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Guy with the Green Hat
Hi all.:)

While I've learned many things about model railroading over the years, I have yet to learn the best way to lubricate an HO locomotive. Are there certain lubes that should/ should not be used on engines? And what parts of the engines really need oil. The gearboxes seems an obvious place. Are there any other parts? Possibly the motor brushes?

I will be maintaining a small HO layout for a Children's Museum, and with all the use that those locomotives get, I figured it's high time I learned how and what to oil.



Just make sure you only use oil that is compatible with plastic others will eat it up.
Just a drop of oil is needed don't over due it. Grease for the gears. For electrical contact area they make a contact cleaner/lube.
On the motor only one drop on the shaft front and rear where it enteres the motor. I wouldn't worry about inside the motor until it is time to replace the brushes.
On steam engines light oil on the linkage pivot pins and screws.



Guy with the Green Hat
So, would the Labelle 107/ 108 be used on the gears, or would that be used on the motor shaft? How does the oil not catch fire when it's applied where the shaft enters the motor (wouldn't the oil be bad to mix with the electricity/ sparks of the motor)? How does oiling this location affect operation?

Also, what is that white grease I've seen on HO steam locomotives? Is that readily available to the consumer market, or can the Labelle stuff take its place?

Thanks for the responses, guys. This should keep the trains running and the little railfans happy.:)


The oil won't catch fire because you will not use that much. Use very little. Put the oil on the end of a toothpick and apply to the motor shaft. If you use to much on the shaft with the brushes you will get some on the brushes that might slow down your engine and attract dirt.



Well-Known Member
If you are dealing with a museum layout, I would expect there'd be some steam? If so, the running gear needs to be lubed, probably about every 10 hours of operation. The gear tower and motor bushings are one thing, and they have been covered. I would not oil the brushes in the motor! They need to be free and clean, but not lubed. Arcing inside will just turn that lube to sludge, then taffy, then enamel. None of which get thumbs up from the engineers who design electric motors.

You can use any light oil that is intended for use with plastics and exposure to paints. Hobbee-lube, Labelle's, are examples. They make greases as well.

I use Dexron III Mercon automatic transmission fluid for my outer wheel bearings and for the pivots in the valve gear, the cross-head guide, and the main and side rod cranks. It is a superior lubricant, most household garages have a near-empty container whose remaining dregs would lube even the largest museum fleet at least once, and it is easily applied. Best yet, it is entirely safe for both paints and plastics. It has to be because it was designed for use inside auto transmissions with plastic-cased sending units.

Invert the locomotive and tender in a soft, but firm cradle designed or fashioned to hold those items well in their inverted states. Then, take a medium-sized sewing needle and jab the pointed end into a short length of wooden one end of the dowel. A drop of CA glue would help to keep it there. Then, using flush cutters or sharp wire cutters, nip off the top half of the eye of the needle (close your eyes or turn your head!!). You'll have two small tines showing. Holding this appliance by the dowel handle, you dip the two tines into a thimble-full of ATF fluid, and then apply the tiny drop to the bushings, pivots, and cross-heads. Be methodical so you don't forget one. Work from back to front or the other way...don't jump around because you'll miss something. Also, avoid the tendency to place a second, third, and fourth drop in the same place because you don't see any of it after you withdraw the sewing needle applicator. It doesn't need any more unless you missed!

Last thing is to power the engine and run it for a few seconds. You can do this while it is still inverted by using wires and alligator clips to an axle with pickups. Or, place it on the tracks and run it back and forth for 20 seconds.



Loveably weird
The white grease is lithium grease. It works well, just make sure that the brand you buy is safe for use on plastics.


Active Member
Also don't assume that it's safe for plastic if you see it at a hobby shop. Only trust it if it specifically says safe for plastic.
I personally use labelle's

Rule of thumb is that if 2 moving parts touch, you oil them. As noted earlier gears get grease.

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