Crud On Track

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by flyer_af, Apr 24, 2007.

  1. flyer_af

    flyer_af New Member

    Hi, All!
    I’ve returned to trains after a 40-year hiatus and dug out the American Flyer set I got for Christmas in 1960. I cleaned the old Flyer track with a brass wire bristle brush, and bought a new Flyer (made by Lionel) Burlington SD-9 loco. One problem, though, is that after about 45 minutes of running, the loco slows down and there is a noticeable deposit of black crud on the track. When I clean the track with paper towels soaked with alcohol, I get streaks on the towels as black as the ace of spades. I figured it might be the old Flyer track, so I bought some new nickel-silver S gauge track from S Helper Service, and the black crud was even WORSE! I clean both the track and the metal wheels on the loco with alcohol before running. Incidentally, my 46-year-old Flyer 4-6-2 Pacific (#21085) has the same problem, but perhaps a little less bad. I tried running the loco without any cars, thinking that it was the old plastic wheels. It comes out just as black. Has anybody seen this problem before? What causes it? What can I do?
    Larry Harmon
  2. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    Wow it appears you checked out the most common problems. The only two things I can think of is that you are over lubricating the locomotives and or rolling stock or you locomotive is extremely dirty and in need of a good cleaning. I guess the wheels could possibly be deteriorating but I think you would have noticed when you did the cleaning of the wheels.

    Now for the truth of the matter everyone has different experiences for one reason or another. In my case the tracks get pretty dirty after only one week of running the trains, however never to the extent that anything stops running. I know others get a month or longer.

    I write my experience off to two issues heavy lubrication and running smoke 100% of the time. You would think I would learn to be easy on the oil. I will note that my 40-year-old Lionel left far less crud after it had a proper cleaning and lube but it was extremely dirty after 40 years of heavy lubrication.

    [FONT=&quot]I guess brass wouldn’t hurt the rails but in any case I use an eraser when the crud get hard enough on the tracks. For every nick you put on the rail more crud collects there sooner.

    [/FONT] Here is the top reason why a track gets crud.
    • Electrolysis – effect of current passing through dissimilar metals. This results in a very fine powdery oxide forming.
    • Over lubrication combined with anything from humidity smoking and cooking vapors.
    • Normal house hold dust.
    • Scratches on the railhead.
    • [FONT=&quot]Metal or plastic wheels.[/FONT]
  3. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    ................ Unless it's how large the transformer is....
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Larry, I hate to bring this up, but does anyone in the house smoke? That's a prime contributor to crud on tracks.

    What I would do (if I had only a tenth of my stuff) is take everything off the tracks and the clean the rails. Alcohol and paper towels, stiff cork, the rough side of masonite, old pieces of wood. Keep cleaning until the paper towel comes off clean.
    Then clean ALL the wheels on ALL the cars. The initial clean is track cleaner on towel over the rails and run a car back and forth (have at least half the towel dry), shifting the towel as it gets black lines on it. either twist the truck or push the car sideways so that there's a pressure on the side of the wheels. Then turn upside down a check the wheels. You sometimes find some gunk that hasn't come off. This may mean that the wheel isn't round (part will be clean) or is worn or the axle isn't mounted right.
    Last round is cleaning the locos. I try to put a cleaning towel over the track and run the loco onto it and spin the drivers. You may have to do this one set of drivers at a time. Then clean the non-powered wheels.
    And if you were doing this on track that's on the layout, clean the track again.
    At this point, possibly the tiniest drop of oil on each rail -- put a drop on a piece of aluminum foil and use the head of a pin to put one droplet on each rail.

    Now do that and report back in a month!
  5. flyer_af

    flyer_af New Member

    Renovo and David, thanks for your help. No, nobody smokes around here. I've cleaned the track with alcohol until the paper towel soaked with it comes up clean, likewise the wheels and pickups on the loco. Right now I'm just running the loco without any cars. After 12 minutes of running, if I run my finger along a couple inches of the track, I get a black streak on it. After only 12 minutes of running with clean wheels on a clean track! I've done this with three completely different sets of track (Two Flyer and one S-Helper), two different locomotives, and even two different transformers! What in the hell could possibly produce this crud? I'm truly stumped!
    Thanks again,
    Larry Harmon
  6. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    You do know that the tracks should get a some grime on even after you have cleaned it. This can take place even after a few laps around the track. Now if your getting such a heavy build up that it is making the locomitive stop then that is a problem.

