Sparks from pick-up rollers

I have noticed while running my trains fast (MTH and Lionel) on one of my loops that the rollers were sparking, particularly at high speeds.

I have cleaned the track, rollers, and even swapped rollers with another engine and no change.  Most of my command control and have sparking at high speeds and with the cruise control turned off at high speed. The engines run fine otherwise.

Anyone tips on fixing this issue? My thought was, which I've had before, that I was going fast and the rollers were "jumping" at track joints but even on the extra long straight sections I see sparking. I have cleaned the roller, wheels, and track.  Any idea this may be connected? Is it possible that at high speeds there isn't as good of a connection? Thank you for the help.

Original Post

What track are you using lionel tubular or lionel fastrack and i would take electric contact cleaner and spray the center pin on the rollers on the engines and if you have rust pits on the track clean it with scotch brite pad to get the rust pits off that will cause sparking with rollers and also check center track pins if they are clean too. 



Chessie System!! 




That was common when using the old Lionel locos with the open frame motors with high current draw.  Note that the point of contact between a roller and a tubular rail is a very small point, the intersection of 2 circles in different planes.  There could be tiny pits or bits of corrosion, momentarily breaking the circuit, upon which the induction from the motor coils keeps the current flowing and producing a spark.


Thanks for you help. I have cleaned the tracks and wheels, as well as the pick up rollers. I had noticed this many, many years ago first with a Williams engine on my old layout and on my club layout at the time. I still see it when running fast. The more rollers on an engine, the less noticeable.

Dominic Mazoch posted:

In a sense, the rollers to the third rail are like trolley poles.  If a trolley is running at a higher speed, the bouncing trolley pole and its contact wheel could produce sparks like the rollers on the thisrd rai.

Thanks. Good point, one that I was curious about. Is going fast causing the rollers to "bounce" a bit. With their smaller size, they are spinning quite a bit faster than the wheels!

Also forgot to mention that I put the rollers for a brand new, never on the track engine on one of my older, well run MTH engines - still sparks even at quick speeds. I note this at quick speeds and at "full power" operation!

I've used graphite infused oil for pickup rollers with some luck.  Graphite is a conductor so it helps with any issues between the roller and it's contact to the engine.  I have Lock Ease right now (I think I picked it up at a local NAPA).  They key is a little bit only.  Don't try to apply it with the bottle applicator, you will make a mess.

Hope it helps.


Is Never Stall a good electrical oil for the rollers.

Also, when you put don feeds for the center rail, do so for the outside ground.  The sparks could indicate resistance in the circuit.  

If you have a voltmeter, or a transformer with one built in, check the areas where the sparking is happening the most

The TEXAS SPECIAL:  The REAL RED streak of the golden prairies!

Indian Valley RR posted:

Thank you for the input. I'll have to try putting a small amount of oil on the center rail. I assume the oil aids in connectivity?

Yes, many of those extremely light oils are conductive. In fact, Atlas ) offers a great product for oiling pick-up rollers, called "Electro-Lube". I have been using it for years on all of my pick-up rollers, and even on the electric plug of the winter bird water heater in the back yard.

Add Reply

Likes (0)

OGR Publishing, Inc. PO Box 218, Hilliard, OH 43026 330-757-3020