To polish or not to polish, that is the question:

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by hooknlad, Sep 12, 2005.

  1. hooknlad

    hooknlad Member

    To my fellow railroaders:

    I have finally gotten off my duff and decided to lay track today for my HO layout. I have several questions to pose and I know that the vast wisdom of The Gauge will come to my rescue. I am using old/new and used - brass and nickel/silver track.

    Question #1 - I was planning on using a dremel with a small wirewheel to polish the rail joints ( where the rails come together ) , and soldering each and every joint as well. Should I do this ???? Should I concern myself with expansion joints? (I will use one of the new "Cold Heat" soldering irons, as not to melt the ties)
    Question #2 - I was also planning on using the same wirewheel to remove the oxidation from the track surface. Is this a good idea, or will I remove any type of protective coating on the track ??? If I can wirewheel the rail surfaces, is there any type of protective / conductive substance to coat the track ???

    I have laid approximately 100 feet of track so far and I have approximately 400 feet to go . As you can see it would be quite cost prohibitive to buy new track. The layout is quite simple, 2 loops , one inside loop and one outside loop . I have utilized 3/4 plywood as a base with 3 layers of 2" styrofoam boards under the track. I plan on escavating the unnecessary foam once the track is down. I got the OK from the Mrs. to use 1/4 of the basement as the main trainroom, and I compromised for a 2' layout around the perimeter of the remaining basement. I plan on having rail yard approximately at the 1/2 way point in the basement, at her laundry room. I can forsee laundry on the tracks - lol

    If there are any fellow model railroaders in the Woodbridge, NJ area that have any ideas and want to stop by, feel free to contact me.[​IMG]
  2. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    i use a mix of brass and N/S(will get a lot of flack for this) to clean the tops of the rail a wire brush might scratch the rail i use (more flack) wahl clipper oil on a rag.
  3. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Solder most of the joints is a very good idea, leave a few random ones--about every 10-12 feet--undone for expansion, wiring a jumper from one to the other instead. As for the track cleaning, a Bright Boy abrasive track cleaner is tops and much less fuss. As for coating?cleaning solutions, they are banned at our club. Every train has to have a masonite pad equipped track cleaner in its consist. I have had success with Wahl Hair Clipper oil, a small drop on each rail every 10 feet or so does the trick then allowing the travel of the trains disperse it. Change out you plastic wheels to metal ones as you can afford to as well, they do a very good job keeping the rails clean when a layout is run regularly.

    Attached Files:

  4. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    I guess I got to ask, how many others use both brass and nickle-silver rails on their layouts? I have a lot of brass track I got along with a bunch of other N scale stuff I bought at a thrift store. Up to now I have been hesitant to use it, but I've been reluctant to throw it away either.

    It seems to work for Jim, is anyone else doing it that is happy/unhappy about that decision?
  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Our club's modular layout has a 20' long 11 track yard that uses a combination of nickel silver flex and Atlas brass crossovers and switches. Weathered properly, it looks just fine.
  6. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Jim,You'll get no flack from me because I know a older HO club that uses the brass and NS track with no problems not even the often touted corrosion problem..Heck I was raise on brass track and know that it still works. :D

    To answer the question I see no real reason to polish any rail or not to use brass track...
  7. hooknlad

    hooknlad Member

    The only reason I had wanted to "polish" the tracks was to remove the oxidation from the top of the rails. BTW - I tossed all the steel track. Thanx so much for your informative responses.:thumb:
  8. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    My own personal rule is: Rail joiners only align rail ends; every individual piece of rail has an electrical feeder soldered to it, regardless of its length.
    Rails should never be abraded (the block of masonite riding on the rails under a "track cleaning car" is a good idea).
    Chemical track cleaners must be conductive,and applied sparingly, or not used at all.

