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One good possibility, perhaps some axle bushings and/or the motor bushings and/or some gears are worn slightly from all the years of running in the forward direction.  I would imagine the loco didn't spend a lot of time running in reverse, hence everything lines up properly when thrown in reverse.

If something is getting a little worn, this could put an additional load on the motor, causing the loco to run a little slower in one direction and not the other.  It might be a good time for a fairly good tear-down and close inspection of all bushings, bearings, gears, side rods, and any other moving parts to try and determine if some excess wear has occurred in one or more of the components.

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