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I didn't see any 'general' threads of simple fixes or unique ideas on how to fix equipment or any general procedures so I thought I'd start one.  I'm figuring most of these 'fixes' are quick and simple and can be done in a short period of time.   There can also be multiple solutions to problems.  All are good and, since we each have different skill sets, multiple solutions can better fit the modeler's comfort level to choose what is best for him/her.

This may go over like a lead balloon but we'll run her up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes!  

I'm hoping that if we put a 'post number' for each idea at the top of each post, we'll also to be able to easily find it (illusions of grandeur in case this thread becomes multiple pages) .

Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest


Loose pins on tubular track.

OK, I know I'm in the minority on my use of track but for us traditional (also cheap) track users, some needle nose pliers works great to close up those enlarged holes.

Also, a small hammer works great when the two tracks are pushed together and one rail sticks out farther than the rest.

Also, I find pins are easier to remove, if they are, first, lightly tapped into the rail before removing them with some pliers.

This also eliminated my engines slowing down on the far side of the loop.



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Last edited by samparfitt


making lanyards for your bell and whistle:

Lanyards added to bell and whistle.

An easy mod that was cheap and quick.

Stripped some 22 gauge wire and sprayed the strands black. Best to separate the strands before painting and leave hanging over a table top to dry individually.  Had to do 3-4 sprays by the time I finally covered all sides.

The holes in the bell and whistle arms had paint in them so they had to be re-drilled.

First I put the wires through the eye bolt on the side of sand dome and then ran it into the hole in the front of the cab, then the wire could be bent and placed into the hole on the bell arm.  Same with the whistle, only on the engineers side.

Bending the wire removed some of the paint but a black magic marker worked well on covering the brass wire.









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post 4:

Chuffing stopped/fixed:

I was enjoying some reading with the pleasant background of a GN M-2 chuffing along when all of a sudden there was silence   

I did all the usual stuff (even read through the manual!).

Logged onto OGR and advanced searched 'no chuff' under TMCC threads.

Tried all those suggestions, nada, but still knowledgeable and good info.

Reload, reset, move chuff switch, shake real hard (no, not that!), etc

Initially, I thought the chuff was electronically controlled.

I put her on her back and started rooting around:

Found a plate on the front set of drivers, removed it and voila, two cams (one for 2 chuffs and one for 4 chuffs).

Hooked up  the ZW and TMCC to the wheels and started her up.

Some contacts inside are moving against the cams, that's good: must be something else.

Remove two engines from boiler and the two green/blue wires going to the cam mechanism are no longer attached: MMM, looks like a possible problem !

The original wires were pretty short to I added about a 3" long extension to them.  Got some 22 gauge, multi strand wire, some heat shrink tubing and reconnected everything using electrical solder. 

Tried her again and "all's right in the world again'


The original wires have a stiff insulation on them and I think that caused them to break.  I used some very flexible wires (got them from my RC plane stuff).  I also had the engines removed from the boiler, previously, to check out the smoke system so that also may have weakened them.  Obviously, this break is most applicable to articulated engines since the front engine is always rotating on curves.

I did not worry about which way the wires were originally connected as I figured it's like a light bulb (either way works).


Also, it appears the cam system feeds the cruise control because the engine would slow down on the far side of the loop when not chuffing but works OK when the chuffing is operating.


Oh, and don't be an idiot, like me and use a red wire: best to use black,green,brown: something that is less visible.


One more item: there is a short piece of wire wrapped around the wires going to the cam and head light.  It is held in place, by friction, under the two valve mount brackets, so one bracket's screws need to be loosened to easily solder up all the wires.








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Originally Posted by samparfitt:


Loose pins on tubular track.

OK, I know I'm in the minority on my use of track but for us traditional (also cheap) track users, some needle nose pliers works great to close up those enlarged holes.

Also, a small hammer works great when the two tracks are pushed together and one rail sticks out farther than the rest.

