Loco Wheel Cleaning -- Easy and Cheap...

Sumner Aug 23, 2020

  1. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Most all of the locos I've bought since getting back into N scale have been used older locos. Most look like they never were used and most run well out of the box but some don't run so well. Most of the times the truck wheels are not clean. I've tried different methods and bought a name-brand wheel cleaner for around $30 and didn't find it easy or effective to use. While washing the dishes the other day, yes I'm the dish washer and Dottie is the cook most of the time, I was thinking the rough side of the sponge I was using looked promising as a wheel cleaner. I'm sure someone else has probably done this but with that in mind decided to post the following since it seems to work really well.

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    My first candidate for cleaning was a N scale DC GE U30C that I wanted to put a hardwired decoder in. It wasn't running very well on my test track. Would stall at slower speeds and wouldn't run at all at low speed. Let's see if that can be fixed by a simple cleaning.

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    Above we see the sponges that can be bought about anywhere. The contact cleaner was ….

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    ..... one I decided to try after researching cleaners. Not cheap but decided to give it a try. I'll also try a couple other ones I already had from pre-railroad days.

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    I cut the two parts of the sponge away from each other and later cut the yellow one in half again so that it was about the same thickness as the other side.

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    I used the test track I built to test hand-laid turnouts I've been making. Now that I'm happy with this cleaning method I'll probably make a cleaning station out of a short piece of track that I can hook to either my DC power pack or my DCC++ command station depending on if the loco is DC or DCC. It will have a shallow well at the end of the track for the sponge that will set the top of the sponge a little higher than rail height.

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    Cleaning is fast and easy (see instructions above).

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    Hard to see in the picture above but it was obvious when viewed the wheels were much cleaner than before being cleaned. The real test though would be back running on the test track.

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    The loco ran great but I decided to go a step further and used the other part of the sponge in the same manner. So after just the first cleaning the loco went from not running at all to running really, really slow with no hesitation and being able to stop and go multiple times without any help from me.

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    You can see the wheel marks on the sponge so from that I'd say more cleaning took place but not much. The loco ran great after the first cleaning so not sure this second step is doing much.

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    So after just the first cleaning the loco went from not running well at slow speeds to running really, really slow with no hesitation and being able to stop and start multiple times without any help from me.

    I also have the above on my site here ....

    http://1fatgmc.com/RailRoad/Locos-1/page-2.html

    Sumner
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2020
  2. wpsnts

    wpsnts TrainBoard Supporter

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    How did you cut the sponge so that it would stay an even thickness?
    What cutting implement did you use?
     
  3. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising TrainBoard Member

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    Cheaper yet and a lot less fuss to simply use a piece of paper towel draped over the track and the cleaning solution...
     
  4. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    An X-acto knife on a fresh stiff new sponge. Separating the two halves was real easy. To spit the yellow part in half I cut all the way around and then peeled it back from the edge cuts and cut the rest of the way through.

    Jim I've used the paper towel method but it just doesn't seem to be aggressive enough for some of the locos I've used it on. The aggressive side of the sponge seems to work better for me at least.

    Sumner
     
  5. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Agree....however...I use coffee filters.

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    They dont tear like paper towel....which could end up putting minute paper fibers up into the mechanism...JMHO.

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    Carl Sowell, Jim Reising, rch and 2 others like this.
  6. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    So happy with this I took about a half hour today and threw together a dedicated cleaning station that can be plugged into either the DC throttle or the DCC Command Station.

    Sumner
     
    Carl Sowell and MK like this.
  7. Carl Sowell

    Carl Sowell TrainBoard Supporter

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    I too use paper towel method and have for several years but I had been told that paper towel has some mastic in the mix to hold the fiber together and it transfers to the rails. Anybody experience this? I like the coffee filter idea for future cleanings.

    Stay well,
    Carl
     
    mtntrainman likes this.
  8. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    I was going to suggest a block of wood with the rails on it and the sponge under or in a hole on the block that way you dont have to cut the sponge and just flip it over when you need the second less aggressive cleaning... but you already have my idea built.

    I have in the past used coffee filters or paper towels with some contact cleaner or alcohol. My wife gets mad when I use her coffee filters, I don't drink the stuff so it matters not to me ;)
     
    mtntrainman likes this.
  9. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    You can buy a box of 200 coffee filters at the dollar store for.99 ! Leave YOUR filters in your train room. If your wife ever runs out of filters for her coffee before she gets to the store...tell her u will sell her ONE for .99 !!

    It's a win/win...LOL
     
    Mr. Train and MK like this.
  10. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    LOL that's a great idea!!
     

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