the car on the track and push it back and fourth with very light pressure until you loosen and soften the dirt. Continue to do this until no dirt appears on the paper towel. Finally, run the car over a section of clean towel until you’ve removed all of the dirt and WD-40. Simple as that and this process involves very little time.
Adjust The Wheels, Trucks, And Couplers
In order for your trucks to function properly they must pivot easily. When making gauge adjustments or any other adjustment make sure that you follow the standards which are set by the NMRA.
Repairing Rolling Stock
If you’re pulling regular routine maintenance on your railcars you will have a fleet of cars that run flawlessly, smoothly, and they’ll look great as well.
However, with any fleet of cars that are in use regularly damage may occur. This damage can be caused by derailments, and it can also happen through careless handling. Most often, cars are damaged the majority of the time because of the latter.
Fortunately, it is quite easy to reattach broken parts back in place the majority of the time. You should deal with parts which have been broken on an individual basis. Any added or cast-on part such as ladders, roof walks, or stirrup steps can be re-attached with liquid glue. In some instances, you may have to purchase a replacement part if the damage is too severe. This can be done by ordering a new part online from the manufacturer, or you may be able to purchase the part at your local model train hobby shop.
If it is necessary to purchase a new part you will most likely find that it is difficult to get an exact match to the manufacturers original paint work. You may want to try test painting a piece of scrap before painting the new part. It may also be necessary to do some experimentation through mixing paints until you achieve an exact or close matching to the original paint.