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Track Cleaning? Easy!

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Track Cleaning? Easy!
Posted by JDVass on Friday, April 7, 2023 10:24 AM

Hi all. This is my little public service address.

If you are like me, you hate manual track cleaning. I tried some different track cleaning cars, but they all didn't give great results. I have been looking at the CMX Clean Machine for a while, but the cost kept me from getting one. Then at the Saskatoon train show i got to chatting with a fellow who was running one on his club's layout. He had nothing but good things to say about this unit and highly recomended it.

So when I got home I hoped on the old computer and ordered one from Tony's Train Exchange. I gotta say, Tony's got it to me quickly, specially considering I'm in Canada. In short order I had a Clean Macine in my grubby little hands.

The first thing I noticed was this thing is built like a tank! All brass construction, metal wheels, and Kadee couplers. So far so good. The only thing I had for a non polar solvent was some CRC electrical contact cleaner. So I filled it up and let it go. And was I impressed! I did two laps on the mainlines (that I thought was clean) and this thing picked up more gunk! So I ran it around the entire layout, and that was the easiest cleaning I've ever done! If you are like me, hate cleaning track and would rather be running trains, this thing is well worth the money.

Life is too short not to play with trains, so grow old not up my friends.
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Posted by BATMAN on Friday, April 7, 2023 10:27 AM

I bought one years ago and was sorry I waited so long.

I wash the pads in Dawn DW soap and they clean right up for re-use.

Brent

"All of the world's problems are the result of the difference between how we think and how the world works."

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, April 7, 2023 10:33 AM

I finally bought mine a few months ago.

Now all I need is a layout to run it on.

Sad

-Kevin

Living the dream.

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Posted by gregc on Friday, April 7, 2023 11:35 AM
a recent club discussion on dirty track pointed out that using alcohol to clean the wheels on locos leaves a non-conductive residue (water) on the rails which causes micro-arching  when wheels can't make direct contact with the rails.   the micro-arching also results in a non-conductive black film which makes the problem worst as well as pitting the rails.
 
other solvents that don't contain water or other non-conducting material avoid this problem
 
the first step is for members not to clean their loco wheels using alcohol on layout tracks
 
the club is going to try using Masonite pads under cleaning cars that can be cleaned with sandpaper

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by selector on Friday, April 7, 2023 11:47 AM

Non-polar solvents do the best job by a wide margin.  Published in 2019 on that other e-zine site is a list of all known and tried (and vouched for/acclaimed) fluids.  Wahl's and other popular fluids were well down the list.  At the very top was kerosene, followed by WD-40 Contact Cleaner (NOT the dessicant/hinge squeak spray!!!!), and then by CRC Contact Cleaner.  Lacquer thinner was near the middle third if I recall.  

I push a Bachmann dusting car in front of my Y6-b and tow the CMX behind it.  I do this once annually, and go weeks and weeks between running trains.  Seems to work.  BTW, I have tried mineral spirits (high on the list), the recommended-by-CMX lacquer thinner, and am now using kerosene (clear and refined, found in the camping section for wick lamps).  I can't say lacquer thinner was a poor choice, and I know Doc Wayne uses it.  But the mineral spirits and kerosene both did a very good and durable job of it.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, April 7, 2023 12:24 PM

Someone has to be imbibing alcohol excessively to think that 'water forms a nonconductive layer' for more than a few milliseconds after alcohol cleaning, or that 'microarching' is an actual word.Smile

About on a par with the actual chemical knowledge reflected in the polar/nonpolar solvent 'discussions' over the years.Whistling

If you want to keep the tinfoil hat on regarding  alcohol, just get lab-grade absolute ethanol.  But don't leave it in a CMX tank for long (it is aggressively hygroscopic) and do not get it on your skin or (worse) try to sip it, as it has a considerable exotherm as it encounters water.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, April 7, 2023 12:56 PM

The first track I laid on my layout was aunt underground loop for the subway, so I had always planned to get a CMX machine.  I got one and it's the best for track cleaning.  I actually have to MU together two subway motors to get it up and down the short connecting grades to the surface.  Doing tunnels with a CMX machine is no problem at all.

It's really easier to use the 0-5-0 drive to make a couple of passes In a yard, but that's easy, too.

