Clean track/wheels

I've got most of a HO layout with nickel/silver flex track. I say most since I'm still trying to get the full main line laid down. So
naturally the train is not running much and the track gets dirty.
I've done several things to clean the track, and can, but the wheels of the engine seem to age just as much. Even brass wheels. Is there any easy way to clean wheels, and or track? To keep the chatter to a minimum, I'll not say what I'm doing, but I'm open to ideas on the track as well.
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Big_Al wrote:

Well, a lint free cloth laid across the track and dampened with track/wheel cleaner will work reasonably well. Push the rolling stock back and forth. For a loco, turn it upside down, attach power with alligator clips, apply power, and cotton swab or similar dampened with track/wheel cleaner.
Prevention is 99% of the battle. Apart from general dust and gunk reduction in the train room, do the following:
a) Wipe the rail with a lint free cloth dampened (not soaked) with good quality track cleaning fluid, repeat until there's no more dirt being picked up. Then wipe with a clean dry cloth. The fluid will leave a protective but conductive film which reduces future dirt build up. Maintain the protective film by putting a drop of cleaning fluid on the railhead every 6ft or so and running a train around the layout a few times.
b) Use metal wheels on all rolling stock. Toss the plastic wheels - a few can be used as loads on MOW equipment or lined up near the RIP track, if you don't mind the pointy axle ends.
c) Do not use abrasive track cleaners, such as Walther's Bright Boy. These create tiny scratches, which promotes arcing, which in turn pits the wheels, and creates non-conductive metal oxides (worse with brass wheels, actually.)
d) I've had the good success using gun-bluing fluid to darken the rail and the locomotive wheel tires. The resulting film is conductive, and resists further oxidation. This is especially good on brass wheels - the oxides that form on brass are non-conductive, and giun bluing prevents their formation.
e) The wheels are not the only place where dirt and oxide can impede current flow. I use Conducta Lube at all points on a locomotive where electricity must cross a loosely fitting friction joint (pickups, wheel bolsters, etc). Also put a drop or two on the commutator.
f) If you are relying on turnout points to switch power, make sure they are clean and make good contact. 'Nother place for Conducta Lube.
Case history illustrating peskiness of elector-mechanical objects:
Some time ago, an elderly 0-4-0T started stuttering intermittently. For while, a shove was enough to get it going, but recently it stopped working. I traced the fault to fuzzy gunk caught up between the wheel tires and the springy wire I installed as a power pickup. Cleaned out the dirt, loco purrs like kitten.
BTW, if you're a smoker, take your smoke break outside the train room. Cigarette smoke is mostly oily gunk which likes to attach itself to all kinds of surfaces, but especially metal ones..
HTH
wolf k.
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On 2/1/2009 3:13 PM Wolf K spake thus:

This is my one nit with a post otherwise full of good advice: if you believe there's a fluid that can leave a "protective but conductive film", then I believe you might be interested in buying a bridge from me.
Nothing you can put on metal rails is going to conduct electricity as good as the metal itself, and anyone trying to tell you so is probably a snake-oil marketing specialist. I challenge anyone to come up with a credible reference that says otherwise.
The idea is to get the tops of the rails as clean as possible. My weapon of choice here is good old denatured alcohol (aka methanol, shellac thinner, stove fuel, etc.). And the main ingredient: lots of elbow grease.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

Well, time for another viewpoint From actual 'Real World' experience.
[David's comments are also 'Real World' but fit a different set of criteria.]
Large 16' X 35' club layout located at the local Fairgrounds. Necessitating semi continuous [Hour running, hour off --- 12 hour days 10 day Fair duration] Manpower NOT available for frequent cleaning sessions. Operation to start, clean track, everything ran well. 1 1/2 hours later - poor running, if at all. Problem was the dusty atmosphere created by the hordes of fairgoer/ spectators.
[This was in the 1950s]
Fix found --- application of 'light' oil to the railhead, enough to slightly dampen the rail. [Oil application smoothed operation for about 45 minutes -- re-apply oil -- continued operation.
This FIX was NOT without complications --- The 'light Oil' allowed the railhead dust to adhere to the wheels. Where it would squish out to the sides. [pick up a car, turn it over and look at the 12" wide wheel treads. It wasn't dry enough that the 'flanges disappeared, so no 'tracking' problems.]
The 'squish' would progress till the 'dirt' was out far enough for the truck sideframes to shave it off. [Why the treads never got wider than 12".]
The first clue to this occurring, was finding little 'black bits of crud' alongside the track, and trying to figure out where they could be coming from.
Since then, I have used the 'light oil' method on many layouts WITH SUCCESS. The loss of traction, is offset by the greater adhesion of the 'cleaner' wheels. Net result, approximately the same pulling power available, with the benefit of smother operation.
Light oil; I have successfully used, Hypo Oiler oil, Gyroscope oil, Kerosene.
When things are working well, you can 'wipe the railhead' with a fingertip, and see the 'black crud' on your finger.
Chuck D.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

