I've been using contact shoes for my locos for at least 40 years. If you're
worried or have problems with dirt on your track stopping locos, put some
contact shoes on your locos and the problems will go away.
The railroad that I ran on was usually so dirty that a loco without contact
shoes on it would often have problems with electrical contact before getting
out of the yard (maybe 30' of travel) while locos with shoes would not only
be able to run the railroad, but do so well enough that rear end helpers
could be used to get trains over the hill without stretching the train
around the curves from contact failure.
Unlike the article, my contact shoes rub directly on the railhead instead of
on the backside of the wheels (tread rubbers are another variation of that
design which will tend to wipe the tread clean of dirt which would be
better) and thus, the wheels are not needed for electrical contact.
I make the contact shoes from some spring phosphor bronze in an L shape with
the long vertical providing the spring while the short base of the L holding
a replacable shoe that is bent up at each end to allow the shoe to ride up
rather than trip over a high rail joint. Shoes are typically about 1/4"
long and are soldered to the spring part. The spring part is either
soldered (on brass locos) or screwed (typically two 00-90 screws) to the
bottom of the loco with a wire to the electrical system of the loco in the
case of plastic locos. The springs take about 1/4 oz. of weight off of the
loco's drivers and this can be compensated for with some more weight in the
loco. The pulling power of the loco is reduced by a car or so and that can
also be compensated with more additional weight.
The use of PCB material glued to the bottom of a tender truck will allow
both of the rails to be contacted on a single truck which will balance the
lift and drag from the shoes if so desired.
If you haven't used contact shoes before, you won't believe how much more
reliable they make the running of the locos on a layout. In addition, if
the shoes do get dirty, it is a simple job of wiping the shoe at the
trackside rather than taking the loco to the workbench and running it to get
the wheels clean.
I also find that since the wheels aren't picking up electric power, they end
up getting some dirt embedded in the tread which improves the traction a
One thing tho is that you will find all of the bad railjoints and high
points with these shoes which, when you find and fix them all, will allow
better operation of your layout as you will have fixed most of the causes of
sudden derailements at those locations.
Why isn't there an Ozone Hole at the NORTH Pole?