I use lacquer thinner in mine.  I tried alcohol, but the thinner works better.  One time, I briefly removed the car and placed it on unfinished pink foam.  After a few minutes, I found a neat rectangular depression from the thinner.  I eventually scenicked the hole, filled it with tinted Envirotex and had a tiny pond.

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

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Posted by hardcoalcase on Friday, April 7, 2023 12:59 PM

My track cleaning process isn't that fancy:

After I lay track and the caulk has set, I do a once-and-done "gleaming" of the rails (which has been discussed many times in these forums).

For routine cleaning, I have a Centerline track cleaning car (a heavy flat car with a big square hole in the center), which I purchased cheap from the hobby store bargin bin - because it was missing the essencial metal roller.  I made my own cleaning pads in the form of a few blocks (1" x 1" x 1.5") of laminated masonite (8 layers), which fit loosely in the car's square hole.  The blocks have a slight edge rounding on all sides of the ends to avoid snagging.  

While the loco pushes the car around the layout, I'll pull the block out to spot-check the cleaning, once the black lines show up, I'll flip the block over and use the clean end, or change to a new block, as needed.  Afterwards, I'll use coarse sand paper to renew the block ends. I figure I won't need to make new blocks for the next few hundred years! Big Smile

Jim 

 

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Posted by mbinsewi on Friday, April 7, 2023 1:02 PM

Crazy car is over $250. now on Ebay,  Laugh, no thanks!

I'll keep what I use now.  It woks great!

I have 2 of these, with added weights.

I think lots of track cleaning is over rated.

Run trains.  The best track cleaner yet!

Keep the wheels clean.

Kevin:  For what a new one cost, you could be like RR's do and lease yours out!  Laugh

 

 

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, April 7, 2023 1:21 PM

Years ago, I went to Gulliver's Gate, an international modeling exhibit that had a loop of HO scale trains running around each modeled area.  Each train was prototypically correct for each continent, although I kept noticing the odd Rio Grande or Canadian National boxcar in every train.  I tracked down the exhibit's train guy, who explained they were Walthers track cleaning cars, but they hadn't been re-badged yet.  For their operational model, just running those cars all the time worked fine.

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

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Posted by Soo Line fan on Friday, April 7, 2023 3:19 PM

MisterBeasley

Years ago, I went to Gulliver's Gate, an international modeling exhibit that had a loop of HO scale trains running around each modeled area.  Each train was prototypically correct for each continent, although I kept noticing the odd Rio Grande or Canadian National boxcar in every train.  I tracked down the exhibit's train guy, who explained they were Walthers track cleaning cars, but they hadn't been re-badged yet.  For their operational model, just running those cars all the time worked fine.

 

 

I have been using the same one for a long time. Works great and is on sale on Amazon for $27.00. The pad is replaceable and I did wear one out.

Jim

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Posted by jjdamnit on Friday, April 7, 2023 3:51 PM

Hello All,

OK...

Here we go- -Again!!!

An article published in the current NMRA magazine; April 2023, titled "Track Dirt Science"; pg. 22-29 (Not an April Fools joke!) examines track fouling and cleaning from a quasi-scientific perspective rather than an experienced-based- -"This is what 'works' for me."

The author examines what track sludge is comprised of and how it can physically inhibit reliable operation.

Analysis of this track sludge is examined under an electron microscope to break down its composition. 

Different cleaning solvents are also examined, along with application.

Both the CMX track cleaning car and the Centerline track cleaning car are discussed along with the use of Masonite pads for "scrubbing" the rails.

One note the author emphasizes is eschewing the use of abrasive pads; "Bright Boys" et al, to avoid micro-scratches that exacerbate the buildup of track sludge and what he calls "Wheel Cheese."

How to build a continuous wheel cleaning station is also outlined.

The two (2) most common methods of rail cleaning are examined- -"Wet" vs. "Dry."

I have been using Aero-Car Hobby Lubricants "ACT-6006 Track & Rail Cleaner," which purportedly leaves a conductive residue, which falls under the "Wet Method" category according to the author. 

The author's conclusion was that the "Dry Method"- -using denatured alcohol- -removed the track sludge most effectively, and did not contribute to future attraction of track sludge.

