The Top 5 Reasons Wooden Trains Derail and How To Fix Them

top 5 reasons wooden trains derail train crashIf your child’s wooden train set doesn’t run smoothly and the trains derail frequently it can be super frustrating for all concerned. Here are the top 5 reasons wooden trains don’t run smoothly and how to fix them.

 #1 Uneven Surfaces

The Problem: If the railway rests on a carpet the track may rise up and down, as the fabric height changes, creating steps where track sections meet and which the wheels can’t roll over.
The Fix: Find a flat smooth surface on which the track can rest. Best solutions being table tops or toy tables but if the railway has to sit on the floor use a play mat or large sheet of cardboard. These interlocking foam mats are great as they provide a flat surface which can be expanded them as the train set grows.

#2 Broken Track

The Problem: Well used wooden track may fracture or split around the joints and grooves preventing smooth running of the wheels. Equally, over time wooden track can become distorted so the grooves don’t align.
The Fix: Use sandpaper, or a file, to smooth down the rough edges or in worst cases replace the track section.

#3 Slopes Too Steep

The Problem: Where track slopes down, from a bridge for example, the incline may be too sleep in which case the front of the train hits the track resulting in the wheels being pushed up up and off the grooves.
The Fix: Easy, just rearrange the layout to reduce the angle of the slope.

#4 Moving Track

The Problem: Wooden track on smooth, low friction, surfaces, can move as the trains are pushed around it, introducing gaps between sections.
The Fix: Put the track on a surface with greater friction, such as a track mats. Using a technique from my model railway construction experiences, I’ve used landscape matts which most importantly provide a great grip for wooden track but also looking great (see the above picture).
Some people glue their wooden track down on a train table but in my experience this is a mistake. While it solves the problem of the track moving it takes away the fun and enjoyment of being able to change the layouts and build new networks.

#5 Incompatible Trains

The Problem: I’ve covered train and track compatibility before and while it’s not usually a problem with wooden train sets such as those from Brio there can occasionally be issues where different manufacturers of track and train are used with the axels of some trains are two wide or narrow for the track.
The Fix: Sadly there’s little else that can be done if this is the case. While you could adapt the trains it’s quicker and easier to just return the rolling stock and ask for a replacement or refund.

Where next?…

Hopefully, this will solve your wooden train derailment problems but if your children continue to have problems by all means drop a comment below and I’ll be happy to try and help.
Alternatively, if your child is looking for wants another train for their Brio or Bigjigs or Thomas train set and you’re trying decide what to get them check out the sister post to this article – the best wooden trains. It’s just one of the posts in my super-series on wooden trains.
Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.
One comment
  1. While these are certainly reasons, I think there is a more fundamental issue at play… These wooden tracks are not designed correctly, which leads to possible derailment at each connection point. I plan to play with it over the next few days to see if I can improve the design…

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