Brass track?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by RobertInOntario, Aug 3, 2007.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    This has probably been answered elsewhere, but is brass track really as bad a many people (especially LHS staff) say?

    I have a few pieces of brass track on my 4x6' layout. Overall, my layout works well but occasionally it has current problems and I was wondering if the brass track might be part of the problem.

    Although I've replaced a lot of the older track with Peco flex track & Peco turnouts, there are a few sections where brass track (and newer Atlas track) remain.

    Should the layout be OK as long as I keep the brass track fairly clean or should I try to replace all of the brass sections? And if I ever build a new layout, should I stay clear of using brass track? (as I have quite a bit in storage that I could use!).

  2. alexbnfan

    alexbnfan Member

    Last i heard, if you keep it clean, its actually better than NS for staying clean
  3. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I used it as a teenager in the 70's and found that I had to clean it frequently to keep trains running. I found it annoying. I've heard more recently that using Wahl clipper oil on brass track really helped a lot with this problem. I use a tiny amount on my nickel silver rail and love the results. If it works as wel on brass that'd be great!
  4. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    It's hard to keep clean, tarnishes in a New York minute and just isn't worth the hassle. Cut it up and set it outside your maintenance facility as track sections to be used for 'repairs' to the line or set it out as a rip track outside a loco maintenance facility.
  5. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Ralph. I'm a firm believer in wahl oil and have used it successfully (just don't run any locos that have traction tires for awhile -- until the oil is all removed -- as the wahl oil expands & ruins the tires! :curse:). I'm thinking that I will try cleaning my track with wahl oil this weekend then. Thanks, Rob
  6. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    The issue with brass track is not really that it gets "dirty" - all track gets dirty. The problem is that it oxidizes, and the oxide "film" is not conductive. So you have to remove it to get the juice where you want it to go. Wahl oil leaves a microscopically thin film on the track which keeps it from oxidizing, until it "wears" off, then you're back where you started. Nickel silver track, on the other hand, although it also oxidizes, its oxide is conductive, so the flow of juice is not affected. The problem that they both share is plain old "grime" that gets deposited on the track- dust, smog, name it, it winds up on your track, and that has to be removed from both kinds of track. One way to help getting this stuff off the track is to run the trains regularly. Another is to use some sort of cleaning aid (NOT A BRIGHT BOY) such as my "Track Guard", which gently wipes the railheads whenever you run your trains. It's a great feeling to just turn on the power and go....No stalling, jerking, flickering headlights...
    If you have a choice, it's a no-brainer....nickel silver is the way to go...

    Good luck..!!
  7. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    I had it on a G scale out side layout and it drove me nuts.
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I don't see why the Wahl oil approach wouldn't work for brass too - the principle is the same.

    And brass has slightly higher conductance than nickel silver (actually a brass-based compound too). The problem - as has been noted - is the oxide of brass is non-conductive, whereas the NS oxide will conduct electricity.

    I don't think that you can even buy new brass track at most places anymore, but you can get a deal on it at swap meets, etc. Once it's painted/weathered, it's hard to notice.

  9. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks for this explanation, Steamhead -- it makes sense.

    Well, I only have a few pieces of brass track left on my current layout and I probably won't replace those until they give me major problems (as they're ballasted in). And if I ever do get started on a new layout this winter, I'll avoid using brass track then.

    I do have & use a Peco track cleaner/eraser. Perhaps that's similar to your Track Guard?

    I have also recently started soldering some of my "track joins" which also resolves any current problems. I didn't do that when I first built the layout and was just relying on the fishplates!

    Thanks again,
  10. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Andrew. As noted, I'm going to leave my few pieces of brass track in the layout until they cause major problems. I'll keep cleaning the track with Wahl oil and my Peco track cleaner for now.

    But I won't use any brass track for any future layouts, although I have quite a stash of it left over from my two Presidents Choice Christmas trains sets! (It seems a shame not to use this track which is practically brand new! Maybe I can trade it as a swop meet?).

    Cheers, Rob
  11. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Guy,One of the local clubs still uses brass track with no ill affects.They clean track by simply pushing a of Athearn dummy F7 with a brite boy attached.
    See the track going upgrade on the left of this picture? That's brass track and it still works.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Another use for your brass track would be to use it at the end of stub industrial sidings where you would push cars for set outs and pick ups, but not need to run locomotives over it. Unless you have some sort of lighting on a car, it doesn't need electricity anyway.
  13. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Russ. I agree -- using brass track for sidings is a perfect use for it. Rob
  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I don't have any more brass track in my layout, but I've worked layouts that have it.
    I think that if you run frequently over the track it will stay fairly clean and usable. If you don't run over it a lot, it will oxidize. If you use it for track that gets used once a month, it probably won't work. At the end of a siding may be OK, as long as you don't mind fishing out the occasional loco.
  15. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I'm still using brass track. :rolleyes:


  16. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    That's pretty clever!
    BTW, I've just been cleaning my "dog's breakfast" of NS & brass track with Wahl oil -- lots of fun wiping muck and grime up, but I'm getting of lot of it up!

  17. How did you get such a real rust look to those tracks? Any secrets or tips? Or is it just sitting it some water for awhile?
  18. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Hmmm, I'm not sure.:confused: If I recall correctly, the rail in the gondola was blackened with a chemical blackener, then brush-painted with a thinned wash of rust-coloured Floquil paint. I think that the pile by the track was painted only. I almost never use paint right out of the bottle and most of my weathering colours are the combined remnants from other paint jobs, so what's available may vary from day-to-day, especially if I'm doing a lot of painting. Right now, there are almost two dozen weathering colours on my shelf. I find that brush painting works best for the base colour, then overspray with some suitable shades of well-thinned weathering.
    This pile of rails is mostly a boxcar red, with a bit of orange and black/brown overspray.

  19. Santa Fe Jack

    Santa Fe Jack Member

    Gus - What's up with the bright boy? Are these a problem?
  20. leon1

    leon1 New Member

    On my first layout I used all brass track to my dismay. I oxidized very quickly and was a real pain in the neck! I changed all of it for nickle silver and haven't had any trouble since. I also found out if the house you are in has or had a coal fired furnace the brass track oxidizes much more quickly. I don't if this is really true but is worth some thought.

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