Fight voltage drop with copper anti-seize lubricant

If you have issues with your trains slowing down on the far reaches of your layout–and judging from my website hits, many people do–there are a couple of things to do about it. The first thing is to run additional feeder wires. Going by the book, you should go every third track section. Do I push it a little? Sure. Sometimes I can get away with a little less than that, and sometimes every three sections isn’t quite enough.

But over time, the conductivity between track sections can wane a bit, as moisture and oxidation creep in. Coating track pins with copper anti-seize lubricant keeps the moisture out, which keeps oxidation out, which makes the layout more reliable, especially if the layout is outdoors, in the garage, or in the basement.

Don’t look at the lubricant as a conductivity enhancer–think of it as a conductivity preserver. Make sure the track pins and holes in the track are clean, and if you’re the least bit unsure, treat the track pins and holes in any suspect track with a drop of Rail-Zip for 8 hours first. Disassemble the track if necessary, then apply a very small quantity of the copper lube to the track pins as you assemble or reassemble the track. If you use quick-disconnect spades to connect wires rather than soldering them to track, apply a bit of the lubricant to the quick-disconnect spade before pressing it into the track, too. If you use a traditional track lockon, apply a small amount of the lubricant to the portion of the lockon that makes contact with the track.

As a bit of a bonus, the lubricating properties of the grease will make tight track sections a little easier to assemble. And loose track sections may benefit from the presence of the copper closing up the gap a little bit, because copper conducts much better than air.

Is the lubricant absolutely necessary? No. But I do think a hobby ought to be enjoyable, and a train layout that works well is certainly more enjoyable than an erratic one. If space limitations force your train layout into a less-than-optimal space, a bit of copper lubricant is cheap insurance.

And if you have an existing layout, you don’t have to do it all at once, either. Before or after a session of running the trains, take up a track section or two, apply some of the lubricant, then put the track back together. Doing a track section or five is a reasonable fifteen-minute-a-day project. Spend 15 fewer minutes watching TV, on social networks, or forums, and spend that 15 minutes making the layout work better, and I guarantee after a couple of months you’ll be less stressed and happier.

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