I use a Dapol B800 motorized track cleaner ("Motorized" refers to the vacuum impeller in the unit) not its ability for self-propulsion. It also has a reservoir for cleaning solution that drips onto a sponge pad rail wiper.

A transfer caboose has been fitted with an A-Line #10003 - HO Scale Track Cleaner Kit with Masonite pads is also in my arsenal of track cleaning cars.

Included in my MOW track cleaning train is an inexpensive plastic reservoir car, similar to a CMX car.

A Roundhouse 60-ton Box Cab locomotive; fitted with track-cleaning pistons/plungers on each end, is also employed. The pistons can be fitted with abrasive or felt pads, I use felt pads.

This unit is self-propelled with extremely low gearing. It's noisy and slow but gets the job done. I've converted it to DCC operation.

The conclusion of the author is the "Dry" method- -using denatured alcohol- -along with multiple cleaning cars provides the "best" results.

After reading this article I switched to denatured alcohol in all my cars with reservoirs.

After the first run of my track cleaning train with the new solution I noticed a vast improvement in reliable running.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by kasskaboose on Friday, April 7, 2023 4:25 PM

Why not make your own?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VslvfBWkVBc

Another option is using rubbing alcohol on a terry cloth (similar to the kind used for cleaning glasses)?  I do it and it's fear cheaper than the $200+ option.

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Posted by JDVass on Friday, April 7, 2023 6:10 PM

mbinsewi

Crazy car is over $250. now on Ebay,  Laugh, no thanks!

The Clean Machine is $169 at Tony's Train Exchange. I avoid Ebay like the plaue now a days. Too many clowns smoking way too much weed before they decide on prices and shipping charges. Clown

Life is too short not to play with trains, so grow old not up my friends.
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Posted by JDVass on Friday, April 7, 2023 6:34 PM

I posted this as a brief review of a product that I like, and think works extremely well. If you don't want to spend the money to get one, that's fine. I'm never going to disparage someone for not spending money. If you enjoy cleaning track manualy, that's great too. If you want to build your own, that's awesome. There isn't eough builders out there anymore. Same with what you use to clean. If you find lama urine on a snotty kleenex works the best for you, excelent.

However, if you are like me, hate cleaning track with a rag, and want something that (in my opinion) works better than a Walthers track cleaning boxcar, this may be for you.

I let her go and spend my time running trains while this unit does the work. Quick, easy, and extremely effective.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm busy cleaning track and need to go pour myself a bourbon. A railroaders work is never done. Big Smile

Life is too short not to play with trains, so grow old not up my friends.
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Posted by bmtrainmaster on Friday, April 7, 2023 6:42 PM

I use an old sock to clean my track. Its easy and FREE! Big Smile

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Posted by Graham Line on Saturday, April 8, 2023 1:29 AM

Hand rubbing gets old with over 1,000 feet of mainline, branches, passing tracks, spurs and yards. The CMX cars work well but they need to be refilled from time to time.  We don't have llamas available to provide cleaning fluid but I know of an alpaca farm.  Will that work?

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Posted by FRRYKid on Saturday, April 8, 2023 3:02 AM

I built myself a track cleaning car from a masonite pad kit I found on eBay many years ago. Put it in an MDC boxcar that fits my prototype era and area and it works quite well. For smal areas or spots where the cleaner doesn't work (namely my scratchbuilt crossings), I use a good old pink pencil eraser. Works quite well in getting gunk off.

Edit: 2,100th post on the Forums.

"The only stupid question is the unasked question."
Brain waves can power an electric train. RealFact #832 from Snapple.
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Posted by snjroy on Saturday, April 8, 2023 6:35 AM

bmtrainmaster

I use an old sock to clean my track. Its easy and FREE! Big Smile

 

Same here. I don't even bother putting any liquids anymore. 

Simon 

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Posted by rrebell on Saturday, April 8, 2023 7:43 AM

I got a CMX from before they were called this (used to have another name when first built). Best solution is 91% alcohol. Never use rubbing alcohol as it has oils in it and leaves a residue. Only thing of note is that you need a strong engine to pull it or multipuls.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Saturday, April 8, 2023 7:54 AM

JDVass
The Clean Machine is $169 at Tony's Train Exchange.