    Do you have a heavy build up on the wheels near the flange?
  7. flyer_af

    flyer_af New Member

    Renovo, thanks for getting back to me. The crud builds up pretty evenly across the wheel surface. If I let the loco run for 45 minutes to an hour, it starts slowing down due to crud buildup. The longer I run it the more it builds up.
    Thanks again,
    Larry Harmon
  8. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    My only guess then is your locomotive needs cleaned. Take the shell off and take a look if you have excess oil & grease around the motor parts and or inside of the shell.

    Good Luck. :)
  9. flyer_af

    flyer_af New Member

    Thanks, Renovo. I've already checked the over-lubrication angle, with no result. It isn't oil or grease that's getting on the tracks. I'm stumped.
    Thanks again,
    Larry Harmon
  10. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I couldn't add much more suggestion because Renovo PPR and 60103 already mentioned all the possible causes of your problem.
    Maybe your problem requires an even more drastic solution: I would suggest to clean the wheels of 1 loco ( The SD-9 because the wheels are easier to clean on a diesel than on a steam one 0 ) THEN clean your track with a brightboy abrasive rubber or ( as suggested in the last issue of Model Railroader ) with a strip of basswood ( linden ) or some 6000-grit sandpaper.
    Then try the loco again.
    I'm an N scaler so imagine how the track cleaning problem is even worse for us Nscalers.
    Model Railroader advises against using alcohol for track cleaning because it leaves the rails too dry and causes arcing. MR suggests electrical contact cleaner and after that to slightly apply a tiny film of Wahl's clipper oil on the rail.
  11. flyer_af

    flyer_af New Member

    Thanks for the input, Biased Turkey. I don't think the track needs a bright boy as it's brand new S-Helper Service track. I had the same problem with old Flyer track and I figured the track was messed up because it was old. And I've tried the Wahl's clipper oil- it made the problem worse!
    Thanks again,
    Larry Harmon
  12. roch

    roch Member

    I am glad I read this. Against good advice I lubed pard of my track with vasalie and not only does my track get lots of crud, my train spins it wheels. I have been trying to get the lube off and did not think of using rubbing alcohol.

    Thank you to everyone,

  13. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    hmm,,,,, you ever think that its not the crud on the tracks slowing it down? maybe your looking in the wrong place?,,,,,, you say it slows down after 45 min or and hour.... i think the engines might be getting hot. sometimes mine get hot after a long running time and slows way down. i let it cool off and its as good as new again.

    try this....... run it like you have, and when its acts up on you and starts slowing down just stop running it for a few hours, or a day. and DO NOT clean anything. then after it had time to cool off try running it again. if it runs fine after that then you know its not the crud on the tracks slowing it down.
  14. spankybird

    spankybird OTTS Founder

    I can tell you all that at our Museum, where we run N, HO, S, O, G and Lego, the S gauge is the worst for keeping clean. We have part of it with old AF, new Lionel, GG and S helper. The GG is the best to keep clean.

    We use scotch bright to clean our tracks. Also be sure to clean the pins.

    If your engine has traction tires, check them to see if they need replacement.
  15. roch

    roch Member

    Today I almost gave up on this hobby. There was no crud or too much lube or loose wire or anything. I was very patient with it though and on minute it would stall in different places and now it is full steam ahead. :thumb:

    No clue what was wrong. I am just happy it runs and I did not chuck it.

  16. Kerrigan

    Kerrigan New Member

    I used ammonia on a cotton rag. Stink but it really cut the crud off the rails. I might discolor brass, etc. Didn't try, but it's fine on tinplate.
  17. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    I think Tom (Spankybird) has hit the nail on the head. If your engine has rubber traction tires, they're deteriorating..possibly due to the alcohol, or whatever other cleaning agents you may have used. Oil will also deteriorate the rubber....make sure everything is super-clean...No oil, alcohol, etc., etc.

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