Track cleaning

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Gary Pfeil, Sep 30, 2003.

  1. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Time to visit this subject again. For a couple years I've been using Goo Gone in my TTX tank track cleaning car. Since I don't operate often (mainlines tend to get covered with styrene, paper, tools, etc!) I didn't think it unusual to have to run the track cleaning train over all trackage prior to operating. But I've started to notice I need to clean track even after a week or two of inactivity. Sound decoders make the contact problem much more obvious than it was without them. For awhile I thought it was the loco pickups. So I decided to switch to Aero Cars track cleaning fluid. I also had a feeling that the adjustment screw on the TTX car would open slightly as the car ran around the layout, due to vibration, and resulted in too much fluid being dispensed. So I proceeded as follows: First I used an old t shirt (clean!) moistened with fluid and rubbed the mainline rails (240') I'll get to the secondary trackage later. I removed a lot of black gunk! But did not attempt to keep rubbing till no black appeared, as it never seemed to stop. Then I made up a track cleaning train consisting of the TTX car (dry), a Centerline car (dry) and two Athearn boxcars with masonite blocks mounted. I let this run for over an hour. The nice new clean cloth on the two cars displayed some black, the masonite blocks had silvery streaks on them. I then cleaned the wheels on a dozen freight cars, and on my Athearn 2-8-2. Now I've badmouthed the tractive effort of this loco before, so won't do it here. However, it used to pull maybe 7 cars up a 34" radius 2% helix, now it was only 3! I put it aside, used my Bachmann Mountain, it pulled the 12 cars up, bur slipped in doing so. It wouldn't have before. Next I cleaned the wheels on 9 Walthers Budd cars and a PA. This train has run around the layout for a long time. It couldn't make the grade! Only managed 6 cars. so I am led to believe the AeroCar cleaner leaves the rails quite slick, tho Blake says he uses it without having this problem. Perhaps it is just a combo of Goo Gone residue and the new cleaner. The next night I cleaned the mainline again, with a clean dry t shirt material, then ran the fresly cleaned track cleaning train around for another hour. Still evidence of black stuff on the rails. Pickup however seems flawless. Traction on that helix a bit better, but not much. Hopefully several repeat performances will continue to improve traction. I think I will try to stick to dry cleaning methods, using fluid very sparingly only when and where needed. If anyone has had similar results I'd like to hear how things worked out.
  2. IAIS 604

    IAIS 604 Member

    I still think the best liquid cleaning chemical is isopropanol (rubbing alcohol). That and a Bright Boy from time-to-time is all I have needed.

    Whatever you use, youi need some way to remove the residue once the cleaner dissolves it, or once the cleaner evaporates you are back where you started!

    I don't have any cleaning cars, although if my layout was bigger I could see having one. But some kind of pad car would be needed too to "mop up".
  3. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I'm glad to be able to state tractive effort has been returned to normal. I apparently used too much fluid, tho it may have been needed due to condition of track. Last night I was in the process of cleaning all wheelsets prior to their being permitted on the railroad. I cleaned the wheels of a brass Hudson, using a qtip with a tiny amount of cleaner. I then cleaned the wheels of that trains cars. I started its first lap of the main and it stalled out on a minor grade! I moved on to other things, several hours later I tried that train again, and it started right up from where it had stalled. And it made the helix no problem. Obviously the small amount of cleaner on the wheels still takes awhile to evaporate. Electrical contact has remained excellant.
  4. garyn

    garyn Member

    GooGone seems to leave a residue.

    As Iais mentioned, use alcohol. But check the ingredients. You want the alcohol that uses water as the inert ingredient, or you could be putting stuff back on the rails. And change the rag often, or follow the wet cleaning car with a dry car to pick up the gunk that the wet car softened.

    I manually clean the grade with a rag to make sure it is clean. The cleaning car might be OK, but I want to make sure there isn't anything on the grade that can affect traction.

  5. CN1

    CN1 Active Member


    I apply Goo Gone by hand on all the tracks. When I'm done I go over it again with a dry rag to remove any residues.

