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My apologies as I believe there are a lot of past posts on MTH switch issues but I'm not finding specifically what I'm looking for and hoping someone can point me in the right direction quickly as I'm trying to get our layout working "smoothly" for my little man when he's here for Christmas.

I'm having two switch issues:

1.  Whenever the Norfolk Southern (MTH) locomotive goes thru the switch (coming out of a O31 curve into the straight part of the switch) the back wheels get caught, loud "clunk" and the train stops in place...the motor keeps running but it can't move.  I can back it out on it's own but when I come back forward it gets stuck again. If I give a little bump to the back wheels with my finger it goes on it's merry way.  The front wheels are never a problem and it can go backwards thru the switch in either direction and forward in the other direction...only is a problem coming forward out of the curve thru the straight and only the back wheels.  In the pic you see the arrow where I think it's getting caught up.  Is this a switch issue, locomotive issue?  On occasion it will go fight thru on it's own and even tease me and go thru smoothly every now and then but more often than not gets stuck.  No problems in other switches with similar configurations.  Our shorter Sante Fe locomotive goes thru it just fine.

2.  Another switch doesn't always throw completely to the outer rail in the curve direction...sometimes it does and other times it leaves a little gap as shown in the pic...when the gap happens all locomotives derail badly going thru.

Too much time, effort and money invested in this Realtrax track to change now so working diligently to try to work out the kinks...switch issues as well as inferior connections causing too much bumping around...seems that the Norfolk Southern struggles the most with the bumping around on joints and thru switches.

Anyway, any help any of you can offer would be so very much appreciated.20191216_23110220191217_00412220191215_223417

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  • 20191216_231102: Norfolk Southern Issue
  • 20191217_004122: Norfolk Southern Issue
  • 20191215_223417: Switch Gap Issue
Original Post
Canes RR posted:

My apologies as I believe there are a lot of past posts on MTH switch issues but I'm not finding specifically what I'm looking for and hoping someone can point me in the right direction quickly as I'm trying to get our layout working "smoothly" for my little man when he's here for Christmas.

I'm having two switch issues:

1.  Whenever the Norfolk Southern (MTH) locomotive goes thru the switch (coming out of a O31 curve into the straight part of the switch) the back wheels get caught, loud "clunk" and the train stops in place...the motor keeps running but it can't move.  I can back it out on it's own but when I come back forward it gets stuck again. If I give a little bump to the back wheels with my finger it goes on it's merry way.  The front wheels are never a problem and it can go backwards thru the switch in either direction and forward in the other direction...only is a problem coming forward out of the curve thru the straight and only the back wheels.  In the pic you see the arrow where I think it's getting caught up.  Is this a switch issue, locomotive issue?  On occasion it will go fight thru on it's own and even tease me and go thru smoothly every now and then but more often than not gets stuck.  No problems in other switches with similar configurations.  Our shorter Sante Fe locomotive goes thru it just fine.

Is the NS spec'd to go through O-31 curves ? You can gently "massage" the area where the wheels get hung up with a small file or Dremel attachment to create a straighter shot for the wheels to go through or more clearance (both horizontally and vertically) and see if that helps. It may take a few passes before the area is opened up enough but don't overdo it.

2.  Another switch doesn't always throw completely to the outer rail in the curve direction...sometimes it does and other times it leaves a little gap as shown in the pic...when the gap happens all locomotives derail badly going thru.

You can "gently" bend the outer tip of the switch point to get it closer to the rail, but I emphasize the word "gently". The switch points are usually very brittle and can snap, so it do it a little bit at a time.

Too much time, effort and money invested in this Realtrax track to change now so working diligently to try to work out the kinks...switch issues as well as inferior connections causing too much bumping around...seems that the Norfolk Southern struggles the most with the bumping around on joints and thru switches.

Anyway, any help any of you can offer would be so very much appreciated.20191216_23110220191217_00412220191215_223417

 

Thank you for the response Richie...yes, the NS is rated for O31 curves so it certainly should work...it was actually my son's first train...came in the set with O31 track.  I did consider "filing" the area down a bit but wasn't sure if those plastic pieces could safely be filed...also concerned with unintended consequences if it "opens up" too much...may try just hitting the corner a bit and see what happens.  Yes, I'll be gentle...thank you for the input...I feel a bit better about doing a little filing now.

Hello CANES RR,

On your problem with the MTH loco, one of your wheel sets may be gauged just a tad too wide.  That, combined with the switch guardrails allowing too much room, is probably what's causing your loco to hang up.  Putting some spacers on the guardrails would help cure this problem.  This is one of the issues addressed here: https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...h-problems-revisited

As far as your switch not fully throwing, are you running enough voltage to it?  I had the same problem early on with some of my switches.  At first I was running conventional and tried to power them with track voltage.  That didn't work so well.  Then I tried hooking them up to 10 volt constant power (indeed, the instructions say they will work on 10 volts).  This vastly improved operation, but I still had a switch or two that didn't always fully throw, just like yours.  I finally started running them at a full 14 volts, and haven't had a problem since - they snap with authority.

