Maintenance & Layout Building/Design Tips

The following are some TIPS that will help in the operation of all electric trains. We hope they help newcomers to the hobby of collecting and operating.



The type of benchwork you need will be determined by the layout style you have chosen. If you are using a sheet of plywood, then all you need is a simple stiffening frame beneath the plywood. If you want a different, more advanced method of benchwork, then I recommendusing the L-girder method, explained in various model railroading books.

For the beginnner, I recommend using a simple frame beneath a sheet of plywood. If you are using a single sheet of plywood, then use either 2 by 4s or 2 by 3s. Here's how it works:

1: Cut 2 pieces the length of the plywood's longest side
2: Nail these on the underside of the plywood (The                                                                                                                        underside is the side with the least suitable railroading surface.)
3: Then, cut 2 pieces the width of the layout, minus double the width of the outer piece of wood (you just put there in step 1).
4: After nailing these in place, there should be a frame under the layout, around the perimeter. Like a box.
6: These should go in the middle, about equal distances in from the edges.
7: After nailing these in place, the layout should be equally suported.
8: Add some legs and bracing, and it's done. Sound confusing? Use an old table. Drawings of these steps. Important considerations If, however you are using two pieces of plywood, make sure that one of the pieces you cut in step 6 is under the joint. Then, nail both the pieces of plywood into the under piece.

If you don't do it like this, and you just want to connect two tables together, then use bolts (about the 5" variety) with 2 washers and 1 nut per each. Drill a hole clear through both pieces, and slip a washer on the bolt, put the bolt through the hole, put on the last washerand then the nut. Tighten but not overtighten. Use 1 bolt at about every 1 to 1 1/2 feet along the joint. The closer they are, the more stable the joint will be.

It is also helpful if at least one leg is located near the joint, to help hold up the pieces. If there must be any joints in the long pieces (like in step 1) of 2x4, make sure the joints fall far away from the plywood joints.

This method will work for any of the layout plans I have included for you to download. The benchwork information was found at: The Beginners Model Railroader's HomePage:


Track Cleaning:

One of the most important factors which causes poor operation of electric trains is dirty track.  There are cleaners on the market that are specially formulated to cut through the type of dirt build up on track.

- Directions:

Make sure the power to the rails is turned off.

1. Dampen a soft cloth with  Track Cleaner.
2. Rub the cloth over the tops of the rails. Use firm pressure.
3. Then with the use of a dry cloth wipe the rails.
4. Reapply on any stubborn areas.
5. This should be done every few days if the trains are in constant use,
  or before using after a long period of non use.

If severe oxidation exits or light rust is present, it may be necessary to use a fine sand paper, and buff the top and inside surface of the rails.  Then follows steps 1 to 4.

NEVER use steel wool. And NEVER use any flammable liquids as a track cleaner.

Cleaner can also be used to clean the metal pick up wheels and pick up shoes.

2. Lubrication:

A good cleaner not only cleans and lubricates, but also promotes good electrical contact.

- Suggested Uses

AMERICAN FLYER and LIONEL mechanical reverse units.

- Directions:

A few drops of cleaner should be placed on all the contact points of the moving parts. Such as the pawl, drum axle etc. Also a few drops should be spread on the reverse unit drum.

It is especially important on AMERICAN FLYER "E" Units which have had sticking problems, to apply a liberal amount of cleaner to the pivot
point where the pawl is connected to the actuating plate. Activate the unit manually several times, and apply more cleaner.

Proper lubrication can not be stressed enough. An engine that is not
properly lubricated will draw too many amps and will over heat the
motor and burn it out.

There are oils on the market that have the proper viscosity for all electric trains.

It is important to have a supply of a high quality medium fiber grease meant for gears and delicate moving parts. It only takes a small amount on a regular basis to achieve excellent results. Grease and oil should be used every 30 days or after about 10 running hours. * Important Do Not run your engines if they have be stored away for a long time without first cleaning out the old grease and replacing with a new supply including re-lubrication.

Cleaning Plastic Parts:

All Plastics are prone to oxidation, that's the white material that
can be seen on the surface. A good plastic cleaner gently cleans all plastic's with out scratching. Leaves a lustrous shine that resists fogging, repels dust and eliminates static. Protects against smudges, scratching and oxidation.

- Suggested Uses

Plastic shells, couplers and all other plastic parts on accessories,
transformer cases, etc.

- Directions:

1. Remove surface dust with soft cloth.
2. Shake well. Apply a small amount of cleaner on a clean cloth.
3. Spread evenly over the entire surface to be cleaned.
4. Buff with a clean, soft, lint free cloth.
5. For stubborn cases, such as oxidation, (white surface residue),
  rub the cleaner into the surface, then buff.

If severe oxidation exits it may be necessary to use a hair dryer
to soften the oxidation. EXTREME CARE MUST BE TAKEN.
Only heat the plastic until the white oxidation turns clear.
Then wipe it away and treat the item starting with step 2.

Smoke Fluid:

Most American Flyer steam type locomotives are equipped with a smoke and choo choo unit, so they resemble their prototypes in every respect.

Proper care is essential for continued long lasting smoke. Using the wrong smoke fluid can clog the unit. And operating the unit for long periods without fluid in them can cause them to burn out.

The choo-choo sound is accomplished by the movement of a piston in
a cylinder, which forces air through a small hole and against a baffle plate. The same air then follows through the smoke chamber and out of the smoke stack. A heating element, wound around a glass wick
which is saturated with fluid, causes the smoke, and the passing air
pushes it out the stack in very realistic puffs.

- Directions:

When the smoke in your locomotive diminishes and a refill is needed,
insert the small funnel into the tube in the smoke stack. Then open the nozzle on a bottle of Smoke Fluid and squeeze the liquid into the funnel; put it in slowly, so it has a chance to flow down into the reservoir and not spill over the sides. Do not over fill, use only 8 to 10 drops maximum.

You can attempt to clean out a smoke unit, by filling it with Smoke Fluid and letting it stand overnight without use. Then turn the
engine over, placing a cloth under the engine and allowing the fluid
to drain back out.

These tips were found at

Wiring Diagram's

The following  Wiring Diagrams for American Flyer® & 'S' can be found at Paul Yorke's website,

    644/944 Crane car re-string
    #591Crossing Gate
    Log Loader
    Stock Yard
    Coal Loader
    Cow on Track
    Saw Mill
    Block & Switch train control
    American Flyer - Switches/Turnouts - Hook up/Wiring
    Track Trip / Current Sensor
    Replacing E-Unit with Rectifier for using DC voltage
    Basic Steam Locomotive Wire Diagram
    314aw tender Wiring Diagram
    372 Diesel Diagram
    Track powered EOT lights
    Track powered LEDs