Protective track coating?

Chris Hall Apr 19, 2021

  1. Dave1905

    Dave1905 TrainBoard Member

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    Question:

    If you spray conductive paint over all your track, yes, it will conduct current between the wheel and the rail, but what will keep it from conducting current from one rail to the other and shorting the whole thing out?
     
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  2. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

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    I figure as much and (with hindsight) should have soldered the rails before fitting them, but I didn't and now have to find a way to fix a couple of joiners that are hiding in the deepest darkest part of the tunnel system.

    Nothing. I guess in the same way if you spray PVA all over the track to glue down your ballast what will keep it from insulating the rails from the locos?
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2021
  3. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

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    uh... you are supposed to wipe off the top of the rails , especially while it's still wet ....lol
     
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  4. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

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    woo woo woo me - That was kinda the point.

    If you are about to do something you would prepare the area first (or clean up after) so yeah if you spray stuff all over the place either 1. Mask the areas you don't want affected or 2. Clean up afterwards. Why you would want to spray a conductive paint on to the track's I have no idea - that woo woo woo would go everywhere, I'm thinking a No2 brush would almost be overkill, likewise why would you spray glue for ballast? Same problem. Glue everywhere.... so much to clean.... (hey people probably do and good for them - I prefer an eye dropper).

    On a separate note I found some PCB repair adhesive today that should solve the dodgy joiner issue in the tunnels. Comes in a syringe with a nice fine point needle for easy accurate application - And before anyone starts saying its a non insulating adhesive or it won't conduct as well as solder - it is designed to repair broken traces on a circuit boards, it has an overall resistance of >0.01 (can't be "0" for apparent legal reasons - I asked) and specifically adheres to metal, so it should do the job. I reckon that I should be able to apply the glue on the outside of the rails, over the top of the joiner and have a much better connection that what it is now and what's the worst that can happen? I have a blob of glue on the outside of the rails that doesn't do woo woo woo and doesn't interfere with train operations and I can't see it either cause its deep inside a tunnel.
     
  5. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    That might just be the solution Chris...(y)(y)
     
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  6. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

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    Might help you too with the street light bus issue too..... glue the buggers together!
     
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  7. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    Get a good soldering iron, some flux and some solder. Rule 1 is keep everything clean. Rule 2 Use flux wherever you are soldering. Rule 3 PRACTICE. In less than 15-30 minutes you should be able to do it rather well. If not, come on over to my house and I'll show you how to solder better. There is NO BETTER CONNECTION than solder between rails and rail joiners. Even with that, I still use feeders to most tracks. Trying to use any other method than the method that has worked for 50 years will almost always lead to failure. It's a tried and true method because it has been tried...and it works true.

    One other possible solution is solder PASTE (I think this is what the adhesive is that you found). It's what is used to assemble some PCBs because the paste will hold the components to the PCB and then turn into solder when heated. Fairly easy to find online. Squirt some on the connectors then heat it up and it is 'soldered' (usually a lower melting temp than solder, but at least still a very good connection that will keep oxidation away).

    Never thought about the paint shorting the rails together, but if the paint has a low resistance (doubtful, but lets pretend) and you spray both rails and the ties, then you will have a short as the current will be able to go from one rail to the other via the paint.
     
  8. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

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    Sorry but you are going to be the bearer of my rant - after a few PM's I've received today (you know who you are....) I'm kinda sick of it now.

    Have you actually read any of this thread, or just coming in near the end with what you think is good advice?

    I can solder, I'm pretty bloody good at it. My late father-in-law (Electronics engineer for 50 years) always commented on how good my soldering is. I'm a qualified aircraft engineer, former Royal Navy, worked on Sea Harriers so I know my way around stuff, did a degree in Aviation Engineering. But what I'm am not good at - is soldering at arms length, through a hole that is barely big enough for my arm, with no way of actually seeing what I am doing and no ability to use my other arm to help feed solder onto the joint. So, step short of removing all the track from the tunnel and replacing it with new stuff - because it none of it is coming out in one piece (I tried in one section - hence some of the now dodgy joints) I need another option that will work.

