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Different Methods for Keeping Track Clean

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  • Member since
    April, 2019
  • From: Pacific Northwest
  • 570 posts
Different Methods for Keeping Track Clean
Posted by SPSOT fan on Sunday, April 21, 2019 9:57 AM

I resently saw a video on YouTube on how to clean track. The fellow producing the video said not to use bright boys, because they scratch the track and make the accumulation of dirt happen faster, and also not to use alcohol because of something to do with  fact that it is a polar molecule. He recommended some sort of other chemical that was also polar, but somehow better, even though he said it is very strong and will melt ties!

I clean my track simply, I first give it a good vacuum to remove any dust, and then rub it with a damp cloth to get that black stuff of the rails. Often I can just vacuum away the dust and my Arnold U28C runs without a hiccup, though it does have great electrical pickup.

I have also used denatured alcohol and 91% isopropyl alcohol in the past, often in combination with a vacuum, and had not issues.

I am curious if the are ways other find to work better (I’m certain there are). Please post below the ways you do (and do not) clean you track.

Regards, Isaac

I model my railroad and you model yours! I model my way and you model yours!

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, April 21, 2019 10:16 AM

I use a CMX cleaner with lacquer thinner as the solvent.  It's more "aggressive" than alcohol and does a better job. I have subway tunnels so rag cleaning isn't practical for me.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by mbinsewi on Sunday, April 21, 2019 10:53 AM

We sure have been through this topic enough times. Smile, Wink & Grin

Sounds like the same video I seen,  is this where the guy used acetone?

And then followed the bright boy with a washer and gleemed the rails?

I think acetone has many uses, but not for track cleaning. 

I do what Mr. B. does, lacquer thinner, and as far as scratching the track, if you have just layed brand new track, right out of the package, then I suggest not using the bright boy.

As far as gleeming, OK, if you want to.

I've never had any problems.  Some seem to be plagued with track cleaning issues, according to their comments and threads, but I run my track car once and while, the first time is usually in the late Fall, when I'm back to the lay out, and done with out side projects, and most times, that's the only time I have to run it.

I do, however, clean the wheels on the locomotives on a some what more regular basis.

Mike.

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Sunday, April 21, 2019 11:06 AM

No problems since I switched to S scale.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
  • Member since
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  • From: Pacific Northwest
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Posted by SPSOT fan on Sunday, April 21, 2019 12:09 PM

mbinsewi

We sure have been through this topic enough times. Smile, Wink & Grin

Sounds like the same video I seen,  is this where the guy used acetone?

And then followed the bright boy with a washer and gleemed the rails?

I think acetone has many uses, but not for track cleaning. 

I do what Mr. B. does, lacquer thinner, and as far as scratching the track, if you have just layed brand new track, right out of the package, then I suggest not using the bright boy.

As far as gleeming, OK, if you want to.

I've never had any problems.  Some seem to be plagued with track cleaning issues, according to their comments and threads, but I run my track car once and while, the first time is usually in the late Fall, when I'm back to the lay out, and done with out side projects, and most times, that's the only time I have to run it.

I do, however, clean the wheels on the locomotives on a some what more regular basis.

Mike.

 

Yes, we’ve definitely got the same video!

I felt like it was kind of weird to use a chemical which can change the track gauge and make operations even less reliable when the whole point of cleaning track is to make it run better. I also don’t care much about shiny rails, the real ones rust a lot and only heavily used mains remain shiny.

I find similarly to you that once the dust is gone (I live in a very dusty place!) my trains run fine. I do have experience with others layouts that can’t stay clean. I must say layouts in garages or other places where the door to outdoors it open a lot need more cleaning than those in basements or spare bedrooms or other indoor places. It’s an important consideration when choosing a layout space!

I’ll have to look in to lacquer thinner, if two people do the same thing it’s probably worth a look!

Regards, Isaac

I model my railroad and you model yours! I model my way and you model yours!

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Posted by RR_Mel on Sunday, April 21, 2019 12:11 PM

I never had problems with dirt on my track until we moved to Bakersfield.  A simple cloth wipe of the rails about once a month worked great.  After building my current layout here in Bakersfield I had all kinds of problems.  I seems that there a constant 5 to 8 MPH breeze from the north north west that brings the Bay Area and Upper San Joaquin Valley SMOG here and because of the mountains forming a ridge around the lower Valley the SMOG settles here 24/7 until the wind is strong enough to push it up and over the mountains into either the high desert or LA.  The SMOG dust or dirt falls 24/7 and sticks to everything.
 
