How Finicky is N Scale?

Xrayvizhen Jan 3, 2021

  1. Xrayvizhen

    Xrayvizhen TrainBoard Member

    39
    17
    2
    I'm progressing, slowly, on my new Unitrack layout with guidance received from many on my "Loads of Questions" thread but I'm now realizing my track plan may have been a little too ambitious for a first N scale layout as I am running into a couple of problems.

    First of all regarding the topic question, the loco is uncoupling from the rest of the cars behind it at the very top of the overpass located at the top center portion of the layout. PXL_20210103_153349570.jpg As you can see, there's a little bit of a hump there that I think I'm going to have to adjust somehow.It's not happening going right to left, only left to right I'm thinking maybe I should have allowed for more room for a flat section of track at the top with no elevation change before the decent begins or maybe I should have not worried so much about keeping to a 2% grade, maybe making it 2 1/2 or even 3% allowing the train to reach the top of the incline sooner. Well, that die is cast so now, what do I do?

    Also, the new DCC loco I bought (Bachmann EMD SD-45) is stuttering every now and then and it doesn't seem to be restricted to any one area of the track although I'm finding it happens mostly at slow speed. Wiping down the rails helps a little, maybe because there's construction dust? But really, how clean does the track have to be for N scale? On my 3 rail O gauge layout I clean the track once a season (with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser soaked with 90% alcohol. The eraser ends up black when I'm done.) How fastidious do I need to be? After all, the track is brand new. It's hardly had time to get dirty.

    I'm also realizing I'm not a foam scenery kind of person as I'm having a hard time visualizing how I'm going to get the topography to look like what I want it to. I think I'm going to switch to Hydrocal or Structolite plaster over cardboard strips and forget about the foam. But that's after I solve the other problems.

    Lastly, I had a bit of a chore getting the NCE PowerCab working. I thought I'd have to argue with Ebay or the seller I bought it from about returning it but then I finally read somewhere on-line that the connection from the fascia mounted PCB to the track power buss needs to be either first or last, not in the middle! That little fact certainly wasn't in the manual. I was especially aggravated because I broke my personal rule about never reading manuals or instructions and this time I actually did and nowhere was that mentioned. Well, all is well now, at least with that part.

    Suggestions about the hump and the stuttering would be helpful.
     
  2. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    8,598
    5,006
    131
    With sectional track...especially Unitrack...you can NOT have a joint at the peak of an incline...or at the bottom of an incline where it transitions to flat.

    Shimming the track on the right...even a small amount most likely will fix the uncoupling problem.
     
  3. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

    7,613
    14,530
    128
    That angled peak at the top looks like the culprit as mtntrainman said. If you ere able to lower that or raise the track to the right just a fraction of an inch, it would probably make a difference.
     
    tonkphilip likes this.
  4. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

    2,682
    1,763
    61
    The center Styrofoam piece is the culprit. It's completely level horizontally yet the land form on the right is slightly lower than on the left. See if you can sand or cut the middle piece at a SLIGHT angle, angling/dipping to the right. That will smooth that bump out.

    As for the SD45 stuttering, how long have you run it? I would run it for a few minutes in both direction at a medium to slow speed to break it in. Also check on Spookshow's website (www.spookshow.net) to see if it's a loco that is known to be problematic.

    Unitrack is known to be the best in staying clean so don't go crazy cleaning it unless your location is quite dusty.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2021
  5. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    11,517
    6,507
    160
    I would shim the track up a bit on the right side looking at the picture to get rid of that hump at the joint. The loco may need a light lube at the motor bearings and some more run and break in time.
     
  6. dualgauge

    dualgauge TrainBoard Member

    354
    220
    19
    I just read an article by Kim Saign on the Bachmann SD45. The one he shows had paint on the pickup area of the frame. He wrote that he cleaned paint off the frame and bent contacts that were not making good contact. This is in the May/June 2017 issue. I don't know if they advertise her. Article says ran good after these fixes. Might be the same problems.
     
  7. NtheBasement

    NtheBasement TrainBoard Member

    304
    274
    16
    Joe Lovett likes this.
  8. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

    734
    336
    18
    Any vertical angle in the rails joints needs to be small, otherwise the coupler on one car will lift over the coupler on the attached car when one is on one track section and the other car is on the other section. Watch closely as you push a few cars over a joint and you will see what happens.

    There are a lot of reasons for a loco to stutter at low speed - electrical contact is just one set of possibilities. Cleaning the track is not usually needed very often with Unitrack, but that is still the first thing I check. Then I clean the wheels of the loco. Then I clean the connections between the wheels and the electrical parts inside the loco, starting with the connection to the axles. Sometimes that is a wiper against the middle of the axle (old system), and sometimes it is a brass cup that a pointed axle end rides in (newer, better system). With that new system, there are sometimes wipers inside the loco (or steam tender) body to provide a sliding fit, and those can get dirty or corrode, too. Each level gets harder to access, so start with the easy ones and see if each makes the difference. For steam locos, there is also often a plug with 6 wires that connect tender to loco electrically, and just pulling that off and plugging it back in has sometimes cleared up an iffy connection there, which is affected by the loco motions as it runs down the track. But, at least that isn't a possibility for your SD-45.

