how to get 009 to work properly

(or how to avoid the 'Hand of God')

Like many other narrow gauge modellers, my interest began with the adventures of the Craig and Mertonford Light Railway of the late P.D.Hancock. I kind of just assumed that the layout would work as well as it looked and was quite shocked to subsequently find that it worked rather badly! I have to say that no other 009 layout has lit my fire like the C&M ever since.

Apart from a very small number of excellent layouts, in all honesty, the scale of 009 is now regarded by many as a bit of a joke. The ultimate repository of naff little layouts in box files or on pizzas with poorly made rolling stock that often derails and invariably stalls. With a few exceptions, the scale has been used by those on a very small budget, both in space, skills and funds. Those who have wished to get more serious about their modelling have tended to drift towards larger scales.

The advantage of 009 is of course that due to its small size, one can really concentrate on building a 'railway in a landscape'.

The continental scale of H0e has fared much better and if one likes the look of those ghastly European locomotives, a generous selection is available off the shelf. The British market is just too small to excite manufacturers enough to produce high quality RTR British 009 stock and I rather suspect that many who use the scale do not expect to spend more than a few pennies on a locomotive anyway.

One of the reasons why I built County Gate was to show that a larger 'serious' layout could be built in this scale which would run reliably. I would have to say that for the most part, I have succeeded but with the perfect 20/20 hindsight that we all have, there are plenty of things I would have done differently. Without doubt, there will come a time when some things are upgraded in the light of my experience but it will have to wait for a time.

So right now, some of my comments are more in the 'do as I suggest' category rather than always 'do as I have done'!


The first port of call is the construction of baseboards. These really need to be rigid and made of a material which does not expand and contract (such as plywood). While many may lay track on cork or Sundeala, I would suggest that the track should be laid directly on 3mm plywood. This enables us to use 'wobblers' but more of that later. The plywood needs to be well supported to prevent warping.

On larger layouts, you will need several baseboards.

One of the essential requirements is to obtain good register with tracks at the baseboard joins.  We use cast iron pattern makers dowels. These we buy from Station Road BaseboardsWe fix the boards together with large toggle catches from Wixroyd. The silly little toggles sold for baseboards are quite useless.

adjustable heavy duty toggles from Wixroyd

Once the baseboards are complete and fitted together, we lay the track across the joint. The last 1" of the track at the ends of the baseboards are set in epoxy resin. Once hardened, (24 hours) the track is cut at the joint with a very fine saw or cut-off tool. 

Despite the fixing in epoxy, we discovered that the lengths of rail would still expand in hot weather and foul at the baseboard joint. We now add a second expansion gap cut in the track, 2" back from the joint. This gap is .5mm. This is filled with epoxy. Since then, we have not experienced problems.

Some solder the rail ends at joints and this is also a valid method.

The most important issue is to ensure that the track is as near as possible at right angles to the baseboard joins. Oblique angles will cause nothing but problems.

One way around the problem of oblique angled track is to use a removable section. This is not always possible however if the joint is obscured by scenery.

Another solution is to modify the baseboard so that the joint is actually at right angles.


Most of us do not make our own track although, I would have to say that if I ever replaced the track at our station, I would do so now. Most of us use Peco track and the new 009 'mainline' flexible lengths look so much better than the previous 'crazy track'. The problem arises with points. Peco 'crazy track' 009 points are frankly useless! The problem with the existing points is that they are not at all accurate and are quite rough running. This is generally overcome by 'fettling'. 'Fettling' describes a process of modifying commercial track to make it 'fit for purpose' and in my mind is not something we should be having to do at all.

Always select live frog points.

My second gripe with Peco Crazytrack 009 points is that they only have a radius of 12" Yes, they do 'Y' points at 18" radius but they are also as rough running as hell. I strongly urge you to consider using Peco Mainline 009 points which have a  radius of 18". They are far more smooth running and seem to be reliable. Some of you will be happy to work with tighter radii due to space constrictions but even then, you may prefer to consider using options other than 'crazy points'. Avoid double reverse curves at all costs.

fixing track

Many still favour using pins to fix track to the baseboard. My experience is that it is far more likely to result in track that is not absolutely flat. This will result in stalled locos, for sure. I believe that the track should be assembled and soldered together and then it should be glued directly onto the plywood. I use 20 minute epoxy which gives ample time to align it correctly. When happy with the positioning, I always place a piece of thick flat plywood on top and weight it down until the glue has gone off. Do not forget to cut slots in the baseboard in the correct positions to allow for point actuating rods from under baseboard motors. Prior to fixing the track, also solder on your electrical droppers and drill holes in the plywood to let them through. Keep the holes to a minimum, otherwise you will lose your ballast through the holes!

