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Running In Locomotives – Iain’s Handy Guide

Running In Locomotives – Iain’s Handy Guide

Running In Locomotive Models

What is running in & why is it recommended?

To get the best out of a new model or one that’s been serviced it’s recommended to run the model in. In theory running in a new model or one that’s been serviced should help to give it a longer service life.  Running in is good in that it will show up any issues, or identify things that may need adjusting or a case of very slight issues. It helps bed in gears, bearings, motors etc. Running in will or should give a much smoother running model that will give many years of good service.

How to do it

You can perform running in on your layout, test track or a rolling road. If you have a layout with a continuous loop of track, you can carry out the running in on the layout itself. For end to end layouts though you’re going to either need a separate test track with a continuous loop, or a rolling road which we’ll look at shortly.

Having taken your model out the box, first check to see if there is no loose or broken parts. Also that the power pick ups are making contact with the wheels / axles. The power pick ups are usually brass/copper strips that either make contact on the back of the wheels, or in some cases on the axles or on the wheel treads.

Having then placed the locomotive model on the track it’s time to start running in. It’s recommend to run in a model for at least an hour with the loco not hauling anything. Run the model at a slow to medium speed on the controller during the running in period with 30 minutes in each direction. I usually run for a couple of minutes in one direction, then change & run in the other direction for a couple of minutes. This i do throughout the one hour running in period. This i will add is performed on a continuous oval of track, in which i take the loco off, turn it round, & replace back on the track at around 30 minutes into the running in session.

Whilst running in the model check for any issues, like jerky or rough running, unusual noises, nothing fouling the wheels, derailments etc. Any unusual noises could indicate things like dry bearings, slipping drive cogs / drive shafts etc. Derailments could be an issue caused by the wheel back to back measurements being out. This can be quickly resolved in most cases with the use of a Back To Back Wheel Gauge. The other beauty of the rolling road is that running a model with the body removed, you can inspect all moving parts at close quarters without chasing it around the layout.

If you haven’t got a continuous run of track you can either use a simple straight section of track or a rolling road. For the straight section of track you could use the Gaugemaster SS-1 Super Shuttle Unit. This allows shuttling of the loco up & down a straight section of track, ideal for automatic running in of a loco. Another item is the rolling road which we’ll take a look at now.

Rolling Road

There are various rolling roads on the market with some now out of production but can still be obtained second hand.  We’ll take a look at some now, first up is one from Hornby.

Hornby’s R8211 rolling road now out of production but can be still found second hand. Primarily designed for use with Hornby’s Live Steam System, works well with steam locos that are both tender / loco driven. Also works well with single bogie powered diesel / electric / DMU /EMU models. Hornby also offered additional set of rollers R8212.

The Hornby R8211 Rolling Road out the box. The rolling road will work with both DCC & traditional contorllers.
The power clip located on the track end of the rolling road. Simply plug your two track wires into this clip, with the other end of the wires directly into the controller or to the nearest section of track.
The fixed track section for the non-driven wheels of your locomotive. This section of track is powered.
The rollers. These are also powered & for use with driven wheels on your locomotive.
At the front end is the adjustable front pony truck support. The pony truck rests on this whilst keeping the wheels clear of the base.


To adjust the pony truck rest simply undo the two screws & slide the pony truck rest to suit loco. Then re-tighten the screws to keep the rest in position.
Hornby Black Five sat on the rolling road running in after servicing. The tender is picking up power from the track section. This loco is DCC fitted, i’ve connected the rolling road to the nearest section of DCC controlled track to provide power.
Rolling road in action.
For older diesel models that have one driven motor bogie like this Lima Class 37, this rolling road works very well as can be seen here.
So having looked at the Hornby rolling road, what about models that have both bogies & all wheel drive? Obviously a different rolling road is needed. So the type we’ll look at now works for all powered / driven wheeled loco’s. The one you see here is by Bachrus. It works by simply placing the rollers & stand onto a powered straight section of track. In the photo below you can see the component parts of this particular Bachrus rolling road.
Place the rollers onto the track, you’ll notice the rollers are on a sliding black bar. This allows for fitting to various width gauge track. Slide each side of the rollers so they fit snug against the rail, then tighten the allen screw to stop the rollers moving on the track. Repeat fitting the rollers so that they all line up with your loco wheels. If you need more rollers then additional rollers can be bought. So in the case of all wheel driven loco’s use rollers under every driven set of wheels.
Bachrus also provide an adjustable rest for non powered wheels as can be seen in the right on the photo above. So to show the rollers & rest bar in use  (see photo below) we’ve used a Hornby Railroad Class 20 (Ex-Lima tooling). This model is driven on one bogie only, with the non powered bogie picking up power.
So whether you use DCC or traditional analogue control & regardless of what gauge track you use, the Bachrus is an ideal rolling road system. In the photo below you can see the Hornby Railroad class 20 operating under DCC on the rolling road. So in the photo below you’ll see the loco running in a forward direction at speed step 14.
Some other rolling roads

Another one that was produced by Gaugemaster was the LT-OO Rolling Road Controller. This is a combined rolling road & layout controller. The rollers can be adjusted to suit the loco for testing, with the rolling road sitting on top of the controller. A switch selects power to either the rolling road or the track. It also has a volt meter included too!

DCC Concepts produce various rolling roads which is available to order online in the Scale Model Scenery shop here.

DCC Concepts offer rolling roads in Active (Live powered rollers), Passive (Non- powered rollers), both as a set of six rollers. These will fit the following gauges:

  • N Gauge
  • 009 and HOe
  • TT Gauge
  • HOm and HOn3-1/2
  • OO Gauge
  • HO Gauge
  • On30
  • EM Gauge
  • P4 Gauge

Changing the rollers is done by using a screwdriver to undo the spacer, remove spacer & replace with spacer to suit your chosen gauge. DCC Concepts also do a 12 way rolling road set as well. In the photo’s below is one of their six rolling road sets & twelve rolling road sets.

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