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Track cleaners

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Track cleaners
Posted by Ronvaaw9c on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 12:54 PM

What's the consensus of the best track cleaner. Sure a big price difference between centerline and cmx.

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Posted by rrebell on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 1:11 PM

CMX,  got rid of my centerline.

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Posted by BATMAN on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 1:18 PM

Two things I really regret not buying years before I did are my CMX track cleaning car and a soldering station. Both worth every penny extra.

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1/videos 


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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 1:21 PM

When I was into G gauge I had a Centerline Track cleaner, worked great!!!!!

I bought an HO gauge CMX about 12 years ago and it has worked flawlessly, best investment I’ve made for my model railroad.  I use Aero Car Hobby Lubricants ACT-6006 for cleaning my rails.  The combination has kept my trains running error free for 12 years.



Mel


 
My Model Railroad   
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Bakersfield, California
 
Turned 84 in July, aging is definitely not for wimps.

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 2:17 PM

I suggest its the track cleaning fluid that makes the difference. We have a garden variety Bachmann tank car style cleaner with fluid scrubbing pad. It works fine.

One caution is track cleaning fluid doesn't actually clean the track. The black goop just gets dissolved by the fluid and moved off the railhead. We ran into a glitch recently where one of the guys thought more was better. Nope. The black goop is partially conductive as it turns out, just not very conductive. We ended up washing thinned black goop off the railheads and into every nook and cranny. Made a real mess of our Peco points. The thinned goop dried on the sides of the point rails producing amazingly intermittent power transmission (Peco Insulfrog and Electrofrog pass power from the stock rails through the  points to the closure and frog rails).

If you wipe your newly cleaned railhead with white towelling (paper is best) you'll take off some of the very thin layer of black goop that's always there. It's how nickel silver stays silver. The black layer is conductive when invisible and not when it's thick enough to notice it. The invisible black layer inhibits further surface corrosion of the silvery look.

I think those homebuilt hardboard plate track cleaning cars offer the slight advantage of scouring the railhead without washing the goop anywhere else.

If you use fluid, use it judiciously and plan on wiping up manually afterwards for best results.

Alyth Yard

Canada

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Posted by Autonerd on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 2:33 PM

There's no substitute for a Bright Boy...

At our club (which has stainless steel rail) we run a track-cleaning train with some combination of: an abrasive (bright boy-style) car, one or two CMX cars loaded with alcohol, a car with a soft pad, followed by a car with a powerful magnet (that pulls up a surprising amount of debris). We use this for the mainline and will run it through the yards sometimes, but we primarily do the yards by hand. Every year or two we clean all the readily-accessible track by hand.

Aaron

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Posted by John-NYBW on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 3:13 PM

I found this item a couple weeks ago on Amazon:

Amazon.com: Walthers SceneMaster Cratex Abrasive Block Extra Fine Toy : Arts, Crafts & Sewing

It's not quite as gritty as the Bright Boy but seems to clean the rail just as well. It's a little longer than the Bright Boy and when I turn it sideways, it is just long enough to reach all four rails of my double track mainline with two inch centers. 

My layout sits mostly idle during the warm weather months and I am just now getting back into model railroading as the weather is turning colder. Every year starts with a major track cleaning project as the grime has solidified resulting in poor conductivity throughout the layout. This is the first year I've tried a track cleaning car (Bachmann). It has helped some but for the really dirty areas, I need to use the cleaning block to get the top of the rails to shine. I'm just now getting to the point where I can run trains from one end of the layout to the other without stalling. Still have lots of yard tracks and sidings to contend with. 

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Posted by selector on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 3:40 PM

The three best fluids for cleaning tracks, according to a detailed study published in a competing ezine about three/four years ago, are, in order:

a. Kerosene;

b. WD-40 Contact Cleaner (note contact cleaner, not the fishy, oily preservative/water displacement formula commonly found); and

c. CRC Contact Cleaner.

The idea is to use a non-polar fluid, which these are. As you go down the list of what must have been about another 12 fluids, they become increasingly more polar in nature.

Abrasives work really well, but for one significant problem: they leave tiny grooves in the metal bearing surface of the rail, and it is those grooves that are left that accumulate organic matter that gets burned and turned into tar and soot by micro-arcing as metal wheels pass overtop the grooves.  Not all metal wheels, just the ones providing a path for the electricity needed for the drive mechanisms or onboard lighting, or goofy livestock sounds (sorry if I offend, just me giving my appraisal of them).

