Hacks and Tricks for Reliable Operation

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Duration: 9:09

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Martin Tärnrot presents some hacks and tricks to improve the performance and reliability of your model railroad, focusing on three important areas: trucks and wheels, couplings, and tracks.


Why replace wheels? If you have plastic wheels, you’ll get a lot of operational benefits in terms of increased reliability by changing to metal wheels. Plastic wheels build up dirt much faster and are prone to derailment.

In many cases, it’s more cost effective and simpler to replace the entire truck with one that has pre-assembled wheels. Martin shows some Kadee sets that he uses.

Martin also has an NMRA Standards Gage Tool. It has CC dimensions for wheels. You will find that, even if you buy a new car with pre-installed metal wheels of the right kind for your layout, you should check the CC dimension because it is not always exact. Use this tool and avoid problems.


Couplings are another important factor for reliability. Horn-hook couplings are no longer recommended. The most common couplings today are from Kadee, especially #5 and #58. Martin does not mix these on his layouts. Staying with one type works best from a reliability standpoint.


Operational reliability is more or less set when you lay the tracks. Issues here often relate to poor framework, but there are problems, especially in the joints, between flex tracks, which are in curves. In those cases, the NMRA Standards Gage Tool comes in handy to check the CC dimension between the rails.

It’s also important to keep the tracks and wheels on the cars and engines clean. Martin uses a wooden block that he slides along the tracks.


To further boost your railroad’s operation, watch this video on enhancing locomotive performance. Or if you’re just starting out, we have a video about the basics of model railroad operations.

Martin shares more tips that are not included in this brief description. Be sure to watch the entire video to see them all!