    This stuff is not solder paste, does not require heat to make joint. I know what you are talking about as I have some but - again it is near impossible to accurately place the soldering iron to make the joint work - I've tried and nearly set stuff on fire. This is an adhesive with conductive properties (>0.01Ohms - I think its conductive....) that comes in a convenient syringe that does not require my entire arm inside the hole so I can see what I am doing. All I need is a bridge from one side of the join to the other. Simple. I could probably fix it with a piece of copper wire and blue tack, in fact I have done it with a nail on one section I could see.

    And why does woo woo woo everyone think I am going to spray this woo woo woo on? I'm not stupid. I mean the whole point of using it is because its conductive so yeah, spraying the entire track and creating a short circuit is a really stupid idea, hence why I am going to use a BRUSH, specifically a no2 horse hair soft bristle brush that I am looking at right now. And did anyone actually have a look at the data spreadsheet? Cause if you did you would notice that it has a very low resistance - no pretending necessary, it can handle up to 240v 10A of directly applied power, plus its water based, uses Nano technology for maintaining suspension of the nickel and silver powered and for some reason comes in brown - what brown that is I have no idea maybe its woo woo woo brown? This is not the same stuff from 40 years ago. This is the industrial version of the "electrical" paint you can buy in most electronic shops now. You know the cool stuff you paint onto card, plastic, clothes - whatever - and make a circuit, light an LED, impress your kids/grandkids etc.

    Admittedly I am not using it for its intended purpose, which is EMF protection for walls and boxes, but it might work??? So what if it doesn't. Its water based so clean up would be no more intensive than cleaning the tracks after you've weathered them with standard paint - BECAUSE I WON'T SPRAY IT - IT WILL BE PAINTED CAREFULLY ONTO THE RAILS ONLY.

    Another thing -

    I also use to fly Huey's for a living, (thought flying them was better than fixing them) the damn things were nearly 60 years old and every day was spent wondering if the spinning contraception would crash on me, it happened - killed three of my friends 11 years ago almost to the day. (ANZAC day 25th April 2010) We upgraded them to nice shinny new A109's and NH90's. At the time we got the new helicopters everyone just kept saying "not how we did it in a Huey" and "Worked in the Huey - should work for this" well no. Times have changed, technology has changed, methods have changed.

    What worked 50 years ago, might still work now, but it doesn't mean that something new isn't out there that can do the job - maybe even better. The problem is there are not many people who will actually have the ball's to go out there and try something different. So I'm going to give it a go, try it on a test piece, then if it works try it on a small section of layout and so on. And if it doesn't work, oh well I've got some cleaning to do or at the worst - lost some scrap track. But on the off chance it does work, and it works really well, then there is another method (that will have been tried - and tested) that could help people out who want to weather their rails and have a protective conductive coating as well (that was the whole point of this thread) or have a dodgy joint that needs repair and don't have the flash soldering iron, or suck at soldering or just plan don't want to.

    I can understand that a "tried and tested" method works, but at some point that "tried and tested" method was experimental and someone had to have a go. And I'm pretty sure back then were people saying "that won't work" or "Not how we do it" or worse "Been working for 30 years - why change it".

    Rant over.
     
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  9. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

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    go ahead and try the newer stuff ... let us know how it works for you, along with the costs
     
    Chris Hall likes this.
  10. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    Well, excuse the woo woo woo out of me for trying to offer advice and help you. I CANNOT read your mind and I don't have your resume so I can tell what you can and cannot do well. Still, nothing I said deserved your response. I WAS JUST TRYING TO HELP. I'm ever so sorry that I made an effort to help someone like you. It won't happen again. I have only worked in the computer hardware and electronics field for all of my life. There is no magic paint or fluid that will do what you want it to do (especially a fluid that has >0.01Ohms). Good luck with your search, I'm sorry (once again) you didn't put your track together the way you should have when you originally did it. Jerk.
     
  11. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

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    the conductive pcb repair fluid is relatively well known to me ... but it does have drawback for track useage .... the most important is current capacity ..most pcb repair liquids have a current capacity of only around 50 ma....where you might need multiple amperage draws in some areas .. it also doesn't take minor movement very well either ..
     