    Regarding the PowerCab track power connection from the facia panel to track needs to be to the "end, not the middle of the track power bus", I doubt that was your problem. I have connected mine to all sorts of "bus" configurations with no problem. That only becomes an issue with very long track buses, AND, you can still connect to the middle, so long as you do it with a short lead from the PCP to the bus. So, you probably have some other problem that you do not understand and accidentally fixed when changing things.

    If you tell us what you mean by trouble "getting the NCE PowerCab working", we can probably help with learning the real problem. Did the PowerCab itself not power-up and show a display on its screen? Or did it power-up the display, but you could not control a train on the tracks? If the latter, what was the screen showing as you tried to increase the loco speed?
     
  9. NtheBasement

    NtheBasement TrainBoard Member

    304
    274
    16
    I thought the NCE instructions were clear, with one exception. The PowerCab has to be plugged into the left socket, which is unhelpful unless you hit the lucky side of 50/50 and mount the panel so "up" is the same as whoever wrote the instructions. Silly me for having the red LED above instead of below the plugs.
     
  10. Xrayvizhen

    Xrayvizhen TrainBoard Member

    39
    17
    2
    You might notice from the pic that the track to the right of the overpass is shimmed already so I'm going to try to file/sand the styrofoam riser at the center down a bit and try to get rid of that kink. I also see that I'm going to have to learn about the innards of DC locomotives in general and N scale equipment in particular. I'm not adverse to opening up locomotives and try to fix things as I've done it before with my Lionel and Williams stuff but before I open up a brand new locomotive I'll do some breaking in, which I wasn't aware I needed to do. Hopefully that will smooth out the stuttering.

    I've bookmarked the Spookshow website and I'll certainly refer to it before my next purchase. I read the opinion on the Bachmann SD-45 and had I known about this site beforehand I might have made a different choice but it seems from what I read, locomotive stuttering seems to be a fairly common problem. I don't care about the width of the handrails or the number of rivets on the body or any of that other detail stuff he writes about but reading about the stuttering was actually a bit of a relief as I was wondering if it was the fault of a bad Powercab, bad track connections or something else dumb I may have done but I guess not. All my PowerCab issues have been resolved by the way. I just went down the line, connecting power feeds to the buss first with clips one by one, testing each one to make sure there were no issues and then once assured things were working, soldering the connections.

    Thanks to all for the advise.
     
    tonkphilip likes this.
  11. tonkphilip

    tonkphilip TrainBoard Member

    151
    86
    12
    Xrayvizhen, Try cleaning the locomotive wheels first. Put a kitchen towel or coffee filter over track. Wet towel with 70% alcohol or use dry. Turn controller up to max, then put one side of locomotive on track and other spin on towel to clean wheels. I also dislike taking locomotives apart!
     
  12. Xrayvizhen

    Xrayvizhen TrainBoard Member

    39
    17
    2
    A brand new locomotive, two days out of the box, and clean the wheels already? Your method seems pretty easy though so I'll give it a try.
     
  13. JBrown

    JBrown TrainBoard Member

    119
    67
    13
    I have heard about a lot of troubles with the Bachmann SD45's...Some engines come with a black coating on the wheels that don't help with electrical pick up . the coffee filter helps remove the coating. Get some Atlas or Kato's to start with so you are not pulling your hair out. Cheap doesn't always mean good in N scale engines and use Spookshow as a guide...
     
  14. tehachapifan

    tehachapifan TrainBoard Member

    1,716
    452
    42
    To be fair, Bachmann is capable of producing nice locos. I have their N scale 44 tonner and their S4 and both are great. The S4 runs like a Swiss watch.
     
    MK likes this.
  15. PGE-N°2

    PGE-N°2 TrainBoard Member

    844
    747
    26
    How Finicky is N Scale? Is that a multiple choice question? :whistle:

    I actually greatly appreciate mtntrainman's insights into grade transitions. I'm going to have to go back over my own layout, although there may be things I just can't undo at this point.
     
  16. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    1,034
    934
    27
    The smaller the scale, the smaller the details... Not just the visual details, but the operational ones as well.

    FYI, the Unitrack viaduct piers' heights gradually ease the slope near the top and bottom of the incline set (assuming uniform spacing between piers).
     
  17. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

    2,682
    1,763
    61
    I have two Bachmann S4's. You would never know they were Bachmanns if I handed the throttle to you. :D
     
    tehachapifan likes this.
  18. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

    2,358
    254
    40
    Actually N scale *is* finicky. The small size means smaller tolerances for everything from coupler height to gear cleanliness to electrical pickup. It's the price we pay for such an awesome scale :D
     
    mtntrainman likes this.
  19. JBrown

    JBrown TrainBoard Member

    119
    67
    13
    Yes, I have Bachmann S4'S that run great. Also the SW and RS3, But the SD45 was a dog. Took the two I had and made dummies out of them. Waiting on the new GE from them now.
     
  20. JBrown

    JBrown TrainBoard Member

    119
    67
    13
    Finicky was N scale in the 70's...This is the Golden age now.
     
    MK likes this.

Share This Page