In a continuing effort to gain more knowledge about this hobby, and
based on a comment in the "Top 10" post, I have some more questions:
1) When purchasing a new engine (diesel or steam), what prep work is
necessary right out of the box before running it? Does it need to be
oiled, and if so, are there any web pics that show the proper location
to oil them?
2) Do new engines need a "break in" period? If so, what's the proper
way to break in a new engine?
3) What type of ongoing maintenance to the engines are required?
Many engines require you to attach small parts that would be bent or
dmaged by squishing the engine into the foam cradle that holds it.
Follow the instructsion packed with the engine to the letter. If in
doubt, get help from a more experenced buddy.
Re: lubrication: Some do, some don't. Read the instructions. Most recent
product does _not_ need lubrication.
Tip: don't disassemble the loco unless you have to.
This used to be the case )eg, Athearn, MDC/Roundhouse), but no longer.
Most current product runs smoothly right out of the box. Even cheaper
current product such as that made by/for IHC, Model Power etc runs fine.
If you buy an older model secondhand, break in may be needed. First
clean the engine thoroughly, and lubricate. Test run. If it runs
smoothly, leave it alone, even if it growls a bit. It will break in
nicely as you operate it.
If break-in is required, eg, if it takes excessive current, or runs
roughhly, I used to break in engines by running them on a specially
built 18" radius circle, about 5 minutes each direction, then turned the
engine end-for-end, ran 5 minutes in each direction. Repeated three to
five times. The engine not only ran smoother, it will sound smoother.
Recently, I purchased a set of rollers that mount on the track. I tested
an older engine on the rollers, they work as advertised, and will be
used in future to test engines and break in those that need it.
Keep the wheels clean ---> keep track clean. Do _not_ run trains on the
floor. Don't smoke in the train room, and keep it as clean as you can.
Listen to the engine. If it starts to whine or growl more and more, it
needs lubricating. Use plastic-compatible synthetic lubricants only, in
very small quantities applied with a wire or toothpick.
Some people clean and relubricate on a fixed schedule, which makes a lot
of sense if your engines get heavy use.
With today's use of plastic gears, no breakin of the drivetrain is usually
needed. If the loco fails to run smoothly, you will be wise to disassemble
the drivetrai and find out why. A light coating of grease will hslp in
efficiency of the loco and lubrication with oil of any stub axles and other
bearings with some light oil is also desirable as this will make the
drivetrain last longer.
Brass losos with metal gears do want to be broken in usually to obtain the
best performance and just run the loco for about 1/2 hour followed by a
cleaning and lubrication of the gears and bearings is quite advisable.
For diesels, I like the Hobbytown drives but those are not slap it togeter
kits and with all of the metal gears, need a good breakin and good
lubrication to make them nice and quiet as other locos.
Why do penguins walk so far to get to their nesting grounds?
Wolf is right that many new locomotives run well right out of the box.
Never the less several that I have purchased over the past few years did
improve after some run time. Two of them were small Bachman Spectrum 4-6-0s,
one an Athearn CF7 from Athearn's Ready to Roll line and another was an
Athearn Genesis SD70M. All certainly ran well out of the box but the
steamers got smoother, the CF7 quieted down and a squeak in the SD70M went
away. But get some oil and some grease that are compatible with plastic from
the Hobby shop because sooner or later they will all need a lube or maybe a
Most any locomotive will benefit from some run time but with today's
products they can get that run time while you operate them. Never the less
old habits die hard and I run a new engine on a loop for about two hours. I
run it in both directions and both forwards and backwards during this time
and see if any problem develops. The only problem I had with anything
purchased in the past five years or so was with a P2K 0-8-0 that stammered a
little randomly and finally this was resolved by adding power pick ups to
the tender wheels. The instructions or information sheet that come with some
models may instruct you to lube the locomotive or not before running it. You
might try a web search on a particular locomotive you are interested in
getting. Some times you will find a review or article on a modelers site or
some discussion threads about it. Atlas and Bachmann both have forums so if
you are looking at one of there products you can get feed back at those
sites. Here is a site that has some real good info on dealing with Blue Box
Athearns and some other useful locomotive info.
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