Dremel or cleaning track after weathering/ballasting

Just an idea Anyone used a Dremel for cleaning track after weathering/ballasting??? Ideas or comments welcome as always Rob

Reply to
Rob K
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No, but a wire wheel cleans locomotive drivers like nuts. Clean and polish in one easy step. It's amazing how much crud can build up at the flange.

Jay CNS&M Wireheads of the world, unite!

Reply to


I would be extremely careful using a Dremel tool to clean track. The only way I would attempt it would be if I knew for absolute surety that the rail heads would not be scratched. Scratches in rail heads traps dirt and basically makes it impossible to really clean your track. Even using something like a brite boy, unless it is one like Peco makes, can cause the same problem. The whole trick is to clean the track without scratching the rail.


Reply to

Why the assumption that he's going to use an abrasive tool? (Although it's a good warning.)

Dremel makes a variety of soft, polishing heads that might do the trick without harming the rail.

My advice would be to try one the soft polishing tools, but not too use the abrasive ones.

Mike Tennent "IronPenguin"

Reply to
Mike Tennent

=>The whole trick is to clean the track without scratching the rail. =>


MRR published a short article a few months ago on using metal polish (cream type as sold in tubes) to clean rail. Author claimed not only did it work, it also made a nice shiny railhead, and the effect lasted longer rthan with other methods.

Reply to
Wolf Kirchmeir

The brand name of the stuff in MR was "MAAS". I tried it in removing the blacking from the tops of ME weathered rail. I glued some cork roadbed (small piece) to a block of wood and used that with MAAS applied to do the rail. Seems to work just fine. Little tricky getting rid of the excess so I do the above procedure before laying the track. If the track is already down you might wish to use cotton swabs, slow but works just fine. Cost of MAAS is a little high, 2 ounce tube is around 5 bucks!

Reply to
Jon Miller

Good Afternoon All,

The subject of different methods to clean track appears in this forum several times a year. I always find it interesting to see how others maintain their railroads just in case there is a better way than what I use currently. Now.....I am not going into my method except to say that my way is one that is shared by many so there is nothing new to say from here......except for one very strong reminder. Whenever you clean your track, especially if you use any type of liquid cleaner, make sure you clean engine and rolling stock wheels at the same time. If now, the residue from the cleaner WILL clean your wheels, and put that crud right back down on your tracks. From all the discussions I have seen here over that past years, there is no quick, easy way to clean track. It is just one of those "necessary evils" a model railroader must contend with.


Reply to

I've found an easy and quick way to clean track and wheels:

  1. fill my track-cleaning tank car [Tony's Train Xchange track cleaner] with ammonia
  2. Instead of dripping the ammonia slowly, have it practically pour out until the pad is soaking. Then tighten the valve to a drip
  3. Put the track-cleaning tank car in front of the engine, and put another track cleaning car WITH A DRY CLOTH behind the engine and train.
  4. Run it for a few minutes

This method cleans track and wheels. I see Bob's point about dirt getting recycled. You'd be surprised by what the dry cloth picks up!

The only drawback to my method is that, if the engine picks up too much of the ammonia, it may short-circuit. So don't use this method on your expensive engines.

Otherwise, its quite effective and effective.

Any additional thoughts?.

Reply to

The original poster said: ... "So don't use this method on your expensive engines".

THAT's the truth! Ammonia in water is Ammonium Hydroxide. Ammonia solution is electrically conductive. It's also corrosive to many materials, including the metals copper, brass and steel (sounds like a recipe for a model loco). Brief exposure probably is not the issue, but residual chemical left after cleaning will stay active just due to moisture in the air. Worse, it will soak into porous materials, cause slow long term corrosion, and make insulators into conductors. It can also stain and color shift paint, and turns wood gray (it's used for 'weathering'). Mostly, NOT good!

On many older locomotives, and maybe even some newer locomotives, the insulation was often a form of paper. It is porous. So is wood (wooden ties), cork roadbed, insulation board, and plaster. Soak it with electrolyte (ammonia solution) and it is no longer an insulator! It MAY return to one, partially, when it dries, but any salts or dirt wicked into the insulation while wet will STAY there, and cause mischief at best. The ammonia could also 'wick' into stranded wires (track feeders? loco wires?) and cause corrosion and shorting problems there as well.

Such damage may be slow to develop, often hidden, and hard to diagnose when it appears. Best to avoid it!

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

Ccutler0 wrote:

Reply to
Daniel A. Mitchell

I've used Flitz, the other metal polish recommended in the MR article. Residue is a problem with all of the pastes, so you need to try to minimize the amount of polish. What I've been doing after much experimentation is to take an absorbent cloth (the Flitz website has some which they sell) and wrap it TIGHTLY round a block of wood which is just a bit wider than the track and has a skinny long side. I put two strips of the Flitz on the cloth about rail width apart and then spread it with my finger (it is non-toxic) so that there it is rubbed INTO the cloth. That way, it won't smear down the sides of the rails. Then I apply the Flitz to the rails about 2 to 3 ft at a time. Wipe it on and rub back and forth. The cloth will be BLACK. Wait about 5 minutes for the chemicals to work

The switch to a clean spot and polish. The long skinny side of the block with the cloth over it helps me do trouble spots and turnout rails.

The cloth needs to be tight so that it won't catch on ballast, rail joints and turnout parts. But it does work. It is time consuming but no scratches occur.


in article snipped-for-privacy@corp.supernews.com, Jon Miller at snipped-for-privacy@inow.com wrote on 8/26/03 9:50 AM:

Reply to
Edward A. Oates

It took care of my stomach ulcer.

Reply to
E Litella

Reply to
Rob K

On the subject of Dremels, wire brushes, and wheels:

Hhere is a little fiture I made from a piece of scrap wood about 3/4" square. I cut a few slots along the length of it and use it to hold freight car wheels when I paint them.

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Afterwards I clean the rolling surface of the wheels by leaving them in the slots and holding a motor tool with a wire brush up against the wheel surface. The friction of the brush rubbing on the wheel is just enough to slowly spin the wheel, allowing me to take the paint off all around the wheel's rolling surface. A quick touch on the ends of the axle points accomplishes the same there.

Drawback: This fixture doesn't allow me to paint the back side of the wheels and the axles, but those parts are usually obscured under the shadows of the car. (These are metal wheel sets, I suspect that a wire brush in a motor tool would distort plastic wheels.)

Reply to
Mark Mathu

I found a dremel polishing kit at Wal-Mart. I use that (polish and felt pad) to buff the surface of the rails. This might work. FIrst try a pad saturated in solvent to losten the glue or paint and then use the polish.

Art Modeling the Colorado Midland

Reply to
RR Artie

I use a wire brush to knock off the black on treads of Kadee wheelsets. Makes them look more like steel wheels and all that black crud stays off my rails.

-- Stephen

"If it ain't steam, it's a powered boxcar."

"A private car is not an acquired taste. One takes to it immediately."

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All Points North Model RR Club (Houston TX)
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Reply to
Stephen Foster

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