Cleaning spray painted track

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Herc Driver, Apr 29, 2008.

  1. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    I've been re-reading some of the threads about this but didn't quite find the right answer...

    After spray painting the track (to weather the rails and ties) does anyone advocate using 2000 grit sand paper to clean the rail heads? I have a track-bright eraser type track cleaner and I know that (with a lot of elbow grease) it will cut through the paint on the top of the rails eventually, but would a fine grit sand paper work better and not harm the track in the long run?
  2. viperman

    viperman Active Member

    I would use paint thinner or rubbing alcohol
  3. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    The track cleaning eraser will work faster than 2000 grit sandpaper, although many are concerned that it leaves deep scratches that result in further dirt build-up. The sandpaper will also leave scratches, although not so deep. I'd go with the alcohol or lacquer thinner, although it would've been best to do so as soon as the paint was dry to the touch. Personally, I find that painting track with a brush is almost as fast as spraying and creates fewer clean-up problems - I use water-based PollyScale, then simply wipe the tops of the rails with a dry cloth wrapped around my fingertip - depending on how fast you can paint, this is about every 12' of track for me, both rails. ;):-D:-D

  4. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    I agree that hand painting them may require less overall work and produce great looking results...(I hand painted the track on my first layout). I was really hoping to get a better uniformity to the rusty black look that I just couldn't get on my first track weathering attempt. (My close-up pictures showed areas where I didn't get an even covering of paint...something that couldn't be seen from arm's reach of the layout - but the pictures showed the missing paint quite well.) I thought for the new layout I'd try to spray paint them as others have done and see what results I get. So far, I'm really happy with the rusty black look of the rails; they look very prototypical for our region and much like the Norfolk Southern rails I see every day. I was just trying to discover the best way to remove the paint - but it looks like the track cleaning eraser will be my choice.

    Thanks for the ideas and inputs guys - I appreciate it! (Maybe I'll even get some pictures of the new layout posted one of these's been a long time since I last posted any picture.)
  5. faraway

    faraway New Member

    I use a stick of wood about the size of a ball pen. It is tough enough to rub the paint from the track but too soft to do any harm to the polished surface of the track.

  6. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    That sounds like an interesting idea that I think I'll try too! The track cleaning eraser worked well, but I was trying to find something that left less mess. Maybe it's just my eraser or maybe they all work this way, but I'm always left with enough residue after using the eraser that the track needs vacuuming when I'm done.
  7. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    The best way to get rid of the paint is to tape the top and inside flange of the rails before you spray-paint the rails. You would simply cut some masking tape into small strips and stick the tape to the rails. This, however, can be quite time consuming.

    Another trick is to wipe the top and flanges of the rails with heavy oil on the principle that the oil won't allow the paint to stick to the rail head and flanges. I've had mixed success with that method but it's better than not applying any oil at all.

    The best trick, combined with the oil trick, is to wipe the top of the rails and the flanges before the paint has a chance to dry. This requires a lot of Kleenex/ rags but is well worth the time and effort. Simply wrap the Kleenex/ rag around your index finger and wipe. You will get about 4" down the rail when you will have to move the Kleenex/ rag on your index finger. This won't, however, get rid of all the paint so you will have to do some extra work after the paint dries.

    Regardless of whatever method you use, you will usually have to use some "elbow grease" to get rid of the paint. I use a 1/8"x 1/8" steel bar about 4"x 6" long with a square notch filed into the bar about ¼" from the end. This allows me to hook the bar over the track. I can then scrape off more of the paint residue off the top of the rail and off the inside flange. If you use a file, you can end up scarring or filing the top of the rail. However, sometimes the file can be used to get rid of a heavy coat of paint.

    Ultimately, you will end up using the final product - paint stripper. But not the kind you use to strip doors. One of the model paint manufacturers makes a paint stripper that can be used on plastics. This is a milder version of the real McCoy and doesn't attack all of the paint. It's a simple matter of getting a bit on the end of a Kleenex or rag that you wrap around your index finger and patiently rub the top of the rail and the inside flange. It does, however, produce beautiful results.