I always supply power to the track every two feet. This will minimise voltage drop and will give you a good measure of redundancy. The frogs of your turnouts will also require a dropper (use a different colour code) so that you will be able to switch polarity. Make sure that your droppers are colour coded. Do not forget to include insulating fishplates at the frogs. Usually, I now place the insulating breaks a little further from the frog.

When aligning track, always try to build in transitional curves as running will be vastly improved. Double reverse curves without transition will cause trouble as long as they exist on your layout.

This is an example of a red transition curve between a blue straight line and a green circular arc. The circular arc is supposed to start at the end of the red easement curve.

Once you have fastened down your track, it is time to test it with your rolling stock. Some commercial chassis (such as Riverossi) have very deep flanges and it may be necessary to deepen the flangeways at the frog and checkrails. In doing so, you will however compromise some of the smooth running of the point. If you are able to have deep flanges removed on a lathe, it is really worth doing it. Hopefully, you will find that it all runs 'peachy'. If most of your stock is happy with the track that is great. If one or two pieces baulk, rather than butcher the track, look hard at the offending rolling stock. Most likely, you will find that the back to backs are wrong. Adjust the stock, not the track.

While I find that most 'crazy points' are completely out of alignment, I have never found a Peco N gauge point to be faulty, although I guess there is always a first time.

You may be needing some block sections. This is the time to cut the rails for these blocks and solder a dropper to lead through a hole in the baseboard. I always fill the insulating joint gaps with epoxy to prevent expansion causing a short. Treat all soldered joints with a saturated solution of bicarbonate of soda to neutralise your soldering flux then lightly rinse.

You should then install any uncoupling magnets that you require.

Once you are completely happy with the operation of the track. I always suggest ballasting as soon as possible. This will set the track firmly and prevent any subsequent movement. You can then paint your track and weather it. Take real care not to scratch the rail heads and make sure that paint is removed from the inside of rail heads, as this is an important area for current collection.

track wiring

You will be making your choice of whether you elect to go with DCC or DC. It really depends on whether you are a Luddite or not!

There is a simplicity to DCC as you no longer have to worry about isolating sidings in order to stop the wrong locos working as you choose the loco you wish to operate by selecting its address. If the layout is already wired for DC, it will almost certainly work for DCC as well, by the way. The only problem will be that you won't be able to run another loco on one of the isolated track sections. This is why I prefer to have the insulated joints away from point frogs as this will prevent a DCC loco from becoming derailed if the point is set against it.

A lot of rubbish is talked about DCC 'safe' points. The only thing we have to do is to change the polarity of the frog and blades when the running direction is changed. This means that the frog must have insulated joints to prevent a short circuit. During the early days of DCC, things were a bit different and shorts could weld a wheel to the track. This is all changed now and the slightest short will be detected and the power shut off before damage ensues.

Click on the switch below to animate.

point motors

As far as I am concerned, there is only one type of point motor.

Electromagnetic motors are violent and noisy and are able to damage the cross tie of point blades. In addition, the polarity switches are unreliable and it is very hard to adjust the movement. Tortoise motors stall when the point is thrown. They are gentle and have two excellent switches built in which will allow you to change point polarity and even operate signals all at the same time. You may find that the wire supplied with Tortoise motors is too flexible to operate Peco points but is is quite easy to obtain a slightly stiffer piano wire. It is also very easy to adjust their throw: the perfect solution!

Now all you have to do is to put the baseboard on its side and wire it up below. I used 6mm wide self adhesive copper strip as bus bars which I purchase from ExpoTools. Apart from the track power, you will also need bus bars to operate point and signal motors.

