Improving Your Locomotives Performance
Couplers: Older rolling stock and locomotives were typically equipped with primitive coupler devices (known as ‘horn’ couplers in HO and ‘Rapido’ couplers in N) that do not look realistic and never functioned particularly reliably. Also many modern trains with ‘knuckle’ style couplers have flimsy devices that eventually break. you need to replace that equipment with modern spring loaded knuckle couplers to keep your cars together. Some require specialized parts and are more difficult to install. With a few basic tools and a little patience, you can do this yourself.
Wheel sets: Nearly all older trains and more than half of modern trains have plastic wheels. These work fine in N scale (although metal wheels are better) but for HO and O scales, they should be replaced with metal wheels for better performance and a cleaner track.
Trucks: Many trains, old or new, have flimsy ‘trucks’ (the thing that holds the wheels and attaches to the bottom of the train car). For better performance and appearance, these can be replaced by upgraded trucks (which also typically include better wheels). This is often a very simple operation that the consumer can perform at home but it does require the correct truck set. Sometimes installing an improved truck is more challenging and better left to us. Typically a new truck set can be installed for $10.00 even in challenging cases.
Lights: A great many locomotives, most in fact, come with some sort of working headlight. ditch lights, number board lights, reverse lights, cab lights, flashers, and more. Costs vary depending on what is being installed in the model.
Power Pickups: Older trains often don’t have very good electrical pick-up systems to convey power from the track to the motor and other working parts. You can improve the pickup systems. Costs vary depending on the model but estimates are free. Expect to spend at least $40.00, so not every model is worth this modification.
Motors: Many older trains, especially old hand-built brass models, don’t have especially good motors in them and would be greatly enhanced by the installation of modern ‘can’ style efficient motors. Costs vary depending on the model.