Aerocar's ACT 6006 does this, according to its label. Maybe it's snake oil. ;-) The film it leaves behind is only a few molecules thick, enough to eliminate arcing. Before ACT-6006 I used Labelle 108, a drop every 6-8ft, distributed by th next train coming by. Well, OK, maybe these are not truly conductive films, but they are thin enough that they pose little resistance. AFAIK, the electrical properties of molecular-scale films are somewhat different from bulk material. Anyhow, it works.
FWIW, I transported some ACT-6006 to the club the other day. The trunk was cold enough that the stuff jelled, so it looks to me like it contains an organic polymer, which presumably is the stuff that forms the conductive film.

Agreed, methanol is a good cleaner, only problem is that it leaves a bone-dry rail surface, which promotes arcing. Goo Gone or similar citrus-based cleaners are equally good, and less toxic. WD-40 also works. One of our club members uses nothing else, swears it eliminates cleaning for months at a time.
All of which indicates that there is no last word on this subject. ;-)
HTH
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believe there's a fluid that can leave a "protective but conductive film", then I believe you might be interested in buying a bridge from me.<
There is an item out there but right now I don't remember the name. It's an automotive item and costs something like 150 an ounce or maybe more. If I can dig up the name later I will post. Found it;
site http://www.stabilant.com /
RMC review http://www.stabilant.com/revrw10.htm
No bridges please <G>!
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On 2/2/2009 9:20 AM Jon Miller spake thus:

>

>

I read it. It's bullshit.
(Horrible web site besides. Why doesn't it say on the front page what the hell their product *is*?)
They claim their stuff acts as an insulator when applied *between* contacts, but magically turns into a conductor when applied *to* contacts.
I think any benefits from the stuff (which various reviewers witnessed, so it does perform some function) are due to the alcohol or other solvent which dissolves dirt and gunk. But the rest of it is BS, just like all those gas additives, magnets and stuff you see in the back of Popular Mechanics and such.
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Where do you get Conducta Lube?
I don't think I've ever seen it in a hobby shop.
~Pete
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wheel
Aristo-Craft makes one version of it, my LHS carries it. Looks like Atlas makes a version too. (Walthers catalog # 150-192.)
Puckdropper
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On Feb 1, 8:23pm, Puckdropper <puckdropper(at)yahoo(dot)com> wrote:

Thanx. I'll give it a try.
~Pete
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Twibil wrote:

