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Quite frequently a part or two will come loose off a car, locomotive, etc. and be lost somewhere on the layout. The parts just simply fall off or as a result of some kind of contact.

With all the Ballasting and other stuff/crud on the layout, what’s the best way to find and retrieve lost parts. Any ideas.

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Practice due diligence in inspecting your cars and engines.  Watch for loose items before you place a car on the tracks.  Frequently look at your layout and notice if there's something on it that wasn't there last time you ran your trains. Get a cheap flat car and turn it into a magnet car for retrieving metal debris.

20201005_17314920201005_173210

I run this car about once a week to pick up metal shavings before the locomotives do.

I belong to a club and I place the magnet car in front of my engine for a first run over the tracks I'm using that day. We have a plastic tub filled with items that have fallen off cars and locomotives.  Anything from brake wheels and hand rails to a dynamic brake fan cover  from a SD90! How do you miss that piece!

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I think the above suggestions are excellent.

When I notice a screw or other part of a locomotive or train car is missing, I take a flashlight and very carefully look for the part in the ballast in between, and along side, the rails of the track. This is hard to do because of the kind of ballast I have, shown in the photo below.

20180311_152423

Amazingly, I almost always find the missing part. Arnold

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I think the above suggestions are excellent.

When I notice a screw or other part of a locomotive or train car is missing, I take a flashlight and very carefully look for the part in the ballast in between, and along side, the rails of the track. This is hard to do because of the kind of ballast I have, shown in the photo below.

20180311_152423

Amazingly, I almost always find the missing part. Arnold



Arnold,  it would be easier to find where's Waldo! 😁

@third rail posted:


Arnold,  it would be easier to find where's Waldo! 😁

I agree, Bill.

My ballast is ground up asphalt/stones found along local roads where I live, which I found during long walks. The stones are way too big, but so are the hi-rails of my O Gauge tubular track, so I think it works on my layout.

The ballast on the outside of the rails is affixed with spray glue, but the ballast inside the rails is loose.

Believe it or not, my ballast does help stabilize the track and reduces derailments.

The worst thing about my ballast relates to the topic of this thread. The color and size of the ballast make it very hard to find parts that fall off engines and train cars, but I almost always find them  by searching relentlessly and obsessively with the help of a good flashlight. Arnold

I have been using  Arnold's flashlight method for years.  Every once in a while I do a walk through to see what I can find.  Most of the time nothing but there have been more than just a few occasions when I have found screws, brake wheels, traction tires and small pieces of broken plastic on my right of way.  My tubular track layout is ballasted with traditional store bought track ballast.  The flashlight method has worked for me thus far so I'll stick with it.

@Mannyrock posted:

Third Rail,

I have a super cheap, Lionel flatcar, with thumbtack couplers.  I was about to throw it away, but having seen your great magnet car, I now know what to do with it.

Mannyrock

"Throw it away"? That kind of talk could get you banned from the model railroading "Hey, I Might Need That" committee.

-----

Another problem is brass parts. No magnet can help, of course.

Last edited by D500

I may have the world's greatest wife, but when I lose some critical part from my rolling stock she'll volunteer to do a flashlight search of the layout with me.

What's sometimes frustrating is finding stray parts and having no idea where they came from.

My son is good at determining exactly where a "squeak" is coming from in a passing train.

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