In past stories Five ways to hurt your (L)EGO and What can I re-use for the train? I mentioned the brittleness of old 1980s LEGO Trains sleeper plates. Looks like there are many bad ways to dismount them, and really, only one good way. Doing this the wrong way I managed to hurt more than one sleeper plate, but doing it right my plates have stayed intact.
In my experience there are four main risk locations in these old sleeper plates: the dual clips on both sides the tracks attach to and the two points where the sleeper plate gets thinner – all these four problem spots (marked in the image below) seem to be quite fragile:
The clips are especially at a risk if the attached tracks are twisted sideways. The middle of the sleeper plate seems to be most at risk if the plate is bent, which can happen when trying to disconnect the tracks from the clips and (quite naturally) pressing the middle of the sleeper plate downwards.
The trick is to make sure neither the plate nor the clips holding the track are bent when disconnecting tracks from sleeper plates. Here’s how – place the sleepers/tracks on a table and hold the sleeper plate down by pressing from both ends, so that you are applying force only to the areas where the sleeper sits snugly against the table, not pressing the middle that is slightly lifted. Once the sleeper plate is held down tightly (not bent), pull the tracks straight up, one by one:
Don’t twist or bend towards the sides, only straight up. Also, don’t pull too hard or too high either, so that other sleeper plates possibly still connected to the track won’t break.
Notes on 12V powered tracks (not pictured): Lifting the power inserts is easier, as they connect to studs instead of clips, but make sure not to bend the sleeper plates when removing power inserts and always hold the sleeper down from the ends. Usually you need to remove or lift the power inserts before you can connect/disconnect tracks/sleepers. Make sure the sleeper plates or track clips aren’t bent while juggling the power inserts. The power inserts themselves look like they can take a beating, as do the tracks, so most care should be directed at the more fragile sleeper plates.
Well, that’s my experience anyway. Your mileage may vary. If you have any other suggestions, comments are welcome.