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How to Gleam new unused track

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How to Gleam new unused track
Posted by kevinihrke on Sunday, December 20, 2020 11:28 AM

I have 2 boxes of brand new never opened Peco track. I want to gleam this track before I lay it on my layout. I've read about gleaming track and it talks about sanding the track first and then using something like a stainless steel washer to burnish the top of the track. I would think with brand new track you would skip the sanding step in this gleaming process and proceed right to the burnishing step and then follow all of the subsequent steps, is that accurate? Thanks

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Posted by BigDaddy on Sunday, December 20, 2020 11:43 AM

Not everyone uses the sanding step and some that do, do not use the ultrafine 1000 grit and higher paper.  I would go with sanding if it were mine, but I would not gleam before I installed the track.

Why?..... well when you install feeders you might get a little solder on top of the rail, you might have a little burr when you trim the flex track, you are going to weather the track, apply ballast and glue all of which gets stuff on the rail.

Ultrafine sandpaper can be found at Autozone, or whatever car parts store is local for you.

Henry

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, December 20, 2020 11:50 AM

BigDaddy
I would not gleam before I installed the track.

I also do not gleam before I install the track. Gleaming should be done after all the messy scenery is done and wiring all works.

BigDaddy
Ultrafine sandpaper can be found at Autozone, or whatever car parts store is local for you.

Yes, and you want the finest you can find.

I have always used 4,000 grit, but I think I will look for an even finer paper for the last sanding step my final layout.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by wvg_ca on Sunday, December 20, 2020 12:20 PM

the extra fine grade of sandpaper would remove any oxidation and/or grunge from the track due to storage ....

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, December 20, 2020 1:00 PM

Keep in mind that these rails are drawn, and aren't to the right profile as the pieces are fabricated in the factory.  If you look at them through a loupe or operating microscope, not only are they likely to have several types of schmutz on them, but to have gouges, striations, too sharp a gauge corner, and other issues -- and a host of potential places where micro-arcing will start to happen in service even if you burnish the higher spots.

So yes, after you lay the track, get the railheads to the right shape and surface finish, and then do the burnish as the last step, so that any residual ridges or gouges are 'polished out' in the work-hardened layer.  (Be sure to use the rounded side of the stainless washer!)

I'm still musing over the use of a silver coin post-gleam to fill in any residual spots with relatively soft conducting material.  That would be of very great value if you eschew the sanding steps.  Coin silver is nowhere hard enough to burnish nickel silver, though, so don't use the coin as a replacement for the washer...

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, December 20, 2020 1:28 PM

.

More unintentional double posting.

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Posted by HO-Velo on Sunday, December 20, 2020 2:14 PM

'Gleaming' the track after installation, painting, weathering and ballasting is my preference.  Attaching the stainless washer to a small piece of wood with epoxy improves grip and makes the process easier on the ol' fingers.  For a good bond be sure to rough up the side of the washer that faces the wood.  Found that a short piece of small diameter (half inch or so) 316 stainless bar stock also works well while providing a good grip. 

Btw,  Thank you Semaphore.

Happy 'Gleaming', regards, Peter

  

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Posted by kevinihrke on Sunday, December 20, 2020 3:13 PM

Thank you for the great info. I will lay the track, solder, paint, and ballast before I gleam the track. It is such a great service that all you folks do for us beginners, THANK YOU for all your insight and knowledge. 

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Posted by selector on Sunday, December 20, 2020 3:19 PM

The final step before dusting one's hands and declaring the layout ready for absolute fun is cleaning the railtops.  It has to be that way because of so many other tasks prior to running trains with completed scenery that pollute and cover the railtops.  Adhesives, finger oils, sprays, bits of ground foam and grit from spreading ballast grains....

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, December 20, 2020 4:43 PM

kevinihrke
Thank you for the great info.

Glad to hear we were able to help out.

Please do not be a stranger.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by oldline1 on Sunday, December 20, 2020 5:16 PM

I have obviousy missed something. What is gleaming and why?

oldline1

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, December 20, 2020 5:25 PM

oldline1
I have obviousy missed something. What is gleaming and why?

Gleaming is a method of producing a better running finish on model-track railheads.  The original developer of the 'method' is very much still with us, and posts regularly to 'evangelize'.

There are multiple threads with many details and variations on the theme... and now that Community Search works again, you can just search on things like 'track gleaming' for more explanation than even Sacher-Masoch himself could have wanted.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Sunday, December 20, 2020 6:21 PM

oldline1
I have obviousy missed something. What is gleaming and why?

