"Bright Boy" not a "bright" idea?!

I know this subject was touched on a little while ago; but I'm horrible at using Google to find posts...

I've always used a "Bright Boy" track cleaner (or others' brand), and haven't had problems. Why should I not be using it, and what should I use instead?

Chris Curren (Remove "Don't" to reply via e-mail)

Reply to
Chris Curren
Loading thread data ...

On Wed, 10 Aug 2005 22:21:54 GMT, "Chris Curren" using Google to find posts...

Some 30 years ago when a member and officer of NVMRRS in Alexandria, VA...now in Vienna, VA...BriteBoys were not used on that layout but broken pieces of cork roadbed were used to clean the rails. BriteBoys left minuscule scratches which collected gum and gunk...

No idea of the rules now in effect by NVMRRS.

Ray H. Durham, NC

Reply to

The "bright boy" and related track cleaning blocks are abrasive, and fairly coarse, like perhaps 120 grit. They scour off the dirt ... AND cause wear & sizable scratches on the rail. This should be avoided whenever possible.

There are occasions where an abrasive cleaning is about the only thing that works ... like after cementing down ballast, but it's too aggressive for normal track cleaning.

Dirt can be loose (dust), sticky (ballast cement, "Goo-Gone"), soft (oils), or hard (paint, varnish), abrasive (ballast, "Bright Boy" residue, steel-wool shards, etc.), or magnetic (some ballast, steel-wool shards). It's all bad, but some is worse than others.

Steel-wool residue is about the worst. It is attracted to the motor magnets, and thus gets 'into' the loco's mechanism. It can cause short circuits, and destroys motors, gears, and bearings. NEVER ALLOW STEEL-WOOL ANYWHERE NEAR A MODEL RAILROAD!

If you DO use an abrasive cleaner, follow it with a MUCH finer abrasive, like 600 grit to smooth out the inevitable scratches.

The scratches have been shown to hold dirt, and thus contribute to the rail's getting dirty again sooner. Thus excessive use of an abrasive cleaning device just creates the problem you're trying to solve, and wears out your track.

A soft lint-free rag and track cleaning solvent (many use alcohols) is the best approach. Commercial track cleaning fluids seem to mostly be some mixture of alcohol and detergent. Most seem "OK".

Others use a Masonite block or similar (sometimes under a moving car) to polish their rails ... these actually ARE an abrasive too, but far 'milder' than a "bright boy". They tend to polish the rail rather than scour it.

Avoid the use of "Goo-Gone", as it leaves a sticky residue that also contributes to further dirt build up, especially on your wheels. If you DO use it, follow with a rag-cleaning and alcohol to remove the residue.

Dirty track leads to dirty wheels, which then move the dirt to clean track, etc.. It's a system, and you have to clean EVERYTHING at least occasionally. How much dirt you get is determined largely by the environment surrounding your model railroad. It varies WIDELY!

The other thing to consider is actually *REMOVING* the dirt. Many track cleaners ("Bright Boys", Rags, Handy-Wipes, Masonite blocks, whatever) soon load up with dirt. After that, you're just spreading the dirt around, NOT getting rid of it. When the cleaning device becomes dirty, REPLACE IT!

Dan Mitchell ============

Reply to
Daniel A. Mitchell

I've found that 400 or 600 grit emery cloth makes a great track cleaner. And if you really want to polish it, an automotive painting supply place will have grits down to 6000 or so :-).

Reply to

I'm horrible at

brand), and

should I use

abrasive, and

... AND


only thing





cause short


to the


solve, and

alcohols) is

mostly be

moving car) to


rather than


wheels. If you





Many track




At $5.00+ a pop, don't throw away that 'Brite-Boy' when it glazes over. Just hit it with an 8" flat mill file to knock the glazing off and expose a fresh surface, it will last for years. When it gets to small for cleaning track, put it on the bench for those really nasty Athearn loco wheels.


Reply to

I found a 330 grit sandingblock in the lumberyard. It is nonmetallic. Have not needed to use it yet as layout is new.

