Different ways to clean track

JoeS Feb 2, 2022

  1. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

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    So the ox thread got me thinking perhaps a thread of different methods to clean track might be of help. I’ll preface that everyone’s environment is probably going to dictate how you clean. A few things I’ve learned over years. Humidity will make every particle in air stick to rails. So dry air is huge. Now I know my house is dusty so I do a quick cleaning before every run. I don’t have cats or smoke as that will also effect rails. My other thought is those black plastic wheels seem to leave a residue so I can say metal wheels indeed make a difference.
    So I use cut Balsa wood
    FFC7CC0D-F355-4EE4-8DD3-AE54464C09C3.jpeg I then dip in 90% alcohol
    C1BA5D49-AA09-49ED-AA8A-AFCDF39E3683.jpeg
    then press on top of rails and slide
    8A10FD22-39D1-43A2-800D-231D8E06992B.jpeg
    I’ll repeat as needed it’s quick easy and picks up dust and other particles
    FAACF27A-6B02-4768-8144-DF724329DB7C.jpeg
    so that’s my method.
     
  2. mdvholland

    mdvholland TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks, I've never tried rubbing with balsa, seems like a good idea. I use a soft non-fuzzing (is that the right word?) cloth dipped in alcohol.

    In fact, they are washclothes for babies. My kids are over 20, they don't need them anymore :D

    Matt
     
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  3. Kez

    Kez TrainBoard Member

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    We use old white t-shirts cut into small strips, and CRC Contact Cleaner or 91% Isopropyl Alcohol. I also sometimes use the balsa wood technique for stubborn stains!
     
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  4. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Back in the day, 30 something years ago, everyone was making their own "Masonite Cleaning" cars. What you did was cut a small piece of Masonite and superglue on a couple flathead bolts. Then you drill holes through the bottom of a boxcar, slide the Masonite pad bolts through, and loosely mount nuts on the pad so it would rub on the rails. These worked great keeping the rails clean as you run trains.

    Masonite is a fine cellulose fiber pressed paneling product that was popular for use as pegboard for garage workbenches in the day, so it was everywhere. It is still available today in non pegboard sheets, and can sometimes be found in shipping boxes, so keep an eye out for it.

    To be honest, everything works that people have came up with over the years. I have used rubber erasers, Cratex roller cars, Cratex PC Board contact cleaner sticks, Basswood sticks, cotton t shirt strips, alcohol, rail zip, acetone, fine sandpaper, chamois strips, soapy water, tv tuner cleaner, and lots more. All work well to clean track. Nothing lasts, run a train a couple times around the track, and your track is dirty again. Track cleaning cars actually keep the trains running the longest between track cleaning by hand.
     
  5. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

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    I have one of those somewhere. They do work well and they clean while you are running the trains. After only a couple of minutes of running you can see how much grime gets picked up. I would not recommend using a liquid on them because of their fibrous nature. They will absorb moisture. For those who continually run their trains adding one or two of these to your consist will definitely be helpful. It is also used as fascia board. Jim
     
  6. JeepFan

    JeepFan TrainBoard Member

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    What about this thing?

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Member

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    Oh NO, NO, NOooooo! It GRINDS the rail and, not evenly as bobbles along.

    NO !
     
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  8. Christopher Lee

    Christopher Lee TrainBoard Member

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    I see they make track cleaning cars.....not sure about z scale.
     
  9. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Member

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    The only ‘manufactured’ track cleaning car came from Aztec, who retired several years ago. He used an offset Cratex roller and a bar magnet with felt strip to clean. Best of them all.
     
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  10. mdvholland

    mdvholland TrainBoard Member

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    I think Manfred Joerger's system works pretty well. Marklin adopted it and offers this car:
    [​IMG]

    Admittedly, you would have to add a German gondola to your fleet :)
    Matt
     
  11. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

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    Just seeing those fibres in this enlarged view gives me pause. IMHO. Jim
     
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  12. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

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    Maybe adapt this to an AZL gondola?
     
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  13. Christopher Lee

    Christopher Lee TrainBoard Member

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    I would think you could almost engineer up a track cleaning car on your own and use whatever materials you wanted to clean. A dremel, some screws, etc.

    And the 3D printer crowd could even go further with this.
     
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  14. Christopher Lee

    Christopher Lee TrainBoard Member

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    N scale but still cool

     
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  15. ZFRANK

    ZFRANK TrainBoard Member

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    It is not about getting tracks 100% cleaned, but getting them conductive. Since I use isopropyl alcohol and graphite powder on my tracks , my gp's and switchers run slow on my code 40 trackwork. I dip a piece of an old T-shirt in the alcohol, dip it in a little graphite powder and rub the rail head. A little graphite powder between the AZL truck pickups and contact strip on my GP40-2 l(Originally GP38-2) works well too. Alcohol with graphite works wel for me.

    /Frank

    Verstuurd vanaf mijn ANE-LX1 met Tapatalk
     
  16. mdvholland

    mdvholland TrainBoard Member

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    Jim, the fibres do not come off. Running this car combined with regular rubbing in some way or another seems like a good method. I don't have any experience with graphite or other means to enhanced conductivity. Back in the days people were enthousiastic about Wahl oil (originally intended for barber's hair clippers I believe)?

    Matt
     
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  17. Christopher Lee

    Christopher Lee TrainBoard Member

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    I was thinking last night and I know I will do this - but does anyone cover their layouts with painters plastic sheets or anything? Since I'm building only a 2x4 I don't see how this would hurt to prevent some dust.
     
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  18. Kez

    Kez TrainBoard Member

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    I use one of those reflective "space blankets" (it came with the layout) to cover mine when not in use, and it's light enough to be easy to work with, yet stiff enough so as not to grab everything it touches. Also, my layout has a backdrop, so that helps keep the cover above everything.
     
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  19. husafreak

    husafreak TrainBoard Member

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    Regarding the Marklin track cleaning car pictured above, if you ever want to have a good laugh, and maybe wonder at the absolute stupidity of of it, it is a fun car! What a racket it makes trying to grind off a layer of debris from your track! I laughed out loud and couldn’t get it off my track fast enough… they look great parked though ;)
     
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  20. mdvholland

    mdvholland TrainBoard Member

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    Yep, I have to agree. It is a fantasy model based on the popular railbus, very noisy, not very useful.

    Matt
     

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