    Once the paint has been removed and the dried blobs of paint picked off the tracks (yes you will end up with dried blobs of paint), polish the top and inside flange of the rail with a Bright Boy or sand sponge. I don't recommend using sandpaper as this will scar the top of the rail.

    For an idea of the process, take a look at this page on my website. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo on the website of the final results. But it is quite stunning, if I do say so.

    When spray painting around turnouts, make sure you stuff some Kleenex in the open point rail and make sure it's well in place. This will save you lots of headaches.

    Remember, however, that in all of this process, patience IS a virtue.

    Bob M.
  8. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Thanks for the great tips! I plan on trying a few and see how things go. There's still a fair amount of track to weather, and now that I bought an air brush, I won't be using a spray can which gave me all my problems in the first place. I was suprised how much paint adheared to everything using a aerosol spray can...most importantly...inside the rail joiners ruining the conductivity in portions. I'll replace whatever I can't adequately clean and solder the rail joints which should aid in proper electical flow as I switch my DC layout to DCC. Thanks again!
  9. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Regardless of whether you use an aerosol can or an air-brush, if you are spray-painting your track when it's glued down to the roadbed, mask off the areas on each side of the track. It only takes a few minutes to take some newspaper and stick it down with a bit of masking tape.

    For the best electrical conductivity, it's best to solder the rail joiners. Here's a tip to get rid of the "bulky look" of a rail joiner. 1/3 to ½ of the rail joiner is not needed. So, I cut the rail joiner in half.

    First, make a jig out of a small piece of wood about ¾"x ¾" square and about 4" long - something that will fit nicely in the palm of your hand. Then drill a 1/8" hole about 1½" deep in one end of the piece of wood (the ¾"x ¾" end). Put a bit of epoxy into the hole and push a small piece of rail about 3" long into the hole. This will leave about 1½" sticking out of the piece of wood. Let the epoxy dry.

    To cut a rail joiner, slide the rail joiner onto the 1½" piece of rail so that it is ½ or 1/3 onto the end of the rail. Using an Atlas snap saw or razor saw, cut the rail joiner in two pieces. You may have to rest the rail joiner and rail onto something solid, like the edge of a table or work bench.

    There will be some metal "flash" on the end of the cut rail joiner. Dress it up with a small file. Then, push the rail joiner completely onto the piece of rail. This will push out any metal "flash" on the inside of the rail joiner. Dress up the end of the rail joiner again.

    A little trick when inserting rail joiners onto the rails. Rails are cut using a press. This deforms the bottom and sides of the rails. Before laying down the rail, take a small file and, pulling backwards, dress the bottom of the rail, the ends and top of the web (the part of the rail that rests on the tie). This can make all the difference on whether a rail joiner slides on easily, or whether you have to force it onto the rail.

    Hope this helps.

    Bob M.
  10. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I used the block of wood method suggested here, and found it worked great. I used a piece of pine 1x2. It worked best if I first took a paper towel moistened with acetone and ran it along the tops of the rail to soften the paint. This method saved me a ton of time.

  11. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I use oily rag actually small piece of cloth with light weight oil (3in one). I wipe the top of the rail, paint it( I use rustolium ruddy brown primer)then immediately wipe the top of the rail with clean cloth to remove oil with the paint. I also use masking tape one switch points. cover stationary rail and moving rail. then take an exacto knife and slide it along the side of th rail hear to cut off excess. I have had great success with this. I dont worry about masking th area beside the track as this is next step after laying track and paint won't hurt the wood and there is no scenery. The rails will appear some what red in photos for some reason but are actually rusty brown looking
  12. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Oh yeah give it a light paint job. Move the can pretty fast.
  13. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I clean the rails in 3 steps:
    1) bright boy eraser
    2) 1000 grit sandpaper
    3) An old T-shirt damped with rubbing alcohol


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