    Steel track!!! whoa.. I haven't seen any of that in decades! A good part of my first layout had the steel rails on fibre ties.
  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    What is the wire brush made of. Brass would work, steel would possibly damage the rail as well as leave magnetic shards that could be picked up and damage a locomotive motor. In my opinion, a Brite Boy is easier to use for major cleaning and the fiber slider on a car in every train will keep rails clean for you. A neat tool I made for track cleaning was to buy a cheap plastic flat brush with a handle that is offset up for hand clearance. I removed the bristles from the brush and glued on a Brite Boy with epoxy. The handle makes it much easier to use for cleaning.
  10. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    That's a great idea Russ. It makes it easy to get on bridges and into tunnels too.:thumb::thumb:
  11. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I'd avoid the wire brush since it might pit the rails and create places for gook to get in. I use a Briteboy for the really tough stuff but otherwise wipe rails with a bit of t-shirt material soaked in isopropyl alcohol. I've also sprayed electrical contact cleaner on a cloth with good success. Its available at hardware stores in the electrical dept.
  12. theBear

    theBear Member

    I've always used a 400 grit wet sand paper followed by isopropyl alcohol on a lint free cloth.

    A single sheet of 400 will last for years and doesn't appear to damage the track at all.

    I agree with replacing the plastic wheels, it will cut down on the crud that gets on the rails.

    Then when you think about it rusting the rails isn't exactly in keeping with clean track.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
  13. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I would recommend 600 grit sandpaper over 400 - probably will work just as well and leave a smoother surface. I would only use sandpaper if there is excessive oxidation on the railhead, or to smooth over damage, file marks, or solder. I use goo gone soaked into a rag, and run it along the rail with my finger. If paint or glue get on the rail, I remove it with a rag and acetone.

  14. Conrail

    Conrail Member

    I had some old brass track I passed off a few weeks ago. Fastest way for me to clean it, was with a sanding block and 400 grit. Anything else nonautomated with the ammount of track your talking about will take a long, long, time. A few swipes with the sanding block and your golden. I tried a dremel at first also..... a long, long time to do a few pieces even though they looked like rails of 14K when they were done.
  15. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Once you get all that track clean (DON'T use a wire brush wheel-a Bright Boy is the best solution although it is a lot of work...) keeping it clean is the trick so you don't need to use the BB again. Check out my TRACK GUARD on eBay. I've been using it for quite some time and have no need for a BB. (Search for HO TRACK GUARD....You'll be glad you did!)
  16. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    One question Bob, I have seen numerous boxcar/rail cleaners, but what about passenger trains? I don't remember ever seeing a passenger car so equiped. :confused: If every train has to have a masonite pad equipped track cleaner in its consist, did you bash a passenger car or do you guys just not run passenger trains? Just curious. :wave:
  17. hooknlad

    hooknlad Member

    :confused: Can someone help me what the deal is with the masonite on the boxcar does? I ordered one of those attachments today that (steamhead ) suggested in an earlier post. I have no idea what it does. I am guessing that the masonite just removes any gunk that accumulates on the tracks. How often do these masonite boards need to be replaced?
  18. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member


    The TRACK GUARD rides along with your boxcar (or wahtever you install it on) much like the masonite device. Except being flexible (which the masonite is not) it'll do a better job of cleaning your track (unless your track is perfectly flat, which I've yet to see...). It's also less obtrusive, unlike the wire (screws, whatever) that need to be used with the masonite.

    Good luck! I'm sure you'll like the TG.

  19. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I am afraid to drill holes in my passenger fleet, not to mention the length of the car on tighter radius curves would have the pad catching on trackside details. Passenger consists are exempt in our club as they make up less than 10% of the traffic. Since we went to the rule, the rail dirt problem has gone down considerably. I do plan to add cleaners to an REA express reefer as part of some consists.

    My pads are made from scrap masonite picked up at any Home Center. They provide an abrasive wiper that doesn't allow dirt to build up on the rails. Scuffing them with some light sandpaper once in a while keeps them working and they last forever.

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