  12. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks mate, that’s actually quite useful info there, Didn’t take into consideration the current capacity of the adhesive. I’ll have another good look into the specifications and check that part out.
     
  13. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

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    Gotta love Digikey and UPS - 2 days post USA to Switzerland.

    IMG_4652.jpg

    Although I would have to question their definition of Brown, I think copper would have been a better word.

    Looks like this weekend is going to be a fun packed time of experimentation!
     

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  14. Dave1905

    Dave1905 TrainBoard Member

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    I guess I'm at a loss as to what the purpose of using the conductive paint is.

    In your original post you said you want to to put the conductive paint on the rails then let the wheels wear it off. That brings you right back to whatever the base metal of the rails is.

    Once the paint is worn off the "conductive" attribute of the paint serves no purpose, since its only on the sides of the rails and they don't need to be conductive particularly.

    What is the advantage of using conductive paint vs. regular old brown paint and cleaning off the tops of the rails?
     
  15. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

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    Good question - At the time I didn't know what the advantage is, hence why I asked.

    The article you posted earlier provided some great information for me regarding contact between the wheels and track and I think I know have a better grip of what I am trying to achieve. I believe that by painting the entire track, eventually the wheels will wear the paint down - how long that will take is another thing I don't know - but the way the wheels will wear the paint will be more realistic than a clean top part of the rail.

    The Fleishmann Locomotives I run have a fair amount of play within the Fleishmann Piccolo track, I'm guessing around about 1mm (without measuring it accurately) As the loco will run around the layout the wheels will contact different parts of the track so on a turn I expect that the outside track will have more wear than the inside track. Likewise the wheels do not contact the track in a perpendicular fashion - they are more tapered, therefore on the straight parts of the track I would expect the paint to be worn of along the inside edge of the track and maybe halfway across the rail top. This would, in my opinion, give a much more realistic look than a nicely rusted side rail with gleaming top.

    Another issue with Fleishmann Piccolo track are the turnouts. Unfortunately all of my turnouts, bar one, are insulated. For insulated turnouts Fleishmann use a tiny wire to control track power from one side of the turnout to the other. Now in my first attempt to weather the track I accidentally painted over these tiny little wires and now have intermittent issues with the turnouts in question. The paint has managed to seep in-between the wire and track and, despite removing said wires, cleaning both wire and track multiple times I still have issues and have to give the wires a little nudge to get everything working again. I thought by using this paint I could just paint over the wires without suffering this issue, and actually increase the contact points. Likewise a couple of rail joiners a loose, but this part of the track is highly visible so I did not want to solder those joints but thought by applying the paint around the joiner, letting it seep into the joint and then giving the joiner a gentle squeeze with some pliers, this might help with that problem.

    There are a number of other reasons why I though this paint could actually do some good, things like lighted buffers (no wires necessary) or common ground strips, contact pads for lighting when the building is removeable.

    The only down side I have come across is the colour. The website described it as Brown, unfortunately it is not the regular old brown I was hoping for, more copper colour. So at the moment using this to "weather" the tracks is not going to work. But I have some spare old track and will have a play this weekend to see if it will work and then I might have a go at modifying the colour with some brown ink and see if this makes any difference. I am also going to check to see if it will react to IPA, Kerosene and also No-ox, because I still would like to apply No-ox onto the worn parts of the rails, and if both neat and watered down IPA will cause it to peel off once dry because otherwise it will just come off when applying ballast and the like.

    Now I could fix a lot of these problems I have by buying new track, soldering all the sections together (all 120 of them) re-laying the track, replacing the turnouts with non insulated frogs, increasing the number of track feeds, etc but I followed the manufactures instructions and the track is now bonded with the substrate board - why? Because I am using a Noch prefabricated layout that is made out of styrene and trying to remove the tracks will cause catastrophic damage to both track and layout board. So I'm stuck and this could be a possible solution to a lot of my problems.
     
  16. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    A thousand pardons if everyone is already aware of this: No-Ox is not to be used as a track cleaner. It is to be applied to track that is already clean. So you should thoroughly clean your track and only then apply No-OX.

    A few of the responses in this thread seemed to equate No-Ox with track cleaning products.

