How to repair a model train engine

Updated November 21, 2016

Playing with model trains can be a great pastime for the young as well as the young at heart. Endless hours can be spent constructing a train set as well as working on the cars. However, nothing will dampen the fun like problems with your train, especially the train engine. Since most train enthusiasts enjoy working on their train themselves, there are steps you can take to repair your train engine. Surprisingly enough, a good cleaning is sometimes all the repair you need to have your engine up and running again.

Place a lint-free white towel or paper towels on a sturdy surface. Using white will make it easier for you to spot lost parts or screws. Use a magnifying glass or magnifying goggles to check the engine for loose parts, dirt, rust and oil clumping. You will also want to work in an area with good lighting so you can adequately see the parts. The smallest particle of dirt, rust or oil will prevent your engine from working properly. This is why cleaning is sometimes the best you can do to repair your train.

Check the wheels for locking. This could be caused by fibres or oil clumps. You should remove any fibres with tweezers. Take a cotton swab dabbed in solvent to remove oil clumps.

Using a cotton swab, wipe away any grime or grit on the engine. When you are finished, take a piece of paper towel and dry the engine.

Check the joints to see if they need any oil. If they do, use a toothpick with just the end dipped in oil to apply around all the contact surfaces

Use pliers to bend back bent parts. You want to be careful when you do this so you do not break off pieces. If using the pliers does not work, you may have to purchase replacement parts. See the resources section for a website to order parts.

Put the engine back together and try it out. Should the engine still not work, you might want to consult a professional model train repairer.


Repairing broken pieces can be very tedious, and you should not try to attempt them on your own. You should consult a model railroading expert/enthusiast.

Things You'll Need

  • White towel or paper towels
  • Mini screwdriver
  • Oil
  • Pliers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpicks
  • Solvent
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About the Author

Krista Raye is a Steel Magnolia who began writing professionally in 2009 with eHow, Answerbag and Trails. She has 10 years teaching experience in middle and high schools. Raye holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Bachelor of Science in secondary English education and a Master of Arts in adolescent English education.