Rip Van Winkle?   Gleaming gets rid of all the scratches, pits and imperfection in the rail, resulting in a mirror finish that never needs cleaning again.  It also cures erectile dysfunction, male pattern baldness, bad breath, social injustice and global warming. Devil

I believe Joe Fugate, in another forum, wrote that track "dirt" was produced by micro arcing between the wheels and the track.  I could imagine, but I don't know, that a prefectly smooth track might have less arcing. 

I haven't had more than a switching layout since I first heard about it so, I have an open mind.

Henry

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Posted by selector on Sunday, December 20, 2020 7:27 PM

BigDaddy

 

 

I believe Joe Fugate, in another forum, wrote that track "dirt" was produced by micro arcing between the wheels and the track.  I could imagine, but I don't know, that a prefectly smooth track might have less arcing. 

I haven't had more than a switching layout since I first heard about it so, I have an open mind.

 

I believe that arcing will possibly be more of a problem when a tire lifts a smidgeon and their is arcing, perhaps more-so when there's a wee bit of dust/schmutz on the rails and/or tires. Not sure about that last part. Overmod would be a better umpire on that part.

But, we know that arcing takes place here and there, and that it is a result of tires lifting clear of the railhead, even if momentarily and only just so.  As in, for one whole tenth of a second and for a clearance of 1/10 of a mm.  Or longer.  There will be arcing.  Arcing WILL produce, eventually, some schmutz as it changes the consistency of whatever is between the two arcing bodies, rail and tire(s).

So, 'smoothness' might have two meanings here, both important.  One meaning is that it is truly planar for the purposes of wheel placement/traction/adherence/contact.  The other is pitting, or even lifting due to the accumulation of that very schmutz as it builds up and lifts other axles clear where stuff hasn't gone through arcing yet, but soon will.

So, while I am a quiet fan and proponent of gleaming, I am not convinced of its complete forestalling of rail surface contamination problems, not forever. We don't have good suspension systems at play on our (HO/N) models, so there is going to be some minor arcing at the very least.  Where that takes place, the rails will get pitted or layered with carbonized, gooey, crud.

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, December 21, 2020 2:33 PM

Gleaming isn't a panacea, and in my opinion it doesn't mean track cleaning will be unnecessary thereafter.

In my opinion there is far more 'micro-arcing' over fine irregularities in the railhead -- scratches and gouges, including those from use of excessively abrasive 'cleaners', blocks, and scrubbers.  The action is to create a tiny plasma and material transfer with each little spark, and to heat some of the metal to where it oxidizes more readily.  If there is any oil or dirt present, including that rolled by dirty or spark-affected wheels, the spark may cause a variety of effects in those, too.

The primary purpose of the sanding steps is to get rid of the fine scratches, edges, etc. to true up the surface.  Even the fine grits discussed leave these to some degree: burnishing them down is the purpose of that last step, and while you could make and polish a burnisher to 'accurate' rail profile, the washer trick gives most of the necessary surface finish at much less cost and complexity.

Once the gouges are out there is relatively less causation of enough separation and resistance to induce excessive sparks.  And there is less tendency for schmutz either to adhere to the comparative polish or to form insulating or rough spots that interfere with conduction from rail to wheel.  Preventive cleaning maintenance may then be as simple as running the rough-side-down weighted Masonite around every couple of weeks, or periodically wiping with a process of one's choice.  

Some of the rail prep could be done before the track is laid, "on spec" as it were.  In cases where track is to be laid on foam or resilient material, and the 'preparer' is impatient, it might actually be better to temporarily put track sections on the equivalent of a surface plate to do the railhead shaping and ensure gouges are out -- but you'd need to take care neither to miss or round over the ends of track segments (unless simulating the effect of low rail joints!Dunce) so at the very least you might want to use the equivalent of a 'false muzzle' if you pre-sand.  The last passes to assure true line and surface of the contact-patch lines, and of course the final burnish, should be with the track finish-installed and tested for both rolling and electrical finish.

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Posted by ndbprr on Thursday, December 24, 2020 7:44 AM

I don't disagree with gleaming the rails but it strikes me as a not complete solution. Certainly better then any other solution but someone needs to come up with a way to polish the wheels on locomotives. Surely they have problems also.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 24, 2020 8:49 AM

ndbprr
someone needs to come up with a way to polish the wheels on locomotives. Surely they have problems also.

And if the microarcing theory is correct there should be comparable effects on the wheel treads, divided by the number of wheels making electrical contact but with a smaller effective length of tread on each wheel seeing its share of micro-arcs.

