Greetings, aside from the standard cleaning products that are sold in hobby shops, is there anything else that I could purchase to clean tracks that is sold in local hardware stores? (no hobby shop close to the house, but a few hardware stores) Many thanks.
I wouldn't recommend alcohol. It leaves a dry rail surface that is likely to arc. Arcs make minute pits in the railhead and in wheel tires. All minds of goop settles in those pits, and before you know it you have dirty track and poor contact again.
Use a contact cleaner/lubricator. That leaves a residue of conductive oil which will eliminate arcing and improve contact. The rails will stay clean longer.
Also, convert all your rolling stock to metal wheels. Plastic wheels attract dust and stuff from the air, which mixes with the fillers in the plastic to make goop to be deposited on the rail.
I have a suggestion in addition to the others already posted.
If your track is *really* bad and needs an "abrasive" cleaning as opposed to a solvent cleaning, cut the end off a 1x2 or 2x2 piece of lumber. Use the fresh-cut end instead of one of those abrasive eraser-type cleaning blocks. Works just as well, if not better, and won't put any dirt-collecting scratches in the rails.
Goo Gone. It is sold as a price tag stickum remover just about anywhere. It's based on some extract of orange peels, cuts most goop, and is slightly acid which brightens nickel silver rail. Price is OK, and availability is excellent. Safe on plastics, won't eat paint, glue etc. Leaves rail shiny and dry, no residue. Also good for cleaning wheels. I used to use alcohol, but now I use Goo Gone 'cause it is fairly cheap and is more active (cuts thru more kinds of crud) than alcohol.
My friend, the term you just used, "conductive oil", is what they call a contradiction in terms. Oil ain't conductive, and it certainly isn't what you ever want on your tracks or wheels, as it is the very essence of the gunk you want to get rid of when mixed with dust, etc.
Contact cleaners are, generally speaking, highly volatile solvents, formerly ozone-depleting (and carcinogenic) halogenated hydrocarbons, like good old carbon tet. But very good at removing crud, I'll agree.
But what you said just doesn't make sense. One wants the rails and wheels to be as conductive as possible. Barring any breaks, pits, etc., in either surface, this leads to smooooooth performance, not arcing.
Well, maybe it's a silicone, I dunno. It doesn't impair pickup anyhow. Read on.
I was reading some old (really old) Model Railroaders t'other day, and Ye Olde Editor reported how he had used some Wahl hairclipper oil on his track, despite his skeptical notions, which he enumerated,m and which were very like yours, actually. It improved contact, he said, kept the rails clean longer (in those days most ev'body smoked, in the train room, too), and reduced the buildup of goop and gunk. Reduced traction a little for a week or so after application, but then no problems. That's what the man said, and it reminded me that for a while, I used Labelle
108, a drop on the railhead every 8 ft or so. Worked well. Now I use AeroCar's track cleaning fluid, which AFAICT is a version of their Conductalube.
Silicone would be just as bad, actually worse than oil. Remember that supreme quality of silicone? how slippery it is?
Yes, this business of using Wahl hairclipper oil seems to come up perenially here and elsewhere. Too often to just dismiss out of hand, it's a recurring model railroading urban legend.
Now I'm firmly in the camp of the skeptics on this one, for reasons I've already given. But since there are, seemingly, reasonable folks who swear by it, it seems worth investigating.
Anyone here have actual experience using this stuff? (Not FOAF^2?) How about if someone were to do a kind of semi-scientifical test to deterimine if it's just a lot of hoo-hah or not? I'd be curious, and ready to say I was wrong if so proven.
==== Notes ==== (1) Funny You Should Mention That^3. (2) Friend of a friend. (3) Just what we need; more cutesy Internet acronyms.
"David Nebenzahl" wrote in message news:46732088$0$18005$ email@example.com...
Funnyhow everyone has their favorite magic potion. I agree with Wolf, and David. Part of what I do at work is design/buy/build stuff to test fiber optic cables. We buy just about the purest most expensive alcohol made, for cleaning the ends of the fiber, and under the microscope (400X) it leaves a lot of residue.........too much for my liking.....but we haven't found anything better yet. On the other hand, while oil and silicone are insulators, at one of my first jobs, in a Burroughs standards lab, I got to run the 6 digit super accurate potentiometer, which was the size of a large desk; a 20 year old walnut and brass instrument that still looked like new. It performed 4-wire measurements on the standard resistors, which were in oil bath canisters containing a thermometer. The galvanometer movement turned a taut thin metal ribbon that ran straight up to the ceiling. At the middle of the ribbon was a small mirror. A light beam reflected off of the mirror to a long scale on the wall. The 6 bakelite decade knobs were turned until the beam was centered on the zero (null) mark on the wall, then the numbers were read and compared to the spec limits for the accuracy of the resistor. Anyway, each of the 6 knobs was an exposed switch, with 10 polished brass contacts arranged in a semicircle. Each contact was about 1/2 inch in diameter and protruding up from the desk surface about 1/2 inch. Connected to the knob were 4 parallel brass leaf springs that bent down at about a 45 degree angle near the end so as to rub across the surface of the brass contacts. After each measureing session, I had to wipe the tops of the contacts with a clean cloth, then smear a new thin coat of petroleum jelly on them with my finger. This helped keep the brass from oxidizing by keeping the oxygen in the air off of it. Electrical contact cleaning contains a residue that does the same thing. I have a couple of small layouts. I rub my fingers on the rails if the loco is having a problem. If I get dark streaks, I do it a little more. I've used alcohol and it works. While painting the ties and rails I got paint on them. I used 320 garnet paper to get the paint off. When laying track, if the joint isn't smooth vertically or horizontally, I use a fine file. I have one of those loco wheel cleaning brushes with the clip lead wires that power the loco while you are holding it upside down. Works pretty good. I religiously believe that things are always going to get dirty again, and that no matter how I get the dirt off, I'll be dead of old age before I wear the rails down to the webbing.