    - Jeff
     
  17. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

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    Well, after a weekend of experimenting I've come to the conclusion that the brown paint won't work, but not for the reasons you might expect.

    Firstly - its not brown.... despite all the labelling and information on the website. Its more a copper colour and very shinny, which completely defeats the purpose I had intended to use it with. Tried adding some pigments to a sample - didn't mix. Added some ink - didn't change the colour, just ended up with blobs of ink floating around. Tried alcohol ink and that kinda worked but the amount required to change the colour would have been excessive and probably changed the properties of the paint.

    Just for curiosity I applied some to a section of track and the overall impression again was terrible. Its quite thick and formed a sort of lacquer type coating once fully cured. Measured the resistance between a 5cm section and it was around the 100ohm region. Between the track and the paint (put one lead on the track and one on some random point about 20cm away) it was about 0.2ohm, that was using my el cheapo meter as my Fluke is in NZ, so it could have been slightly more or less. The loco ran on the track but because of the thickness of the paint is sort of wobbled its way from one end to the other and after two passes the paint had pretty much peeled off the track in large strips.

    It was a little disappointing but interesting to try. I haven't given up hope on it and have further plans to test it in different applications like DIY shielding for the CMRI bus I have on the layout.

    My second test paint arrived yesterday and this one is looking far more promising. It is the Bare Conductive electric paint that is the all the rage for those wall mural people.

    This one is black, which is a lot better colour wise. I haven't tried to add any form of pigments or inks to it yet but I have a theory about the weathered colour of rails in Switzerland that requires a bike ride, a camera and taking photo's of trains and rails to confirm.

    First test was applying this paint on the same track used from last time (you can see traces of the other paint on the ties). The website recommends waiting 5-15 minutes for the product to dry before use, but several blogs recommended extending this out by a few hours. I decided to wait a day. overall result is better, but more careful application and a little extra weathering would enhance the effect.

    IMG_4658.jpg

    Again, I measured the surface resistance over a 5 cm gap and got 0.9Ohms, not bad. Between the track and paint I was getting 0.1Ohms - it could be less but that is as low as my meter tests. (Will try and get photographic evidence when I can figure out a way of holding two probes and a camera at the same time.)

    Tried running the loco again and it moved across the sections of paint/no paint without any issues (other than the ones it already has - wasn't using any good loco's for this test!) It's an old Roco loco converted to DCC with dodgy motor contacts and only one set of power pickup wires. It runs like a dog on my main layout and it ran like a dog on this - maybe slightly better actually but would have to fire up the main layout and do a side by side comparison. Something for another day.

    IMG_4659.jpg

    Last test I took a sheet of insulation foam and ran two tracks of paint on it. Wasn't expecting much from this but the Loco picked up the DCC signal and did try to move back and forth and spun the wheels a little, but I think the combination of me just holding the wire onto the paint, the crappy loco, the higher resistance across the paint surface plus the foam itself prevented the loco from actually moving any great distance.

    IMG_4660.jpg

    So - where to from here? I think this it worthy of further exploration.

    Firstly I'm going to find out exactly what weathered rails look like in Switzerland and then see if I can replicate this with the paint. It might be a case of using some dry brush techniques to over paint the sides of the rails to get a more natural look rather than actually try to tint the paint itself.

    I will also set up a loop track with sections of track painted with the electrical paint. I can then run the poor sick loco around the track for a while (once its going its alright - just makes a hell of a racket) and see how well the paint holds onto the track and if it does indeed wear as I am hoping. I will also monitor for any temperature rise in the track itself and any affect on the DCC system.
     

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    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021
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  18. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

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    weathered rails should look about the same colour no matter where you are ??
     
  19. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

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    That’s what I thought, but then when I was actually wasting grey matter thinking about it, I don’t recall seeing rusty coloured rails when I’ve been at the station, more a dark colour. Mr Google wasn’t providing a definite answer so if I’m basing this on a Swiss railway then I might as well check the real thing out.

    I didn’t realise it but they lubricate track with graphite (or Glidex if MidWes Industries had their way) which, in my head, might explain they look black in the photos I’ve been googling.
     
  20. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    I have rarely ever seen really rusty rail as it's often modeled. It's usually a grayish, dirty color.

    Doug
     
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