Aerocar ACT-3763. I have some in stock, so it's out there.
Their address: Aerocar Hobby Lubricants Inc PO Box 336, 5512 Grand Avenue Westeen Springs IL 60558 708-246-9027 phone & fax www.aerocarlubricants.com
wolf k.
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Except for this, mostly good advice especially about keeping things clean.
Don't put anything on the commutator. Any oil like substance will turn the carbon dust to a conductive paste between the segments. In larger machines operating at higher voltages, this will lead to destructive commutator flashover. On a small low voltage machine (such as a model locomotive motor) it just mucks up the works and hurts performance. Conductive oil will just make it happen faster.
Any cleaning substance will interfere with the chemical voodoo that takes place between the brush and commutator surface. The com surface should be of uniform color, smooth with nothing sticking up between the segments and the brushes should move easily in their holders and not bounce or throw sparks. Brush pressure should be between 3-4 Lb/in^2. That's a pretty small force given that the area of a brush in a model motor is maybe 1/64th of a sq inch. The force on such a brush is on the order of 1 oz.
--
Fred Lotte
snipped-for-privacy@nospam.stratos.net
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As far as track cleaning, I do a lap of the big club layout with my track cleaning rig before every operating session.
The rig consists of an Athearn SD-45T2 pushing two (or three) dedicated track-cleaning cars: a CMX "Clean Machine" loaded with mineral spirits (paint thinner) up front, and either one or two Centerline roller rigs behind it that mop up the last of the solvent that the "Clean Machine" left behind. I replace the Handi-Wipe strips on the Centerline rollers before every session (dirt cheap), and if you saw what they'd picked up after only one lap of the layout you'd know why. (cheap dirt)
We also have a club rule that every train must have a track-cleaning car of some sort in the consist. Most members favor simple weighted Masonite slabs under a boxcar, but the little axle-mounted sliders made by Noch have a following as well. (With the latter we've found it's wise to mount them so that the axle's rotation shoves the sliders down onto the track rather than the other way around.) The Noch pads can be cleaned for re-use with an old toothbrush and some warm dishwater. (I clean mine while I'm washing the dinner dishes.)
I clean my wheels with cotton swabs dipped into mineral spirits (still paint thinner), but I've found that the old "metal wheels are better than plastic" bit is only true part of the time. There are some sorts of plastic wheels that seem remarkably resistant to picking up dirt, and there are some metal wheels that pick up *amazing* amounts of dirt in what seems like no time at all. (I've got an old Ken Kidder Harriman RPO with Central Valley trucks that literally needs to have the wheel treads scraped off with a #11 X-Acto blade after every session.
~Pete
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On 2/1/2009 7:29 PM Twibil spake thus:

Sounds good, but just curious why you push instead of pull the cleaner cars. Won't the loco's wheels be "walking on my fresh clean floor"?
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Yes, but the loco's wheels are spiffy clean when the rig goes onto the track. Plus, there will occasionally be a section of track that's become so dirty that even this rig won't get everything off on it's first pass. (Spilled Coca-Cola will do this, among other things...)
So if I see the loco running *behind* the cleaning cars -on freshly cleaned track- begin to stumble, I know there's a portion of track that needs *two* passes -at least- so I put things into reverse and go back and then forwards again across that spot until the stutter dissappears.
Which reminds me of something else about track cleaning cars: the friction "slider" type of car will sometimes build up a layer of loose crud on the leading edge of the slider, and will then pack it down into the next switch frog it comes to. Our club members discovered this when some of the rolling stock began bouncing as their wheels crossed certain switch frogs. Up-close investigation revealed a frog packed with black crud that had to be pried out with the tip of a pocket knife blade.
Lastly, I run my track cleaning rig quite slowly -at maybe 20 scale MPH. This seems to give better results than did higher speeds; presumably because the solvent now has a chance to work on the dirty railheads for a couple of seconds before being wiped back off again by the following cars.
~Pete
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I've used silver polish on the NS rail, and it seems to keep little-used track running smoothly. Remember to clean your wheels as well as your tracks.
Puckdropper
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Big_Al skriver:

Roco makes track cleaning cars.
On "my" layout (public layout, more than 1000 meters of track, approx 120 days per year vith paying visitors) we have 6 of the roco cleaning cars running contiously. If one of them breaks it takes 2 weeks and dirty rail problems starts.
Cleaning of wheels is don with a glass fiber pen.
Were now on out 12th year with this layot.
Klaus
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On Feb 1, 9:31pm, "Klaus D. Mikkelsen"
cars.

Are those the cars with the built-in vacuum cleaners?
We had the narrow-gauge version down at the San Diego Museum layout, and it worked: picking up loose spikes, vagrant Kaydee coupler springs, dust, various Woodland Scenics products, and the occasional HO gauge "cocker spaniel" (house spider), but it needed to be cleaned out quite frequently, was quite expensive, and was less than reliable.
~Pete
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Twibil skriver:

Nope jut with at celaning pad, like this one. https://www.reynaulds.com/products/Roco/46400.aspx
Last year it came out as a neutral car, without the Roco logo on the stde.
The vaccumcleaner and track celaning cars are theese http://www.lux-modellbau.de/html_uk/gleis_vh.htm http://www.lux-modellbau.de/html_uk/gleis_sh.htm
They are a bit fragile.....
Klaus
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Considering that I had not used one layout for about 8 years and it worked immediately without rail cleaning when again brought into use, and considering that in normal operation I find that the mere act of using the track keeps it adequately clean (i.e. it is effectively self-cleaning), I am highly sceptical of all this paranoia re cleaning being so continuously necessary. What is the alleged source of all this dirt and gunk that is allegedly so problematical?
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