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I have a yard ladder with multiple switches connected to a Ross 11 1/2 degree crossing and have trouble with stalling, especially my 0-6-0 switcher, but other locos as well. Seeking advice on how to add center rail pickups to tender trucks on steam locos for better reliability.

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Some MTH locos are notorious for this.  What year and model of loco are you referring to?  Gunrunnerjohn on this forum has done this type of mod several times.  Perhaps he will post photos and tell you the MTH part number(s) that would be the best fit for your application.  As Pat said, it's a custom job that takes a lot of thought and skill.

Try slowly pushing the loco through the Ross crossing with a little power on the track.  When you observe a loss of power to the loco, cut the power and tilt the loco over on the wheels on one side to observe the crossing at the pickup.  See if you can find exactly on the crossing where the pick up is losing the power.  It may be something about the crossing that is causing the loss of power or something with the loco pick up.  Repeat several times see what you learn.

I have recently used this method to find out why a caboose pickup got stuck and derailed on one of my Marx switches and was able to add small piece of track pin to eliminate the hang up spot.


I typically add rollers to upgrades that have only two closely spaced rollers on the locomotive.  Here's a couple of examples.  As others have said, sometimes with MTH stuff, the mounting hole is already in the truck so it's just buying the pieces to mount them.

Here's a couple that I've added after the fact, I run into this a lot working on brass locomotives.

Here's a different twist, this was an MTH switcher that had two rollers on the tender and none on the locomotive!  It had big problems with switches!

MTH Switcher Reliability Upgrade


Images (2)
  • mceclip0
  • mceclip1

I did something similar to John’s work on the 0-6-0. I had an 0-8-0 that only had 2 rollers on the tender. The first runs featured 2 on the engine and one on the tender. As does the latest release. Not sure what they were thinking during the middle run. Bought the rollers and what was needed for the install. I guess this was a benefit of running Kadee’s I didn’t realize when I installed them. When  it came time to install the rollers. The wire was already their to use to tie them together that went to the front coupler.

BobbyD, I’ve had to on a few Lionel locos that I tied the chassis’ together. Most of my engines are small and easy to handle. So I opted to just use a piece of super flex wire with a ring at each end. I had a Legacy Consolidation that would only stall on a Ross 3 way.  Did my usual hookup and it still stalled. After scratching my head a bit. I attached the ring to the metal chassis using a screw for the shell. After checking with a meter. The chassis isn’t grounded. Placed it on the tender truck which features an axle wiper and all was well.

I've added center pickup rollers to every 3rdrail brass engine and MTH engines I have with only two pickup rollers.  Two is just not enough.  My Lionel 0-8-0 with wireless tether I added a single wired tether to connect the tender rollers to the engine rollers.   Nothing more aggravating than a steamer that finds a dead spot on a switch.

Ken Wing

You can make a pickup for the coal tender as seen below.  The tender is pickup is easy to make and add to the front trunk that does not have a coupler.  I have made over 10 of these hard to find pick ups for my train collection.

I added a homemade light pick up to one of the trucks, made from brass shim stock and a piece of tin can for durability.  The pickup must be no wider than 3/8 inch so it will not short on Remote Control track sections.  I use trucks without working couplings to have room for pick up.  The white wooden block is glued on with E6000 glue and serves to move the pick up back and provides a place to put a small screw to hold the brass shim pick up.  See the folded edge on the shim to keep it from moving side wise and the plastic of the truck extends out past the wood block.


Ground wire on the other truck for the Christmas tree 12 v light bulb and a socket that was mounted in the cab.



This write up is from a former OGR post of mine.


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie
@amtrack5899 posted:

I looked at the website but I was unable to find the pick up  rollers that John was talking about.  BD-0000042.  They listed 8 other ones, some out of stock but not that one. Any ideas where I can order them from?

Leave out the hyphen in your search, and it will come right up, in stock, $5.00 ea.. Just search 'bd0000042'.  I ordered some myself moments ago.

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