Why is Brass track bad?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by green_elite_cab, Dec 22, 2005.

  1. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I'm curious.

    I have brass track on my layout, because No one has enough nickel silver straight track, and the brass was cheaper. everyone is always freaking out about how bad Brass track is for trains, but i have so far had no trouble with it at all. I'm not cleaning my track every few months, and its still shiny. Maybe my basement is an ideal condition for brass track, but i would imagine that would be pretty bad.

    Is brass something that takes a long time to get bad?
  2. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    Its been years since I used brass track but I recall it needing plenty of cleaning pretty soon after installation. I say that if you're having success with it, stay with it! :thumb:
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Brass track is only a problem if it isn't cleaned, as the oxides ("rust") of brass do not conduct electricity. The oxides of nickel silver do.

    Once the track is ballasted/painted/weathered, it is quite hard to tell the difference without close inspection.

    I say if it works for you - then there is no problem.

  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    There are only 3 drawbacks to brass rail - availability of protoype size, the color of the top of the railhead, and as others have mentioned, when the non-conductive oxides form, you have problems with wheel to rail electrical contact.

    There are 2 ways to keep the oxides away:

    1) regular use with rolling stock - the more frequent and heavier the rolling stock, the better. The wheel treads polish the rail head just like the prototype.

    2) regular cleaning

    Your mainline should stay pretty good if you operate twice a week or so - rate of oxidation formation mainly depends upon local climate. It will be the spurs which are infrequently used where you will have contact and possible cleaning problems.

    If you paint your rail, it will only be the tops of the rail where the wheel treads roll that will have the gold color. Depending on your lighting, this may or may not be obvious. Most nickel silver rail tends to have a slight gold tinge when compared to polished steel, anyway.

    Not many modelers worry about whether they are using scale rail sizes - they accept what comes with the track they choose. Brass track was generally only made with Code 100 rail, although there might have been some Code 70 made before the switch to nickel silver was in full swing.

    You are in charge of your railroad!

    yours in railing
  5. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    see thread 16217
  6. yellowlynn

    yellowlynn Member

    Jim, I'm not into brass rail, but you said to check thread 16217. How would I go about finding that? You lost me. I'm not good at these searches so I'm more curious is all. Thanx

  7. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

  8. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    hmm i do usualy run trains often. not twice a week, but often enough. if i have electrical problems i automaticly clean that part of the track. its no big deal to me. I did fear sideings getting bad, but then again, i clean them if they start looking bad to me.

    when i heard people talk about brass oxidizeing, i thought it was terrible terrible stuff thats impossible to get off. I have some old sections of brass track on my layout. I just ran them over with a track eraser and cleaning fluid, and they only needed major cleaning twice since, once after I got everything wired, and when i painted my track. thats about once every 6 months that i clean the whole system. i may clean a trouble spot here and there.

    I honestly thought it would require more work for me to keep in running order.
  9. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    whoops Lynn my screw up :( you can't search for thread nunbers on this forum.
    what i was refering to was the long post i made in that thread refering to conductivity.
  10. yellowlynn

    yellowlynn Member

    Thanks, Jim. It doesn't take much to blow my (mind), and your answer just made the fuse a WHOLE lot longer.

  11. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Actually brass track is not bad..I use it for years with no problems.
    Today's modelers is continually worry needlessly over the use of brass track after all brass track was used well into the 80s by many(and some older layouts still use it) without the so called oxidation problem...Come to think of it I don't recall oxidation being a major concern or issue..So,I will rack it up to todays modern "expert" mindset.. :eek: :D
  12. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    good, that makes me feel better, because i'd hate to have to rip up track after all the ballast is down...

    Merry Christmas everybody!
  13. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Sitting here typing this while I'm waiting for the kids to go to sleep...and me too!

    Brass track is not inherently bad. How fast it oxidizes, and how often it needs cleaning depends on where you live, and the layout environment. When I had a layout with brass track in the Washington DC area - in the days before air conditioning was standard equipment - it was like I posted earlier. If I didn't run the trains a couple of times weekly, I had to clean the track before they would run well. If I didn't, the trains would stutter and stall, even run at fairly high speed/voltage the first couple of times around the oval. The sidings and spurs usually needed cleaning anyway. If wasn't difficult to clean track on my Plywood Central 4x6, but I really didn't enjoy it either. On my next layout, with hand-laid ballasted Code 70 nickel silver, the appearance was so much better. And I didn't have to clean the track every time I wanted to run trains.

    In most parts of the Southwest, I doubt you would have to clean brass rail once a year except for the dust. A humidity-controlled envrionment would probably do very well too.

    Anyway, you got it for a good price, it works for you, and I am truly glad.

    Merry Christmas!
  14. David Rosser

    David Rosser Member

    Really old Brass track, still OK!

    After reading all the comments on brass vs NS, I thought I would add my 2 cents. The oldest part of our layout has an entire mainline and some sidings with brass track. It is OLD! How old you ask, the ties are actually black fiber that is attached to the rails with what looks like tiny staples fastened from below. Not very realistic,but still working fine since around 1975. Maybe nobody notices the track when a Varney F type that I assembled in 1952 goes humming by on the track ( kind of like a time machine!).
    The first track ever used is on a bridge that was the starting point for the original over and under pretzel shaped main line. I don't even know what metal the rail is, but it came attached on one side to wooden ties. Put in place, and then insert the other rail into precut slits in each tie with a small hammer and block. The old days! In any case, as the layout grew we used NS, but the old brass track still works fine without an excessive amout of cleaning. Dave
  15. ReefBlueCoupe

    ReefBlueCoupe Member

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