Also, I find pins are easier to remove, if they are, first, lightly tapped into the rail before removing them with some pliers.

This also eliminated my engines slowing down on the far side of the loop.



track pins loose 01

I also use needlenose pliers to tighten the tabs that hold the rails to the ties.  This will also help with the loose pins and loose connections.  by quickly running through the ends of a box of used track using both methods, I was able to make a decent sized floor layout in my apartment without using track clips.

Originally Posted by Dennis:

Don't know what number to put on my post.  Looks like they are all you.



What about using a format like this:


Fixing a "Widget" -  Post 1


Then the next one on Widget fixing would be:


Fixing a "Widget" - Post 2


That way you easily find postings about a particular topic within the thread, and you could follow it sequentially, and it would allow for multiple postings from various contributors to the topic.


Just a suggestion






Last edited by Greg J. Turinetti


You got it.

For post numbers, I figure we can just look at the last post number and add 1.

I'm sure some will get out of order due to multiple posts at the same time but it will still get referencing in 'the ball park', plus the last person's number that may be out of order, can just edit it for corrections.

Any additions or improvements to an original post, a Letter can be added:

ie  post 1-A

    post 1-B


This way, all like posts can be easily referenced and the relationship.


Obviously, posts only refer to "how to's" and not general statements, like this post.

Last edited by samparfitt


You have a good point.

Like I said, this may not work, time will tell.

I'm figuring individual ideas will eventually be on page infinity and maybe difficult to find.

I'm also hoping those who may not post a completely separate post for a suggestion, thinking "it's too minor" that they would be encouraged to post it here.

As old as I am, there's lots of things that I don't know or didn't think of, and every person has something unique and interesting that they have thought of that would be nice to share with others. 

Also, a 'newby' to the hobby may not want to ask questions and this would provide answers that he didn't want to ask or didn't think of.


I'm hoping this will be kind of like a reference book, new posts will keep it current and on the first few pages.  One can then do a search on this post, and, hopefully, find what they want. 

Hey, like I said, this maybe a bad idea.  Try it and see what happens.

I'd rather try something and fail than sit and do nothing.


I'm not defending this thread or promoting it: it's just an idea that I posted and we'll see if users like it or throw it in the 'crapper'.

Last edited by samparfitt


switch mods:

1.  Sometimes there no room for the motorized portion of the switch.  It can be mounted under the table but I was too lazy.  Some wire and a few screws makes a crude, but effective, ground throw.  Some more scale like ground throws can be had from caboose hobbies.

2.  These are only toys, not antiques, so some cutting (used a band saw) of the turnout and rotating the cut off piece allowed the next spur track to be much closer to the straight track route.



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Originally Posted by Laidoffsick:

There's all kinds of HOW Tos around the forum, but they are in their own specific threads, usually in the specific forum that they pertain too.

Also, unless you post an index and have them sticky it to the top numbers are of little use. If you're looking for something specific like it has been said before, use the search feature.

If it ain't fixed, don't break it.




JB weld versus soldering:


The front center return steam pipe on my articulated broke in half and, instead of soldering, I used JB quik weld.  These 2 part epoxy has metal impregnated into it and the 'quik' version dries in minutes versus the 'regular' jb weld that takes overnight to dry.



I had to removed the front engine from the boiler, first.  The return steam pipe (center of front engine) was broken.  The solder joint holding the two pieces of return steam pipe broke.  I used JB quik weld on these two parts.  Plenty of surface area as one piece of the pipe is solid and the other hollow so slopped the jb weld on both parts and let them dry. I used this method over soldering so I wouldn't have to re-paint the part.


NOTE: I had to do more PM on the front engine and the return steam pipe broke on me.  So to fix it right, I drilled a hole in the end of the front solid brass piece, used JB weld again, only put a piece of piano wire in the hole between the two pieces to give it a lot more strength than just the original surface area strength.

Lifting up the engine, that front set of drivers hanging there can put a lot of stress on this part.