In service, for an exhibition layout, I have found the copper tape to be very vulnerable to tearing. I have moved to laying N scale track on the underside of the baseboards. This is a far more robust solution to bus bars and is lower in resistance.


The hard wiring of County Gate station nearly complete - click to enlarge

the replacement bas bars using N scale track

You will need to jump from one board to the next with your wiring. I have found D plugs to be very reliable and can be bought with up to fifty pins.

50 pin D plugs

If you have fewer wires, another good solution is the DIN plug. You can get up to 8 connections with these.

Hex frog juicer

Some still use solenoid motors such as produced by Peco and Seep. To 'save' costs, I installed them in our fiddle yard and I have suffered many breakdowns. One problem is that of polarity change of live frogs. The actual movement of the blades is very small in 009 and it can be problematical to expect mechanical switches to reliably change every time.

There is now a new system with the silly name of Hex Frog Juicer (only in America!). This is available from Digitrains, in York. This unit will change 6 points at a cost of 50 for DCC layouts. As the name implies its primary design function was to automate frog polarity setting on 6 live frog points but the outputs can also be configured in pairs to deal with reversing loops, wyes, crossovers or any other situation where track polarity must be switched to avoid shorts.  Installation is simple and the unit can handle DCC system and booster outputs up to a maximum of 10 Amps.

This is manna from heaven as far as I am concerned.

reliable uncoupling

We use Greenwich couplings at County Gate. First of all, we installed permanent magnets at strategic positions. They were usually OK but we needed to be exactly over the magnet to get them to work and that is easier said than done. Then again, the stock uncoupled as often when not required as when we did! County Gate quickly became populated with unnoticed stock which had detached from consists. Apart from a four year old who thought this was really funny, the rest of us had had enough.

The next attempt was using Peco electromagnets. Naively, I thought, they are Peco.....they must work. Stupidly I fitted the lot before finding that they could not pull off the skin of a rice pudding. We now have electromagnets supplied by Wizard Models which we have quickly nicknamed the 'black holes'. Despite their apparent strength, these magnets were still inadequate to operate the Greenwich couplers are they had been built.

Greenwich coupling etch

With the permanent magnets the couplings operated when the lever arm was cut at position '1' and 8 turns of iron wire wrapped around it. Our trains are largely held in fixed consists so it has never been necessary to have every coupling operate. Where needed, we cut now at position '2' and use 16 turns of iron wire. Care is needed to ensure that the coupling does not foul any part of the vehicle.

With this mod in place, they will uncouple but accurate positioning is necessary and double the iron wire is needed. We have used independent 12V DC power supplies with these as it would be folly to introduce the power drop to electronics.

For places where we need to uncouple at exhibitions, (for us the coal train at the harbour) we have found that it is still very difficult to stop the train at exactly the right spot every time. There would then be a shunt back and forth until the correct position was obtained.

Our solution is not for all because it requires the locos to be of the same length. For us, not a problem as our Garratt rules goods trains on the branch line. I decided that a physical stop would be best and employed a Tortoise motor to do just that. Now, one runs the train very slowly up to the Tortoise wire and we uncouple every time.

when all else fails .....the County Gate Wobbler

It is hard for men to discuss certain things without falling about laughing. I'm afraid this is one of them!

How many of you have had to lean over your layout and give a loco a shove? How embarrassing is it at an exhibition? How often have you damaged a delicate bit of scenery doing it?

If the answer is YES to any of the above, read on. If it is a NO, either you have never run a model railway or you are completely delusional!

It all started while chatting with the redoubtable Roy Link. The conversation got on to layouts and sound and Roy mentioned that one of his friends has a large bass speaker under his layout and never gets stalled trains. This got me thinking. County Gate is actually what is disparagingly called a 'rabbit warren' layout. We cannot afford to get trains stuck behind the scenes when we are going for automation. The layout scenery gets damaged with large hands when trains get stuck 'on scene' too.

this is a 3 Volt 12mm Shaftless Vibration Motor available from Precision Microdrives

After a few trials, I glued a vibrator from and old mobile phone under a section of track and it worked a treat! I made sure that the wobble motion is from side to side, (90 degrees to the rails).

