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engine traction

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engine traction
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, January 1, 2006 10:51 PM
I am modeling in N guage and have an issue with my slopes and inclines. I have laid 2 major inclines which are on turns and ran my engines on them. Unless I run a short train, the engine loses traction and cannot pull up the uncline. I do not want to rip up all the track ive layed (if possible) but I do seem to remember that you could get little rubberband like things to put on engine wheels to gain traction.

1. do they still exist?
2. do they work?
3. is there a better way to gain traction?

Im doing mainly diesel engines too.
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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, January 1, 2006 11:51 PM
My first question to you would be what grade is the incline?
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Posted by jeffers_mz on Monday, January 2, 2006 3:09 AM
The rubber bands require special wheels with grooves in them.

If the engine is losing traction, there is still power available to pull. Add weight and keep adding weight until one of two things happens. One, the locomotive successfully pulls the load up the grade, or two, the engine stalls trying to pull up the grade. When the engine stalls, that's all the pulling power there is, end of the line. Leave it stalled under power for long, and you'll burn out the motor. Adding weight may cause the motor to draw more amperage and shorten its life. The real key there is temperature. If it's getting hot, those thin wires wrapping the armature are in risk of melting or shorting.

But a stall isn't necessary the end of the layout idea. You can still consist, and you can also station or call up helper engines when needed. If you're running steam look into geared locomotives. I have a Bachman Shay in HO, and a 4.3 percent grade doesn't even slow it down, no matter what throttle setting I'm using.
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Posted by fwright on Monday, January 2, 2006 11:04 AM
jpaauwe is right. Before you try to increse the traction of your engines, you need to know how steep your grade is. If your grade is 4% or steeper, what you are seeing is quite normal, and increasing traction isn't going to change the situation much.

Grades are measure by dividing the amount of rise in 100 units. If you are using inches, measure how much your track rises in 25 inches. Multiply by the measurement by 4 and you will have the steepness of your grade. If your track rises 1 inch in those 25 inches, you have a 4% grade, and the number of cars that an engine can pull up the grade is typically 1/4 to 1/3 what it can pull on level track. If your rise is 1/2", then you have a 2% grade, and your engine should pull at least 1/2 the number of cars up the grade that it does on level track.

The suggestions given for adding weight for increasing traction are correct. You may not have a lot of room in an N scale engine to add much. Ideally, you would be checking the current with an ammeter to ensure the wheels start spinning before the motor current exceeds the motor rating (typically 0.3 amps for an N scale motor).

yours in grades
Fred Wright
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, January 2, 2006 1:41 PM
In N scale there isnt much room for weight, and traction tires require wheels made for traction tires. A solution I see is to run consists. Put maybe 2 or even 3 engines on the front of train, or 2 on the front, one on the back, whatever you like. On my HO layout, the mainline takes about a 40 foot 2.5% grade. I use at least 3 big 6 axle units to run a train up the grade. Then again Im running 100 car trains with all cars NMRA weight. So depending on how long a train you want to run, add more engines. If you are going to run like this you should seriously consider DCC, but that is another topic altogether.
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, January 2, 2006 2:05 PM
to answer the grade question: I go up 2 inches every 67 inches. so whatever grade that works out to be. im horrible at math but i think thats between a 3% and 4% grade.
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Posted by Adelie on Monday, January 2, 2006 2:20 PM
Even some of the best N-scale locomotives are going to struggle with any grade much more than 2%. For example, I've found that Kato RS-2s pull between 12 and 15 cars with stock wheels up a grade of about 1.8%. My solution is to double-head trains, as Joe said.

Another question is what types of wheels are in your cars? You'll generally find that metal wheels roll more freely, which will help with the problem of grades.

By the way, the drawback to traction tires, even for those locos that use them, is reduced electrical contact by the wheels.

One final option, which is more work, is to check out replacement frames for your locos. Southern Digital makes frames designed for DCC installation that are a different metal than the stock frames, and are generally heavier even with a place removed for a decoder.

But at a 3% grade, I'd be double-heading nearly anything.

- Mark

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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, February 4, 2006 10:39 PM
how many axles are on your loco if you have 4 axles or 8 wheels it just wont do it, try getting a loco with 6 axles or 12 wheels -------i bet it will pull it then try it[:D]
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Posted by CalTex222 on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 6:55 PM

I am a newby to N-guage (had an 4' x 8' HO layout many years ago) and not an "N-gauge power user" like many responding here.  Rather than focusing on being proto-typical, I just want a train that runs through some nice wine country scenery.  My current layout has a 4% grade (1" per 25") which was not a problem until I bought two box cars and added them to my heretofore 3 railcar train.  My only loco (an Atlas GP-30 diesel) started slipping about 3/4 of the way up.  So not having anywhere near the budget to buy more locos at $100 each to add more power, I wiped the track down with alcohol which helped considerably to remove any accumulated oils, and then used some 400 grit sand paper on the offending section of track and that got the train over the incline, although there was still some slippage. I felt a slight hump near the top as the train enters a turnout, so fixing that will be my next sub-project.  Good luck!.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, June 20, 2022 10:25 AM

A 4% grade is fairly steep, but I'm wondering if there's any room in your locomotive to add some weight, which might improve its pulling abilities.

I model in HO, which uses larger and heavier locomotives, but they also pull larger and heavier trains, too.  There is usually room in those locos to add weight, which can make quite a difference to their pulling abilities.

Even a little space in your locomotive (perhaps between the top of the motor and the body shell), where you could add a suitably-sized piece of sheet lead, would improve the pulling power at a very reasonable cost.
Sheet lead, in varying thicknesses, can be found at plumbing shops or roofing companies. 
If you want to give it a try, make sure that the lead does not contact any exposed electrical stuff inside the loco - Kapton tape is a good insulator, but even masking tape or electrician's tape  would prevent a mishap.


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Posted by snjroy on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 9:46 AM

I model HO and Hon3. I'm not too happy with the performance of a few of my engines (mostly smaller steam). I am considering using a product called Bulfrog Snot. I'm told it works very well. Apparently, it was created by an N scaler...


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Posted by selector on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 10:13 AM

Bull Frog Snot's not the easiest stuff to use. (Sorry, couldn't resist).

My first application didn't go well, but the rest were better.  The idea is to invert the locomotive and spin the drivers as low-medium speed while you lay a charged toothpick on the bearing surface of the tire.  If you do it right, the resulting coating will be smooth.  So, don't be dismayed if you try it and your early results are...well....awful.  Use a paring knife or utility blade to pare it off and start over.

However, this product is best used on steamers with solid power pickup.  If you have an older design with few pickup tires, the bull frog snot will only make things worse.

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