I finally invested in a decent voltage meter!  I finished wiring the inside track today on the new layout and discovered immediately on the engines first run around the track that an issue existed when the engine stopped over a piece of Gargraves Flextrac.  My track layout is entirely Gargraves, with Ross switches.  The voltage is fine on the curved sectional track to it's left, and fine a few inches to the right in the other direction on the same piece of Flextrac.  In the deficient "spot," the voltage measures about 4 amps, while the areas to the left and right measure 14 amps. There is ample power to the track in the general area.  I'm contemplating removing the piece of track and inserting a different piece.

Has anyone had a similar issue and what did you do to solve it?  Thanks...



Original Post

Please set the meter to measure AC voltage - it is the V with the tilde ~ over top of it. Hopefully, you are reporting voltage, as 14 amps would certainly make the transformer stop working and possibly melt something in the engine.

The problem that you have appears to be bad connections at the track joints of the flex section. Check that the pins are tight in the rails on both ends.

You should measure the center rail (red lead) to each of the outer rails (black lead) and compare the measurements. 

You already know which end to check from the engine stall testing - the end with only 4 ( ?) volts or amps. Check without anything on the track and then with the engine on it again.

What are the results?



Arctic Railroad


I think you mean 4 volts. Amperes, or amps, is a unit of current. Voltage, or volts, is measured between the positive and negative terminals of a DC circuit, or, with AC, between hot and ground. If you are measuring the voltage between the grounded and hot rails and only get 4 volts with not load present i.e. train running, you have a very bad connection somewhere. I would suggest soldering small jumpers over the track joint.

First try cleaning the track and see what that does, then try removing or scuffing the black coating on the center rail to see if that does anything.  

If all of these measurements are within the same piece of track, it should't really vary as the rails are continuous. If you're measuring different pieces of track, then you have a loose pin joint somewhere. 


"Of course we know its O-gauge or no gauge." -- Sheldon Cooper

Thank you all for the comments...I did mean to state "volts and not amps!"  I should know by now not to post after 10:00 pm  

As boilermaker mentions, the first thing I did was clean the track again and ruff up the black center track...no improvement, so I went ahead and removed the piece of Flextrac where the low voltage reading was present.  After removing the piece then inspecting it, the only obvious potential issue was one of the track pins was in the track piece about 1/3 further in that it should have been?  I decided to just go ahead and install a different piece of track.  Problem solved!!

Engine running good over the spot in question, but slowing down on a far curve.  Tomorrow, I'll add additional power in the center of the curve and see if that doesn't improve performance.  Thanks again for your feedback...much appreciated


Technically, you should never rely on track pins to conduct electricity. On my layout, every 3'section of GarGraves gets its own set of feeders, power and ground. It's extra work and expense to be sure, but my trains never slow down, unless I tell them to. I don't know how big your layout is, but I'm pushing power out to around 3500 feet of track. 

Regarding Amps and Volts, if you were to think in terms of water and not electrons, voltage is akin to pressure, and amps are the rate of flow. The wire is a pipe. The larger the wire, the more current can flow through it.

Now consider the track pin. The rail is a fairly large pipe or wire, the pin is rather small by comparison. So if there is any dirt, or loose contact, guess what? There go your volts, like a leaky garden hose.

Short of adding feeders, there is a quick fix. Take a pair of pliers, and squeeze the rail around the pin, both sides of the joint and all three rails, and both ends of the bad section. However, feeders are still the ultimate solution.

Glad to hear that you resolved the issue - but, the new piece introduced new pins and tight fitting joints - so, you didn't determine the cause of the problem

You shouldn't have to scuff the shadow rail - the coating has been refined since the track was introduced - don't mess up what you paid for

The curve track issue can be electrical or mechanical - if you have an O42 curve or smaller and an 8 wheel steamer there could be wheel friction slowing it down - the straight length of the driver wheels is to long for the arc of the curve - binding occurs - otherwise - add a pair of power feeds as Elliot suggested


Arctic Railroad

When I was a much younger man, I had a medium size layout with O gauge tubular track. The track was older, second hand track that had not received the best of care over the years, but it was usable. I soldered wire jumpers around every single track joint I had. It gave a good connection between every single section of track, and it really cut down on voltage drop, but it was a lot of work.

Soldering rail joints or even jumpers may get the job done, but I don't think it is the best practice. I almost never solder anything to do with track. I say almost, because there have been cases where I did solder feeders to some switches, because my regular method wasn't as secure as I liked.

What is my regular method of adding feeders? I use crimp on 1/4" tab connectors. The way they work is, you just shove them into the bottom of the GarGraves rail. This trick, as best as I can tell, goes back to the old Marx lock on.


Carl is correct, while you may have gotten around the original problem, by swapping out that section, you never discovered the root cause. There's really nothing that can go wrong with the track itself, therefor it must be a function of the pins, and poor contact.


Photos (1)

When I got my Gargraves track, I (lightly) soldered each pair of pins to each track piece, then spread the ends of the pins outward slightly before attaching the next piece of track. Other than the wires from the transformer to the track, that was the only soldering I did.

Seems to be working very well; no voltage drops, just smooth running... 

Mark in Oregon

I would try cleaning all three railheads with alcohol and a green scotch brite pad, wipe dry with clean cloth. I clean my Gargraves flextrac using this method, when cleaning you should seen black residue on the scotch brite pad, clean both neutral outside rails and the positive blacked inside rail. All railheads must be clean for an effective electrical circuit. 

There was a similar discussion on an N scale forum about this, and track/wheel cleaning in general. Using something stronger than alcohol was suggested, such as "Goo Gone" cleaner, which is citrus based. I tried some on the wheels of an AF hopper (which I had cleaned a few weeks earlier with alcohol) and here was the result: 


As you can see, it really did the trick!

I like the fact that it:

1. Evaporates quickly

2. Leaves no residue

3. Has a rather pleasant smell

4. Doesn't attack plastics (as far as I can tell)

Since it is more expensive than alcohol, I use it for initial "deep cleaning", then use alcohol for more routine maintenance.

Mark in Oregon



Photos (1)

I can't imagine it being safe for all plastics, but time will tell.

What ingredients are in Goo Gone?
Known Ingredients
  • Ingredient.

Gentlemen, thanks again for all the responses.  Regarding not knowing the cause of the problem, I guess the best assumption I can make is that the drop in voltage was caused by the single track pin that was in about 1/3 further than normal.  I can't determine any other reason. The situation was remedied once the track was replaced, without putting any additional power to the track in or around the troubled location.

Bottom line, it's clear sailing...and I'll add power this afternoon to the curved track area mentioned above


Strummer posted:

Well, all I know is so far it works well for me...including clear plastic box lids.

Mark in Oregon

The plastic it attacked was a kind of styrene, the kind that cracks easily. I was interested to read that you thought the scent was pleasant, my wife can’t deal with it. It has that sweet methyl ethyl ketone scent. My former boss loved it. 


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