Wheel Cleaning Technique?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Kimble, Jan 11, 2006.

  1. Kimble

    Kimble New Member

    Can anyone confirm this wheel cleaning technique, or, teach me the best way to clean wheels?

    I have heard that to clean my HO locomotive's wheels, I should apply some Goo-Gone to a paper towel, lay it over a length of track and then hold the engine still as I turn up the power. It appears the trick it to spin the wheels over the paper towel soaked with solution.

    I've built an 18" length of track wired to an old powerpack on a plank of wood to do this on my workbench.

    Does this seem like an acceptible way of cleaning an engine?

    Thanks in advance.
    Rob Carignan
    Portland, Maine
  2. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    I've heard of positive reports using goo gone and paper towels but I use isopropyl alcohol on a separate track like you've set up. I've been using pieces of old white t shirt material instead of paper towels (tacking it own on either side of the track after getting some paper towel caught up in the wheels of a loco once.
  3. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I use alcohol like Ralph, spritzed onto a paper towel laid across the rails. Quite effective though I haven't had one of my beasties develop an appetite for paper towels yet. :thumb: I shy away from Goo Gone as I use it regularly in my line of work and it has properties (oilyness, scent...) I'm not sure I want to introduce to my lokeys.
  4. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    i'm from the old school in that i use wahl clipper oil:) served me well for years.use it on a paper towel on a short track on work bench.
  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Remeber all those articles in the 80s when it was the cure-all for every mechanical ailment known to model railroading? :thumb: I still use it on my track, a drop every 10 feet or so.
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    You have the idea. Problem comes when you end up with all the pickup wheels on the towel -- usually with steamers where the loco picks up from one rail and the tender from the other, or some older diesels where only half the wheels pickup.
    I have a soft cradle and turn the loco upside down and use a q-tip soaked in rail cleaner and various clips to the pickups.
    Don't forget to clean the non-powered wheels too. And your cars. They all pickup dirt, and they put it back on the rails where the locos pick it up.
  7. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    I bought a Minitrix wheel cleaner from Micro Mart for a few dollars. It sets on the rails and carries power up to two sets of brass brushes. You hold the loco on it, the wheels turn and the brushes cleans the wheels. I have not had the chance to use it yet, but maybe someone else here knows if this works good or not.

    That being said, I have a collection of about 40 used locos, both steam and diesel, some hadn't been run in maybe 15 years. I had to take the shells off of each one and set up a vise and a couple of electric clips wired to the loco so I could run the motor with the loco wheels up. I did like Dave, used Q-tips soaked in everything from alcohol to other solvents to get them clean.

    I got about 75% of them running, the rest have more serious problems than just cleaning.
  8. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Don, I had (still have somewhere) a Kadee (I think) wheel cleaner which was a bunch of short brass wires insulated in the middle, the idea being to hold the locos wheels against the wires, which were powered by alligator clips to the track. I found that the wires scratched teh wheels, even if slightly, and encouraged deposit buildup afterwards. I stopped using it. I too use paper towels or tee shirt, no longer use Goo Gone for same reasons as Shaygetz, I use alcohol or Aero-Cars track and rail cleaner.
  9. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    I thought about that with the Minitrix, which is about the same thing as you're describing, and wondered what it would do as far as scratching the wheels. I thought it would help, but I'm glad you pointed out that they acts like a dirt collector after that.
  10. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    I go the whole hog!!! :eek:

    Turn loco up side down, get the dremel out, and the circular wire brush attachment.

    Apply power to the loco with a couple of wires to an old DC controller, and get the wheels going, and a light whiz on the dremel with wire brush attachment on each wheel.

    This is also good for any non-driving pickup wheels as well, as the whizzing dremel spins the wheels. Slight finger pressure on these wheels, to slow them down a bit so the wire brush works, of course, instead of just spinning the wheels.

    I've only really done this once, when I sat down one weekend and "serviced" all my locos. The improvement in pickup, I found, was astounding, especially those lcoos that are not all wheel pickup. (say, two front right, and two back left wheel pickups).

    Those locos that were supplied with "blackened" wheels, now don't have it on the wheel flange or wheel surface that contacts the rail, but is now a shiny brass/metal instead.

    I also found it good for addressing those tiny little pit marks you get on pickup wheels, that are caused by the sparking you sometimes get when crossing turnouts/crossovers etc, which, specially on my heavily used locos, had caused a pitmark ring around the pickup wheels, further degrading electrical pickup.

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