Cleaninbg S Guage Track

Hi,
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....
- Thanks,
Todd
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Todd wrote:

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 also help.
HTH&HF
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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 the track.
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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 layout.
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 consuming.
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 fairly dry.
Hope these observations help. Have fun, even if it is only American Flyer. Gary Q

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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.
- Thanks,
Todd
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Geezer wrote: [...]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.
HTH&HF
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Todd wrote:

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.
Rob
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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."
Ed
in article snipped-for-privacy@usadatanet.net, trainfan1 at snipped-for-privacy@usdatanet.net wrote on 12/7/04 3:51 PM:

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Edward A. Oates wrote:

Steel wool is certainly not to rough on the track - it is too rough on the mechanisms which it will get into. I use a stiff 8" wire wheel on a bench grinder w/o any damage at all.
Rob
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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,
Mike
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