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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.

Named Trains Departing Woodside Station [1)DSCN2410Named Trains @ Woodside Station [1)


Images (3)
  • Named Trains Departing Woodside Station (1)
  • DSCN2410
  • Named Trains @ Woodside Station (1)
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Welcome back to Ogauge, Bobby O.  All good points. Interesting point on the switches. I have 12 of them on the mainline of my layout and only one has ever had a problem.  The only one that has burnt out, which I have also never replaced due to it being embedded in my scenery (Its in the front so I just turn it manually) is the one that was powered via track power. All of the others, which have never given me any problems, are all connected to a separate transformer located under my layout that is attached to all switches with a low amp circuit breaker. I wonder if that helped preserve my switches from the defect you mention. The other thing I've done is remove the black topping with a scotch brite pad on the switches and all real trax.  I found this increases continuity and DCS signal strength as well as lowering the sparking.  You may want to try that as well.

Last edited by Strap Hanger

Gunnerjohn, my railroad would still be defunct without the help you have given me to rid my locomotives of the dreaded Nicad batteries. I am happy to report that 28 of the locomotives on my roster now have "Roll Your Own BCRs", and I have only a few left to do. I did make one mistake however. I connected the (+) of a capacitor pack to the boards in my GG1, and unfortunately I put power to it.

Since I corrected the polarity error, the GG1 has lights and sound, but no motion.

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