Lubricating your Hornby locomotive

A very common problem we come across is Hornby locomotives that have been over lubricated. What we mean by this is that too much oil and grease has been added to the bearings, pivots and gears of the locomotive. Some items need lubrication and some need to operate dry. This article is aimed at helping you work out which is which.

Why is over lubrication a problem?

Hornby R862 Evening Star completely restored and running brilliantly again

Most Hornby locomotives use the axle bearings as part of the electrical path for the current from the track rails to the armature of the motor. Oil in these bearing will act as an insulator and restrict the electrical current flow. Also, the motor commutator is often close to a motor bearing. Any oil that gets onto the commutator is very bad news indeed. This oil combines with the carbon dust from the carbon brushes to produce a conductive paste that shorts out the commutator. This then overheats the commutator causing burning of the plastic insulators and a motor that gives off smoke. If not treated this can result in a burned out motor which is scrap.

Another reason to lubricate lightly is that oil can get onto your track rails and contaminate your whole fleet and layout. This is best avoided as you'll have a large clean-up operation to contend with.

There are several steps to correctly lubricate your Hornby locomotive:

1. Identify the electrical path of your locomotive - work from the track rails to the motor armature for each of your locomotives. Bear in mind that for some steam locomotives both the tender and the main loco chassis are used. On some diesel and electric locomotives both loco bogies are used.

2. Clean the right items - apply no lubrication to the bearings used in the electric path and clean off any oil, dirt or grease that might be present. Where an axle bearing has been used as an electrical joint Hornby has used self lubricating materials that do not need lubrication (at least at the speeds we're dealing with). Remove any oil and dirt from the motor commutator and especially from between the commutator segments.

3. Lubricate the right items - place the tiniest drop of light lubrication oil onto all the bearings, pivots and sliders including the motor bearings. We use a tiny pipette to dispense the correct amount of oil. A modellers paint brush can also be used. Remove any excess oil with a piece of kitchen roll or similar.

Hornby R862 Evening Star with all the connecting rods and valve gear re-assembled
Hornby R862 Evening Star with the tender motor repaired

4. Grease the gears - add a small amount of Teflon grease to the driveline gears noting that some will be close to the electrical pick-ups on the wheels especially on the Ringfield motor. In these circumstances less is better.

These simple steps will ensure you locomotive will run smoothly and continue to give you good service into the future. Finally, if you are in any doubt then do not add lubrication and seek the advice of an expert.