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You may recall that a few weeks ago, I posted about my problems with my Joshua Cohen  Hudson, made by Lionel.  I had bought one used, with very little run time or wear, but it had problems of severe slow-downs going around 031 curves in my layout.  Not all of the curves, but many of them.

I eventually found, based on lots of advice, that the problem was not being caused by just one thing.  It was actually three separate things acting in concert:

First, the engine had probably not been lubricated in many years.   It was made in 1982. I took it totally apart and lubed everything that rubbed on anything else.

Second, the eccentric crank on one side of the engine was bent in slightly, probably from the engine being dropped.  This not only bent the operating rod that it was connected to slightly, but also the inside edge of the crank was rubbing against a second operating rod that traveled back and forth beneath it.

Finally, on two of the worse slow-down (to a crawl) curves, I gave up on trying to adjust the track, and just pulled it out.  The track was virtually new K-Line, bright and shiny.     I replaced it with some older Lionel track, a little less shiny, and a little more pliable (malleable).       (Plainly it was made of softer steel.)

The slow down problems on those curves disappeared. 

I know for a fact that the K-line track is harder and more brittle than the Lionel.    (I had to work with a lot of it.  Trying to open up the pin holes in the ends of the rails is murder, and creates linear cracks at the ends of the rails. )

Because of the increased hardness, I wonder if like many really hard steels, it doesn't "wear-in" and get "slick."   Hard steel rubbing on hard steel doesn't wear in and get glassy smooth.  Instead, the rubbing parts remain "sticky."

Any ideas or thoughts are appreciated.


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K-Line 027 track was definitely made of thicker metal than Lionel 027. I have 3' sections from both brands and when you look at the ends of the rails, it was fairly obvious that K-Line simply used the same thickness of metal in their 027 track as they did on their 'O' track, whereas Lionel used thinner sheet-metal in their 027 rails.



Good question.  Here is an example.

Go to a gun show.  Find and ask to cycle an original bolt action 1903 Springfield.  These were made before, during and for a period after World War I.  The cycling is so smooth and slick, it is unbelievable.  You will thing that it is because the metal has been greased or lubed.  It isn't.  The metal has a softness to it, that lets the parts that rub together wear into a perfect fit.

Then find and ask to cycle the World War II version of the rifle, being a U.S. 03-A3 rifle.  Identical action.   Different metal.  They made them out of nickel steel.  The nickel added lots of hardness.   The cycling is sticky.  The bolt drags, catches, and scrapes like it has adhesive spray on it.  Lubing it will not change a thing.  The metal is so hard that it never wears in.  These rifles are now 80 years old, and still, they are sticky.

That is why  a late serial numbered 1903 Springfield is regarded by many as the finest bolt action military rifle ever made.  And the 03-A3 is regarded as junk. 

That is what I mean by hard metal being sticky.  Were the hard wheels on my Hudson "sticking" on the very hard K-line metal rails as the engine tried to pass through the curves?

Hope this info helps.


I doubt that the steel used in any of the tubular tracks are different from each other. They would all be of mild steel. The difference may be in the thickness of steel used, which will affect the "stiffness" and ability to bend and flex.

You probably want the thicker steel track, as it will not bend under the engine load, which can cause operating issues, depending on how well the track is supported from underneath and if the track is screwed or held to the table, rug or roadbed.

However if the Lionel track is improving performance on a few of your curves, you have solved the problem. If there is a friction issue between the engine wheels and track, lubrication would help, however that is not practical in model trains and could contribute to dirt and electrical conductivity issues. 031 is a tight curve, so many engines may be "tight" going around that size of radius curve. The engine truck wheels are straight, with some clearance to allow them to navigate corners. If the gauge of the wheels is tight (you can feel the clearance on a straight piece of track) then it may be tight on some smaller radius curves.

Thanks for the thoughts Joe.

My track is tightly screwed down flat on a totally level half-inch plywood table.  The table top has no give to it.

My thinking was that having curve rails that would "give" laterally under some pressure would make it easier for the engine to traverse tight curves,  Whereas hard, unyielding rails would grip tightly. 

Of course, I am not very experienced with O gauge track, but I was happy that putting in the VG+ older New York Lionel track seemed to solve the problems.


I hate to suggest the obvious, but brand new track may just need cleaning.  After I laid my Gargraves & Ross track, I tried powering up a loop and running,  Things ran like crap, lights flickered, they'd occasionally stop, sound was cutting out, etc.  A good cleaning of the track and all was well.  It looked and even smelled new, but it obviously needed whatever residue from manufacturing was on it to be removed.

Guys, thanks for the advice.

But, all of my other engines ran like champs around those K-Line curves. No slow downs whatsoever.

Sticky metal just means that the metal doesn't give or ever wear in.  If the wheel spacing on my Hudson are slightly out of spec (too wide), then they would indeed be caught between the rails in those turns.   You should have seen it fighting its way through the curves, at a crawl, like it was towing 100 cars. :-)

But, I will definitely be cleaning all new track from now on!


OK now that I got that out of my system.  Different materials do have a different Coefficient of Friction when sliding across other materials.  This site may shed some light.  Though most rolled steel items, like track, are made from mild steel and there would be little variation from one alloy to another of mild steel. Generally speaking a soft material slides better on a hard material. In the case of guns the receiver should be a harder alloy than the bolt as the bolt can be replaced. Once the receiver is shot (pun intended) usually the gun is also.   New rolled steel track has a coating of oil.    Johns right over the target. Clean your track, it can't be too clean.       j


Last edited by JohnActon

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