Switchers and switches. How to make them run smoothly together?

Espeeman Oct 18, 2018

  1. Espeeman

    Espeeman TrainBoard Member

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    This is a question not a tutorial. I am using Kato unitrack and ever single locomotive I have runs very smoothly over ever inch of track........except for the switcher I recently purchased. It is the only working locomotive I have from Bachmann so it may be a manufacturing issue but what is it about switchers and switches that don't ever seem to go together. (I have had other switchers in the past and they didn't like switches either.) I couldn't find an Atlas S2 in SP so I took a chance on the Bachmann S4 as I thought it looked very good. It runs beautifully at very slow speeds. It is a reasonable puller as well. But as soon as it sniffs a switch it stalls. The only way to keep it from stalling is running it at unprototypical speeds, which ruins the entire illusion. Is this common with switchers? Is there a fix for this or should I just go back to using an RSD5 to do the switching chores?
     
  2. Espeeman

    Espeeman TrainBoard Member

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    I keep my track very clean and I keep the locomotive wheels very clean, too so that can be ruled out
     
  3. tehachapifan

    tehachapifan TrainBoard Member

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    No problems with my Bachmann S4 on switches, so wouldn't say it's necessarily a common switcher issue. That said, switchers do have a short wheelbase that could come into play if there's sections of track that are problematic that a loco with a longer wheelbase might bridge over. Might have something to do with the switches being used and/or how they're performing.
     
  4. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Just use a new coffee filter across the track. Sprinkle a little 91% Isopropyl alcohol on the filter. Pull the edge of the filter tight across the rails with your thumb and index finger.Turn your throttle to max. Put your rerailer on the track. Slide your locomotive down the ramp and the leading truck onto the filter. Slide the locomotive back and forth a few times. Turn the filter. Slide the locomotive back onto the Isopropyl alcohol damp filter again. Do this about 3 times and you shouldnt see anymore black crud lines on the filter. Take your locomotive off the track. Turn the filter. Rewet it with the Isopropyl alcohol. Pull the filter edge tight across the rails with your thumb and index finger. Reramp the locomotive in the opposite direction and repeat the steps above to clean the other truck wheels.

    You will have clean wheels and you can detect problems with either truck....

    If either truck that is still on the rails with the other on the filter...and the loco stalls/quits...you have issues with that truck still on the rails. It could be dirty wheels or an electrical contact issue...JMHO

    I have an Atlas S2 and do some really slow switching in my yard...(Unitrack switches)...and the switcher never even hiccups at those slow speeds.
     
  5. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Just an unlikely thought, but Kato turnouts can be set up to have a live frog or not by setting adjustment screws on the underside. If the S4 is temperamental on one turnout only, perhaps its frog is turned off?
     
  6. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    I think that the Unitrack #4 switches are "power routing" or not, meaning that they either route power to the track that is aligned or they just route power to all adjoining tracks. I don't think the frogs are affected either way. IIRC, the #6's are always power routing. I'm guessing this is likely an issue with the Bachman loco.
     
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  7. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks Norseman -- it's been a while since I messed around with these. You're right, the frog is always live.
     
  8. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    One other thing that hasn't been mentioned: Don't all of the S-4s come with factory DCC? Are you running DC or DCC? I'm wondering what would happen if the DCC board lost power when running DC even for a split second if that could cause it to stall and not reset. Other than that, it needs to be a pick up issue of some sort.
     
  9. JBrown

    JBrown TrainBoard Member

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    I have a Bachmann S4 that would stall on my switches...I found it was picking up on only one truck. After looking closely one of the copper trails in my decoder had a tear in it. Sent it in for repair...works fine now. Pick up with only one truck making contact at a time and see if both are sending power to the decoder.
     
  10. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

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    There's nothing inherently wrong with switchers, particularly if you have 'hot' frog design turnouts.

    So there are two tests to do to stop guessing. First is to simply lift one truck at a time off the rails with your fingers while it is running and see if both trucks are actually picking up OK. As above, highly suspect there. And you can also flop one over in a cradle and check the trucks with hot test leads to make sure all 8 wheels are picking up, too.

    Second test is to test your track with an electrical meter, if you're DCC you'll check for DC voltage on a 25V scale and make sure the points, stock rails, and running rails are all hot where they should be, as well as the frog. If other power is running OK that's 'probably' not it.
     
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  11. Espeeman

    Espeeman TrainBoard Member

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    Sorry to start a thread and then not be able to answer questions. Tough weekend. Thank you to everyone for your input. I am using both #6 and #4 Kato switches. The #4's are set with power "on" to both routes regardless of switch position.

    I will pull out the meter and test all parts of the switch. Given that this is the only loco giving me trouble I am thinking it's the loco's connection to the rails but will just go ahead and eliminate the track from the suspect list. I will also test the individual trucks to see if there is any issue there.
     
  12. Joe D'Amato

    Joe D'Amato TrainBoard Member

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    how bout a power extender on the engine?
     
  13. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have had the practice of running all my locos as pairs except for steamers, and the steam has tender pickup on all wheels, thus increasing the pick-up footprint. My diesel fleet is mainly 44 and 70 tonners and with the short wheelbases of the 44 tonners stalls are possible but now non existent because of the practice of running in pairs.
     
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  14. Espeeman

    Espeeman TrainBoard Member

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    That sounds interesting. What is this, Joe?
     
  15. Espeeman

    Espeeman TrainBoard Member

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    I run almost everything in pairs or triplets because of the grades and, well, it's SP :) but was hoping to not have to do so in the yard. I had been using an RSD5 in black widow scheme for the yard switcher until the S4 and it worked well but I totally hear ya on using running mates. Nothing stalls anywhere when they are lashed up.
     
  16. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    I wonder if Joe is referring to a booster car. One could do that or take another switcher and remove the cab and use it like a cow calf. Or heck go for one of their TR-6 combinations.
    http://espee.railfan.net/sptr06.html
     
  17. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Power extender = capacitors = "Stay Alives" = etc.
     
  18. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    With the total electrical knowledge of turn the switch on and the light comes on and having two people turn me when replacing a light bulb there be the total of my electrical knowledge and comes enlightenment on the subject. Learned something today.
     
  19. Espeeman

    Espeeman TrainBoard Member

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    Ah! Thanks!

    One of the things I did, as suggested, was to lift each end to see if power was running through both trucks. It turns out that the rear truck is not making connection. I haven't looked closer to see why yet but I'll report back once I have.
     
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  20. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    I suspect you've found it. I have a variety of Bachmann locos, especially the small ones or steam, and find it's about a 50/50 chance that they'll need to be reassembled properly. And that's not an exaggeration. Once assembled properly they have run very well. In one, the contact strips from the axles/ truck were not even close to touching the frame. It had the characteristics you described. In another it was paint over the contact area. Most were basically inexcusable assembly problems. To keep my frustration with them at bay I have come to treat any Bachmann purchase as a kit, fully expecting "some assembly required". That has also kept me from buying much from them unless it was at one of their absurd discounts.
     
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