What happened to 'conducting' oxidation on NS rails?

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by Ott Gangl, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. Ott Gangl

    Ott Gangl New Member

    I have a pretty large double decker layout which I don't have time to run too often. I clean rails on the main and the tracks in my yards before a session but I am getting real tired of track cleaning, especially the many tracks at industries that may have cars sitting on them.

    My nickel silver track seems to acquire that black oxidation real fast. When making the decision of using it 30 years ago, a factor was that it was supposed to conduct juice through the oxidation.

    I am using Digitrax and I tell you that when a locomotive runs into even slightly oxidized rail, it stops.

    I have every kind of track cleaners and track cleaning fluids but using a Bright Boy is the only solution for the tracks I can easily reach and it lasts for this session, but next month it is track cleaning all over again.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  2. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    NS oxide IS conducting. Your problem is dust and grime collecting on your tracks. The black "crud" you mention may well be coming from your plastic wheels. Clean track is a two sided equation, track AND wheels need to be clean or you'll have problems. Also, regularly running trains helps to keep dust & grime from collecting on the rails....
    There are two things that are a sure-fire way to get frustrated....dirty track, and sloppy trackwork...(Don't ask me how I know....wall1) A little extra effort will go a loooong way in increasing your enjoyment...!!!
  3. woodone

    woodone Member

    Rail Zip

    Try a product called Rail Zip made by Pacer.
    It will work wonders.:thumb:
    I put a drop or two on my center line track cleaner, make several passes on the layout and then wipe off with a damp rag.
    This is with N scale and it works very well. I am using DCC.
    This treatment will last for several weeks. One thing that I should note is my layout is in a AC and heated room, but there is still dust.:eek:
  4. woodone: Just stick a couple of those Sharper Image Ionic Breeze air filter things in the room. Instant anti-dust.
  5. woodone

    woodone Member


    Thanks for the tip :mrgreen: Here in the desert (Phoenix AZ.) dust is everywhere.
    Very dry, so dust floats in the air all the time.:curse:
    Not like the northwest where you are. Bet the rail fall there really holds down the dust.
  6. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Ott Gangl, welcome to The Gauge:welcome1:.
    Any chance of pictures of you layout?

  7. Ott Gangl

    Ott Gangl New Member

    Loren, I posted a reply with pictures a half dozen times and they don't show up. What gives???

  8. Ott Gangl

    Ott Gangl New Member

    I am learning, only six pictures, oh well.


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  9. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Hi....Welcome to the Gauge...!!! Are you trying to attach the pictures directly to the post.., or do they "reside" in one of the picture-hosting sites..?? There's two different ways to go about doing this. Check out the "Sticky" thread at the top of the "Photography, Books, Video, Scenery" sub-forum. N Gauger gives a very thorough explanation of how to do this.
    Good luck..!! & let's see those pics...

    Ooopppss...looks like you were posting as I was writing this post...Looks good..!!
  10. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    Ott:wav: , I'm sorry about the hard time you had posting pics:winki: , the problem was your a new member, and the system this forum runs on thought your pics were spam:eeki: . The system is set up this way to keep spammers away, it does this automatically until you get a few posts under your belt:winki: .

    AGAIN, sorry for the inconvenience:smilie: , BTW, AWESOME PICS!:thumb::mrgreen:

    :deano: -Deano
  11. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Very nice pics!
  12. Ott Gangl

    Ott Gangl New Member

    OK, I'll post some more pictures but my track problems are still there. I just downloaded an article on how to install a capacitor for an extra second or so power to overcome some loss of power. It showed how to do it with the Digitrax and Soundtraxx receivers, I might try that.


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  13. woodone

    woodone Member

    Great Layout

    Man what a great layout-:thumb: and now your want it to run also? Just kidding.sign1
    I would still try the Rail Zap contact cleaner. I think it will solve some of your problems.
    I run N scale and DC with sound. I don't run the layout everyday, sometimes weeks between running. I only use the Rail zap when problems jump up and bite me. I would say once every 6 to 8 weeks apart. I always run a damp cloth (or paper towel) over the rails to clean off the black crud that is on the rails after using the Rail Zap.
    Good luck, and Happy Easter.
    BTW The Capacitors in the locomotives really help. You did not note what scale but from the photos I would guess HO. If you run out of room for a capacitor- try using several smaller ones hooked up in parallel, you can even use surface mounts if your are tight on space.
    I use DCC with sound- not DC and sound
  14. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Ott, thank you for the pictures. I am glad I asked. That is an amazing layout.

  15. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Hey Ott:wave:
    Have you tried Whal clipper oil? I use it, and once I cleaned the track and the cars and loco wheels I seldom have a problem.

