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How to Adjust and/or Fine Tune Track and Wheel Gauge

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How to Adjust and/or Fine Tune Track and Wheel Gauge
Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Saturday, November 16, 2019 8:19 PM

A lot of threads seeking advice regarding troublesome or noisy rolling stock include at least one statement along the lines of check the track and/or wheel gauge.

Okay. I have an NMRA gauge and micrometer calipers. Now what?

I took the whimpy route regarding out-of-gauge wheels by simply replacing the troublemakers with metal wheelsets of the proper diameter and axle length. This included upgrading entire fleets of MicroTrains cars with pizza cutter flanged wheels from about 10 or 15 years ago.

But what about out-of-gauge track? How should it be adjusted and/or fine tuned? I use N scale Peco Code 55 Streamline track and turnouts.

Thanks.

Robert 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, November 16, 2019 8:59 PM

Robert,

.

When I was in N scale, we used Peco code 80 track for everything. The only time anything was found out of gauge was because track nails had beed driven in incorrectly, and deformed the ties. This resulted in narrow track gauges.

.

The only solution was to replace the damaged track sections.

.

-Kevin

.

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by selector on Saturday, November 16, 2019 10:13 PM

If one is pressed, 'bout the only way to correctly gauge track that isn't in gauge is to tear out one of the rails, using a sharp blade to remove the spikehead details on the side toward which you will move out the rail, and then glue the rail back into place a wee bit displaced.  That's a pain, and it would be easier to just lift out the offending length and place a new one that is in gauge in its place.

I have found, in 15 years in the hobby, only turnouts to have some problematic spacings, often in improperly curved points rails, or with flashing in the frog if it's a plastic one, or guard rails set too close or too far from their mate rail.  I have yet to find a length of flex out of gauge. Tight, yeah, maybe, on curves, but only tight.  That's where the iffy flange separation on the odd axle becomes the real culprit IMO.

As for replacing wheelsets, only plastic with metal.  It's easy to gauge the axles either way, so my rolling stock is all pretty darned close to what the NMRA gauge says they should be.  

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Posted by wvg_ca on Sunday, November 17, 2019 2:07 AM

if it's wheelsets or track, it's easier to just replace them ...

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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, November 17, 2019 2:34 AM

ROBERT PETRICK
Okay. I have an NMRA gauge and micrometer calipers. Now what?

Hi Robert,

If you are looking for instructions on how to use the gauge, they can be found here:

https://www.nmra.org/sites/default/files/standards/sandrp/pdf/rp-2_2019.07.07_track_gages.pdf

If you are looking for methods to be used for making corrections to track and wheel sets I can only offer limited advice, and it is not from first hand experience. It is only what I can recall from information on the forums.

Wheels out of gauge: I believe that on most wheel sets it is possible to reposition the wheels by twisting the wheels on the axle. However, I will say that I have never experienced wheels that are out of gauge. That is after installing close to 200 InterMountain wheel sets on my own rolling stock and about the same number on the club's equipment. I check every wheel set after they are installed. Other brands may vary.

Turnouts seem to suffer more gauge problems, in particular Peco models where the guard rails are too far from the stock rails. This problem has been corrected by gluing a thin piece of styrene to the sides of the guard rails. I'm not sure how thick the styrene has to be.

I believe that flex track can be pushed out of gauge when using track nails if the nails are driven far enough into the roadbed to bend the ties. If the ties are bent they will pull the rails closer together which will obviously cause problems.

That is the extent of my limited knowledge. I would suggest doing some research on things like shimming the guard rails before proceeding. Maybe others can verify my suggestions and/or add more information.

Dave

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Sunday, November 17, 2019 2:56 AM

In my 56 years in the hobby, I never came across track being out of gauge - unless it was hand-laid. I had a few turnouts which point blades required some tweaking - that´s all. Out of gauge wheelsets, well, that´s a completely different story.