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Last edited by samparfitt


Track power isolation (low tech but functional!).

For the yard, I wanted to be able to shut off each engine, if not in use.  Also good to turn off a post war engine while operating with DCS and/or TMCC.

Some wire, on/off switches and track lockons are all that's needed.


In this case the turnout got an insulating pin on both center rails.


track power isolation 01


Some wire (good ol' lamp wire from home depot) to connect the center (hot side) rail before the turnout to the center rails after the turnout via some on/off switches.



track power isolation 02


Connected the 'before' turnout center rail wire to, in this case, two on/off switches.

The wires on the output side of the on/off switches, then connect to each center rail on the track spurs.

A voltmeter on 'R' let me know which way was off on each switch.


track power isolation 03


Took about 15 minutes to isolate the spur tracks to shut down each engine's power.

To be even more cost effective, just solder the wires to the track!


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POST 08:

Traction tire replacement (steam engines).


I couldn't find a 3mm socket to fit the hex head bolt so, initially, I tried some small needle nose pliers.  Worked on one side but I scratched the bolt head so I went to harbor freight and got a set of fine screw drivers for 5 bucks.



traction tire replacement 01


The power grinding wheel was needed to thin down the outer wall of the 3 mm screw driver so it would fit inside the side rod hole.



traction tire replacement 02


Depending on how scale your side rods are, only one hex head bolt needs to be removed for articulated side rods else all the bolts will have to be removed to move the solid, one piece, side rod over to allow the traction tire to be added.

If you have to remove all the bolts, note where the offset crank is located before removing it.  It's normally just facing off center, counter clockwise.  If you get it mounted way off center, you can have binding.


traction tire replacement 03


Pretty nice enhancement in that a small brass bushing is inserted between the stud on the driver and the hole in the side rod.  The bushing should get all the wear so the bushing can be replaced versus a worn out side rod.  The washer holds the side rod to the driver via the bolt. (don't even loose any of these parts!)


traction tire replacement 04


A dental pick makes quick work putting on a new traction tire.  The rubber tire is about a 1/4" less in diameter than the driver diameter.



traction tire replacement 05


Some thin CA, first put on a toothpick (keeps applying too much). and then touching the sides of the traction tire allows the CA to wick in and better secure the traction tire to the driver.  A small flat screw driver may be needed, later, should you have to remove the old tire, via a little scrapping.  For for when you have those, accidental, fast starts!


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Last edited by samparfitt


Chuffing stopped (TMCC)

Chuffing was intermittent on my 3rd rail NP Z-5 yellowstone.

As with my GN M-2, I figured a wire got shorted out or broke.


The chuffing cam is on the front set of drivers so I removed the base plate to check out the cam assembly.  The wires route through this area and over the gear box so I figured a wire is shorting somewhere in there.

I moved the wires forward to get some slack to the cam assembly.



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Two screws hold the on/off cam switch in place, via a piece of brass, so the cam lobes can brush against the red button on the cam switch for the chuffing. 



NP Z-5 2-8-8-4 52


I put power to the engine on her back and still no chuffing so I manually pushed on the button and it worked.  Wasted a good hour finding out the wires were OK

There are two red pieces of fiber board to maintain the proper distance from the cam to the cam switch. 

I thought I could remove one and lower the switch but the clearance was too tight and the drivers stopped when the cam couldn't go past the switch.

I then put the cam back the distance it was and pushed on the piece of brass holding the switch to get the cam  a little closer to the cam.  That finally worked.



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Putting everything back together, one of the screws holding one of the valve gear came out.  Fortunately, I had some really small shoulder screws with thread just at the beginning of the screw. I think the screw came out while test running her on the track so that screw is long gone (another 15 minutes looking for it, an effort in futility!).



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NP Z-5 2-8-8-4 55


Put her on the track and the front drivers kept coming off on the curves.

