I recently acquired a number of Americal Flyer items, including an
entire box of old track. The track has rust on some spots (they were
sitting in a garage for the last 20 years.)
I would like to clean the tracks up the proper way. I was wondering if
I can use a Brass Wire brush on my dremel tool to clean it. Would this
be too abrasive? Is there anything I can apply to the track before
using the wire brush on it?
I've been told that I should NEVER use steel wool, as I imagine it is
too abrasive and would wear off the plating on the tracks.
I'm looking for an economical way of cleaning the track. Any help in
this case would be appreciated....
Unfortunately, removing rust requires abrasion. The plating on the rails
was intended prevent rusting - and worked well enough, otherwise you'd
have totally rusted track. :-)
IMO a brass wire wheel will be too soft, but go ahead and try it. O'wise
youi'll have to use steel wool. You need to get rid of enough rust so
that the wheels make good electrical contact. The web and base of the
rail can be painted rusty brown-black colour. Regular operation will
keep the rust off the rail heads, and occasional track cleaning will
On Mon, 06 Dec 2004 15:26:38 -0500, Wolf Kirchmeir
I've had success with cleaning rust and oxidized areas of
tinplate with wet/dry 400 grit sandpaper found in auto supply
departments. Get it very wet and add a little kitchen soap such
as Joy or Dawn. Really tough areas may require a 320 grit.
The 320 or 400 grit do a fine job and coupled with the soapy
water added minimizes the abrasive scratches that may occur on
I'm a Lionel guy (which was always superior to Flyer IMO - oh the debates I
used to have with Flyer guys Kenny up the street and David on the next
block!!), but the track construction and materials are similar to Flyer, so
my cleaning techniques should work for you.
I've acquired quite a bit of track with the sets I've added to my
collection, and have cleaned all of it using a Sears 'fine' 7" steel wire
brush wheel mounted on the end of an old washing machine motor (low enough
HP that it stalls before it can cause any serious injury but always use
safety glasses) mounted on the end of the same small tool table that
supports my router table. I find one pass down each side of each rail with
the track held parallel and at about 45 degrees to the wire wheel, plus a
pass on the bottom of the track with the track held perpendicular to the
wire wheel, works for most track. If there is any rust, then additional
work on the rusty spots is needed. I have never had a problem with this
wearing through the factory tin, cadmium, or nickel plated protective layer
(Lionel used these at different times). Besides, if you have rust present,
you are already through the protective layer. I have also never had a
problem with the steel wire wheel abrading through the fiber insulators for
the power rail.
Note that the "prohibition" on the use of steel wool is more for track
installed on layouts to avoid getting the fine bits up into the mechanisms
where it may get trapped in the lubricants and cause excessive bearing wear.
Further, this is more of a problem on Lionel locos with Magne-Traction where
the magnets pull any ferromagnetic material up into the mechanism, but then
American Flyer never had this wonderful feature. I find the wire wheel as
it ages will shed broken bits of wire, but these are about an inch long and
heavy enough that they never cling to the track long enough to get near the
I find this to be very quick process, and spend more time removing the old
track pins, cleaning or replacing them, running a rat tail file into the
open end of the rail head to clean it and assure it will conduct well, using
a needle nose pliers to reform the rail ends, and reinstalling the pins. I
think the use of a Dremel tool may be much less effective and much more time
I do not use any kind of track cleaning fluid on the old track. On some
track, particularly if some rust had been present, I have tried applying a
light oil film just as you would do with a rifle being put back in the gun
cabinet. I put a single drop of 30 wt non-detergent motor oil on an old
tooth brush and find this is plenty to spread over one track section. I
avoid using this track on the carpet under the Christmas tree to keep out of
friend spouse's dog house, and wipe the top running surface with a paper
towel, and find no adverse effect on the pulling power of the trains. I
have not noticed that this track holds up any better in storage than my
un-oiled track, but it's only been 10 to 20 years and my train closet is
Hope these observations help. Have fun, even if it is only American Flyer.
wow. Thats fantastic. Thanks. I do have a variable speed grinder that
I'll probably be able to crank down to a slow enough RPM that it wont
make a significant impact. I'll test some sample track just in case.
I'm assuming, also that brass brush on the grinder is softer than a
steel brush, so I might be able to use that without too much trouble.
Thanks for your help!
And yeah, I know its only American Flyer, but hey....it was given to
me, after all. And I love it anyway.
[...]I have never had a problem with this
Cadmium???? If you have any of that stuff, wear a filter when you cleran
the track to avoid breathing the cadmium dust. Cadmium is one of those
heavy metals that do really nasty things to you - increased risk of
heart and kidney problems, etc.
Glue a few door-closer magnets (Aavailable at your hardware store) side
by side on a suitable chunk of wood, and run this over the layout to
pick up all that magnetic stuff.
Good idea IMO, but I would use a synthetic oil instead. I've also heard
of using gun-bluing - it darkens the track to a more realistic shade,
and works as a rust inhibitor. Plus, it's conductive, so doesn't affect
pickup. Haven't tried it, though.
Wire wheel on a bench grinder(mine's an 8"), and using eye protection.
I just had to clean up two pieces of 0-72 pre-war straights for the
Christmas putz last night... it goes real fast this way. I've never
lost an insulator, and have done several batches of Flyer "S" in the
same fashion. It'll never look new, but it will get the trains running.
If steel wool it too rough on the track, a wire brush in a dremel would be
even worse. I suggest a product like Flitz which is a metal polish. If you
want mechanical assistance, you can use that with a felt wheel. Remember
that only the tops of the rail need to be cleaned for electrical contact.
The rest is "weathering."
in article email@example.com, trainfan1 at
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote on 12/7/04 3:51 PM:
I clean Super O track and there is no reason it is any different then Flyer
track. Crucial to be cleaned are the tops of the rails. The least expensive,
simplist and quickest way I know with any side effects is 3M Metal to Metal
Cleaning Sponges. They are found in the paint department of Menards, Home Depot
and the like.
Cost $2.50 and do a great job.
Season's best to all,
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