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by gregc on Sunday, November 17, 2019 5:44 AM

ROBERT PETRICK
I took the whimpy route regarding out-of-gauge wheels by simply replacing the troublemakers with metal wheelsets of the proper diameter and axle length.

i replaced all the plastic wheels on my rolling stock with metal wheels.   But i noticed that some cars rolled on level track.   So I attempted to measure how well each truck rolled

i mounted some track on a board with a screw (~10-20) at one end.   I placed the truck near the screw end of the board and started turning the screw, raising one end of the board until the truck started rolling.   I made sure the wheels were at least in gauge.

i had figured out what % grade each turn corresponed to.   Some trucks rolled with < 0.5% grade.  I worked on the ones that only rolled at > 2% until they at least rolled at 2%.  In many cases, a little work made them much better than 2%.

i used a truck tuner and lubricant.   But I think truck frames make a difference as well.

 

 

aside from using the NMRA gauge to adjust wheel gauge, it was essential for building and adjusting hand laid turnouts.

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Sunday, November 17, 2019 9:02 AM

gregc

i replaced all the plastic wheels on my rolling stock with metal wheels.   But i noticed that some cars rolled on level track.   So I attempted to measure how well each truck rolled.

Hey Greg -

That's kinda similar to what I'm doing. Over the years I replaced some wheels here and there, mainly for aesthetic reasons (see earlier comment regarding pizza cutters), but when I started building my new layout I decided to replace all of them. I don't know how many I've done so far, but it is well over a hundred and I still have many more to go. All my new acquisitions have metal wheels, and I'm making a serious effort to bring the old stuff up to scratch.

The layout is far enough along that I am ready to start ballasting the track, and I want to thoroughly test everything before I do.

Instead of constructing a sloped ramp, I test rolling friction using a calibrated finger flick. I place the car on a straight section and give it a good nudge in the rear. I try to be consistent with my force. All the Kato cars do well on this test. So do the newer Atlases, especially the Master Line and the BLMA takeovers. But the Scale Trains Rivet Counters win this contest hands down. (No endorsement, expressed or implied, just a statement of the data.)

Robert 

 

 

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Posted by garya on Sunday, November 17, 2019 12:09 PM

Not in N-scale,so take it with a grain of salt. Track problems are usually at turnouts, which usually need to be tweaked, or at joints of flextrack. Occasionally the problem is in the vertical plane--the track is not level.

Gary

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Posted by mlehman on Sunday, November 17, 2019 12:48 PM

Tinplate Toddler
In my 56 years in the hobby, I never came across track being out of gauge - unless it was hand-laid.

Sure, it doesn't start out being out of gauge, but it can get there for various reasons. Most involve a mistake in laying it and some of these causes have already been mentioned. Track can also be damaged. Nickle-silver rail is flexible enough it can easily be knocked out of gauge.

That said, the easiest way to correct things like this are what the prototype also uses, good ol' spikes. You can use well-placed spikes to push the rail in and out. For this I like to use the Walthers/Shinohara extra pointy spikes (948-360) but they have (sadly) apparently been discontinued, a great loss to the hobby if that's permanent.

I'm not a big fan of ME spikes, too blunt and thick, but they are very useful for pushing rail the way you want it. Insert up againt the foot of the rail. The shaped head is usually long enough that it you turn it so it's pushing the rail away fro the spike you can move the rail a little bit at a time by using your pliers to turn the head a little at a time to adjust how much the rail is being pushed.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Sunday, November 17, 2019 1:23 PM

garya

Not in N-scale,so take it with a grain of salt. Track problems are usually at turnouts, which usually need to be tweaked, or at joints of flextrack. Occasionally the problem is in the vertical plane--the track is not level,

Hey Gary -

Yes, same issues in N scale.

Turnouts make a significant clickety-clack no matter which route or which direction the trains are heading. Maybe not really significant, but the noise seems a little louder than I think it ought. Similar situations at the soldered- and non-soldered line joints.

My diagnostic testing of the layout mainly involves listening, and when I hear something that sounds a little fishy I go back and run the trains at 1 or 2 MPH in both directions. Then fidget, clean, and tweak whatever seems to need fidgeted, cleaned, or tweaked.

There are several curved turnouts on the layout, and two of them were particularly blatent violators. Engines got through cleanly, but the first car behind would catch wheels on the frog and climb up and derail. I first thought the cars or trucks were to blame, but this happened with different cars and at all speeds. I filed down and rounded off the point of frog so much that now it looks well worn to the point that the prototype railroad would replace it. I'm not too worried about the appearance because it can only be seen with OptiVisors or a 10-power loupe, and I generally try to discourage visitors from examining stuff that closely.