Found out there's two holes to hold the front driver engine to the frame.  I used the back hole which didn't align the roller on the boiler to roll properly on the plate located on the front driver engine. On curves, the roller would fall off the plate.



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That shot a full day, but, at least, all is working again!


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Last edited by samparfitt

POST 10:
Turnout problems.

Specifically, my new A-4 trailing truck was derailing while in reverse through an 072 switch.





I made all my own HO switches so I applied this skill set to the 3 rail and  I noticed that most of the points of the 072 turnouts were very blunt so I filed the top edge to put about a 30 degree angle, wedge style at that location, plus filing the 90 degree corner to about a 30 degree angle.






I also noticed that not all switches are the same (not sure if my 072's are from a current year or spread over many years). 

Some have very nice fine points:





While others are down right fat:




Another item:

The points in the above picture are actually bent at several angles while the below picture has the point in a nice even curve.





Bottom line:

Looks for points that are nice and thin and also a nice continuous curve. 

BUT, if they are dirt cheap, buy 'em and file the ends of the points.


Also, when building and laying my HO turnouts, it was always best to have them perfectly flat, and, like in yards, good to have a very gentle slop away from the switch to let gravity help the cars through all those turnouts.  Turnouts, especially multiple lines of them, are not conducive to reliable operation when they are on multiple angles.  Keep all grades changes before and after turnouts.


One final note: stay away from S curves with the turnouts (that's usually asking for trouble).


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Last edited by samparfitt
Originally Posted by Matt Makens:

Ive often wondered why there isnt a "Repairs" forum


I've thought the same. Surely it would not be a difficult thing to do? I have often wondered why Jim Barrett does not have his own little corner on the forum. Is the OGR Office afraid of some kind of possible legal action from the Dr. Tinker crew? And again there are the rude and crude few on the forum that have little or no respect for anyone that threatens their corner of the sandbox.

Last edited by Prewar Pappy

A repairs forum might be a good idea. But it would only work if people used it before asking a question. Why don't people use the search function? The same questions, with the same answers do get asked time and time again. I don't think a repairs forum would change that.

There is no shortage of people ready, willing and able to provide assistance. It's nice to be able to give someone else some help. Most people like to share their knowledge. I think that's why many boards succeed.



POST 11:


TMCC bad reception (3 problems)


Talk about trying one's patience!


I've been having intermittent reception.

Some times it would work and anywhere on the loop of track, it may fail.


I separated the tender and found the screw holding the antenna wire to the top tender shell was very loose.  That was an easy fix, or so I thought.

(picture bad but there's a loose screw in there, somewhere!)


NP A-4 4-8-4 25


Put her back on the track and, still, intermittent reception....grrrrr.

OK, let's hold the whistle down and start jiggling things (engine that is!).

HMMMM: put side movement on tender and whistle stops.


Got the volt meter out and started checking resistance: 

Got it this time, the front 4 wheel trucks flanges are touching the tender.

A little electrical tape along each side of the tender will fix that.



NP A-4 4-8-4 26


That's got to fix it:

Wrong again!

The volt meter was saying one wheel is shorting out to the tender shell.

Bummer, figure bad insulation.  Take the wheel set off and it works perfectly good with the voltmeter: what the $%&*.

Put the wheel back into the truck and find the side of one wheel will short out when touching the truck frame.  Some insulation washers on the outer axle, FINALLY fixed it......hopefully, so far, so good

The chances of 3 related problems being bad are pretty slim....well used to be:[]


Now, to my next minor problem: marker and number boards aren't working.



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NP A-4 4-8-4 28


POST 12:


Steam engine '5 finger' pickup.

What works well for me is to grab the piston jackets and the back of the cab.

There's usually a lot of fragile (must be Italian!) piping just under the walk way and using a one handed pickup along the center of the walk way usually doesn't turn out well for my engines!  It's more work since the tender has to be disconnected but, in the long run, my engines are happier.



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Last edited by samparfitt

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