Rolling Stock Derailing? 2

After running my consists around our first 4×8 layout for a little while I noticed my lighter, or maybe cheaper, cars tend to derail easier than some of the heavier ones.

When running one of my favourite locos (an old DC unit from a Lima set), it seemed like the first car of the consist seemed to derail the easiest. More often when rolling thru a #4 turnout, or a tighter than 20″ radius corner.

We were able to get around most of the problems by running an empty hopper as the first car, and filling it with some gravel. That bit of weight over the first axle stopped the flange from riding up around some curves and turnouts. It was a quick and dirty fix that made the running a lot more consistent (and enjoyable!) – especially with eager kids wanting to see some trains running.


It turned out I had a few different problems to navigate…

Here are 5 of my go to tips for dealing with rolling stock derailments… Hope this helps!


Make the cars heavier.

So basically, Make them heavier! In the USA pennies are probably the cheapest weights you can get.

Although you could probably hang around at a tyre dealership and find old stick on balancing weights, that’d do the trick too. AND its recycling too – that’ll give you the warm fuzzys !

Fishing weights also work great too.


From memory, the NRMA Standards for freight cars are something like:

1oz + .5oz for every inch of car length

So a 6 inch car should weigh 4oz.
1oz for the car

plus 3oz (6x.5oz )

not sure if the formula is 100% correct though, but it will get you pretty darn close for reliable running


Upgrade rolling stock to Metal Wheels.

Upgrading to metal wheelsets helped. maybe they are just manufactured to a higher standard over the plastic wheels/axles. The slightly heavier wheels seem to roll nicer. I feel the extra weight helps to lower the centre of gravity a bit too.


Use a NRMA guage to check the wheels, and track.

If you have a NRMA gauge handy



You can check the gauge of the wheels, too wide or narrow will cause issues. Same with the track too, check that the curves or turnouts are in spec, especially if the cars derail at the same spot every time.


Check your Couplers for free movement and degree of swing.

One thing I noticed is that the coupler on one of my locos is hard mounted to the centre of the body. That’s not a bad thing, infact its probably the norm. But with the majority of my cars the couplers are truck mounted… which means on tight curves there was excessive swing where the heavier loco wanted to drag the lighter car wide of the curve. Making adjustments to the amount of available swing may reduce derailment issues.


Adjust the Trucks

This didn’t apply to my cheaper cars, they don’t have any screws or ways to tighten the trucks. and my better trucks haven’t had the need to have a tune up (touch wood)

But if the trucks do have screws – I’ve been recommended to tighten one truck to a point where it is allowed to wobble just a little bit, and the other to a point where it doesn’t wobble but is able to rotate freely.











Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 thoughts on “Rolling Stock Derailing?

  • Steve Boyko

    I find adding weight to cars to the NMRA standard makes the biggest difference, followed by tightening one truck down and leaving the other a bit loose.

    One thing to watch out for is any lean in the car. This can happen if your weights are not exactly centered. If it leans it is more likely to derail. This can be exacerbated if you add washers between the trucks and the car to raise couplers to the right height.

    • Adam Post author

      Great point about the lean. Centering the weight would be quite important, especially if the weight cannot be installed as low as you’d like