See if this stuff doesn't help before starting to bend and file components. 

After many frustrating hours, I think I may have made some progress last night with the switch that the NS loco is struggling with.  I first tried messing around with some of the switch parts (guardrails, etc.) to no avail...nothing seemed to be wrong with the loco, wheel trucks, etc.  So I decided to try a layout revision that allowed a 3.5" straight piece between the O31 curve and the switch thinking if it was going straight into the switch that would clean it up...seemed to help on the first pass, then clunked thru the 2nd pass, then off and on clunking thru and sometimes still getting hung up...so a little better but not even close to acceptable...to make matters worse, now it was clunking thru another switch with no curves.  Beyond frustrated at that point I went to the gym to clear my head.  Came back and it dawned on me...what if I'm looking at this all wrong...what if I should be looking at this in the vertical plane and not just the horizontal plane?  So I cut some thin foam shims (varied from 1/32" to 1/8") and started playing around with shimming up track in various places around the switches to level things up.  It worked!  I ran the NS loco around the entire layout in all directions multiple times and didn't get hung up once...even went thru the switches a little smoother!

Haven't had a chance to get into the other one that doesn't throw to the outer rail properly yet...that one will have to wait but when I have time I'll take it apart to check that wire and will likely add another power feed near it to beef that up.

Still a lot bumping around the layout due to the bad rail connections of this Realtrax stuff but I'll keep working to clean that up over time.

In hindsight I doubt that I would buy this MTH Realtrax stuff if I had it to do over again but I have way too much time and money invested in this so not giving up...at least Christian should now be able to run his trains for Christmas.

Thank you everyone for your input...much appreciated as always!

DSCN2620CanesRR,

   It is not my intent to bad mouth any MTH product however after using the MTH Realtrax switches I have phased all of them out of my train room.  Like a few other companies switches they are to much trouble for constant running, especially with my different Tin Plate train.  I invested in the newer FastTrack remote control switches and have had no problems with them for constant running of all my different trains.  I do have a small loop of MTH track under the living room Christmas tree, with no Switches.  Unfortunately IMO the only way to completely solve your problem, so your children can totally enjoy your train layout is to re-engineer your layout.  Costly especially at Christmas time.

PCRR/Dave

DSCN2582

 

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Last edited by Pine Creek Railroad

It is a shame that MTH has not fixed the issues with their Real Trax switches, especially the electrical ones that have been going on for several years. Right now I have one 042 Real Trax switch at a major junction on my railroad that has lost continuity to the sheet metal piece of the 3rd rail, and it has my whole railroad shutdown! 13 of 14 Real Trax switches on my railroad have been modified to fix their electrical problems. Real Trax Switch Open Circuit Fix 2.7mbReal Trax Switch Sparking Locations

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  • Real Trax Switch Open Circuit Fix 2.7mb
  • Real Trax Switch Sparking Locations

I should have mentioned this in my prior post, but I had this problem. A locomotive's wheels would hit the point of the switch frog and go to the wrong side. The problem was the guard rail in the curve opposite of the frog. It was too thin and did not guide the locomotive's wheels to the proper side of the frog. Try this solution. Read sketch from the bottom up.

Switch Guard Rail Mod

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  • Switch Guard Rail Mod
@Bobby Ogage posted:

I should have mentioned this in my prior post, but I had this problem. A locomotive's wheels would hit the point of the switch frog and go to the wrong side. The problem was the guard rail in the curve opposite of the frog. It was too thin and did not guide the locomotive's wheels to the proper side of the frog. Try this solution. Read sketch from the bottom up.

 

Thank you Bobby, very good and well displayed information.

Hey guys...still struggling a bit with a couple of switches...we have 2 left hand switches where our MTH Norfolk Southern locomotive still gets stuck going thru the switches...I identified the issue but not sure what to do...the front wheel truck goes thru smoothly but when the rear wheel truck gets in there the rear pickup roller drops down in the gap shown in the photo and gets stuck...usually it powers thru it but makes a horrible noise and jumps around...I've played around with making sure the switches are level, etc. and sometimes seems to help but then after a few runs thru starts doing it again...this doesn't seem to happen with other locos and doesn't happen on any of the other switches on the layout (left or right).  Anyone else ever have this problem...any ideas how to fix it?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.Switch Issue

 

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  • Switch Issue

Seems like you should be able to temporarily tape down a small piece of plastic of the appropriate size to help prevent the roller from dropping down into the gap, if that's what's happening. Just make sure it doesn't interfere with the movement of the switch point when in the divergent position.  

If it works, then glue it in place.

If you have a spare center rail, you might also be able to cut it to just slightly longer than the original piece and replace it.

Last edited by Richie C.

