Earlier this year a Triang Flying Scotsman came into my possession to run on my Dad’s garden layout.
It’s a lovely old thing, and it trundles around the garden really nicely. However, it’s between 40-50 years old, and I have absolutely no idea what sort of life it’s had before it came into my possession. Therefore, I think it’s safe to assume that a good service will be in order!
Model locomotives are mechanically a lot like the slot cars that we’ve featured many times before on this blog. The biggest failing points are dirt in – or damage to – the components that pick up electricity from the track, and dirt within – or excessive wear – of the motor’s brushes.
They are really simple to service, but like anything else if you’ve not done it before then it can be a bit daunting so hopefully this little guide will be able to help you out!
First things first, you’ll want to remove the body. How the body is held to the chassis varies from loco to loco, but on the Flying Scotsman, and I assume other Pacific type locomotives, the body is held on by a single screw under the car, which is accessed through a hole in the rear truck.
The body simply lifts away! With the body off of the loco be very careful with how you handle it. The valve gear is very delicate and if you accidentally bend it under your thumb, it can be a pain to pull back straight. Yes, I speak from experience haha!
These open style motors seem to be pretty common in Triang locomotives. They are really easy to service which is great, but can also accumulate a large amount of dirt within them. Especially over 40 plus years of life!
First off we’re going to give the motor brushes a good clean up. These are attached to a sprung bit of metal, if you push the top in, the brush will come away from the motor’s armature.
You’re looking for the carbon block on the end of the sprung piece of metal. If there’s lots of material there then your loco should be ok! If it’s thin then it might not be making the best of contact and your loco may benefit from having them replaced.
This loco still has good brushes, but the commutator – the copper cylinder on the motor that the brush pushes against is filthy!
To clean this up I take a small flatheaded screwdriver and a cloth old fashioned type handkerchief. I spray a bit of electrical contact cleaner onto the handkerchief and then put it over the screwdriver to poke onto the commutator.
You’ll be amazed at how much black muck will come off of the commutator, and it should be nice and shiny now so current can pass through it easily.
The other area that will need cleaning are the wheels and pickups. Current will come from the track up through the wheel onto a sprung copper pick up which presses against the back of the wheel. If the wheels and pickups get dirty then a good electrical contact won’t be made and the loco won’t run properly.
You can see the copper pick ups and the way they press against the wheel here.
With the screw driver and handkerchief, apply a little electrical contact cleaner to the backs of the wheels. Make sure to get between the pickup and wheel too to clean the contact itself.
The final thing to discuss is lubrication. There are several lubricants on the market that people use for model locomotives and mentioning names will cause a war in the comments. In my opinion it’s the quantity of the oil that’s the issue. You only need to use a tiny, tiny drop on the gear set and the pivot points on the valve gear, just to keep them moving along nicely.
There we go! A nice easy service which will hopefully get your locomotive running a little better. Mine certainly runs a bit better slowly plodding backwards and forwards on my micro-layout. Clearing the commutator of dirt has clearly imprived the electrical connection which made slow running this loco a lot nicer.
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By Richard Francis