Of course, you have to be sure that everything on the layout is well glued down, and if you have laid on foam, you are probably buggered. This is why I like solid attachment of the track to thin ply.

Wobblers need to be fixed wherever you intend to stop trains. Resisters were added to allow them to be run on 12 V DC. Some may choose to use stronger vibrators.

track cleaning

Keeping the track really clean is the bugbear of all small model railways. Some folks use Railzip or graphite pencils with success but it can and does reduce traction.

Once the track has been painted and ballasted, a lot of care is needed to remove any ballast that will foul the wheel flanges. The scenic work is also very messy and considerable effort is needed to remove debris and spray products from the rail tops. For this we used a Peco track rubber which was pushed around with a 2 prong fork, to keep hands away from the delicate scenery. (Don't use your wife's silverware for this if you wish to live long and prosper)

Continued maintenance is needed and the track rubber leaves shiny debris on the track and scenery gets damaged nearly every time.

Our first attempt to find a viable alternative was a conversion of some American device which claimed wonders. In a nutshell, a brass drum is wrapped in a bit of dishcloth and soaked in track cleaner. This is supposed to rotate, dragging slightly and clean the rails. The thing just derailed. I tried weighting it further and it just derailed some more.  In short, it was as useless as a chocolate teapot.

At last the Japanese came to our aid!


We sold the BMW and purchased a Tomix 6421 track cleaner. We have fitted a Digitrax 123 chip to operate the motor. There is a mini vacuum cleaner, debris being deposited in the centre collector. It will suck up loose bits of ballast if running flat out. There is also a sprung loaded rotating wheel which can be operated as a dry polisher or wet, cleaner can be added to a reservoir. We find the wet cleaner a bit useless, but the dry cleaner is perfect! In the UK, the track cleaner is now available from Dapol.

It is not powered itself for running. I wonder if it is that effective on DC as delivered power would depend on the tow loco speed but on DCC it will run to full capacity.

as it comes  - click on image to enlarge

 The boxcar cover for the Tomix in Glenthorne Harbour Authority livery. - click on image to enlarge


The Tomix is the perfect solution to clean all of the tracks prior to operating at an exhibition. However, we have also found it worthwhile to clean the tracks now and then throughout the operating day. For this, we use our 'secret weapon Mk2; the N gauge Roco track cleaning car (product number 25093)

This has a weighted rubber that is dragged along between a 4 wheel chassis. Quite a powerful loco is needed for this. We decided that it would be a good idea to produce a box car for the railcar. It was built from a Nine Lines L&B boxcar with one end section removed. Trusses were replaced using Plastic strip. Detail was sanded off from the Roco wagon to be able to slide it inside the Nine Lines body.

As usual, the wheels were dipped in Carrs metal blackening to bring them to a realistic colour.

The system works. The marks showing on the rubber are from 3 circuits of the main line. The wagon is used regularly during exhibitions to keep things running nicely.

showing the track rubber. This is easily replaced

wheel cleaning

I have to say that I rarely clean rolling stock wheels but loco wheels must be kept as clean as possible to ensure good current collection.

In the end, I have built in to a siding of the new fiddle yard a Peco wheel cleaner. Wired up to the tracks, it is just so easy to keep everything pristine.

the built-in Peco wheel cleaner - click on image to enlarge

the bottom line

If your track is not perfect, whatever else you do, you will always be chasing your tail! This becomes more and more important the narrower your track gauge is.

So now we come to the rolling stock.


I am appalled to read that many exhibitors of 009 model railways feel that they need to bring three times as many locos to a show to allow for failures. This is a damning reflection on the reliability of the average unit. Then again, there seems to exist a blind spot about 009 chassis. Time and time again I see quite attractive locos which are then 'plonked' on top of an antique toy like chassis which often as not can barely make a yard of running before breaking down. The owner will proudly tell me how they picked up the chassis for 2 and just 'had to do something with it'.

Jouef Egger-Bahn

Peco kit on a Minitrix chassis - not a coupling rod in sight

an otherwise nice outside frame prototype plonked on a Minitrix inside frame chassis and what type of valve gear is that?

Indeed, the most common sight when watching 009 layouts is the constant prodding by large hands as these locos stop, stick and waddle down the tracks.

