A thousand people or so pass through the viewing areas of the San
Diego Model Railroad Museum every day, and they bring in lint, dust,
salt air, pet hair, and a number of other things along with them. If
the rails are not cleaned regularly the locos begin to stutter and
stall even in DC mode after just a few days. And we've found that
clean track is even more critical when we're running in DCC mode.
On my home layout, our air-conditioner sucks pollen and dust in from
outside and distributes it over the layout with a profligate hand from
spring to fall, and the furnace does likewise through the winter
There's nothing "alleged" about either dirty track or it's effect on
rolling stock performance. If it weren't a real problem we wouldn't
spend so much time cleaning rails and wheels.
Except for this, mostly good advice especially about keeping
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
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
The filter on ours (Trane - how apt - Clean Effects) seems to have made
a significant difference in dust thoughout the house, despite being largely
negated during the summer when we run a whole house fan during cool Delta
My layout's track and track power supply has been completed last weekend
;-) It's N scale and rather small, though ;-)
Well, I have a loco with dirty wheels which runs very badly. I found the
wheels to be very dirty and actually the running surface not even.
Instead there are small groves along the wheels' running surfaces,
similar to a very fine tread (like on a screw but much finer). Since I
got the loco second-hand I don't know what abuse it has taken ;-) How do
I best remove the dirt (and do I need to polish the surfaces)?
Thanks for any hint ;-)
Bernhard Agthe wrote in
In extreme cases, I've had luck with a wire wheel (brass would be best,
steel might be a little stiff) in a motor tool. After removing the main
layer of gunk, I applied a thin layer of oil to the wheels. Pickup is
still a little iffy, but I think that's more due to the pick ups
themselves and not the cleaning process.
Once a surface is messed up, it's going to be difficult to restore. It
might be advisable to simply replace the wheelsets.
My layout room is a single-car garage under the main house (we live in a
tri-level). I keep that room always closed and have installed a small
de-humidifier. On the "intake" side of the de-humidifier, I taped a
regular furnace filter (cut to size). This seems to keep the room and
layout almost totally dust free.
Once the wheels are polished (P's method should work well), apply
gun-bluing. This darkens the wheels (nice touch), and creates an
non-oxidising thin conductive film (don't know the chemistry). I've
found this especially helpful on brass drive wheels.
On 2/3/2009 7:28 AM Wolf K spake thus:
Wolf, I don't know why you keep coming up with this gun-bluing stuff.
You know, this has been discussed here before; first of all, doesn't it
only work on steel, and not on other (non-ferrous) metals?
But more importantly, you seem to have the mistaken idea that the
coating left by such methods can be *more* conductive than the base
metal itself, which is ridiculous. No coating which results from a
chemical reaction with the metal is going to be more conductive; chances
are it's going to be a lot *less* conductive. This applies to oxides as
well as anodic and cathodic deposits. (The only kinds of coatings which
might be more conductive would be metal platings.)
It is possible that the resulting coating may have properties that allow
it to stay cleaner than the base metal; I don't know. But I don't see
why one needs to look for anything with "magic" properties like the ones
you're imputing; just keep the damn railheads clean and your layout
will run well.
Yes, it works on non-ferrous metals. Try it. It's toxic, BTW, so don't
ingest the stuff. ;-)
I googled on "gun bluing chemistry", and found:
"There are also methods of cold bluing, which do not require heated
solutions. Commercial products are widely sold in small bottles for cold
bluing firearms, and these products are primarily used by individual gun
owners for implementing small touch-ups to a gun's finish, to prevent a
small scratch from becoming a major source of rust on a gun over time.
At least one of the cold bluing solutions contains selenium dioxide, to
accomplish the bluing. Cold bluing is not particularly resistant to
holster wear, nor does it provide a large degree of rust resistance. It
does, however, often provide a very good cosmetic touch-up of a gun's
finish when applied and additionally oiled on a regular basis."
From a forum for machinists:
"Liquid gun blue is a two step process, the fitst deposits a very thin
copper layer from copper sulfate (the blue color ) and the copper is
immediately turned black by the selenium in the solution. It must have
free iron on the surface for the copper and the iron to swap so the
copper plates onto the iron."