  16. woodone

    woodone Member

    clipper oil

    I have found that clipper oil attracts dust. Sticks to the rails and will cause pickup problems with DCC. It seams to let the dust collect on the tops of the rail.
  17. stagingyards

    stagingyards Member

    yes gimme and dust do become a pain you could try what I use I have a cleaning caboose with cleaning pad I use goo gone I aply it right to the pad and run my train for about 3 laps over my layout and for the yard I apply it direcyly o clotha nd hand wipe goo gone is amazing
  18. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    As you have seen from the responses, every model railroader has his own pet system for cleaning track. Based on my experiences with brass, steel, and nickel silver track, these are my thoughts.

    Climate and environment have everything to do with how often your track needs cleaning and what accumulates on it. This is much more important than the material used in the rail.

    Warm, humid, and chemical-laden environments cause rail to oxidize much faster. Brass oxidizes the quickest, steel is next, and nickel silver is the slowest rail material to oxidize. Conductivity of the materials is in the same order; nickel silver doesn't conduct nearly as well as steel or brass. The oxide of nickel silver, unlike that of brass and steel, will conduct, but not nearly as well as non-oxidized nickel silver. Which means that nickel silver oxide is barely in the conductor category.

    Dust and dirt varies widely from layout to layout. A basement or a garage with an unfinished ceiling will have a lot more dust and dirt than in a finished room. The plasticizers in new plastic wheels tend to leach out onto the rails. Excess lubricant in locomotives, oils from fingers, and so on, all contribute to the rails getting dirty. Sparking causes micro-pitting of the rails and wheels, which seems to accumulate the ash from the sparks.

    There seem to be 3 basic approaches to cleaning and keeping track clean. Abrasives, such as Bright Boy, very fine sand paper, and the like, scrape the gunk and oxide off. Solvents such as alcohol, Goo-Gone, etc, dissolve the stuff, sometimes including (but not always!) the oxide. Polishing or burnishing the rails can remove the oxide and dirt, too.

    Metal wheels, especially on heavier cars in the larger scales, do a good job of polishing the rails if used frequently enough. The prototype is the ultimate example of rail polishing. Some folks assist the natural polishing by burnishing the rails with a large stainless steel washer or similar device. The claim is that the burnishing wears away the oxide, and smooths the rail head surface, which makes it more difficult for dirt to stick.

    I would include the Masonite pads hung underneath the car in the burnishing category. My issue with pads and car mounted cleaners is that they clean the top of the rail head, not the inside corner. If fitted with RP25 wheels with a fillet between the flange and tapered tread, it is at the inside corner of the railhead where the metal-to-metal contact of the locomotive drive wheels and rail take place. Only if the wheel has a flat tread or sliding contacts are fitted will there be contact across the top of the rail head.

    The tiny crevices, scratches, and pits left by abrasive or electro-static cleaning techniques are thought by many to attract more dirt more quickly.

    Burnishing, Bright Boys, alcohol, and similar non-residue techniques leave the rail clean, but with no protective coating so that the oxide reforms and the dirt accumulates if the rail is not used. In dry conditions, sparking is very likely, which accelerates the dirt accumulation process through the micro-pits and the ash.

    Which is why so many swear by No-Ox, electrical contact cleaner, Wahl's clipper oil, and the like. The residue of these treatments eliminate the sparking. But the film can also lead to faster accumulation of dirt and dust, loss of traction, and eat up rubber friction tires. The key seems to be the absolute minimum amount of treatment to prevent the negative effects. You don't want a detectable oily film - that's too much.

    Those who burnish their rails usually follow up with application of metal polish. Again, if done very sparingly, this seems to prevent sparking and somewhat seal the rails against dirt and dust accumulation.

    Of course, wheels have to be clean or the rails and wheels just transfer the gunk back and forth.

    My bottom line analysis reading through the reports and methods and my personal experience: clean the rails and wheels by the method that best suits you. Ensure you clean the inside corner, not just the top of the railhead. Burnishing probably provides the longest lasting cleaning. Then an application - very sparingly - of your favorite treatment will help keep the trains running smoothly, especially in low humidity (typical winter conditions). Again, the metal polish seems to have a longer-lasting effect than the other treatments, but they all seem to be better than no treatment at all.

    my thoughts, your choices
  19. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Holy Smokers that is a really sharp looking layout!
  20. Ott Gangl

    Ott Gangl New Member

    Thank you, Fred, for the comprehensive details of track cleaning. I went into my train room this morning and did some track cleaning by running some locomotives with a roller ( I forget what you call it, that brass gizmo with a roller in the middle) on my main lines with the towel stuff on the roller soaked with Goo Gone and it helped. Now comes the problem of my many spur tracks and sidings which need to be cleaned by hand.

    My train room is my former garage, it is fully plastered and painted including the ceiling and I keep it at room temperature with a heater and/or air conditioner, the door to the dinette stays open so it is really at the temperature of the rest of the house which is temperature controlled, including humidified in winter.

    I just need to take time away from some of my other hobbies and get back into it. I have a little more time now since skiing season is pretty much done and RC flying season has not started yet and neither has boating.

    My interest in my hobbies seem to ebb and flow according to my moods, but I'm sure that is the case with most people, after all they are just hobbies.


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