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How Good Do You Clean Your Track?

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Posted by mbinsewi on Saturday, February 24, 2024 10:11 AM

I only find the need to clean the track once a year, as my layout sits dormant from May to about November, so when I "start" it again in the fall, I use a CMX style track cleaning car with alcohol or lacquer thinner, until all the black residue is gone, and the track is shiny.

Mike.

 

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Posted by FRRYKid on Saturday, February 24, 2024 2:47 AM

As to the how good, until the rail shines. One cam be amazed how much gunk comes off with the pink eraser.

"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 "JaBear" on Saturday, February 24, 2024 1:49 AM

BATMAN
Real good.

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"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 23, 2024 8:10 PM

BATMAN
 
 
Arto
For the record, this is about "how good" 

Real good.

Laugh

Alton Junction

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Posted by BATMAN on Friday, February 23, 2024 8:05 PM

Arto
For the record, this is about "how good"

Real good.

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 kasskaboose on Friday, February 23, 2024 7:49 PM

I use the rubbing alcohol also put on a soft cloth such as an old t-shirt.

Besides cleaning the track, also important to clean the locomotives' wheels.

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Posted by Renegade1c on Friday, February 23, 2024 3:31 PM

I also use the CMX car to clean track. 

I however, use laquer thinner as my solvent of choice. I also change the pads every other time I clean track. Overkill, probably.... I have a cheap source of the pad material so why not. 

I clean track as a matter of habit before each ops session (right now, monthly). Do I need to do it monthly, probably not. 

I used 99% IPA for a long time but found that it wasn't getting the gunk off as well as laquer thinner. 

I am very careful when using laquer thinner to clean wheels. I use a Q-tip dipped in the laquer thinner so I don't start stripping paint on locomotives.

Even after 2 and sometimes 3 ops sessions the rails are still very clean. 

My only real complaint is that its a bit smelly. 

To answer the OP question. I clean until I can't see dark stuff on my bare finger when I swipe it over the railhead. It only takes 2-3 passes typically with the CMX car.


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http://www.coloradofrontrangerr.com/

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Posted by jjdamnit on Friday, February 23, 2024 1:25 PM

Hello All,

We live in an extreemly dusty environment with dogs that shed a significant quantity of hair and a cat that likes to sleep on the pike.

Because it's a communal computer/railroad/spare bedroom I can't close it off.

Keeping the track clean is a constant struggle.

After using several methods to clean the track the short answer is- -it is cleaned "good" enough so the trains don't stall on any portion of the pike.

Hope this helps.

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

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, February 23, 2024 12:22 PM

JDVass

I never used to put too much effort into cleaning, only what I had too. I hated track cleaning. Then I got this CMX Clean Machine. Not cheap, $235, but worth every penny. I use electrical contact leaner, and just have a loco drag it around the track. Now my track is spotless.

 

Looks like the price went up those HO CMX track cleaning cars.  I bought one from Yankee Dabbler for $168 Sept 2022.  That's quite a price hike!  Good thing I got it when I did!

I still need to get a Centerline car to mop up behind it.

The recommended cleaning fluid would be oderless mineral spirits. 

Regarding Alcohol, the La Mesa club has reported they discovered the hard way that while IP alcohol does clean everyting real well, the tracks and wheels get dirty much faster.  Once they went to all mineral spirits, they could cut way back on track and wheel cleaning.  But don't shoot the messenger.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, February 23, 2024 10:52 AM

rrebell
It is best to use 90% plus Isopropyl alcohol.

Just be careful not to paddle it around when filling or cleaning -- that stuff removes all sorts of paint, decaling, weathering, etc. including some materials used for ballast fization.

And don't let any BS artist start whining about polar vs. nonpolar.  The alcohol will have evaporated completely off the track within a couple of seconds of being applied, leaving not a trace of its chemistry behind.  The 'catch', I think, is that any oils or contaminants dissolved in the alcohol will re-plate-out on the railhead or whatever as the solvent evaporates -- so having one cleaning stage, with the alcohol, and a second stage with frequently-renewed absorbent material to wick the solution up while the crap is still suspended, is something I'd carefully consider.  To an extent, the John Allen Masonite approach will do the latter, for a while, but once it starts to clog it won't help as much.

