Track binding issue

It seems about 5 pieces of my curve o27 track have become warped I've been trying to figure out why my train keeps slowing in turns even though I have plenty of lock ons and no detectable voltage drop.   Turns out when I push the train through the curves I can feel it binding up so I'm wondering if there is an easy way without replacing the track pieces to fix the spacing between rails?

Original Post

Steam engine, it's a New York Central the engine itself is new old stock has no more than about 20 minutes of run time, is completely clean and it is definitely o27 it seems like the track pinches the drive wheels. It's only through about 5 sections of curve the straight is fine and the other curve sections are fine.

You may have squeezed the track rails together accidentally when putting the track together and caused a "tight gauge" causing the binding.

Remember, it doesn't take much to slow those engines down on curves. It may just be the "natural phenomenon" know as flange bind. I've gotten lots of eye opening experience with it on the toys and the big stuff.

SJC I can say without a doubt that the track is clean and the pins are perfect because I very carefully went over those sections. My longest run between lock ons is 14 sections but the rest are between 5 and 8 sections apart and it doesn't bind at all in the long section so it's not voltage. Which lead me to believe the track rail spacing was pinching the engine and that's why I'm looking for an easy way to respace the rails without replacing the track.

AlphaJustin posted:

SJC I can say without a doubt that the track is clean and the pins are perfect because I very carefully went over those sections. My longest run between lock ons is 14 sections but the rest are between 5 and 8 sections apart and it doesn't bind at all in the long section so it's not voltage. Which lead me to believe the track rail spacing was pinching the engine and that's why I'm looking for an easy way to respace the rails without replacing the track.

I didn't say anything about whether or not the track is clean or what the pins are like. I'm talking about squeezing the rails together inward when putting the track together and holding it.

Being that 027 track is so cheap, throw out the problem stuff and go buy a few new pieces. You can build an entire layout with the stuff for $20......

Well, if they can be bent once, they can be bent twice. Get out the pliers!

Nothing magical about this track, it's just sheet metal. Try to make the bad ones match the good ones. Just go slow and be careful how you grab it, so you don't mess up the 'tube' shape or put in a kink. You might even try bending it by hand first.

My experience is that once the track is bent/distorted, it's impossible to get it perfect again. It should be replaced. You might want to figure out how it got bent in the first place and put measures in place so that it does not happen again.


Get an inexpensive end knipper set of pliers and grip the rails just under the rolled top.  Bend them outward ever so slightly, going through each piece a little at a time.  It will take time, but not a lot of money, and you won't have to take up the track.  Don't use too much force, or you will cause a distortion in the rail.  Just go slow and do both sides of each track section.  It should work.  Don't buy the big ended knippers, but get the small ones, about five inches.  They will grab about a half inch of rail with each crimp.  Two pairs working in tandem would be even better.  Just make small adjustments.

   You id early trains by the cab #. That one as NYC #8632  (on the cab), "4-4-2" (wheels front to rear, steam ID system called the "Whyte Notation" "google it" ) Modern era trains use a part number first and foremost, but wheels, train numbers, etc. still get used sometimes too. A "starter set", and not an awful one, but fyi you can expect much more out of the slightly larger 6 driver locos and "hobby grade" loco's in general. Adding weight to the smaller locos usually adds plenty of ability though. Every bit helps and even a half of an once can be noticable   It may need new bushings, etc. earlier; & taxed beyond design, you should watch can motor heat, etc.. If you modify there is always "that one"     or two  but it's too fun to stop  Watching a smaller engine pull like it should is like watching an ant carry a grape   I don't own anything bigger than a 4-6-4 

   Nearly all trains will slow in curves as the flanges rub (except for maybe "digital" engines). More so on 0-27, more so on longer wheel bases, and especially tight are longer ones without blind wheels (flangless). Near every layout will benefit from an extra power drop. I try to add my power feeds near the curves to defeat that.

 Note, minor postion, even an inch, for lock-on change can change the track "sweet spot" for loco performance. Reverse direction Clockwise to C.C., or change to lighted cars, etc., and the sweet spots move again.  Wire conducts easier than track. So add a second or third lock-on, #1 to #1, #2to #2, or solder leads to two spots on the track bottom, sanded clean of plating, etc.. More wire= easier current path, it will give you the smoothest operation. Also check that pins are tight and don't "rattle" in the host track.. You can give them a needle nose crimp on the track into the pin groove from the underside at the web. Try to keep the crimp to the outside of the rail, try not to dent up where flanges rub . A few small inside edge dents isnt gonna kill it, but isn't desirable either. (center rail isn't as much of a concern, no flanges ).