Strange really, as N scale layouts can run reliably for many hours without any troubles at all.

Until the appearance of Backwoods Miniatures, high quality etched loco kits were just not available. The most common kits were white metal designed to sit on various commercial chassis which usually had little in common with the prototype being modelled. 009 owes a great debt to Pete McParlin who gave us ordinary mortals the chance to upgrade our loco fleets without the need to scratch build.

Sadly, only a select few are able to build Backwoods chassis and make them run properly. Sadly, I am not one of them but I have been fortunate to find someone who is able to build and upgrade them to give good running and reliability.

Meridian Models also produce an excellent outside framed version of the Baldwin gas mechanical and if you like the small industrial stuff, Nigel Lawton makes some exquisite tiny loco tractors.

A newcomer has arrived in the guise of Victor Scale Models whose first offering, the Sandy River No. 19, looks like an excellent kit. They are following on with a Sandy River No. 22. This is now followed by a T130 Le Meuse based on a Grafar class 08 chassis.

Just announced is a proper RTR outside frame chassis for the Penrhyn Port class. This is supplied by Parkside Dundas.

During the lean years, a number of successful scratch built chassis were created nevertheless but the time and resources needed to create them was excessive.

Bob Barnard began to build excellent 009 Lynton and Barnstaple prototypes complete with outside frames some 40 years ago. He has actually built every loco of the L&B fleet. He used motors from Triang TT and they run extremely well to this day (but then again, he is a bit good).

'Yeo' by Bob Barnard

Even I managed a Tasmanian K1 in 1972 when I had access to all sorts of fancy machine tools and photo etching. It took a year of spare time to make but runs perfectly to this day. So far, it has logged over 500 hours of running.

K1 Garratt by John de Frayssinet

A small number of people are first class micro engineers, almost watchmakers, and these folk can make the most extraordinary chassis. Most of us ordinary mortals can only dream of the skills needed to produce them.

masterpiece in miniature with full working valve gear  - de Winton 'Mary Anne' by the late Peter Smith. - photo Mick Thornton

The problem with scratch building is that the time involved is far too much for most of us and leaves little chance to complete a whole layout (Bob Barnard is an exception but he has been at it for over 30 years!).

What we want is an easy way to obtain realistic chassis to build onto.

so what do we need to get a good running realistic chassis?


feet on the ground

Firstly, we have the problem of electrical pickup. A four coupled chassis may very well work just fine on a clean bit of test track but when placed on a scenic model layout, it is likely to stall over and over again. With the best will in the world, your layout will be unlikely to have perfectly clean track. A further problem may be that in weathering the rails, the inside of the rail head gets painted too. This can cause a real problem as electrical pickup is often through the wheel flanges.

The next problem is if the chassis is not perfectly square not all the wheels will touch the rails. The layout, however may also have its defects so wheels can be suspended in mid air! A sprung chassis is going to reduce this problem considerably.

So, you are most likely to have problems with a four wheel chassis. The more 'feet on the ground' you have, the less likely it will be that you have contact problems. Articulated locos are by far the best for current collection.

Some have managed to build compensating chassis which is a real advantage. This can result in pitching if the loco is badly balanced. If the loco has long overhangs, a different compensation is needed: see the wonderful modelling of Jeff Bissonnette .

fully compensated scratch built chassis by Jeff Bissonnette

Jeff states:

"The main problem with compensated chassis', is that while they deal with rough track well in terms of maintaining wheel contact/electrical conductivity, they don't deal with it well in terms of visual grace. This is especially evident through poorly constructed points, be it Peco OO9, or other commercially available products. When operating through large flangeway, short pointed frogs, compensated chassis' tend to do the "dive and jump", that is, they dive down into the gap, then jump up onto the frog point.

The solution is to either construct your own points to a much higher standard (which I do), or adjust the frog on commercial offerings (which can be done by filling the flangeways with microstrip to a set depth).


how is the electricity collected from the wheels?

Without question, the worst place to collect the power is through contacts acting on the wheel treads. Dirt will inevitably collect on the treads and transfer to the collectors with the result that sooner, rather than later, the loco will stall. Far better to collect the power from contacts acting on the wheel rims or back of the wheels. Sprung collectors are usual but very small plunger collectors are available and are excellent.

