Are you bothered by model train sets that keep derailing?

This used to bother me so much. I'd fix one part of the track, only to have it derail in a different spot the next day. It was so frustrating I almost gave up on model train sets all together!

Like most model train beginners, I dreamed of a model train that would smoothly around the track. And, believe it or not, it is actually quite easy to achieve... with a little attention to detail.

Here are the things I have learned along the way :

1. Make sure your track joints are aligned, properly fitted... and level.

It sounds like common sense, but most derailments are caused by misaligned, poorly fitted track joints.

Here's the tip - The joints should feel level, with barely any gap, when you slide your finger across the joint.

Some modelers solder their track joints to stop any problems with expansion and contraction. If you solder the joints, use a small file to remove any lumps and bumps. You don't want to add more things that can cause derailments.

2. Check your track gauge - joints, turnouts and frog assemblies.

Almost as common a problem for model train beginners is incorrect track gauge.

If the rail gauge is too narrow for the width of the wheels, the wheels will ride up on top of the track and off the edge - especially around curves.

If the rail gauge is too wide for the width of the wheels, this will also cause derailments as the wheel flanges can not span the track correctly. You can adjust the gauge slightly by using a soldering iron to gently heat the rail, move it to the correct position, and allow it to cool. It will now be set in the new position.

3. Weight your freight cars.

One thing I have found is that freight cars are often too light. This causes some of the wheels not to contact the rails correctly.

Sometimes it is as simple as adding a small amount of weight to eliminate derailments. Add the weight as low as possible and in the center, this will keep a low center of gravity to help you around the curves.

4. Check the wheel sets.

Many derailments are caused by wheel sets that are out of gauge, not aligned properly, or not moving freely. So check your gauge, your alignment, and that all wheel sets can move freely.

There should be some slight "give" to allow the carriage to take up any small imperfections in the track.

5. Check your switch points.

Some model train derailments can be caused by switch points. So check your switch points for sharpness. You might find that new switch points can be blunt, and grab on the wheels.

You can use a small file to smooth the movable part of the points. This will allow for a smooth transition. And remember to check the gauge on both positions.

6. Keep the squeaks lubricated.

Sometimes a small amount of light oil can solve a derailment problem. Be careful not to overdo it. Oil can damage paintwork, and it attracts dust. So aim for too little, and then add more if needed. It is easier to add more than to take it away.

7. Check your model train couplers.

Sometimes a coupler might cause a model train derailment. New carriages often come with rough, unpolished couplers.

Clean any rough edges, polish until smooth, and make sure the couplers are properly centered. There are usually manufacturer's instructions to cover this.

So there you have it - a whole bunch of ideas to get your model train sets running smoothly. And there is no reason to put up with derailments any longer.

A small amount of track and train maintenance from time to time can make the world of difference. Put the derailments behind you.

I have been working with Model Train Sets (O Scale) for a number of years, and I can't tell you what a relief it is not to worry about constant derailments.