  Eventually, you should look close at your pins. They made hollow ones that do a poor job if they corrode, and they do, and do so from the inside out. Go to solid pins in time, they are cheap enough, especially on the lone center rail because it carries twice the current. Look for a seam on the pin that indicates it is hollow, and or, when you have an extra, hollow ones can usually be crushed flat by pliers. You cant crush a solid pin by hand, if they crush, I pull them and put in a solid one. The hollow pins are thin enough that if corroded, the center pin may glow red hot under normal operation.

  There are "3 rail gauging block", or you can make one by grooving metal or hardwood. Kinda overkill imo, but if you like a tool, you like a tool.

  Also look at the tabs that hold the track on the ties/sleepers. Has the rail shifted? Is the tab set tight? (ties are a pain, rebending those super nicely is almost an art. Tinman sells a set of pliers that do both tabs while supporting the tie bottom.)

Mind the center rail insulators. Look to see those tabs are down and you aren't  bottoming out a roller/shoe and riding up a raised center rail. (which already sits a fraction of an inch higher because it sits on the cardboard insulation... I repair bad insulators with cut up shoe and cereal box flaps. Some stick a strip of elctrical tape on the new insulator too.

There are pliers made just for tube track. Check with the venders in the ads. I rippers made some. I also made a rail bender out of screws, washers, Stanley bracket hardware and a block of wood, dissassembling track and bending it down to 0-17" for a few micro layouts. Nothing is like brand new, so I'll agree with "never the same", but not really so much with buying new track at every hickup.

The " nippers" referred to are called  "side or top cutters". I use modified top cutters. If the handle side jaw area doesn't have a stop, you can grind the cutting edges flat and get at just the rail web (skinny upright part). Mind you a stop means the jaws won't close if you grind on the cutting edges

 I've seen some "linesman pliers" that were ideal.

  O gauge track has bigger pins, slightly taller, fatter ties, 0-31+ (less curve, less slowing). And it is (was?) made of thicker metal than 0-27 so is stronger; strong enough for most folk to stand on. You can reshape track ends and shim 0-27 a bit at the trasitions to combine the two.

  Menard's (online) makes a low cost 31"dia. and bigger tubular O track, while you are looking around. I bought a little, I like mine

  If you buy any straights for expansion, go for the long 30-40", smooth as silk and they have less connections for power to have to cross. Cheaper per inch. Cut with dollar store hack saw if needed and throw the scrap in the box or use the rail as a flat/gondola junk load.

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


wild mary posted:

Guys don't complicate things.  Do as Bob Severin suggested and be done with it.

Right, we are only talking about 5 curved pieces. No reason not to try Bob's advice first. Make sure the track is screwed down evenly and not overly tightened. Run a longer piece of rolling stock through the section as you work to check your gauge. If that fixes the problem, then you are done! Otherwise, replace the sections.


..... Yea, "buy new" vs bend the rails back and see how it goes. Don't check the retaining tabs that often come loose. Ignore note any other possible issues with 0-27 too. Don't check anything before you screw it down, you'd have no excuse to pull it up again  (sarcasm) 

   I never questioned Bob's advice.    The O.P. was on to the possibility of doing it too.  

  I may be long winded (see "Asperger's Syndrome") but please tell me where I'm incorrect or assumed the O.P. has $30-40 to burn on track, vs a tool that would fix it and be useful in the long run of the hobby.... I gave him a good way to make a better tool, and acknowledged a prefab.

   I mention dulling them and do myself, because my brother cut ours a few times over the years trying to tighten the wrap, vs crimping the notch. The rest is about slowing in curves, or is safety related.

  There is a 3 inch hole an inch deep on my layout melted away by a hollow pin I missed. It didn't melt the grass mat, just the foam under it.  I only found it because it was glowing red hot during a night session.  I knew the hollow pins were weak and got hot, but seeing it was a wake-up.


  Here's more food for thought to complicate life more.

The track might have been fine, within gauge tolorances. 