Most modern chassis have insulated driving wheels on one side only while the entire chassis is live with the opposite polarity. This is now standard practice with say, Backwoods chassis. This can have its drawbacks too. Great care is needed to make sure that pony truck wheels can never touch the chassis.

Worse, some methods of installing couplings means that they are live to the chassis. Unless you get it right, double heading can cause a dead short. This means that you must always set up your loco with a common polarity and never turn them around.

Another solution is the 'split chassis' system. Here, the current is transferred through the axleboxes but there are problems when scratch building to prevent the 'wrong bits of the loco touching live bits' and thus shorting out. The axles of a full split chassis system must also have an electrical break in the middle of the axles. Thank goodness for Plasticard and epoxy glues!

The advantage of the split chassis is that there is no resistance due to collectors acting on the wheels. The spacers between the chassis frames also have to be insulating. The drawing below is how I built the chassis for my K1 Garratt. For this type of chassis, I use a conducting lubricant.

this Manning Wardle chassis has a 'live' side and plunger pickups on the other

re-engineered Backwoods Baldwin chassis

One advantage of DC operation is that electronic track cleaners can be employed. Quite often, a small resistance between the wheels and rail are blown away with a micro jolt of high voltage (they are also quite good for keeping your cat off the track).

If you are running DCC, you can programme an additional start current which can often help.

Some products can be used on the track such a Rail Zip or indeed a soft woodworking pencil. There can be wheel slipping on gradients using some of these products.


If at all possible, flywheels should be built into the model. Their size is going to be small to fit in the average 009 body but is often sufficient to help with smooth running and help the loco through dead spots. Sadly, space just cannot be found in all locos, such as in the Backwoods 'Lyn' shown above.


We all expect good slow running these days. This will mean a gear train with accurate meshing of gears and good bearings are an essential part of the formula. Some Backwood kits have the motor worm drive slightly offset. While this may work, I have found that excessive wear can take place.

maintenance and wear

Some specialist chassis are constructed in such a way that it is almost impossible to take them apart to effect repairs. The standard Backwoods chassis are exceptionally difficult for instance. If at all possible, assume that everything will eventually wear out and need replacing.

Some chassis designs are simply asking to wear out due to their construction.

Firstly, let's look at the much vaunted expensive Roco outside frame chassis.

click on image to enlarge

the Roco 'rip-off'

Here, the axles are not in bushes but make point contact with the die cast chassis. Very quickly there is wear and the loco will no longer run properly. The plastic keeper plate also slowly wears down.  On top of all this, the Mashima motors supplied in the loco very quickly develop a very rough spot when slow running. This is another thing to look out for. These days, if at all possible, I remove motors and run them light. In my view, there just should not be any rough spots at all.

For reliable running, axles must be fitted in proper bushes in brass or better still, bronze.

a properly bushed chassis by Victors Models (Sandy River No 19)

Equally, coupling rods and crank pins will wear. This is particularly the case with chassis that are driven through one axle as is the case with the chassis shown above. I now favour hard steel crank pins and bronze bushes sweated into the coupling rods. If you think this is a tad over the top, our first Backwoods Manning Wardle wore out its crank pins and rods after 20 hours of operation.

This leads us on to the next issue. If only one axle is driven, it is far far better to drive the centre axle in a six coupled unit rather than an end one, as shown above. There is far less binding and likelihood of wear. In my view, the best solution is to drive all coupled wheels.

The Early Lilliput chassis did this and will run forever given simple maintenance. True, they run too fast and the motor is not the best but the coupling rods do not do any work so they can be reduced to scale size with no concerns. My Baldwin, which has such a chassis and is fitted with scale sized rods, ran 24/7 for a year in a shop window. It still runs great now!

early Lilliput chassis

One chassis which potentially fulfils all the requirements is the new N Drive Productions unit. They even promise to offer them with outside frames. True, no valve gear comes with it, but this is easy enough to add, using a fret available from Backwoods Miniatures at 18. The drawback is that at present, their construction is a part time job and as they become more popular there might be some delivery delay. Hopefully he will find ways of increasing production.