Jim Stewart

Reply to
Jim Stewart

The "bright boy" and related track cleaning blocks are abrasive, and fairly coarse, like perhaps 120 grit. They scour off the dirt ... AND cause wear & sizable scratches on the rail. This should be avoided whenever possible. . . . ============ This is an EXCELLENT write up, IMO, and I totally agree.

My friend has a large PC & predecessors layout and he uses scrap cork roadbed material saturated with some sort of professional video head cleaner he got from a technician he knows. He follows this up with a dry wiping of the railheads using cork.

Personally, I'll be trying the cork scraps but using denatured alcohol to clean the rails, followed by a very minute applicaton of No-Ox.

Seems eveyone has their own "recipie" for cleaning/prepping their track.

Paul - "The CB&Q Guy" (Modeling 1969 In HO.)

Reply to
The CB&Q Guy

Wahl's hair clipper oil used sparingly. Just a drop on the track every few yards and let the engine take it around the layout. It will work wonders and clean the dirtiest track and causes no abrasion.

Also, Goo Gone used with a track cleaning car (like centerlines) works well.


Reply to
Steven Kay

The 'track oiling' issue comes up frequently. It's a bi-polar issue, and has both supporters and detractors. Lightweight oil does serve as a track cleaner, but leaves an oily residue (Duhhh).HOWEVER, th eoily residue keeps the dirt SOFT, so it does not build up on wheels, wipes off easily during subsequent cleaning, and improves electrical contact. With oil you still have to clean your track, and have to GET RID of the dirt, somehow. But it does improve electrical contact.

Too much oil leads to a loss of traction. That's TOO MUCH oil. If you experience abnormal driver slippage you're using WAY too much oil.

Personally, I do oil my track, lightly, and occasionally.

As for Goo-Gone, our club tried it. We had HORRIBLE results. It left a sticky residue on the tracks that just stuck the dirt down, the dirt then transferred to the car wheels, and soon EVERYHING was covered in caked dirt. Cleaning it all off was a LOT of work. We tried several ways of using it, and had lousy results, period. The Goo-Gone *IS* good at getting the dirt off, but the track then needs to be cleaned again to get the Goo-Gone off. Since the later cleaning, with alcohol or other solvent, is usually sufficient to get the dirt off anyway, why use the Goo-Gone at all?

I know many use Goo-Gone, and claim good results. That just wasn't our experience.

To each his own. YMMV, etc. If it works, it works ... if not, try something else.

Dan Mitchell ============

Reply to
Daniel A. Mitchell

As others have noted, Bright Boy et al are abrasive and leave behind tiny scratches in which dirt can hide; this also applies to wheels.

I don't like Goo Gone or oils because they leave behind a residue which can attract dirt, though I have used Aero Locomotive Works Track cleaner and the "conductive residue" does not appear to attract dirt faster than anything else.

But I've recently switched to two other products: Flitz Metal Polish, and the Electrack Clean II.

Flitz can be purchased online: get the paste in the tube since it is non-toxic (safe for food service) and it works. It cleans chemically and leaves behind a corrosion protective residue which I can't feel or see. I apply it with a cloth stretched over a 1x2 piece of wood and polish it with a second similar piece. You put it on a section at a time and polish it off before it dries. It is amazing how black the polish cloth gets on track I thought was clean. Keep polishing until the polish cloth no longer shows the black streaks from the track. Use Flitz sparingly: residue left on the sides of the track will turn green as it dries. If some remains there, I use a nylon paint brush clipped very short to brush it off. After using Flitz I use either an Aztec cleaning car with the canvas roller (Cratex is the same as a bright boy) or the MNP cleaning car with the motorized felt pads and run it around the track a few time to get anything I might have missed. Flitz leaves your rail head gleaming almost like they were chromed!