Thanks, but no thanks JD.

I will join you with a bourbon!  Laugh

Happy track cleaning. 

Mike.

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, April 8, 2023 8:04 AM

snjroy
 
bmtrainmaster

I use an old sock to clean my track. Its easy and FREE! Same here. I don't even bother putting any liquids anymore. 

 Simon 

 

The CMX Track Cleaning Car has certainly achieved god-like status over the years, and I have one myself.  I use denatured alcohol in the car.
 
But other methods work just as well or better. In spite of the criticism hurled against it, I do use a Bright Boy to clean off dark black smudges. Also, denatured alcohol on a white cloth, applied with the cloth wrapped around my forefinger, works just fine.
 
My objection to the CMX car is that it cannot apply enough force on sone tough to clean spots.
 
Given the current SOLD prices on eBay, it may be time to sell it. I paid $100 to buy it new several years ago.
 
Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by gregc on Saturday, April 8, 2023 8:41 AM

i glued a piece of masonite to the back of a brite boy.   the masonite presumably doesn't leave groves and i believe actually smooths them out along with pits

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, April 8, 2023 10:06 AM

The 'problem' with a Brite Boy is not that it doesn't work, and very effectively too, at removing schmutz and detritus from railheads.  It's that it introduces a thousand irregular asperities for microarcing, creates innumerable nooks and crannies for new dirt to settle, and screws up any 'gleaming' that might have been done.

At the very least, use the 'washer trick' after using a Brite Boy, to knock down the worst of the sharp little raised edges you've created.  Better still, carefully use a couple of progressive fine grades of lapping film to bring the surface finish back, then burnish if so inclined.  After that you'll have railheads that don't hold crap well, and that will cause arcing as little as possible.

I haven't conducted the necessary careful research, but it stands to reason that microarcing damage from Brite Boy use will show up as pitting and other damage on metal wheels.  A sufficiently damaged and dirty tread with substantial current going across it might 'offset print' microarcing damage onto even the best superfinished rails... 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, April 8, 2023 10:44 AM

mbinsewi
Crazy car is over $250. now on Ebay,  , no thanks!

As usual, actual selling price on eBay is lower.

mbinsewi
Kevin:  For what a new one cost, you could be like RR's do and lease yours out! 

I would need to find it first!

I paid less than $140.00 (Buy It Now) for mine.

-Photograph by Kevin Parson

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

JDVass
I let her go and spend my time running trains while this unit does the work. Quick, easy, and extremely effective.

How hard is the CMX car to pull?

I have a pair of Athearn SD-40s that I plan to wire together (for 24 wheel pick-up) to pull my track cleaning train. The train will be the CMX car, two idlers, a wiping car, two masonite block gondolas, and a caboose.

Should this get the job done?

-Kevin

Living the dream.

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Posted by kasskaboose on Saturday, April 8, 2023 11:59 AM

Different strokes for different folks for cleaning cars.  I don't mind cleaning track and haven't done it in awhile since focused on the scenery and wiring.  Whenever time to do it, will use masonite. 

Call me cheap, but can't stomach paying $150+ for a cleaning car, esp. when there are far, far less expensive options.  Others can debate the most cost-effective approach. Again, do what works and whose to say otherwise. 

I hope people don't get turned off to the hobby in reading you need to pay such prices just to clean tracks. 

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Posted by selector on Saturday, April 8, 2023 1:26 PM

Do yous guyz like running trainz, or do yous like cleaning rails when it seems you must?  Me, I like running da trainz, an' I can do dat when I run the CMX car behind my prized Y6b. Get two t'ings dun da same time.  But, yous gotta do what yous gotta do.

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Posted by maxman on Saturday, April 8, 2023 4:09 PM

Leva da gun, taka the CMX and da cannoli.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, April 9, 2023 5:20 AM

I have not even tried out my CMX car yet. I decided to buy it entirely on the positive things I heard about them.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, April 9, 2023 5:59 AM

SeeYou190

I have not even tried out my CMX car yet. I decided to buy it entirely on the positive things I heard about them.

-Kevin 

Same here. I can sell mine as Like New.

Rich

Alton Junction

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