Cleaning Wheels

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by George D, Nov 7, 2003.

  1. George D

    George D Member

    I’m trying not to rehash the subject of track cleaning. I’m interested in cleaning wheels. I did a search on the word "wheels" and looked at everything posted for the last year and found only a casual mention of wheel cleaning.

    So, at the risk of raising an old issue, here goes. How do you clean the wheels on your locomotives and rolling stock?

  2. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    On Loco's, I jump power to the motor while holding it, then as the wheels spin, hold a Goo Gone soaked cotton swab wrapped in a lint free paper wipe (kimwipe) against it. A Tee shirt wraped over a blunt object should work about as well.

    The second one is a lot easier than the first, because it's really hard getting the cotton swab ready while holding the powered loco :D :D :D

    You can also set goo goney T shirt on track and do the same, or strech it across I guess, but if you just set the shirt on a table and try it, it won't clean close to the flanges.

    Be careful not to get any cloth, fingers or hair pulled into moving parts. I don't think I would try it on a nice steamer. If you have a lot to do, an improvised stand may prove useful.

    I'll bet my dad has some hard white felt from piano "hammers" that I could make a cleaner with. hmmmmmm.
  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One member of our modular club runs all steam. He puts his steamers upside down in those foam cradles Micro Mark sells, and polishes his wheels with a Dremel tool and polishing wheel. When the part of the wheels that he can access is clean, he applies just enough power the the pick ups to roll the wheels over 1/4 turn, then cleans the next section of wheels. Then he repeats the process. I've also read where using a Centerline car, or the Aztec with the towel on the roller with goo gone will clean all of the wheels on the locomotive and train that is following it. once they are clean, use the method Shamus showed on his track cleaning train of following the solvent car with a wiper car to clean the solvent off the tracks.
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    My method is close to Jon Monon's. I use a paper towel or J cloth with a bit of track cleaner on it and hold it across the track. Then I roll the car with dirty wheels through the track cleaner (need a patch of track cleaner longer than the circumference of the wheel) a few times to get the gunk softened. Then shift the towel a bit and run the wheels through a cleaner patch, then move to a dry patch on the towel and run the wheels back and forth until they stop leaving black lines.
    I try to have a separate piece of track for this operation, preferably off the layout. The rails can also pick up some of the dirt.
    I use a similar method with locos. I set one up on the cleaning track with the towel and then hold one end, apply power, and slowly let it move onto the towel with wheels spinning. This works best with diesels that have all-wheel pickup. Sometimes you have to cut the towel narrow to ensure pickup. Did you notice it requires 3 hands?
    If this fails, I resort to some of the other methods.
  5. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member


    if you have access to the August 2003 issue of Model Railroader:
    In the workshop (on page 40) there is a description how to make a wheel cleaner out of an ATLAS rerailer track section and Handi-Wipes (or similar) towels.

  6. jawatkins

    jawatkins Member

    While I personally have never cleaned wheels on locomotives, I've watched Glen do it enough times on his N scale and Z scale locos and the ones he repairs for others. He takes a chunk of blue styrofoam and scoops out enough so that the loco can sit upside down in it. This holds the loco steady while cleaning. To make the wheels turn while he's cleaning, he hooks up these alligator clips things (I'm sure you guys know what they are) one side to a 9V battery and the other clips to an appropriate piece of track depending on which scale you are using. He takes an old sock and dampens it with 91% alcohol, not 70%. Be careful not to drip the alcohol on the paint of your loco, or you'll end up with a customized weathering job that you didn't want. He touches the track to the wheel opposite of the one he's trying to clean and touches the dampened sock on the other one. The alchohol does a great job of cleaning and also evaporates. When that is finished, he starts on the other side. He swears it works better than Goo Gone. Since I've never tried it either way, I guess I'll have to take his word for it.
  7. George D

    George D Member

    Thanks for the ideas. I'm going to try the dampened towel on the track idea. I need to scrounge around the club for an old piece of rerailing track and follow the instructions in the MR article. I guess Goo Gone is the cleaning solution of choice, I've never tried it, but will soon.

  8. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Rolling Stock Needs It Too

    Don't forget about 'yer rolling stock's wheels too. While clean loco wheels are essential for good electrical pickup keeping the rolling stock wheels free of C&C (Crud and Crap):D will reduce the the amount of C&C that's spread around 'yer track and ultimatley ending up on 'yer loco wheels. Clean rolling stock wheels also helps to eliminate derailements too. While you are cleaning them its a good idea to check the back to back distance on the wheelsets with the NMRA gauge to be sure they are gauged correctly. I've seen so much C&C built up on wheels that the filet between the tread and flange has disappeared and "Doofus" is wondering why his cars derail:eek: :D
  9. jland31

    jland31 Member

    rolling stock wheels

    What's the best way to clean rolling stock wheels?

    My method is awful tedious. There must be a better way!
  10. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    The Use Of Elbow Grease Is Mandatory!

    JLand, As far as I know there isn't an easy way. Usually an old toothbrush works pretty good on plastic or delrin wheels. I usually moisten the C&C with some alcohol first to soften it and then lightly scrub the wheel with the toothbrush then wipe it off with a Q-Tip dipped in the alcohol.

    On wheels sets that are in plastic side frames I most of the time spread the side frames and take the wheels out. It just makes them a bit easier to handle.

    On metal wheel sets in metal side frames I leave them in. I found a thing that looks like a toothbrush but has brass bristles. It "works like a champ" on metal wheels. I think you can get one from MicroMark.

    I've seen some people put a paper towel over a piece of track and then soak it with alcohol or track cleaning fluid and then run the car back and forth over it by hand. Seemed to me that this method made more mess than it removed:eek:
  11. CN1

    CN1 Active Member new ones:D
  12. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    To expand on Vic's comment about a paper towel placed across the track, that is what I do. And it can make a mess depending on how you approach it. One of the worst things that can happen is you get the cleaner fluid (whatever you choose) on your hand and then it gets on car bodies, leaving fingerprints or worse. To prevent this, I use an eye dropper to apply the fluid to just an inch or so of the towel on the track. Roll one truck of the car back and forth (best on a curve so as to get maximum contact) over the part of the towel with fluid, then roll forward to clean the other truck. Meanwhile, the first truck is on the dry part of the towel. So the wheels are dry when you are done. And it only takes a couple drops of fluid. I will typically run a train to the section of mainline I use for cleaning, and just clean one car after another, moving the towel a bit when it gets dirty. The towel only has to be moist to clean, not soaking wet. It takes less than 30 seconds per car.
    Hope this helps.

    PS I recommend using only metal wheels. They don't pick up and deposit the crud plastic ones do. I know this for sure after my most recent cleaning marathon, the metal wheels just weren;t nearly as dirty as the plastic ones.
  13. Chessie1973

    Chessie1973 Member

    I use a combination of methods actually.

    I use the paper towel on the tracks method for general cleaning but sometimes that doesn't get all the caked on hard crud. For that I either use a Fiberglass sanding pen soaked in Alcohol or a Dremel type tool on low speed with the plastic brushes for plastic wheels of the brass brush for metal wheels.

    I just turn the gear drive by hand on my locomotives to get all the whel nice and shiny agains in no time.

    I also try to use metal wheelset on all my rolling stock as this seems to cut down on the crud buildup on the rails.

    I have taken old locomotives with literally green with ozidation brass wheels back to like new using the dremel method though it is definitely the best way to get older stuff clean .

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