A real challenge to me.

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

  1. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    Ok, just a thought here. One time I cleaned something and noticed it was dirty in only hours later.
    Silly as it may sound this is what happened.
    The cleaner left a residue and it became ever so slightly tacky. It attracted all the dust in the room is seems.
    Anyhow, after you clean try rinsing thoroughly. Might help a bit, I don't know. But seeing as you 'clean' so much, it just might be the cleaners themselves.
    As for using wahl oil. Only use it AFTER everything is spotless. It will be counterproductive to put it on in one place while another is still dirty as it will only track the dirt as well.

    I hope that helps. :)
  2. pjb

    pjb Member

    Ultrasonic cleaners require you to disassemble freight cars, but given your irresolvable problem let me
    suggest another approach.
    Due to the coming of DCC controls, a tried and true
    system of cleaning track, namely High Frequency AC
    track cleaners have been put on the back burner.

    Currently, there are two UK companies making them
    that are sold worldwide. These are GAUGEMASTER and
    RELCO's electronic track cleaners. Basically they place
    a low voltage AC current on your lines, that will not
    interfere with any conventional form of DC operations.
    When an open is detected (by crud insulating wheel
    from rail) it sends a burst of AC current that arcs between the wheel and rail service which reduces the
    interfering substance to a powder that is blown off
    the track by the train motion.
    Of course the dust is still around , just not interfering
    with the operations of the railroad. One obvious help,
    regardless of what you do to remove insulating dirt,
    is to truly secure ballast and all the track related
    scenery items, so you can run a vacuum train around your layout.

    One of the pernicious forms of detritus that causes
    problems does not occurr when using the Electronic
    Track Cleaners. This is because the build up in
    metal transfer which occurrs when disparate metallic
    elements are exposed to DC (e.g. sintered iron Athearn
    wheels and anybody's NS/brass track); that is really
    a low grade electroplating - does not take place secondary to the low voltage AC being present.
    Lots of folks will tell you all kinds of horror stories,
    mostly grounded in their ignorance, but with a few
    cheap power line filters to suppress interferance
    with TV/radio reception, these are the only way to
    go, when faced with whelming crud.
    If you have bought into DCC, then it is not usable
    with that form of engine ops.
    Good-Luck, Peter Boylan
  3. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    I always wondered about those Relcos I'd see advetised in the hobby magazines. Thanks for the explanation of how they work Peter!
  4. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I have just gone DCC in the last year so it won't help. Thanks though I also have wondered about those things. I wonder if I could go bat to DC for a track cleaning then go back to DCC after complete?
  5. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    Why not? if you have the old Block wiring still in place, perhaps you can just turn off the DCC for a moment, and switch it all back to DC. Thats how I run my layout most of the time.
  6. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    From a different forum, the track cleaning method that appears to last the longest is a process called "gleaming".

    Basically, you burnish the rail heads with a large metal washer or similar. Some even sand with 600 grit before burnishing. The idea is to get rid of the minute scratches from various sources, including the Bright Boys.

    Second step is to sparingly use a metal polish that does not leave a residue (Brasso and similar leave a residue). Most apply the polish (again, sparingly so it doesn't get gunk on the ties or the sides of the rail) with a piece of cork roadbed. Then, "wax off" the polish with a clean piece of cork.

    Most adherents of this process claim flawless operation for as much as 3 years after gleaming. Some folks don't even bother with the burnishing, but go straight to the polish.

    Last advice, run your trains with metal wheels frequently. Just the metal to metal contact has a polishing effect on the rail - just like the prototype. The heavier the model, the greater the polishing effect. In the days of brass rail, running HO trains with metal wheels for an hour 2-3 times a week was the secret to good track conductivity.

    my thought, your choices
  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Does the AC powered "arc-cleaning" method require metal wheels to work?

