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Simply put, I am building a new layout with Gargraves track (coming from FasTrack). I have a basic loop assembled on my table and soldered wires to the rails and a jumper for the 2 outer rails. Most of my engines run just fine, but one particular engine, an MTH Premier FT A-B-A set (early 5 volt PS2 from 2003, don’t have product number on hand) is sparking and audibly making a crackling sound whenever it moves, but only when the smoke is on. With the smoke turned off, it doesn’t spark. I am currently running in conventional mode with an MTH Z-4000. I have not tried with DCS yet. I retested the engine on my old FasTrack with the Z-4000 with the smoke both on and off and it didn’t spark at all. I have cleaned the Gargraves track with 91% alcohol and cleaned the wheels on contacts on the lead A unit with alcohol as well (I’m not testing with the B or other A units). Other engines, MTH and otherwise don’t spark at all, smoke or no smoke. What could be causing this and why is is so specific? Only the Gargraves track combined with having the smoke turned on causes the sparking.

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I have one or two engines that get weird when the smoke is on.  Smoke does take more power.  I run them with the smoke off.

The only difference electrically between Gargarves track and FasTrack is that FasTrack has the outer rails connected, but since you have a jumper on the Gargraves, I can’t figure out why they are giving you different behavior.  I have used Gargraves track since the mid 80s.  The black on the center rail does not wear off.  I wouldn’t remove the black coating since it will only make the surface more likely to rust.

Check the pickups on your A unit to see if they are both free and making good contact.  I had a problem recently where one pickup was sticking in the up position.

To find the product number, put the cab number and other info (road name, product line, etc.) into the MTH product locator.  I will miss the MTH site come next April.

These engines draw some amps. Any imperfections show up. I suspect that running in conventional, may cause the amp draw to be higher so the sparking is more severe. Having the rollers cross over switches and joints makes the problem visible.

I just got a new Bigboy. I had to turn the handle on a Z4000 all the way up to lesson the draw on the rails.

I do know from experience, that motors run better and cooler in command mode. They draw less and can do more. On my outside G scale layout, I have the voltage turned up higher to run big trains easier. When  4 to 6 engines in consist are on a mainline, the amp draw is surprising low that way. The grades outside are bigger. The cars are much heavier. Yet I see higher amp draws inside with O scale.

@AGHRMatt posted:

Two additional things.

Clean your rollers. We have a grinder with a wire wheel at the club, but a Dremel with a wire brush works. Crud from the track collects in the pores of the rollers.

The second is to oil the rollers. It keeps them rolling smoothly.

I don’t have either of those. Could I use sandpaper? And can anyone explain why it only sparks on the Gargraves but not the FasTrack? Wouldn’t it be sparking on the FasTrack too if the contacts were dirty?

I can’t explain why you are getting different results with Gargravres and FasTrack, but since you are getting different results, that is something to look into.  How good is your jumper?  Did you verify continuity between the outer rails with a VOM?

Where are the sparks coming from?  The pickups?  The wheels?  Does it spark constantly or only at track joints?

I wouldn’t use sandpaper on the pickup rollers.  Use the alcohol or better yet mineral spirits if you have some.  While you are oiling the pickup roller axle, also oil the pickup hinge.

@Lehigh74 posted:

I can’t explain why you are getting different results with Gargravres and FasTrack, but since you are getting different results, that is something to look into.  How good is your jumper?  Did you verify continuity between the outer rails with a VOM?

Where are the sparks coming from?  The pickups?  The wheels?  Does it spark constantly or only at track joints?

I wouldn’t use sandpaper on the pickup rollers.  Use the alcohol or better yet mineral spirits if you have some.  While you are oiling the pickup roller axle, also oil the pickup hinge.

Sparks are only coming from where the contacts touch the center rail. No sparks on the outer wheels or rails. It only sparks when moving. When in neutral, it does not. The sparks are constant while in motion and seem to have no correlation to track joints.

I would also like to hear more thoughts on conductive oils for the center rail before trying them.

Just a thought from my experience.

Prewar engine rollers sparked bad tried everything then decided to bend the copper strip just a tad bit not much at all connecting to the rollers mind you this is prewar 254e sparking virtually went away .

It seems like the current was jumping because the rollers were not making solid contact with the middle rail.

If there was someway you could put something to force the rollers further down just to see if the spark subsides its worth a shot.

Either way let us know if and when you solve problem because it may help others.

Fixed it! Just had to clean the contacts more aggressively apparently. Cleaned until the q tips showed showed pure white. The engine has over 1000 scale miles and is from 2003, so it makes sense they had years worth of crud built up on them. If anyone’s wondering, I used a circular scrubbing motion with moderate pressure and then rotated contact to a new spot and repeated all the way around, again and again, until the q-tips were white all the way around.

@RJR posted:

They're never as good as Elbow Grease.   Unfortunately.

Not if you are willing to spend big money and get the CMX track cleaning car. EXCELLENT results and quick, easy and pain free. And yes although a lot of people DO NOT like the fact, I use acetone in the car and have never had any problems. This is the only car I know of that you can use acetone in as there is no plastic. Usually one pass around maybe two if I had waited a year, and the track is clean to a white glove. Just make sure you follow instructions and set drip rate on to the pads correctly. Pads are easy to change. Wife purchased a Yard of fabric, same as what came with it and we cut it and DONE!

RJR - CMX only drips on the front Brass block and spreads down to the Pad. The Second pad is a wiper.

John - I don't use Ross as I have currently all Atlas and have NOT had any problems with any plastic on those switches.

RJR - I can Attest that it is expensive but worth every penny. I have several other track cleaning cars and the difference is like night and day. NOTHING comes even close. Like I said there are several (actually most) people on the forum that have said Acetone is a big no no for all kinds of reasons from plastic to flames. I have NOT experienced any of those symptoms in the 6 years I have been using it. In my opinion it has saved me not only $$$ but hours of frustration and time using other ways to clean the track. I would do it again in an instant. But each to his own. That is why they make a great product like 7Up and then make other imitators for everybody else. Ahh I can taste that cool refreshing drink right now just thinking about it. Almost like MTH vs Lionel Vs all the others. Some die, some die hard and some live on even if purchased several times to save their butts. Me I like them all, but MTH is my #1.

Curtis

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