My railroad is basically single-track with double ended sidings like a real railroad. There is a ladder of switches connecting the mainline with the biggest train yard, and these 5 switches failed 2+ years ago. Removing MTH Real Trax from a layout with scenery is difficult and destructive, so I avoided the railroad for over 2 years. I played with my Model "A" Fords instead. Now I am restarting my railroad that has a large roster of Rail King motive power with the dreaded Nicd batteries. I had visions of circuit board failures everywhere if I put power to the railroad. Here are my lessons learned:
- Real Trax switches have an internal circuit board with printed strips of copper to carry the switch circuits underneath the switch's mechanism. The red strip is too thin to carry the 3rd rail current spikes that occur when trains spark go over the switch, so it the strip burns-out. All of the 16 switches on my railroad require an external jumper to bypass the red board strip;
- Epoxy coatings are being applied to the switch parts where sparking occurs;
- Modify some pieces of Real Trax to make them easily removable so I can service switches in the future;
- Every piece of motive power, 30+ steam engines, a few diesels and trolley cars, and the El trains will bet get battery replacements to eliminate all of the Nicd batteries. I am fabricating my own battery replacements to keep the cost down;
- A major track cleaning is necessary to remove dust from about 300 feet of tracks.
- Batteries in the DCS hand-held controllers must be replaced.
Biggest lesson learned. Do not let your railroad go idle. Keep the rails polished by running trains! Get rid of any Nicd battery connected to electronics.