Here are basic guidelines to help you take are of your model train
motors. These guidelines apply to all Lionel, American Flyer, Ives, Marx
and all other AC model train motors.
Click on the topics below to quickly find what you need.
- How do I properly oil and lubricate my motor?
- Cleaning the commutator
- Care and Feeding of Motor Brushes
- Solder Joints - Take care of those wires connections!
- Cleaning My Track
- Care And Feeding Of Smoke Units
Too much lubrication is nearly as bad as not enough. Too much lubricant
will saturate wiring, insulating material and attract dirt and dust. All
of these will greatly shorten the life of your train's electrical components
and harm performance.
The greatest damage is usually done to the motor bearings, commutator and the
brushes. Once oil finds its way to the commutator, the electrical
current passing between the brush and commutator will vaporize the lubricant
and glaze the brush surface. This will increase the resistance between
the commutator and the brush. This will result in higher voltages needed
to operate the train and greatly increase the arching between the brush and
commutator. The end result is
a damaged commutator and brushes.
Always lubricate the train motor and gears with the manufacturer's suggested
oil. If you do not have the manufacturer's oil, a quality oil such as 3 in
1 oil will work well....just remember to use it sparingly. Do not use WD-40!
A clean commutator is vital to an efficient motor. The commutator
should appear copper colored with some dark areas where the brush contacts the
commutator's surface. The cleaner the better. One way of cleaning the
commutator is to use an eraser used for inks. Simply take the
eraser and rub it over the surface of the commutator.
Another effective means of cleaning the commutator is to take a 600 grit
sandpaper and rub the surface until it is polished. Remember, the
cleaner the commutator the better the train will run and the more power the
train will have.
One of the most critical components in your motor are the brushes. If
the brushes are not properly contacting the commutator, high heat, arching and
damage to the commutator will result. One key to good brush performance
is to make certain the brush face that contacts the commutator is FLAT.
The greater the surface area contacting the commutator, the more current can
be delivered to the armature. More current means more power. If
the brushes are worn, replace them!
Need new brushes? The Doc can replace your worn brushes for you.
A key point to keep in mind, poor electrical connections result in higher
electrical resistance. This means that when power is applied to the poor
electrical connection, heat is generated. Over time, this heat will
damage wire insulation and wire enamel. This is easily kept in check by regularly
inspecting your wire connections. All solder connections should be nice
and shiny and have little solder. A solder joint that is dull silver in
color and "clumpy" is more than likely to create problems for
your train. This is a major problem for transformers (see my transformer
If a solder joint is questionable, take a soldering iron and apply fresh
solder to the joint. This will help improve the connection and keep your
electrical system in top shape.
I get a lot of questions regarding the best way to clean dirty
track. First, never use steel wool to clean track.
Why? If you attempt to use steel wool, the fibers will break off and
remain on or near the track. Not only do you risk creating a short
between the center rail insulator and the outer rail power circuit, you also
will create a mess when these fibers attach themselves to the magnetic wheels
on trains having "Magna Traction"...... a real problem!
So, what I have found to work, is to use those "green scrubby"
pads used to clean pots and pans. Do not use anything having soap
imbedded in the pad. I have used small amounts of rubbing alcohol on the
pad and then gently scrub the top surface of the three rails.
Remember to always use eye protection and gloves when cleaning!!
Smoke units require a lot of attention if you want them to last a long
time. This is particularly true of the modern high-heat liquid smoke
units found on newer trains. You do NOT want these to run dry.....I have
seen the end result and the charred remains! If you like smoke, then you
need to keep an eye on the smoke output of your trains. Once the smoke
starts to drop off...it is time to add a few drops. Note, I say drops
and not dozens of drops. Too much smoke fluid will flow into the train
and, over the long-term, will make a real mess inside of your
Also, when storing trains, it is a good idea to add 10 drops to keep the
fluid pad moist. Additionally, when placing trains back into service
after prolonged storage, it is a good idea to place 10 drops in the smoke unit
to reactive the smoke unit.
Now, if you have an older train that uses smoke pellets, these smoke units
can be upgraded to the liquid smoke version. If you would like this
done, contact the Doc. Liquid smoke performs much better than the