I eroded and used a “Bright Boy” track cleaner early on, that made the track much harder to keep clean.  After finding out about the abrasive problem the Bright Boy did to my rails I used 400 grit sandpaper to polish the rails to get rid of the surface scratches left from the Bright Boy.  That really helped so I did a finish job on top of the 400 grit using 1000 grit that made the rails even better but the dirt still needed to be removed at least weekly.
 
I invested in a CMX track cleaning car after reading all the good articles on the Forum and that took care of my track cleaning problems until I decided to go with DCC.  I had been running my track cleaning car about once a week in DC Mode but DCC changed it to about every three days or I’d have sputtering from my DCC equipped locomotives.
 
I dinked around with different cleaners for about two years before I tried ACT6006 cleaner and that made a big difference.  Up till then the best cleaning fluid had found was 90% Alcohol.  Using the 90% I got back to using the cleaning car once a week, with the ACT6006 I only run my cleaning car about once a month.  This is not a plug for that product only my own experiences.  I have no involvement of any kind with ACT or CMX only passing on what works for me.  
 
Having lived in and built layouts in four states I found out your location makes a huge deference on your track from cleaning to heat related expansion and contraction.  I’ve been model railroading in HO scale since 1951 and never had any track problems until we moved to Bakersfield in 1987.
 
Keep at it and you will find a way that works for you too, it took me 4 or 5 years but I won the war on dirty track.
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
  • Member since
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  • From: Pacific Northwest
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Posted by SPSOT fan on Sunday, April 21, 2019 12:18 PM

I would also like to throw the idea out there that I someday we will be able to move to deadrail layouts. We already have control systems that like RailPro or Bluetoot that don’t use rails for control, just for power. If we can get batteries in such locomotives suddenly dead rail is suddenly a reality. I have seen a video on YouTube of a guy who put a battery in the fuel tank of a RailPro loco, and I know battery control is big in G scale. I can’t wait till we get smaller batteries and radio control decoders so our layouts can be dead rail. Suddenly we will be able to weather all sides of the rail as prototypically as we wish without out worry of conductivity and not to mention an end to complicated wiring with turnouts and reverse loops. Oh and of course we won’t have to clean rails anymore!

Regards, Isaac

I model my railroad and you model yours! I model my way and you model yours!

  • Member since
    April, 2019
  • From: Pacific Northwest
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Posted by SPSOT fan on Sunday, April 21, 2019 12:22 PM

I must note that the CMX track cleaner seems to be popular, have to check it out, I haddn’t heard about it till today!

Regards, Isaac

I model my railroad and you model yours! I model my way and you model yours!

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, April 21, 2019 12:34 PM

I have found that if you can keep your layout room (if you have such an area) clean, track cleaning is minimal or unnecessary.
My layout is in its own finished room, which is vaccumed regularly to keep dust to a minimum.

I use a fine abrasive block, meant for polishing electrical contacts, to clean rail after ballasting or adding scenery near the tracks.  This is mainly to remove any white glue residue which might be on the rails.

After that, a yearly vacuuming of the tracks with the brush attachment on my shop vac is enough to keep the trains running reliably. 

My layout is strictly DC, so perhaps not quite so fussy, electrically, as DCC.

Wayne

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Posted by mbinsewi on Sunday, April 21, 2019 12:40 PM

SPSOT fan
I must note that the CMX track cleaner seems to be popular, have to check it out, I haddn’t heard about it till today!

Yea, it's an expensive little car, but those that have one swear by it.  Of course if you have $150 plus tied up in a track cleaning car, I guess it's only natural to think it's the best.

I have a cheaper version, works just fine.

Mike.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, April 21, 2019 1:38 PM

Don't smoke, and keep those who do outside.  Don't go for smoking steam engines, either.  These sources will make a mess of your whole layout, not just your track.

I ran my CMX car only two or three times a year, and it was fine.  But, my trainroom had heat and AC and was in a living space, not a basement or garage.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by Howard Zane on Sunday, April 21, 2019 3:21 PM

If you look at two types of real rail...well used and not so used, the surface of the well used rail will be quite shiny and not so on the unused rail. I have found a similar scenario with my railroad....if I run trains a lot, no problem with dirt, and just the opposite if not run for long periods of time. Also the use of current keepers makes operation a lot more enjoyable.

HZ

Howard Zane
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Posted by kasskaboose on Monday, April 22, 2019 7:13 AM

Ugh!  Another track cleaning post.  I swear by rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) to clean the track.  That stuff is chep, fast, and quite effective.   I just put it on a cloth or even paper towel and rub it a few times along the track.  I also use it to clean train wheels.

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