A real challenge to me.

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by lester perry, Jun 26, 2007.

  1. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I have monthly operating sessions now and love it. My problem is I can't keep my track clean. My yard has to stop to clean loco wheels every 10 - 15 cars. My main line has become unmanageable. Last Saturday we stopped all operations and started experimenting to try to find the problem. We feel we have found it. All of my rolling stock needs the wheels cleaned as it appears they are depositing crude on the track which is being picked up by Loco. Here is the challenge. I have 300 plus cars, how do I do it?
  2. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    First off I wish I had your problem "300 plus cars":-D:-D. What kind of crud are you picking up, oil or what .
  3. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    I would clean the track and then use Whal Clipper Oil on the rails.
    Then run the everlivin out of the cars. With the clipper oil it seems to clean the wheels as you run the cars and locos. At least that's my experience.

  4. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    First the crude is just black stuff. It usually comes of rather easily.
    Second I have tried wahls it doesnt remove dirt but may prevent it. I have been running this layout for several years started having this problem about 5 years ago and it has been getting progressively worse. It is at the point now something must be done. The Delaware division of the C&O is shut down.
  5. yellowlynn

    yellowlynn Member


    My question to begin with, are all wheels metal? Or some plastic? I have found that Wahls Oil does NOT help if there are any plastic wheels. That said, try cleaning so many cars at a time and run them only, until you get more done. That would be the many ounces of prevention to a ton of cure.

  6. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Wahl Oil

    I would recommend Wahl oil but with caution. It does work well to break down and remove crud. Sprinkle a few drops on the track, then run your heaviest loco around, and keep wiping up the track wth a paper towel or cloth. It takes time and is a bit tedious, but I've found it does work. You probably should run a few other locos around, to get the crud of those as well. Some locos may spin their wheels for a bit while the track is well lubricated with oil, but that will eventually stop.
    (I'm open to correction here, but this is the process that worked for me.)

    But be careful if you have any tender-driven locos or other engines that use traction tires. Wahl oil causes the traction tires to expand and come off, then they're useless -- you won't be able to run your loco again until you can find and buy replacement tires.

    I learned this the hard way! :curse: The next time I use Wahl oil to clean the track, my 3 "tire" locos are going to be banished from the layout for a few nights!

  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Cleaning the track and loco wheels is pretty straight-forward, albeit tedious, work.

    As for "mass cleaning" the 300+ cars you have, some ideas come to mind:

    1) Replace plastic wheels with new metal wheels. My favourite is Proto2000. This could get a little expensive though... :(

    2) A dremel tool with a plastic brush. Get or make a car cradle, and flip a couple of cars at a time upside down and got at 'er. Make sure you do not allow the wheels to spin, as very high RPMs may melt the needlepoint ends of the axels.

    3) An ultrasonic cleaner might work. I don't know, as I have not tried it, but it may be easy enough to do - pop out the wheelsets a couple of dozen at a time, and let them sit in the cleaner.

    4) You could do something similar without the ultrasonic part, with a toothbrush and a sink full of soapy water.

    Once everything is clean, try the Wahl clipper oil trick to keep everything clean.

    Where is your railroad located? Is there a dust problem, or an open ceiling? Humidity/temperature issues? Perhaps there's something bigger than just "crud on the tracks" - it has to come from somewhere...!

    Hope that helps.

  8. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Hi Les, nice to hear from you again. I'm not sure where that dirt comes from, but my guess would be from dust in the air. If so, I would think that the clipper oil would only serve to attract more, although I am well-aware that many people find its use beneficial. As for cleaning the wheels, I'm afraid that I have no suggestions. I don't think that plastic wheels are the cause of dirty track, though: probably 80% or more of my rolling stock has plastic wheels, and I don't clean track or wheels.

  9. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    My layout is in a building in my back yard that used to be a small barn. It has a concrete floor with carpet over it and a drop ceiling. The walls are insulated then covered with plastic. I have an air cleaner / purifier running at all times. The climate is the only problem. It is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I have A/C and heat in it but only use it to keep from extremes unless I am in there. In other words between 40 and 90 degrees (I am not rich). I don't know what else I can do for dust and dirt. I have mainly plastic wheels but they are being replaced by metal as needed. I guess it is just go at it. Maybe I can recruit some of my operators to help one evening.
  10. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    Another Wahl oil proponent here who finds it does amazing things for conductivity and smoother running locos. Dust will fall on the track so I occasionally run a car with a masonite block under it to keep track cleaner. As for dirty wheels, how about tightly tacking a bit of t-shirt material over a length of track and running cars over that? You'll have to readjust the material once it starts getting crussy but its a potential cheap fix.
  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Les: I think the only solution is to take all the cars off, clean the wheels, then clean the track and then put the cars back. I'm bringing old cars out of storage and I make sure I clean the wheels before they go on the layout.
    You might be able to "automate" it by setting up a loop of track and running a string of cars around it with a well-soaked track cleaning car in the train.
    I just clean my wheels by rolling them over a soaked paper towel.
    The fellow that makes the rolling roads (can't remember the name - customtrax?) had the prototype of a motorixed wheel cleaner at a show last year.
  12. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Tried similar solution by holding the cloth and nothing came off wheels, even added some contact cleaning solution nothing. When I remove the wheels from truck and wipe with a rag the black comes off.
    Does Drimel make a rubber backing for sanding disks like you would use in a hand drill?
  13. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One of the guys in the modular club likes the track cleaning cars made by Aztek. They run a roller in the center of the car set at a slight angle from 90 degrees so that the roller scubs as well as roll. They make a roller that is made of a hard rubber like a brite boy rubbing block as well as one designed to have a wipe wrapped around it and held on with a rubber band. The wipe is then soaked with track cleaning chemical.
  14. myltlpny