    Works everytime
  6. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    For track cleaning after painting track and ballasting, I use a bright boy. For regular track maintenance I use a Centerline Products N scale rail cleaner #D12. I saturate the absorbent roller with goo gone. Haven't tried anything different so far. The fluid that remains on the track(before evaporating)loosens built-up crud from the wheels of any loco and cars that follow. After several passes, the rails and the wheels of all rolling stock are electrically clean and free from slippage. Now I only have slight grades on my main line so grades aren't an issue. My locos pull 20 cars OK. Haven't tried more yet as so far thats all I have changed to kadee wheel sets and set weight to NMRA standards. More cars to be re-done as time goes by.
    Here is my SD-60 pulling the track cleaner as well as 19 other cars.

    Attached Files:

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  7. CN1

    CN1 Active Member

    Heyyyyyyyyy! Is that a CN 40 Foot Box Car being pulled by UP?

  8. zeeglen

    zeeglen Member

    I have heard through another group that a drop of Wahl Oil every few feet on each rail works wonders for Z scale track cleaning and prevention of oxidation. The hair clipper folks make this and it is not really an oil in the sense of the lubricating stuff, so it apparently does not affect traction. Said to only need to apply it every few months. Have some on order and will advise if it works as claimed.
  9. garyn

    garyn Member

    I never did understand how the Wahl Oil works. Seems like it would make the track slippery, messing up traction.
  10. zeeglen

    zeeglen Member

    The Wahl Oil arrived in the mail today, had ordered it based on the recommendation of a member of another discussion group.

    My trains haven't been run for quite a while, just too many other things to do lately, so the tracks have not been used or cleaned for over 2 months. The railtops are looking pretty grim with crud and corruption. Cleaned the wheels of one of my Micro-Trains F-7 Z scale locomotives and tried to run it at medium speed, would not move more than 3 inches without stalling.

    Then, WITHOUT cleaning the tracks, placed a fingertip of Wahl oil on the rails every couple of feet and ran the loco around full speed for about 20 round trips. Slowed it down again, the running was vastly improved, but still stalled occasionally at low speed.

    Re-cleaned the locomotive wheels with 91% rubbing alcohol (if you use this stuff don't let it touch the paint job), some of the rail crud had transferred to the wheels.

    Throttled down to a loco length every 20 seconds, or 2.8 KPH (1.7
    MPH) and waited for it to stall. And waited...and waited...had
    lunch...waited some more...

    It is still crawling along. Next time i will take the trouble to clean the rails, but hardly seems necessary any more.

    Effect on traction: I seem to rcall that a single locomotive could pull 3 boxcars up the 11.5% grade. With the Wahl oil liberally applied to the rails of the grade, it can only haul 2 boxcars to the top without slipping.
  11. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    I've been using Wahl Clipper Oil for years. Apparently it is some kind of synthetic that has electrical conductive properties. BTW...the LaBelle synthetic oils are electrically conductive too, so don't over oil yer motors:eek: ....I haven't seen any effect on traction and I have 3% grades. I believe that the "trick" is to start with exceptionally clean track and use the Wahl oil to prevent buildup and oxidation.

    I don't like Bright Boys for cleaning track...they are too hard and leave about as much residue as they clean up. I've been using some K&S #1600 Grit Mylar backed emory paper glued to a small block of balsa wood. After using this I wipe the rails down with denatured alcohol and then appy the Wahl oil. I only clean the track about once every year or so. I don't have DCC but run some pretty sensitive onboard sound and I have no problems.

    Another thing....often overlooked...while we keep our loco wheels clean for electrical pickup we often don't clean rolling stock wheels until they get so dirty they won't track. They can be a prime source of "goop and crud" so start with clean wheels all the way around before using the Wahl oil.
  12. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Wahl hairclipper oil

    If you want to try the Wahl oil without buying a whole bottle, ask your barber. They do use it on hair clippers! He might give you a few drops or even sell you some.
  13. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    The BEST way I found to keep track clean is to run trains..No kidding! However the way I clean my track is very simple..I use Radio Shacks Channel Turner Cleaner about twice a year and sheldom clean track in-between times.:D

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