N Drive Productions 6 coupled outside frame chassis

0-4-0 chassis by
N Drive Productions (42)


I have always tested my chassis for 8 hours running forwards and a further eight backwards, If any sign of wear showed after this ordeal, the design would be re-engineered. That is, until I bought the Roco chassis, which I assumed had been previously rigorously tested. How wrong I was and the whole exercise has cost me hours of work and 400!

By the way, it is worth keeping logbooks for your locos so you can record the hours they have run.

changing perspective

There are, of course, those who just like to collect locos...lots of them. But for those who are building a layout and want their locos to look as good as possible, is it not time to take a long hard look at the quality of running chassis? Costs are coming down but there is no doubt that 'proper' locos are going to be more expensive. What would you rather have, numerous toy trains or fewer proper models?

bogies and wheels

I have got thoroughly fed up with 009 bogies and wheels supplied in kits. They are not very free running, often inaccurate and if one is able to get them working, they can be very delicate.

Mass produced N gauge equipment is, on the other hand, very reliable. Simple solution...use N gauge gear. Our Lynton and Barnstaple narrow gauge rolling stock sits on the rails rather like sausage dogs - you really can't see the undercarriage! I hear anguished purists bemoaning the use of such gear, but they are often same folks who spent a lot of their time putting things back on the rails!

I have selected bogies produced by Green Max, supplied by Wellington Models, Somerset or from Hobby Search. We use DT 22 bogies for goods and DT 16 for coaching stock. The wheel bases are a bit shorter, which allows one to place the bogies between the frames, where they are supposed to be, and still get sufficient movement for 12" radius turnouts. At present, there seems to be supply difficulties with Greenmax.

I have never found a Green Max wheel out of 'back to back' but I do check every one with a gauge. The additional advantage of Greenmax wheels is that only one wheel is insulated so they can also be used for current collection. I just pull out the knuckle coupling and glue in a Greenwich version.

Green Max goods bogie


getting power to the locos

Many of our locos have small wheels and not enough of them to be able to reliably collect current at all time to run. In order to get more wheels to supply current, pony wheels can be used as well as the drivers. The simplest method is to use just one wheel each pony truck. With Greenmax wheels, this is simple.


companion cars

Another method is to use the adjacent wagon/coach as a current collector. Often, locos remain as a fixed consist so under these circumstances this is a very good option. All our main line trains that run under automation are connected to companion cars. The Greenmax bogies have self adhesive copper tape fastened to one side of the bogie frames. This will pick up the current from the uninsulated wheel. 

Some plastic bogies, such as those supplied with Nine Lines kits do not take kindly to having metal wheel sets fitted as there is too much tension. By using these inserts, a really good low friction bogies results.

The connectors used are supplied by Express models. Another advantage is that is is very easy to test a loco on DCC by just plugging in with a lead.

Once you have soldered on the correct wires, you will need to encase the joint in epoxy, otherwise the joint will break in time.

The choice of wire as connectors is difficult. They do have to be very soft and flexible. The best is that supplied by DCC Supplies. They use it for DCC chips.

The plugs are inserted with tweezers and are marked with a small spot of paint to ensure correct polarity.

micro connectors supplied by Express Models

'Lyn' and her best friend!

lazy locos

I always advocate using 'companion cars' connected to locos that run with fixed consists. The additional current collection makes these trains almost 100% reliable. The problem at times is that the bogies of the companion car are far better at collecting current than the rigid chassis of the locos themselves. After a period of operation, the locos become very reluctant to operate on their own. Careful cleaning is needed and after a little coaxing, they will begin to run again. I always let them travel a few circuits in both directions on their own before reattaching to the companion car.


some problems

Despite best efforts, occasionally we find a piece of rolling stock that just will not stay on the rails.

  • Check back to back measurements on all wheels

  • Is there a lump of say, glue, attached to a wheel tread?

  • Are the couplings sticking against the body or not giving sufficient movement side to side where there are derailments?

  • If bogies, is there enough room for them to move sufficiently?

  • Is the stock heavy enough?

  • Are the wheel sets/bogies in line? Check the vehicle on a sheet of glass

If none of these things work sell the railway!