Building modules
Running long trains
Flush End Track
Flush End Track Continued
Building 'waffle frame' modules
Module frame designs

Links to other S&SS pages

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Module photo pages chapter 1

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This portion of the web site is intended to give the reader further insite as to how we do things. The following pages contain instruction and guidence for the building of Luane waffle frame modules and flush end track. There are photos and diagrams which we hope will be usefull as well.

Running reliable and long trains on modules

Larry Lawler Photo - Savanna PMM 2002
A long train stretched out through the KSM steel mill complex.

There are two conditions necessary for proper operation of long trains, first is properly constructed track, second; properly built and maintained rolling stock. Both of these conditions when met will prevent the two primary events that make running long trains difficult if not impossible. The two events I’m talking about are

 a: uncoupling of cars in the train,

b: derailments.

Here we will discuss proper construction and maintenance of rolling stock, proper track work will be in later.


For starters, all couplers should be body mounted, truck mounted couplers put the stress of a heavy train on the trucks and will cause derailments.

Couplers become disconnected for a variety of reasons only one of which is not related to misalignment, and that is outright failure of the coupler. There has been nice variety of alternative to the Kadee brand of metal couplers, most of which are made of plastic. Plastic is the problem here, we have found through experience that only Kadee couplers can withstand the stresses of long heavy trains. We have seen knuckles deform or break and coupler shafts stretch and or break. So, until another company produces a metal coupler that can take the stress, we strongly recommend using only Kadee couplers. When another coupler is offered, we will test it and will post here if it passes. I am aware that Kadee makes plastic couplers, however I have received only one positive response from our members and associates in favor of Kadee’s plastic couplers. And for now will recommend against them as well, until some more positive feedback with them is noted.

The primary cause of disconnections is misalignment of the couplers. When using the Kadee Coupler Height gauge you may look at the alignment and see that the coupler is a mm high or low and think "hey, it’s good enough for government work", right? Wrong, a Kadee coupler is only 4 mm high, so being off by 1 mm is a 25% error. If you couple a car with couplers that are 1 mm low to a car with couplers 1 mm high you get a misalignment of 2 mm. That’s 50%!! Then add the normal vertical movement of the couplers as the cars move and you WILL have a disconnection eventually. Those couplers MUST be at the proper height, do what ever you need to do, to get them there.

Next problem, oversized coupler boxes. Some brands of rolling stock are notorious for this so this may require some extra work. If the coupler box is to tall, the coupler can move vertically in the box. This can make it difficult to get properly gauged and it will allow a coupler to become misaligned when under tension, this is especially true when in a heavy train on a curve. Depending on the car, you may be able to replace the stock coupler box with a Kadee box or use very thin plastic to shim up the existing box. The end result should be a coupler that exhibits very little vertical movement but moves freely horizontally as it did originally.

Curtis Pope photo
Clinchfield SDs roll over 'Lazy Creek'

Trucks and wheels

Metal wheels are strongly recommended but are not required, we have had success with plastic wheels but have found that they accumulate dirt and spread it easily. Metal wheels don’t have this problem, they also add much needed weight to your cars, roll with less resistance (especially with heavy cars), and as an added plus....sound damn fine when rolling over diamonds and frogs.

Wheel sets MUST be in gauge, GET an NMRA track gauge if you don’t have one, learn how to use it properly. Make sure you don’t have any burrs or rust on the pointed tip of the axles, replace as necessary. Trucks need to pivot and swivel freely, check for anything on the truck itself or on the underside of the car that inhibits free movement. It is common practice to have one truck that pivots and swivels and the other that only swivels, some call this the ‘three point system’. We have had problems with this technique, long heavy trains put much more stress on the cars and this technique results in derailments. Both trucks need the full range of movement but don’t over do it, if they are too loose you will have problems also.

If you have old cars with a lot of miles on them check the axle bearings for wear. If they are worn, the inside of the truck (where the axle point goes) will be a slot not cone shaped. There is no fixing this, just replace them.

The NMRA has a system to determine how much a car should weigh, we used this system until we started running long trains. Then we had problems with cars lifting out of the trains, we concluded that the NMRA weights were intended for trains with less the 35 cars not the 75 to 100 cars we run. So we came up with the NMRA + 25% system for weighting cars. It is exactly as it sounds, the NMRA suggested weight for any given car plus 25%. So far we are satisfied with the additional weight but nothing is written in stone here and we are still looking at the long term performance. Make sure the weights in your cars are balanced so it doesn’t tip side to side and is evenly distributed on the trucks. A truck or axle with little weight on it will climb up off the rails.

Many of the newer ready-to-run cars are near impossible to add weight to so we often just keep them to the back of the train. All long trains need some ‘shake out’ time where the finicky cars are removed or moved to the back. You will still find the occasional unexplainable random derailments but don’t let that discourage you. All this work will not totally eliminate the problems, just minimize them enough so you can have fun, and that is the point, having fun. We suggest you sit down one rainy weekend and go through all your rolling stock, checking everything and giving it all a good tune-up. If you cut corners you will eventually be disappointed with performance of your fleet so hold the line on a quality tune-up.

Larry Lawler Photo
Very long trains pass each other on the back stretch.