Is your model train running erratically, juddering, stuttering or even stopping completely?

If you're encountering issues running model trains and asking yourself why does my model train slow down, then you'll want to follow the expert advice from our community so you can get up and running again quickly and easily.

In this article we'll cover examples of the potential issues that affect the reliability of model trains as well as the solutions to these problems.

Why does my model train slow down?

Some of the issues you might be experiencing that are causing your model train to slow down are:

  • Erratic running - e.g. trains stopping and starting unexpectedly
  • Locomotive judder or stutter
  • Inconsistent speeds
  • Trains stoping completely

If you're encountering any of these issues, then they'll be one of the reasons as to why your model trains are running slow.

Fortunately, the majority of these issues can be resolved fairly easily. First, we'll need to do some troubleshooting and diagnose what's causing the poor performance.

Troubleshooting poor model train performance

The first thing you should do when you're encountering poor model train performance is to ask yourself "why does my model train slow down"?

What we mean by that is to do a bit of troubleshooting and actually determine whether the problem is being caused by the locomotive itself or is a wider issue with your layout or track.

Does the issue occur with multiple trains or just one specific locomotive?

If multiple trains are causing you issues on the same layout then the problem is most likely with the track and not the trains themselves.

If this is the case, you should first follow our guide on how to clean model train tracks to see if that resolves your issues. If you're still getting problems after cleaning the track, come back to this article and try out some of the other solutions.

If it's just a single train that's causing problems then it's more likely that the issue is with that train specifically.

How to fix model trains that slow down

The most common problem which causes model trains to slow down or stop is a build-up of dirt on the wheels of the locomotive causing a loss of traction or failure to obtain reliable power from the track.

Accumulation of dirt and debris on model train wheels is a common issue, so cleaning the wheels should be done regularly to avoid problems.

This is more likely to be an issue on older locomotives. However, they may also require their gears to be lubricated, particularly if this hasn't been done for quite some time. It's something that occasionally needs doing (though not as often as wheel cleaning) by removing the body of the locomotive and applying oil to the gears to ensure they operate smoothly.

If you've cleaned the wheels and oiled the gears and you're still getting problems, then this indicates that there's something faulty elsewhere on the locomotive. Your best course of action would be to return the product to the retailer, if it's still under warranty. If this isn't an option, you could also try using a dedicated model train repair specialist to resolve your issues.

As discussed earlier, if your problem is being encountered by multiple locomotives then this suggests an issue with the track or the power going to the track.

Let's take a look at some other possible causes of model trains slowing down and potential solutions:

Clean the tracks

If your model railroad is located in a 'typical' home environment then any number of everyday particles are present which can accumulate and cause your trains a number of problems. House dust, pet hairs, smoke particles, and sawdust can all combine with the natural oxidization that occurs when running power through model train tracks. As modellers, this causes us a tremendous challenge in trying to keep our layouts clean.

The best advice is to follow a consistent cleaning routine and ensure that, in particular, the track is regularly cleaned.

This will go a long way to ensuring you minimize the chances of getting problems with your model trains in the future.

See our full guide on cleaning model train track for additional information and guidance.

Run your trains!

A model train running reliably on clean tracks

Probably the easiest (and certainly most enjoyable!) method of keeping your trains operating efficiently is to simply run them more often.

Model trains run better when they're frequently used, as this helps prevent the components from seizing up and stops dirt and grime from accumulating.

The more time you spend running your trains, the less time you should need to clean them!

Faulty joints and track wiring issues

If trains are only slowing down or stopping in one specific place on your track then your layout may be experiencing voltage drop. This is the weakening in the flow of power to a particular area and is often caused by loose joints between sections of track or where the voltage needs to travel large distances. This is more of a problem on larger layouts.

To resolve this you should replace loose or worn rail joiners and use a power booster cable to connect the track sections together. This will ensure the voltage level is consistent throughout the layout.

Why is my Hornby train running slow or stopping?

Hornby trains are not immune from the problems we've covered in this article. There's nothing particularly different with Hornby trains in this regard. They're just as susceptible to issues with poor running as other brands.

To keep your Hornby train running smoothly, you should stick to the recommended advice that we've covered in this article.

Always ensure that the wheels of your Hornby trains are free from dust, dirt and grime. In addition, you should keep your track in good condition and clean it regularly.

This will help minimize the risk of any performance-related issues and ensure that your trains run reliably and efficiently.

Does model train length affect performance?

If you've tried all the solutions that we've covered and are still encountering issues, then there's still one potential area that could be causing problems. That's the length of the trains that you're running.

When first starting out many beginners attempt to join numerous items of rolling stock together to form one large consist.

Model locomotives only have a finite power rating and if the train that it's attempting to haul is too long then it might not have enough power to pull all the rolling stock that you have lined up.


In this article we've seen that there are many reasons as to why does my model train slow down.

Firstly, you'll want to ascertain whether the issue is with a particular train or a more general issue with your track or wider layout.

The most common reason for poor model train performance is the accumulation of dirt on the wheels causing a loss of traction or failure to pick up power from the rails.

The solution is to regularly clean both your trains and track. You should ensure that the wheels of your model locomotives are free from dirt, dust and debris whilst also keeping all of your track clean.

Other solutions include: running your trains more often to keep the components operating freely, ensuring that the length of the trains you're attempting to run are not too long, and checking that the track wiring is mounted correctly and the joins between track sections are secure.

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