  8. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    What about WD 40?
  9. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    Gil it does not work like Wahl oil does. Although it is called 'oil' I don't think it is like other oils because it seems to be the only 'oil' that does what it does. There is just something about Wahl oil that simply works.
    Don't assume that just because the word oil is in the name that other oils will also do the trick.
    I hope that helps. :)
  10. pjb

    pjb Member

    RELCO type track cleaners and WD40

    With respect to MASON JAR's query: Plastic wheels are
    not going to do it, but locos and tenders all have metal
    wheel treads (or at least most do). In any event, given
    the differences in both operational quality and the
    relative comparitive cleanliness of operations with
    brass or stainless steel wheels - it is advisable to
    replace the nylon or other plastic truck (bogie)
    wheels with same as you go along.

    For a brief period in the 1960s
    some sintered iron wheels were used by several
    makers in car bogies. These are also, like plastic
    ones, problematical. However, I don't imagine
    that those buggers, are still around causing trouble
    today. Most have grey or black plastic axles
    and are not RP25 contoured.
    WAHL Clipper Oil is a specialized lubricant , made
    for use with their barbering/hair salon electric
    WD40 contains solvents to cut through
    rust or oxides, and is analogous to penetrating oil
    such as LIQUID WRENCH in its function. It provides
    greater lubricity after the solvent evaporates or
    degrades than the latter. Using it will require your
    removing it in some way after the track gunk is
    put in suspension, if you want to get benefit from
    WAHL OIL is friendlier stuff environmentally
    (as its use on barbering tools would indicate),
    but it also allows good conduction of electricity
    through the oiled rail that has the gunk in
    If you have an especially dirty environment
    you are going to have to remove the insulating
    dirt/oxides by chemical or electronic means at
    some point. Mechanical means, such as BRITE
    BOY abrasive blocks or emery/sandpaper
    techniques are BAD NEWS if you have such a
    dirty environment !
    They abrade the track surface and only exacerbate
    the problem, because they will decrease the time
    interval between cleanings.
    This is because the ever more coarsened track
    running surface that is created, makes it
    possible for the dirt to build up at ever shorter
    time intervals.
    Using masonite skids ( under a track cleaning
    car, as several commercially sold models do),
    is the least pernicious form of mechanical cleaning
    that is available. They work, but again you have
    to keep up with the dirt removal on the masonite
    skids. You must go slowly over the track the first
    times used to see how your track work takes it.
    We sometimes have scenery items (e.g
    switch stands, or pseudo track items - like curve
    greasers, block indicators, signs for: speed limit,
    whistling, flanger, clearance etc.) that are too
    close to the track; or we have uneven track which
    we still can run over, but might result in
    damage to track and cleaning car if a point gets
    picked, and so forth.
    I hope this comment helps, and to some extent
    future developments will change the matter,
    but will comment about that separately, since
    it is essentially another matter which incidentally
    helps with the dirty track problem.

    Candidly, if you are operating in a garage in
    the Outback, and can't seal it - DCC,DBC or
    similar train control systems are beside the
    point. This is especially true if you are the only
    operator. What do you care if a lot of trains can
    operate at once? Concentrate on realistic
    operations and running them one at a time.
    Us DC and an electronic track cleaner so you
    can operate whenever you want, and supplement
    it by whatever minimally abrasive form of
    cleaning you need to take care of staging yards
    and such.
    Good-Luck, Peter
  11. artur_p

    artur_p New Member

    I tried different methods to clean the wheels on my layout, god I hate doing that but there is one method I found to be the fastest and easiest way to get wheels cleaned. by placing a thin cloth on the track soaked with paint thiner or acetone then I let the trains do the work for me, they simply run around the layout running over the wet cloths and cleaning the wheels in the process, works great.
  12. rhtastro

    rhtastro Member

    I've never had to clean wheels or track in over 2 years of constant running. But I am using a completely different system than most on this forum. It's a Marklin AC system where the track is the common for metal wheels and the small studs in the middle of the track are the hot side for a slider located below the locos. I just seems to work better than the DC and DCC systems I had before. The digital signal goes down the track that controls the locos. I also have a super clean "train room" separate from the main house. It's really sealed up well and we live in a pretty dusty rural area. No problem so far. I keep hearing about all the problems with DC and I know how it used to be for me. But no more. It just runs and runs and runs. Nice!!!!
  13. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I run DC, and unless I've been doing scenery or ballasting around the track using glue, water, etc., I never clean track. That's over about 15 years. :-D

  14. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I used to use oils to clean my track...and I agree with Doctor Wayne. I noticed over time that once I started using various oils on my track...I had to clean my track more often. I've never cleaned the newer portions of my layout (8yrs old)...and since I don't really use the same wheel sets I used to...either through replacing the wheels or getting new cars...I've never had any problem with the track being dirty...despite having plenty of plastic wheels.