    myltlpny Member

    Have you considered an ultrasonic cleaner such as this?:
    Tools and Supplies for Building Scale Models | Micro-Mark: The Small Tool Specialists
    It seems to me, beyond the environmental concerns, that it's your rolling stock depositing crud on the tracks. If you could eliminate the source, perhaps it would help. This would require removing wheelsets, I'd imagine once or twice a year, but should do a superior job of cleaning the wheels, without scratching rails or cleaning them after the fact. It would be a temporary hassle, but it might nip the problem in the bud.
  15. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    That is a great Idea! My wife has an ultrasonic jewery cleaner that woud probably work. That is what I like about this site someone always has a good Idea. I am going to try it right now.
  16. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Well I tried the sonic cleaning and it worked. But it is very inefficient. It would take a year to do it with that. I think I have figured it out. I am going to build a loose fitting cradle to lay cars in upside down. Use a buffing wheel on dremel tool at slowest speed against axle to turn wheels and a cloth, Q-tip or alcohol swab against the wheel to clean it. I will let you know how it works in a few days, maybe a pic with it.
  17. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I haven't read all the posts so perhaps someone has already mentioned this. It makes no sense to attempt to clean the wheels by putting Wahl, or any other cleaner, on the rails. That will take forever as the wheels keep depositing crud on the rails, and it spreads to other wheels. Bite the bullet and clean all wheels, then the track. I have replaced plastic wheels with metal and have noticed wheels stay cleaner longer. To clean wheels, I use a jewelers screwdriver and scrape when the buildup is as bad as you descibe. It doesn't take much pressure and you won't scratch the wheels if done lightly. A buildup of the crud takes a lot of cleaner and towel to clean, scraping is much easier. I have a large fleet also, most of my cars are in a staging yard at any given time, so I run out one train ata time, do each car, return to staging, etc. I do not have formal operating sessions yet so can get by and operate with 25% of my fleet for awhile. So I don't have to do all the cars at one session. I did maybe 3 sessions. Since I did this the first time, maybe 2 years ago, I haven't had to do it again. I don't use any track cleaner or oil. My layout is in the basement and although I took steps to reduce dust, its there. When I haven't run trains in awhile, I run a track cleaning train consisting of masonite pad cars and a Tonys Train Exchange track cleaning car. I run it dry. This removes the dust from the track before it gets back on my wheels. I've never used Wahl, have read its praises. Nonetheless, I would think oil and dust equal crud. Must remove dust!
  18. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Gary I agree with you, I am just going to have to do it manually one car at a time. I am going to try alcohol swabs and the screw driver as needed. I have used it before in severe cases. Hopfully the swabs will work as I think it would be the easiest way. I will start Friday night, and have a month before next operating session. Every one said they would help but I will try it on my own first. Then if needed call in the cavalry.
  19. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Les, Scrape off the crud while dry. I just blew off any remaining material after scraping. The crud comes off quite easily while dry. After scraping you could wipe with a paper towel moistened with alcohol, although I don't think it is needed. A cradle would be nice, and help protect details. I just held mine in my left hand, using my thumb to hold down a truck, and scraped with my right hand. I turned the axle with my thumb too. You can scrape about 1/3 of the wheel before moving it. I'd say it takes about 15 seconds per wheel, so 2 minutes per car. Looks like you're talking about 10 hours to do 300 cars.

    Like I mentioned, I ran one train at a time out of staging, stopping it at a place it was comfortable to work at. Cleaned each car, then moved the train to the entrance of the other staging yard, brought out the next train, maybe got a drink in between. Listened to tunes, it really wasn't a bad evening or two!
  20. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    That is where I am going tonight. I have built a cradle for them and it works well. I think I will pull trains out of my classification yard to main line, clean it up clean the track it came out of and push it back in. The same with hidden yards. There will no operations until finished all cars, track & locos.

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