This recommended for all Real Trax switches? Sounds like all my problems with mine. I'm doing my first (and last) rodeo here. Used switches and about everything else save me $ to use for more. I can't afford to buy MTH new or keep up with the latest. This sure is fun and every body else is right.

All reported problems seem to be with switches with turnouts less than O-72. I have many O-72 and never had a problem.

Our turnouts are O-31.  I did consider attaching a piece to fill that gap a little but thought this should be unnecessary (doesn't happen in all switches so why these 2?) so thought I'd ask to see if there are any other solutions before trying to rig it like that...thank you guys!  Still open to any other suggestions that don't require modifying the switches but will probably give that a try.

@Canes RR posted:

Hey guys...still struggling a bit with a couple of switches...we have 2 left hand switches where our MTH Norfolk Southern locomotive still gets stuck going thru the switches...I identified the issue but not sure what to do...the front wheel truck goes thru smoothly but when the rear wheel truck gets in there the rear pickup roller drops down in the gap shown in the photo and gets stuck...usually it powers thru it but makes a horrible noise and jumps around...I've played around with making sure the switches are level, etc. and sometimes seems to help but then after a few runs thru starts doing it again...this doesn't seem to happen with other locos and doesn't happen on any of the other switches on the layout (left or right).  Anyone else ever have this problem...any ideas how to fix it?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.Switch Issue

 

MTH rail length tolerances are NOT overly tight, in my experience.  The center rail length on your two problem switches may be a tad shorter than the rest of your switches.  If they are, a fix per Richie C. may just be the ticket you're looking for.

You may wish to carefully inspect the rear truck roller assembly on your NS loco and make sure it hasn't been bent over slightly due to fouling this switch area previously.  If it is, then carefully bend it back to its proper center position, and see if that doesn't fix it.

Could this have anything to do with my problem?  Not sure if you can tell from the photo but the roller on the rear truck extends lower than the one on the front (right side in the photo is the back of the loco)...obviously upside down in the photo but there is clearly more space between the the roller and the underside of the loco and the bottom of the roller is below the wheels in the rear...why it would only be a problem on 2 switches is beyond me...maybe I'm grasping at straws?20200713_194502  If this is the problem how do I fix it?  Is it possible to replace the roller or is it the entire truck that needs to be replaced?

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The roller assembly should be easy to remove.  Simply remove the shell from the frame, and look for a screw close to the motor that has at least one wire terminal tightened under it.  This screw goes through the truck and threads into the roller assembly.  Simply unscrew this screw and the roller assembly will come right off.  Don't lose any insulating plates or washers in the process.

Then see if some light bending on the roller assembly with a pair of needle-nose pliers or two can get it looking like the other roller.  Or get a new roller assembly.  Or, if you'd rather not mess around whatsoever with the roller assembly, cut a couple pieces of plastic to epoxy into the gaps on the switches, so the roller will ride over the gap instead of falling into it.  Make sure the plastic spacer doesn't interfere with the movable switch rails.

Okay, here's an easier fix.  A pin vise, a 5/64" dia. drill bit, a #4 flat head wood screw x 1/2" long, and a Phillips screwdriver is all you need.

001002003

Here is an extra O-31 MTH left-hand switch I have.  Carefully hand-drill hole, screw in the flat head screw until it is flush with the top of the rails, and you're done.  The screw should take up enough gap to allow the roller to cross the rails without getting hung up.

CAUTION!  I don't think there is any internal wiring at the spot I drilled the hole, and I don't think I hit any wiring on this switch.  Hence the hand-drilled hole with the pin-vise.  Proceed with extreme care if you go this route, so you don't mess up any potential internal wiring!

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Love the screw idea but it does scare me a bit...also prefer not to mess with the NS loco so tonight gonna try gluing some plastic strips to fill the gap a bit and see what happens...I found this plastic backing on a set of paint color samples at the office...fairly easy to cut but pretty strong in small pieces so hopefully will work.

With MTH going out of business I also bought a couple extra switches to have on hand in case anything goes awry...now have 2 extra left hand and 2 extra right hand.  Next will be learning how to incorporate Lionel operating systems into our MTH based layout...hopefully in a cost efficient manner.

On a side note, we're architects so have lots of samples (carpet, fabric, wall paper, etc.) that I'm bringing home so the little guy can use to finish the inside of buildings, passenger cars, etc.

Thank you again for the responses...it still bugs me a great deal that this should even be necessary with how much these things cost but so glad to have you guys to turn to for advice and work thru the issues.

20200714_114439

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Thank you Richie...I may do that...would also clean up the look a bit.

Love little victories...silly as it may sound to some this is a big weight off my shoulders as it's been a frustrating problem holding back progress on our layout for quite some time...couldn't get myself to really work on scenery, etc. until I felt confident with the track work and trains running without issues.

My little guy will feel more confident running trains now and we can focus on scenery and enjoy running trains more.

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