    I do think that plastic wheels are part of the problem...but I think that they merely collect oil soaked gunk. I think that they form an equilibrium with the rail :mrgreen: in which they share up to 10% of their dirt. And if you don't have the oil to serve as a wetting agent/solvent...they won't do this.

    I do expect for some particles in the air to deposit on the rails...and I due believe that some of it is due to the static charge of the particles being attracted to the electromagnetic field formed by the current passing through the rails...but we are talking about 0.060" think railheads...not hard drives...we don't need a 100 particles per cubic meter or less clean room to have functional trains...but I would highly recommend an air filter and dropped ceiling to anyone whom likes their buildings and rolling stock not to have a layer of G-scale "snow".

    I'd kind of like to get one of those old MDC track cleaners...not for track cleaning...but because they looked cool...I'd probably just get the straight box cab instead. That is the coolest diesel model ever (imho).
  15. rhtastro

    rhtastro Member

    Sounds like dust in the air is the main culprit no matter what system we use. Also, as said above, a low ceiling as well as the smallest overall room area helps too. It all comes down to the quality of the room we use. When I used to run in a garage I had all sorts of problems, also that was back in my DC days. I never had much luck with "track cleaners" either and sometimes they made it worse. Never did like those plastic wheels, they don't sound right on the rails, but it was probably the crappy locos I had too.
  16. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Another possible reason that I haven't had problems with dirty track could also be the heating system. My layout room is not heated: it's in a well-insulated basement, and if it gets too cool, I simply plug in a small portable electric heater. There is no duct work to bring in dust from the rest of the house, which is heated by electric baseboard heaters. There are ducts in the rest of the house for air conditioning, but none in the basement, as it never gets too hot.

  17. rhtastro

    rhtastro Member

    I've been running these things for the last 35 years and I'm having more fun then ever. I concur with Docwayne that the room itself makes all the difference. I've never had problems since I moved the layout into it's own room. Also the equipment is so much better than in earlier times. You wouldn't believe the junk we had in the 70's. That's why I went to a Marklin system a few years ago. However, DC and DCC have improved markedly as of late. But it's the room.
  18. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Track voltage (DCC) and room characteristics certainly make a big difference.

    Voltage can be described as the potential for electricity to overcome resistance. Since a train operating at a low speed on a DC layout is running at a low voltage...the electrical resistance from dust/corrosion is greater. But DCC is a constant voltage across the connection between the wheels and the track...the voltage of a train operating at the company notch on the throttle (full speed...maximum voltage). So therefore the train has a greater ability to overcome dust/corrosion.

    Since the amount of dust is a product of the room...it certainly is a component.

    bad room+poor engine+poor wiring+low voltage= poor running layout.
  19. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    My layout is in my garage and all this talk of "clean rooms" is scaring me. I haven't run the layout all that much as I am still working on it.

    I knew there was a reason to make my multiple unit consists permanent by running wires between the locos to share track power. I haven't done this yet, but am going to.
  20. DeckRoid

    DeckRoid Member

    As for what the 'gunk' is that accumulates on the wheels, I think I found a partial answer a couple of weeks ago.

    I had just installed LED lights in my F9 Santa Fe and wanted to see what it would look like in a dark room. I turned the lights out and watched the engine make a few laps. While doing this, every so often I saw some wee little arcs between the wheels and the track. It wasn't happening alot, not on a regular basis and not even at a single spot on my track. But it I did see a few arcs every now and then. I think that this carbon scoring (to quote a movie from 1976) might be some of that gunk. Not the main cause, to be sure, but just part of the whole.

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