Yes. I have used it for over 25 years, with long periods of disuse (years in some cases) being counteracted almost instantly by use of the oil. It seems to have no harmful effects whatever (although I do not use traction tyres and therefore cannot certify what effect it might have on them).
in article f4vie8$32p$ firstname.lastname@example.org, Anthony at email@example.com wrote on 6/15/07 7:39 PM:
Ahhh, the semi-annual "how to clean track" thread...
I've come to use two products, once chemical, the other electrical.
Flitz metal polish: it is non-toxic (FDA approved for use in food service), and with careful application to avoid getting it all over the sides of the rails, is the best cleaner I've found. It leave the rail head shiny as if plated and leave a tarnish resistant layer which cannot be felt nor seen, doesn't attract dust, and does not impair electrical conductivity. The cleaning lasts a long time: sixth months or more. You can use the product to clean locomotive wheels, too, and metal wheels on rolling stock. Since I don't have any plastic wheels any more, I don't know about them (and I suggest you replace your plastic wheels, too, if you haven't already; I've used Kadee wheels sets and they work just fine).
The Miniatronics Electrak Clean II. It uses high voltage (does not damage DCC, including sound units) to carbonize anything which doesn't conduct electricity on the rails. It is even simpler than Flitz, but not quite as thorough, and certainly not as long lasting. I use if from time to time instead of getting into a cleaning frenzy.
I would avoid "Bright Boys" and their ilk: the can scratch the rail heads, and actually lead to more problems later on. That said, if you use one every couple of weeks, those scratches get repeatedly polished out again; I suspect that fears of wearing down your rail are exaggerated. For similar reasons, I don't drag the Cratex rollers around nor the underslung bright boys type cars (like the one IHC used to sell).
I've used a couple of roller based products: the Aztec cleaner. I like to drag the canvas covered roller car around from time to time, especially after using #1 or #2 above in case I missed something. I've also used the MNP cleaning car (electrically rotating pads) for the same purpose. I don't think the MNP pads are sprung enough as delivered to keep good rail contract, but the one I use for my G scale is a good follow up to my semi-annual Flitz process.
We had a portable layout that we would take to shopping malls, and let one of two trains run 'round and 'round all day. The last set-up job before running trains was to apply Wahl clipper oil to the tracks.
One day, we had forgotten the clipper oil, and nothing would run reliably for more than a few inches. I went in to the nearest hair salon and borrowed their Wahl clipper oil to put a drop on each rail - instantly smooth running for the next several days!
I don't know WHY it works, but it DOES. It's interesting to note that the nay-sayers seem to talk from theory, not experience, while the supporters speak from experience.
Our club used to use Goo Gone until we discovered that it leaves a greenish residue that is VERY hard to get off the rails. When we talked with other clubs who use Goo Gone, they all wipe up AFTER the Goo Gone with alcohol or some other cleaner.
We're now using lacquer thinner, based on a well-reasoned and researched article by a chemist:
We're also investigating a contact cleaner/lubricant (we aren't the ONLY ones who have moving metal-to-metal contacts) like CRC 2-26 (which is not available in Canada *sigh*):
(scroll down to Track Cleaning)
We've found MGChemicals 401b or 801b which sounds similar, and the
I don't use a cleaning car, my layout is small enough to clean the track by hand, with a rag, dampened in solvent. I believe the rag wipes up and removes any softened crud. The track cleaning cars don't do much rubbing, they are more of a spreader. If you don't wipe off the track, the solvent just evaporates and all you have acheived is to spread the crud out in a uniform layer. I'm surprised to hear you use lacquer thinner since it can eat plastic. Your article even mentions wheel sets dissolving in lacquer thinner. I would fear the lacquer thinner might eat the plastic ties in flex track or snap track, especially after a spill. Of course if you hand lay your track with spikes on wood ties then it is not so much of an issue. Alcohol is a safer solvent than lacquer thinner, in that it doesn't readily desolve plastic.
While lacquer thinner (acetone or equivalent) isn't friendly to plastics like styrene, just spilling a little bit on some ties isn't going to do any damage (assuming you don't mash something into the tie while it's in a slightly softened state).
I wouldn't use lacquer thinner simply because it's nasty stuff and gives me a headache. It is a very good solvent, however, and leaves no residue behind. (That's why I prefer denatured alcohol.)