There are 'machines' that clean wheels while they are mounted in the locomotive, and we have discussed methods of doing this 'freehand' with jumper power with the unit upside-down.  Some of the tread finish might be done carefully the same way but care would have to be taken not to get abrasive or 'scurf' into bearings -- among other things any oil or grease lubricant would preferentially trap it.  And it might be difficult to exert the right sort of pressure for burnishing, either on the truck itself or on the drivetrain doing the 'turning', particularly with drives known for easy gear cracking or loosening fittings.

Ideally you'd take a wheelset out and chuck or collet it in some kind of rotating tool, then dress to a reasonably common diameter for a given drive.  We would have to determine the finest grit needed to give proper burnishing results -- polishing beyond that perhaps not giving any better results when burnished.

it occurs to me that a burnishing tool made with NMRA wheel profile could be made circular, by grinding or turning in a hard material -- perhaps even by truing up and turning the rim of a washer -- and this then used for the final burnish 'pass' as the tread is turned against it.

There's been discussion on whether burnishing both wheel and rail diminishes adhesion.  I'd think it would probably increase it if done 'correctly' to extend the contact patch reliably -- but that remains to be tested properly.

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Posted by ndbprr on Friday, December 25, 2020 8:22 AM

Or the manufacturers could do it before assembly as the wheels are made as the easiest way.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, December 25, 2020 9:45 AM

ndbprr
Or the manufacturers could do it before assembly as the wheels are made as the easiest way.

Be nice to see.  The concern would be that it would raise the price still further, perhaps substantially, for a detail not all purchasers would value or be able to benefit from.  There might be enough 'perceived value' in having reliably gleamed wheeltreads that a third-party company could make them (perhaps to fineline standards like Proto:87 in the process) for those who want to run them -- perhaps to do the conversion on engines as a 'service', too.

I continue to think about ways to do the profiling up to burnish with an external fixture like a locomotive wheel cleaner.  I proposed long ago a model locomotive test plant with abrasive disks of fine grit set in the 'brake drums' for successively finer cutting on driver flanges; something like an upside-down Lidgerwood approach might also work.  It would take marketing to promote such a thing, but in a world where CMX cleaning cars command a premium the demand might actually be there, at least for clubs that could loan the equipment out on spec...

Incidentally before I forget again: if you're chucking a wheelset use a thin flat split ring as a 'collet' over the tread, axle end or flange to prevent cutting or spalling.

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Posted by ndbprr on Friday, December 25, 2020 12:21 PM

Years ago there used to be an ad for a brass bristle brush that was divided into halves that had 12 volts when plugged in. It would turn the drivers while scratching the gunk off. Perhaps some ingenious person could modify that to gleam wheels.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, December 25, 2020 3:50 PM

ndbprr
Years ago there used to be an ad for a brass bristle brush that was divided into halves that had 12 volts when plugged in. It would turn the drivers while scratching the gunk off.

I remember those -- I thought they were supposed to be clamped in a vise or base, and the engine applied from above ... be sure no part of the frame would short! Surprise

QwQwThe thing about a conductive bristle is that it still has a large 'gouge radius' if applied with abrasive or 'electrolytic' cleaning.  That might be a basis for gunk removal pre-gleaming, but I think you'd still want something to profile-grind the turning wheels, like a pair of knife-sharpening rods made to rail profile and set in gauge, with the 'brush' wipers against the flange side so you could work the turning wheels against the ceramic with controlled pressure at each stage.

That still leaves the burnishing step which involves precise orientation if not high pressure.  Upside-down might be the best way to do this but I'm not sure the locomotive drive is the best way to do it.

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Posted by semafore on Sunday, December 27, 2020 5:19 AM

The Evangelist returns!

Hello everyone. I am amazed this subject has persisted so many years (since 2006). Also amazed the process has the longevity over all others.

It is true the crud is Nickel Oxide, the by-produc of arcing.

it is true that model rail stock is "drawn" wire, with no mill work done afterwards. manufacturers will run out their patent licenses before expensive retooling of the drawn wire for a finer finish .

I Still anticipate that Burnished and contoured rail would cost almost double, so that's a downer from manu.'s point of view....

 

Yes it best to Burnish after ballast and scenery; all the track is stable. Go lighter on point rails, compensating with more passes.

As for wheels; run the heck outta them trains, the BurnishEd track will eventually condition the wheels! 

By using a designated radius on the layout, wipe the track section each time trains run by; eventually all the rail crud gets tackEd up and brought to you by the trains to that section, and therefore all stock wheels get a fair cleaning with little effort!

Semafores

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, December 27, 2020 8:15 AM

BigDaddy
 
oldline1
I have obviousy missed something. What is gleaming and why? 