Robert 

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Sunday, November 17, 2019 7:13 PM

gregc

i used a truck tuner and lubricant.

Hey Greg-

Where can I get such a thing? I've never heard of a truck tuner.

Thanks,

Robert

 

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Posted by gregc on Sunday, November 17, 2019 7:17 PM

truck tuner from Micro Mark

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by garya on Sunday, November 17, 2019 7:34 PM

gregc

truck tuner from Micro Mark

 

Don't think they come in N scale...

Modeling the SP blog has new post about track/turnout issues: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/

Gary

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, November 17, 2019 9:45 PM

I can't recall how long its been since I used my NMRA gauge to check my track. I fine tune my cars instead. All my RTR cars gets inspected for proper wheel gauge,KD coupler and trip pin at their correct height and free truck swing,meaning the trucks isn't to tight or to loose and not catching on anything like  a brake or air line..

When I used BB and Roundhouse cars all I had to do is checked the metal replacement wheel gauge,truck swing(screw to tight/to loose) and make sure the KD coupler and trip pin was at their correct height. 

Larry

SSRy

Conductor

“Shut one’s eyes tight or open one’s arms wide, either way, one’s a fool.” Flemeth-the witch of the Wilds.
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, November 18, 2019 5:58 AM

BRAKIE
I can't recall how long its been since I used my NMRA gauge to check my track.

.

I check every turnout before it is installed.

.

The biggest problem I have cannot be checked with the NMRA gauge, and that is track being "out of plane" after it is installed.

.

When I switched to "loose spiking" and using the ballast to hold the rails in place, this problem was mostly solved. Loose spiking lets the track find its own level, and that has worked out well for me.

.

-Kevin

.

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Monday, November 18, 2019 7:11 PM

garya

Modeling the SP blog has new post about track/turnout issues: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/

 

 

Thanks for the link. Being somewhat nosy by nature, I enjoy seeing what others are up to.

One of the great things about this forum is that not only can I get advice and information from modelers who have experienced the same or similar issues, I can get information and links to information I never would have found on my own.

To address a couple of comments about trackage distortion caused by incorrectly laid nails or spikes. I do not use track nails, but I am familiar with the issue. At a former club, they lay track with nails that are set using a tiny upholstery hammer, and there was one guy who was a little too exuberant about it. The nails went through the cork roadbed and anchored in the plywood decking, and when that happened the ties would bend noticeably and pull the rails inward and out of gauge. Not the case here, but thanks to those who considered the issue.

In the overall scheme of things, I think I might be worrying too much and the situation is not as bad as I make it out to be. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am mainly testing the layout by sound. When I hear something unusual, I then check (in slow- or super slow motion) for wobble and jerking or bump-bumping or some other physical symptom. The clickety-clack at the turnouts is not all that bad and it is not entirely unexpected. I have not had any derailment issues since the two I mentioned (knock wood).

The sound that attracted my attention is somewhere between a groan and a grind and a squeal. It actually sounds kinda prototypical. Hearing it made me think that the track might be out of alignment or out of gauge, but I’ve checked many many places with both the official NMRA gauge and with a micrometer caliper, and the track doesn’t seem to be the problem. I could barely see or feel or detect any deviation with the hand-held gauge, and the micrometer readings have been remarkably consistent: they ranged from 9.03 mm (0.3555”) to 9.06 mm (0.3567”) . . . hardly any deviation at all, and an even smaller deviation from the mean. So, Peco gets a lot of credit.

And this sound I’m talking about might be nothing at all. I mentioned that I am upgrading all my rolling stock to metal wheelsets, and so far, I have not run anything but. The noise is not ridiculously loud or alarming, and maybe that’s just the thing about all metal wheels. The consists and trains that I am testing are the types and configurations I will ultimately use: single engines pulling 10 to 15 cars and two-engine MUs pulling 20 to 25 cars and an occasional three-engine MU. The longest train I will ever run is in the 30- to 35-car range.

So, I dunno. I will continue to check and clean and fidget and tweak and concentrate on upgrading the wheelsets, and I will start ballasting the sections of track that appear to be ready. Thanks for everyone’s input.

Robert

 

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