10 reasons why your Hornby train stops or hesitates on the track

Maintain your Railway layout track and engines with these simple hints and tips


In order for your Hornby locomotive to operate smoothly especially at slow speeds, the track and locomotive must both be in the best of condition. It is common for a locomotive to hesitate or stop on the track spoiling the usual enjoyment Hornby layouts can give. Listed below is a simple fault finder that will quickly resolve your problem:

Do other locomotives pause, slow or hesitate at the same point on the track?
For a Hornby locomotive to give its best performance the track must be in good condition. Below are some common faults found in track layouts.

Dirty or dusty track
It is common for Hornby locomotives to drop a small amount of oil onto the track conductor rails as the train is used. This oil builds up over time and can hold onto any dust that may land on the track. Dirty and dusty track can be wiped clean with a cloth.

Tarnished track rails
Over time the bright metal surface of the track rails will oxidise (especially where arcing occurs) resulting in a rough and high electrical resistance surface. The high resistance will reduce the performance of any engine while the rough surface will cause increased wear to the pick up wheels. The track rails need to be cleaned with a track polishing pad to return the rails to a bright clean and smooth finish.

Poor track rail connections
It is well known that in a medium to large track layout the joints between the individual track pieces can offer high electrical resistance causing a train to slow or hesitate at the far end of the layout. The solution is to replace worn or loose fishplates and electrically connect the track pieces together with a track power booster cable. To do this solder the track power booster cable to the fishplates joining each piece of track.

Does the locomotive hesitate on LH corners, RH corners or the straights only?
It is clearly important that the electrical current flows from the track rails to the engine's electrical motor with as little resistance as possible. Over time several faults can occur with Hornby trains to reduce their track performance.

Pick up wheels
The locomotive's pick up wheels need to be in good clean condition and all be in constant contact with the track rails. If the wheels are very dirty or oxidised then they will need to be cleaned and polished, fine grade abrasive paper is best for this.

Poor connections to the pick up wheels
The connection between the pick up wheels and the motor are critical to the performance of any Hornby train. Over the years Hornby used many different solutions to pass the electrical current from the pick-up wheels to the motor contacts. Trace this electric path and clean all the contacts again and again with fine grade abrasive paper.

Motor connection wire broken
Over time the wires from the contacts to the motor can fracture internally. The motor wire should be replaced if this is found to be the cause. Failure often occurs near to solder joints where the solder flux is present.

Short circuit wheels
Over time the insulating bushes, washers and other electrically insulating devices can wear down and no longer insulate the electrical parts of the locomotive chassis. Even a loose wheel tyre can be the cause of a short circuit. Inspect all insulating devices and replace as necessary.

Does the locomotive sound normal but moves slowly or not at all?
This can be caused by a mechanical problem between the motor and getting the power down to the driven wheels.

Loose or damaged drive gears
There can be many gears in the drive chain of a Hornby locomotive. These gears all need to be in good condition and correctly secured to their shafts. A smear of Teflon grease on the drive gears can help performance tremendously.

Loose drive wheel
It is common for wheels to become loose on their axle shaft. If this is the only problem then the wheels can be glued into position or alternatively replacement drive wheels and axles can be sourced and fitted.

Tyres with little grip
Some later Hornby locomotives are fitted with rubber drive tyres to give the locomotive the best possible grip to the track. These tyres need to be present and in good condition otherwise wheel spin will occur when hauling heavy loads.

There are many other possible faults especially with the earlier locomotives with the open frame motors. This is intended as a simple fault finding guide only. If the information above does not resolve the fault then contact us for further information.