I believe Joe Fugate, in another forum, wrote that track "dirt" was produced by micro arcing between the wheels and the track.  I could imagine, but I don't know, that a prefectly smooth track might have less arcing.  

No gleamer here. Those that gleam swear by it. I have never tried it, so I don't know how well it works, but I have no need for it.

As to the track dirt or "black gunk" as I call it, I used to think that it was caused by plastic wheels. But, plastic wheels are long gone on my layout and I still have black gunk from time to time. I do buy in to Joe Fugate's theory of micro arcing between the wheels and the track. 

Rich

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, December 27, 2020 8:34 AM

richhotrain

 

 
BigDaddy
 
oldline1
I have obviousy missed something. What is gleaming and why? 

I believe Joe Fugate, in another forum, wrote that track "dirt" was produced by micro arcing between the wheels and the track.  I could imagine, but I don't know, that a prefectly smooth track might have less arcing.  

 

 

No gleamer here. Those that gleam swear by it. I have never tried it, so I don't know how well it works, but I have no need for it.

 

As to the track dirt or "black gunk" as I call it, I used to think that it was caused by plastic wheels. But, plastic wheels are long gone on my layout and I still have black gunk from time to time. I do buy in to Joe Fugate's theory of micro arcing between the wheels and the track. 

Rich

 

I have never seriously gleemed a whole layout either, never had any issues.

Yes the gunk is nickle oxide, plastic wheels don't cause it, but they attract it. Metal wheels not so much.

My understanding of the science supports the idea of gleeming, but I know lots of guys with big layouts who have never done it, their trains run fine, they clean track seldom to never, have few to zero dirty track issues.

I will be interested to see what happens on my new layout? I run DC, at a max voltage of about 14 volts, PWM speed control. More arcing or less arcing than the hybrid AC signal of DCC?

Sheldon 

    

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, December 27, 2020 8:44 AM

The next time I spot black gunk on my mainlines, I will take a photo so that others can clearly see the black gunk.

Rich

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, December 27, 2020 4:00 PM

While gleaming (somehow reminds me of toothpaste) might be useful for conductivity, it must be a sap on traction if you've got any appreciable grades on your layout.
I don't gleam track, and only clean it, in the conventional sense of the word, after ballasting or adding scenic materials near the track. 

With a couple of long grades approaching 3% and laid out on multiple curves and a shorter one at over 5%, gleaming would probably keep the locos' drivers turning, but not likely making much progress up those grades. 

Most of my trains are 20 cars or less, but for longer and/or heavier ones, multiple locos are required.  The heaviest I've run (simply as a test of the locomotives) was 48 cars, but with a total trailing weight of 24lbs.

A yearly vacuuming usually suffices for track cleaning.

Wayne

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Posted by DR DENNIS GORDAN on Thursday, January 7, 2021 4:15 PM

Years ago I bought an English device at the Amherst train shoe, billed as useful for getting throught gunked track, and it worked well, even for a light 0-4-0 switcher. It was placed between the DC power pack and the track, and I'd have to guess that it sensed sudden cessations of current as the loco rolled over a patch of insulating gunk and then applied short, high voltage spikes, actually producing mini sparks and burning through the crud, allowing the loco to continue moving until current flow returned, then resuming normal DC. It actually decreased the deposits.

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Posted by NorthBrit on Thursday, January 7, 2021 4:28 PM

DR DENNIS GORDAN

Years ago I bought an English device at the Amherst train shoe, billed as useful for getting throught gunked track, and it worked well, even for a light 0-4-0 switcher. It was placed between the DC power pack and the track, and I'd have to guess that it sensed sudden cessations of current as the loco rolled over a patch of insulating gunk and then applied short, high voltage spikes, actually producing mini sparks and burning through the crud, allowing the loco to continue moving until current flow returned, then resuming normal DC. It actually decreased the deposits.

 

 

was that Relco Track Cleaner?

 

David

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, January 8, 2021 11:56 PM

Relco or Gaugemaster.

NOT for use with DCC, NOT for use with coreless motors.  

My impression of the thing is, if the theory of microarcing is correct, this is a device guaranteed to produce it in great quantity as it 'burns through' crud on the railhead (and according to a good many users bakes it ever more thoroughly on -- I think this is highly dependent on the kind of track contaminant a given layout has).  It detects rapid current change and, when it does (signifying contact interruption) it generates rapid pulses of 50V at what is said to be low amperage until current is restored.  One site noted that you test this by putting wet fingers across the rails and feeling for the 'fizz' Surprise

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Posted by selector on Saturday, January 9, 2021 2:22 AM

Wouldn't one's wet tongue, or slightly salinated tongue, work even better for those of us whose tactile sense is worn with age?

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