For those of you with ambitions to build and peddle even more tweak-audiophile-nutzo gear to model railroaders: the best track cleaner will probably use ultrasonics against the alcohol to loosen the crap, and some kind of vacuum stage to pull it up, perhaps with the flushing equivalent of continuous blowdown.  Of course finishing with some kind of cassette-cleaner-style thing that keeps extending new clean face in an endless loop with some pressure pad holding it against the railhead and gauge corner...

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Posted by rrebell on Friday, February 23, 2024 6:43 AM

FRRYKid

I have a slider car I built and I also use the pink eraser as well. Never heard of using rubbing alcohol before but I could see doing that coming up this spring when I get back on the layout.

 

It is best to use90% plus Isopropyl alcohol.

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Posted by FRRYKid on Friday, February 23, 2024 2:59 AM

I have a slider car I built and I also use the pink eraser as well. Never heard of using rubbing alcohol before but I could see doing that coming up this spring when I get back on the layout.

"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 wrench567 on Thursday, February 22, 2024 9:21 PM

 A general cleaning with rubbing alcohol once a year. A couple of slider cars. And to tell you the truth. One of those red/pink pencil eraser blocks. Works fantastic and the eraser can get cleaned with soap and water. Try it out and see how good it works. Just don't use a pen eraser. They have course pumice in them.

    Pete.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, February 22, 2024 8:30 PM

Another vote for the CMX machine.  I use lacquer thinner in mine.  I generally make two passes over everything by pulling the machine around the loops with a locomotive or two, because the machine is heavy and their are a couple of steep grades.  For yards, I push the machine back and forth by hand because it's faster and just as effective.

This seems to get the track clean enough to not cause any trouble for 3 months or so.  When I start seeing stalling, it's time to open some windows for ventilation and do it again.

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

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Posted by JDVass on Thursday, February 22, 2024 7:09 PM

I never used to put too much effort into cleaning, only what I had too. I hated track cleaning. Then I got this CMX Clean Machine. Not cheap, $235, but worth every penny. I use electrical contact leaner, and just have a loco drag it around the track. Now my track is spotless.

Life is too short not to play with trains, so grow old not up my friends.
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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, February 22, 2024 5:50 PM

I rarely need to clean track, but when I do I use denatured alochol on a clean white cotton cloth. I make certain to remove all traces of black gunk across the entire double mainline and the lead tracks inside the passenger station complex.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by Arto on Thursday, February 22, 2024 4:25 PM

snjroy

If you run 4 or 6 axle diesels, I don't think your track needs to be pristine. If you have 2 axle engines or older steamers, then it becomes more critical. Adding power pickups on all tender wheels will reduce the need for pristine track conditions. Or adding stay-alive decoders to your engines.

Simon 

 

Good point! All my locos, steam or diesel are larger & from a more modern era.

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Posted by snjroy on Thursday, February 22, 2024 3:26 PM

Ok, looks like a survey question. So here's my two-cents.

For a few years now, I have stopped using liquids to clean my track. I just use a dry, white piece of cloth and rub the track. How good is it? Well, the track stays "yellowish", so I would say the process only removes the dirt and gum. But it does the job for me, without soaking anything. If you run 4 or 6 axle diesels, I don't think your track needs to be pristine. If you have 2 axle engines or older steamers, then it becomes more critical. Adding power pickups on all tender wheels will reduce the need for pristine track conditions. Or adding stay-alive decoders to your engines.

Simon 

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How Good Do You Clean Your Track?
Posted by Arto on Thursday, February 22, 2024 2:45 PM

For the record, this is about "how good", not "how" or "how often". In other words, when you do clean your track, do you clean it to pass the "white glove" test? Or almost to that point? Or just give it a light once over every now & then and be done with it? Etc.

FWIW, I've been using ACT6006 track cleaning fluid for a long time, probably 10+ years. It works well, I haven't really done any major cleaning maintenance on tracks, locos or rolling stock for maybe 6 or 7 years. Recently it's started causing problems again, so it's maintenance time. I'm quite surprised at how many times I have to go over the rails using Handi-Wipes or paper towel with track cleaner before I'm getting "clean" wipes, but certainly not a white glove standard.

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