   But the wheels might be slightly out of gauge; in need of a slight press or tap with wood and a hammer.

  Measured from flange to flange on 2 drivers any wider than 1-1/8" and that could have been the issue, or compounding it.

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


I had initially considered the wheel problem too, but then the binding would be occurring on every O-27 curve and not just the one in  current consideration.  But, that said, it might be a combination of problems. There are many things to consider, but I would take the baby steps, and attempt to readjust the track first.  

I hope the OP keeps up to date on the outcome.  

Thank you all... I have been reading every post I just haven't had a chance to respond.  Several of the ties on the sections in question are dented from being nailed down previously so I went online and ordered a tie punch and an o27 rail plier when they come I should be able to flaten the ties, untwist the rails, and recrimp them to the ties without damaging them and it was cheaper this way than buying more track.  I will also check all of the pins to make sure they are solid and completely clean while I am at it I have plenty of clean solid pins lying around. Track around me is over 3 dollars a section 5 sections need to be fixed and who knows when I will need to fix more so it has already paid for itself.  I will let you guys know what happens after I complete the job.  Thank you all for your guidance I appreciate it especially the very detailed information I have learned a lot of stuff that I was unaware of.

   Bob, I figured you are right from Alpha's inspection. But the thought had occurred to me, and right off Alpha strikes me as observant and interested, not to be scared off if the foam got thick

("foamer"  is slang for someone "overenthusiastic" about trains, usually real ones..... sometimes seen as derogatory by certain railfans; others revel in it. I mostly think it's funny )

  There is 117+ years of model train experience that forms a puzzle and we each hold some pieces. No advice here was some kind of huge mistake, it depends on the personal perspective.

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


You should use screws, not nails, to secure the track. Screws are removable, and you have better control to avoid driving the fastener too far than you do with a hammer and nail. No. 2 wood screws were the standard for tinplate track.

Also, while you are trying to unbend everything, make sure you don’t damage, shift or dislodge the center rail insulation. Otherwise, you’ll have an electrical short to correct as well.

The tie punch really was an unnecessary expense. You shouldn’t need it if the track is installed correctly.

Jim R. 

Well this turned into a huge project I pulled up all of my track and I have 12 bent curve pieces out of 20 not 5 like I though I guess the rest just aren't bent enough to slow the train to a crawl but they are bent.  Then some of the straights are flared at the ends which explains the random derailing in certain directions that I couldn't figure out so it seems the lot of good condition track I got off eBay was not so good and I shouldn't have just trusted it and installed it without checking it.  I am going to try to fix the ones that aren't too bad but I ordered more track I will still update this post when/if I get the train to run right.  For now it is just going around the original oval and insanely boring.

I apologize for the delay,  I tried everything to fix the track including a thorough cleaning and the track came out super clean, but still kept binding so I went on ebay and ordered a bunch more and now that I have that installed the train runs flawlessly it still and I have a bunch of extra track so I may add on a new destination.  In the end the guys who said I should just buy more track were correct, and I appreciate everyone's help.

  Well, the math changed too, but I am sorry.

  You couldn't pay me to go back to the pliers that I used to use, and your's are better than mine too, if that's any kind of consultation. 

I do stand by the fact I see no reason they shouldn't or couldn't be re-bent.

I have two tubular 0-27 layouts bent down to between 17" & about 21". The curves bent in a homemade bender of wood, washers, screws, and Stanley brackets. They all had to uprighted slightly after bending... the whole length of every rail. Two evenings. One to the bender adjustments, and one to actually bend the others.

Try again. Use them for your expansions.



"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.



Photos (3)

   If it is within the original poster's skill set to re-bend, why not? I've shown two working examples that it CAN be done at home, with old cruddy track too.   

   If money is no object, working on things a PITA, and succeeding brings no pride or joy, then by all means buy new. New track is awesomely smooth and consistent (for a while at the very least)

   Worst case the o.p. would have to buy more track to expand again. Dollars aside, the learning opportunity alone is worth it imo; even if it's another failed attempt in the end. They now have a loop to run to keep the train busy while fiddling too.

  On re-bending near any metal. The action work hardens the metal, cracking once abused enough. With sheet steel, a soldering gun can often heat the metal enough to soften it, making a break less likely. I used to use a micro torch till Roy Boy (I think) pointed out the flameless method. 

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


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