IMO, the fact that the selenium reacts with the copper is the reason
that the stuff works on copper bearing non-ferrous \alloys such as
brass, nickel silver ans Zamac.
I never said it was more conductive, just conductive. The main advantage
is that it prevents oxidation, and as you know, the oxides that form on
brass are insulators. That's also why thin oil films work - they do add
resistance, but not enough to matter, and they prevent both oxidation
I think you're reading too much into my comments.
Bottom line: I treated the n/s rail on my shelf layout with the stuff
before building the track. I polished the railhead with a wooden stick,
1200 grit crocus cloth, followed by a wipe down with a soft cloth. I
applied Labelle 108, ran the engine up and down every track a few times,
and that has been that. The railhead is brighter, but not as bright as
bare n/s. And I have haven't had to clean the rail in years. When an
engine won't run, it's the engine, not the track that has a problem (as
narrated in a previous post.)
Now I feel like jumping in here and attack Wolf! :-)
From reading this thread and Wolf's comments, the gun bluing chemical
seems almost identical to A-West Blacken-It solution which model
railroaders have been using for many years. Both use the same
chemicals. Micro Engineering also sells a similar solution for
weathering their track and I suspect they use it in making their own
Wolf, you mention that you "blued" your NS rails and then promptly
polished them with crocus cloth. Guess what: the bluing layer is so
thin that you just removed it! You now have bare NS rail tops!
Remember your quote about bluing which states that the bluing layer is
not particularly scratch or abrasion resistant? There you go.... The
key here is Labelle oil - it (Not the bluing) protects NS from
On 2/3/2009 1:43 PM Peter W. spake thus:
I still think the whole idea of coating one's rails and wheels with a
film of oil is horrendous and asking for trouble. However, I recognize
that there are lots of folks out there who swear by such stuff as Wahl's
clipper oil, etc. May be urban folklore or mythology. I guess if it
works for you ...
Puckdr> In extreme cases, I've had luck with a wire wheel (brass would be best,
Well, I used a sturdy paper towel and some alcoholic cleaner. Basically
put the damp paper on the rails, hold the engine in place and turn up
the power. The dark smear on the towel is quite impressive...
Before doing this, the loco ran only when the power was at "50%", now it
runs at about 30%, so this was/is quite a success ;-) Still need to take
it apart to clean the dust off the pickup. And find a way that the
bogies' outside decoration doesn't get stuck at turnout frogs ;-)
Thanks for the hints ;-)
Have you found that this procedure causes any ill effects on the traction
Bernhard Agthe wrote:
: Puckdr:: In extreme cases, I've had luck with a wire wheel (brass would be
:: best, steel might be a little stiff) in a motor tool. After
:: removing the main layer of gunk, I applied a thin layer of oil to
:: the wheels. Pickup is still a little iffy, but I think that's more
:: due to the pick ups themselves and not the cleaning process.
: Well, I used a sturdy paper towel and some alcoholic cleaner.
: Basically put the damp paper on the rails, hold the engine in place
: and turn up the power. The dark smear on the towel is quite
: Before doing this, the loco ran only when the power was at "50%", now
: it runs at about 30%, so this was/is quite a success ;-) Still need
: to take it apart to clean the dust off the pickup. And find a way
: that the bogies' outside decoration doesn't get stuck at turnout
: frogs ;-)
: Thanks for the hints ;-)
[Cleaning loco wheels with alcoholic fluid]
Actually the loco has no traction tires. But I do imagine you could use
this method for the non-traction-tire axles?
Sorry for not being helpful.
Yup. A german one, to be exact (1). It's quite a nice-looking loco, not
as boring as the most modern locos (e.g. Siemens Taurus) but more boring
than the american diesels (e.g. SD70)... In reality it was quite
successful, mainly due to low axle loads and good enough pulling power
for light trains in hilly terrain.
The model is the two-axle-bogie version with the outer axles supported
by springs (only the inner ones are driven). Thus, the outer end of the
bogies hangs quite low and often hits the frogs... I consider modifying
the decorative outer plates by filing the corner off (don't like this)
or stabilizing the complete bogie (don't know how yet)...
Ciao and thanks for all the hints..
(1) (german only)