The more you know about model trains, the less chance that you'll be taken for a
ride (excuse the pun!). Some hobby shop assistants and internet model train
retailers just want to sell - and others may misunderstand your needs and sell you
the wrong thing for your model train layout. However, in saying that, in general
hobby shop staff have a wealth knowledge and are happy to share their model train
ideas. Also the more research you do, the better you'll get to know your model
train scales, styles and which model train manufacturers you prefer.
How many cars will a locomotive
First you need to consider the factors that determine the length of the train
you can run on your model train layout:
THE DRAW-BAR PULL, or traction, of your locomotive is affected
by its weight, contact with the rail, traction tires, motor and the power
available. This pulling power is measured in pounds and ounces at the rear coupler
or draw-bar of your locomotive.
DRAG OF YOUR CARS depends on the number of axles,
lubrication of the bearings and if there are track pickups on any of the wheels.
The weight of each car is also a factor.
RADIUS OF THE TRACK CURVES is another factor to consider.
The smaller the radius the more the drag. A reverse curve, without a straight line
between, causes even more drag. Also remember that a clean track will reduce the
drag on curves.
GRADE OF THE TRACK can be a major factor affecting the
pulling power of a locomotive. Grade is the ratio of distance forward compared to
the change in height.
A forward travel of 100 inches with a rise of one inch is a 1% grade. A rise of
two inches is 2%, three inches is 3% and four inches is 4%. You wouldn't want
anything steeper than a 4% otherwise you could experience all kinds of problems.
(no more than a 2% grade for garden railroads).
So, the number of cars a locomotive can pull will depend on a number of
As a summary here is are some important guidelines to get the best from your
model train layout:
Aim to have
a heavy locomotive with adequate power
If you want
to run really long trains then it's best to have clean track that is level or
with only gentle curves.
trains well maintained. The wheels on the locomotive should be kept
clean, traction tires clean, bearings lubricated (including side rod linkage
on steam). Have the locomotive motor checked regularly. Rolling
stock should have clean wheels and lubricated bearings. Couplers
should move freely to maintain
Weathering (showing signs of wear and tear) can add to the realism of any
model train set, but it needs to be done carefully. One, often overlooked,
important consideration is the age of the individual freight wagon being weathered.
Not all wagons on a freight train are necessarily of the same vintage or have
experienced the same weathering conditions. A freight train could comprise a mix of
fairly new and considerably old wagons.
For example a model train layout depicting a mid 1960's railroad might
comprise mainly of wagons built around 1950. That would make most of the wagons
around 15 years old.
Compare this to a freight train on a modern day railroad layout. Today's
freight train might include several brightly colored newish wagons along with a
couple of 35-40 year old wagons built around the mid to late 1960's. Weathering of
the older 1960's wagons would be different to that seen on the newer
So, always consider that a freight train is made up of
several different wagons of different ages and backgrounds rather than all the
wagons on a train being constructed at the same time and experiencing the same
Solving Model Train Lighting
Model railroaders sometimes experience lighting problems with
street lights other accessories being too dim or erratic.
More often than not the problem can be traced to the
transformer/power pack. Dim lights are usually a result of too many items drawing
power at once.
One solution is to invest in more powerful transformer/power pack
or to buy an inexpensive unit and use it only for accessories while a second more
powerfu unit runs the model trains.
More Of Those Tough Model Train Questions
It doesn't matter how long a model train enthusiast has been involved in the
hobby, most come up against questions that need answers. Trouble is; those answers
are not always easy to find. Searching the Internet, although helpful, can prove to
be a big time-waster.
Sheer frustration is what motivated me to write my Model Train Help
ebook, as like so many other model train enthusiasts, I found finding
answers slow and tedious. I thought to myself, if I'm experiencing these
frustrations, then so must lots of fellow enthusiasts. So, I decided to rectify the
problem by answering, in simple easy to understand English, many of the question
facing model train enthusiasts, both experienced and beginner.
I then set about asking model train enthusiasts what their most pressing
questions were. Here are some of the questions they came up with - all of which are
answered in the Model Train Help ebook:
If I install a larger motor in my locomotive will I be able to pull more
What's wrong when a part of the track will not work? How do I go about
Should I replace my horn-hook couplers with knuckle couplers?
What is rust-busting, a talgo truck, "head-end" traffic, a green wave for
What is meant by "code", as in code 40 track? Is a locomotive change-over
the same as shunting?
Which rails should I use - brass, steel or nickel-silver?
How do I make plastic buildings look real? Why do some buildings look
Should electric feed wires be included every couple of feet or should I
solder rail joiners?
What is a bridge rectifier and what does it do?
When I buy a track switch, what is meant by 'No. 4 turnout' or 'No. 8
Running techniques for a locomotive on a reversing loop. What about
stopping the loco on the loop and throwing the switch?
What is a decoder and can I run an analog locomotive on a DCC system
without a decoder?
Can I just put a decoder in my old analog engines?
Is 'O-gauge' and 'O-scale' the same thing?
Is there a right and wrong way to cut track?
If I have limited space what should I leave out from my layout?
What is a classification yard and how does it work? What are the yard
options? Should I have a run-around track and dedicated lead track?
What's a Capacitor Discharge Unit and a Solenoid Motor and what do they
What's the difference between DC and DCC? What do I need to start or
convert my analog layout to a DCC system? What's the difference between service
mode and operations mode? Can I control turnouts with DCC?
What's a booster? Will the ampere rating of a booster and power supply
limit how many locos I can run at the same time?
What causes a train to short out on a turnout?
So, if you need answers to these or other model train questions then have a look at
my website for the Model Train Help ebook.