The Miniatronics Electrak Clean II (about $89 when I bought it online) uses high voltage pulses to blast through any portions of your track when are non-conductive. There is a review at Tony's Trains Exchange. It appears to work on my Digitrax DCC system. After running it around the layout (slowly) a couple of circuits, I use one of the cleaning cars above to polish off any black carbon residue. It your track is really dirty, you might use a mini-vac, too. Note that the shell of the Electrak II gets quite warm over the transformer, enough to dimple the plastic if run for over 20 minutes at a time. Since the shell looks just like an old Athean F7B unit painted gosh-awful blue, I'll probably just cut out a piece of the roof over the transformer to let the heat out better. Miniatronics assures me that the heat is a not a problem for the electonics and it is supposed to get warm.


in article 66vKe.676$ snipped-for-privacy@newssvr19.news.prodigy.com, Chris Curren at ChrisCurren@Don'tWriteMe.com wrote on 8/10/05 3:21 PM:

Reply to
Edward A. Oates

While I haven't tried, I question the benefits of those high-voltage ulses to clean track.

Yes, that can burn the dirt but as that creates a miniature electric arc, that might be also pitting the rail (as the arc is hot enough to be able to melt a microscopic area of the rail).

Doesn't make sense to me how this will actually be beneficial for keeping the track clean. And while some of the burrned dirt might evaporate, some carbonized deposit will stay on the rail.


Reply to
Peter W.

Reply to
Greg Procter

I've seen no evidence of "thick gunk," and the reviewer at Tony Train Exchange didn't either. But there may be some carbon residue which is why I run a dry track cleaner around after I use the Electrak II. Anyway, this particular model was introduced about 6 months ago.

Here is the review:

formatting link

in article snipped-for-privacy@ihug.co.nz, Greg Procter at snipped-for-privacy@ihug.co.nz wrote on 8/17/05 7:13 PM:

Reply to
Edward A. Oates

My friend used a British high frequency track cleaner (Relco) I can't imagine the effect would be much different for any other brand using the same principle. The cleaning effect takes place between a narrow band on top of the rail which has a fractional "domeing" and the coned tread of the current collecting wheels. In other words, the areas cleaned are extremely narrow. Over time the usual gunk build up occurs outside the narrow strip on the railhead, on the remainder of the tread of the current collecting wheels, and on every other wheel that rolls.

As the trains always run reliably, my friend never saw any need to clean the rail heads or the wheels of his rolling stock. When we complained about the gunk migrating to our stock he suggested we should buy a relco unit ourselves - we stopped bringing our stock to run on his layout.

Regards, Greg.P.

"Edward A. Oates" wrote:

Reply to
Greg Procter

I guess that is why there are so many track cleaning products: erasers, masonite, various fluids, electrical cleaners, rotating pads (horizontal and vertical), and as many wheel cleaning techniques: nothing is perfect and various implementations of each technology work a bit differently.

My preference for now is to use Flitz for a thorough track cleaning about every 6 months, to run my MNP rotating pad and/or Aztec with canvas roller (no fluid) to keep dust down, and to use the Electrak about monthly. Each does a different job and the combo works for me.


in article snipped-for-privacy@ihug.co.nz, Greg Procter at snipped-for-privacy@ihug.co.nz wrote on 8/17/05 9:20 PM:

Reply to
Edward A. Oates

You can find some very mild abrasive pads at the paint or hardware store at about 99 cents each. They remind me of a green AC or furnace fiber filter and are about 5 x 10 x 1/4 inches.

They are still slightly abrasive but work very well on track and don't leave the massive scarring that a bright boy does.


Reply to
Bob Hardy

If you are set on a mechanical means to clean track, you might try a regular pink pencil eraser. (Pink Pearl, et al). They are much less abrasive than Bright Boy, but I still like Flitz.


in article snipped-for-privacy@localhost.net, Bob Hardy at snipped-for-privacy@localhost.net wrote on 8/27/05 6:42 PM:

Reply to
Edward A. Oates

A couple years ago we tried a "finishing and Polishing" block from with great success. They come in various sizes are slightly flexible, leave no residue (dust), and what scratches might be on the rail head are truely microscopic. We used to use them for polishing the copper commutators of Large DC Generators and motors. Best of all they are "man size" no more finger cramps from extensive cleaning, the ones we use, Cat.# 4512A3 are 5" x 1" x 5/8" and cost $7.52 ea +s&h.

Also, due to their size, the don't seem to get lost as often.

Just an idea.


Edward A. Oates wrote:

Reply to

Reply to
Vic Parsons

PolyTech Forum website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.