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I wanted to write this up as a separate topic in case anyone else runs into a similar issue with their Williams engines. If you have a Williams engine that stalls frequently, check the third rail rollers!

I picked up this Williams FM Trainmaster at York as a donor chassis for a future 3D printed project. The locomotive was very inexpensive and appeared to have an Electric Railroad TMCC upgrade. This turned out to be a great score-- a DC Commander with a full Railsounds package and a pair of Electrocouplers! Of course, there was a reason for the great price. The engine was a basket case, it wouldn't always start and when it did, it couldn't run more than a couple inches without halting and powering down.

ERR TMCC Conversion Williams FM

After I got home, I completely dismantled the locomotive and went through the usual problem areas. The TMCC installation looked OK and I verified the wiring against the ERR diagrams. There were no broken or pinched wires, continuity was OK, even the wheels were relatively clean. I even cleaned out the gearboxes and applied some fresh grease to make sure the motors weren't getting bound up. Nothing seemed to make a difference; the locomotive would start up with sounds and command, but it would sputter and die as soon as it started moving. Disappointed, I pushed the locomotive to the side and let it sit on the workbench while I contemplated its strange symptoms.

Dismantling the Chassis

This afternoon I decided to work on the engine again. I clamped jumper leads directly to the locomotive's frame and pickup arms and was surprised to find that the locomotive ran perfectly well in command while upside down in an engine cradle. This convinced me that the ERR boards were fine, they just weren't getting power somehow. After taking the trucks apart again, I found the cause... there was rust INSIDE OF THE PICKUP ROLLERS! Here's the photo I took to prove it-- you can see the gross brown rust on the long pin that holds the roller.

Rusty Pickup Rollers

I guess the engine must have sat around in a humid environment for a while. Rust is a horrible conductor so it makes sense that the engine was shutting on and off as the rollers turned. After a copious amount of WD40 and a bit of work with the Dremel tool and some Q-Tips, I cleaned the pickups inside and out, bolted everything back on and put the chassis onto my command control layout.

Finally Ready to Roll

Runs and sounds great now that it's getting some power!

Anybody else seen this issue before?

edit to add clarity


Images (4)
  • ERR TMCC Conversion Williams FM
  • Dismantling the Chassis
  • Rusty Pickup Rollers
  • Finally Ready to Roll
Last edited by Trainguy Ken
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I have run into this in the past .  I put WD-40 in a pinpoint oiler and lube the roller up as well as possible then use an old slot car wheel on it's axle in my dremel tool to spin the roller very fast.  Stop and add a little more WD-40 and repeat till I rolls easy with good conduction between the roller and the spring arm checked with a vom.  I have a large tube of NO-OX will adapt GRJ's great  idea of adding it to the pickups . I think if I put it in a hypodermic needle it will facilitate working it inside the roller.  I prefer to have the rollers off the loco to clean them with the high speed wheel however if they are on the loco I cover the side of the loco with a clean shop towel to keep the WD-40 off  as it will dissolve some paint.  One little trick to keep from slinging the WD-40 over the bottom of the loco is to cut a little slit in a towel and force the roller and spring arm through the slit working the towel into a position where the roller does not rub on it, or catch on the wheel, as it spins.  When I do this I don't turn the loco upside down I keep it on it's side with the roller and pin it revolves on vertical so that gravity pulls the WD-40 down through the roller. This helps flush the rust out.  And do put the WD-40 in some sort of pinpoint oiler and not be tempted to spray it on the pickup.            j

My two 3rd Rail M1s had terrible pickup rollers. It turned out that the pivot was the cause of poor contact. I ended up soldering a jumper across them using some solder wick as seen in this photo. This was after trying Bachmann EZ Lube which was only marginally helpful.

This was a rather famous (or infamous) issue with K-line roller pickups.  The true problem with the springs carried all the current and lost their temper.  I installed jumpers on a bunch of those.  The passenger cars did it as well, but converting them to LED's with 1/10 the current usually solved that issue.

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