Dust and other small bits that accumulate over months should be wiped off.  You can do that with any clean dampened cloth.  I used the small panels of bed sheeting you find wadded into bags you can purchase in the paints departments of your local store.  Once you have done that, run a CMX car or other home-style/Allen car that will scrub the rails, ideally with a suitable (non-polar) solvent.

Next best thing, according to thousands who opine on this topic:  run trains with mostly metal wheels, but do it at least once a week.  That seems to keep rails functioning well.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 4:11 PM

I had subways, which were deliberately low clearance and would not even allow a standard size boxcar, so the low profile of the CMX car was ideal.  I did need to use two subway motors to pull it.  The car is heavy.  I found that it was easiest to clean my stub-end yard tracks by pushing the CMX car over each track a couple of times by hand.

I use lacquer thinner, called the"more aggressive" solvent by CMX.  I do recommend doing this on a day when you can keep the windows open to air our your train room.

I enthusiastically recommend the CMX car in HO for layout cleaning.

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

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 4:25 PM

A few years ago, I visited Gulliver's Gate, a display in NYC that depicted highlights of the six populated continents.  It was HO scale, and each continent was built overseas and transported to New York.  I was puzzled because the railroads we're all country-appropriate, but each of the circling trans had a Ro Grande or perhaps a Great Northern box car, regardless of where they were.  I was determined to solve this problem.  I sought out their train guy, who basically gave me the cook's tour of the whole facility.

Those out-of- place boxcars were standard Walthers track cleaning cars, constantly running to keep their track clean across entire continents.  They hadn't gotten around to re-flagging them yet.

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

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 6:00 PM

I have both a Centerline and a CMX. (Got the Centerline car first.)

I now run the Centerline dry, kind of as a "mop up" car.

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 11:19 PM

Ronvaaw9c
What's the consensus of the best track cleaner. Sure a big price difference between centerline and cmx.

Between those two, I believe the CMX car will have a pretty good consesus as being the better track cleaning car.

I do not have one (yet), but I will.

-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 gmpullman on Thursday, November 11, 2021 12:20 AM

ricktrains4824
I have both a Centerline and a CMX. (Got the Centerline car first.) I now run the Centerline dry, kind of as a "mop up" car.

Exactly the "system" I use. I found some clear elastic hair bands that wrap around the Centerline "Handi-Wipe" pad so that I can back up without unraveling the pad Yes

I only run the cleaning cars as necessary and it seems that comes around every three months or so. However if I have engaged in a session of car weathering or wheel face painting I generally have to run those particular cars for a while along with the CMX/C-L for a few laps to give the wheel treads a final cleanup.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, November 11, 2021 12:50 AM

My first HO scale layout, in 1955, had brass rail on fibre ties, and usually needed the track cleaned before every operating session.  For that, I used very fine sandpaper (1200 grit, if I recall correctly).

There were on-and-off some forays into modelling but when I finally built our current house in 1988, there was finally room for a decent-size HO layout.

I have never owned a track-cleaning car, and I found that the only time my track  needed to be cleaned was after ballasting track or after adding lineside ground cover, as both operations included the application of glue, which usually ended up on the rails.
For cleaning that, I use a very fine abrasive block intended for cleaning electrical contact points.  Otherwise, track cleaning is done every year or two using a shop vac to remove dust, which is generally very minimal.

Other than the wheels on locomotives and tenders, only 5% (about 20 cars)  of my freight cars have metal wheels, while most of the passenger equipment does have metal wheels, but is not used as often.

I don't foresee a track cleaning car in my future.

Wayne

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Posted by rrebell on Thursday, November 11, 2021 9:34 AM

Only problem I have had with the CMX car is that it is heavy and the pads produce drag, with grades you need real power to do the grades, even the 2 percent ones.

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Posted by dstarr on Thursday, November 11, 2021 1:16 PM

I don't have a track cleaning car.  I do it by hand, with a rag moistened with Goo-Gone.  And I don't have to do it all that often, maybe every 6 months or so.  Alcohol works too.  I cannot reccomend cleaning track with the active solvents, lacquer thinner or MEK, those are so active that they will dissolve the plastic tie strip, including the tiny plastic fingers that do the work of track spikes. 

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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, November 11, 2021 1:25 PM

rrebell

Only problem I have had with the CMX car is that it is heavy and the pads produce drag, with grades you need real power to do the grades, even the 2 percent ones.

 

I don't view this as a problem, I view it as a job for my two Atlas Trainmasters.Laugh

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1/videos 


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Posted by selector on Thursday, November 11, 2021 3:33 PM

rrebell

Only problem I have had with the CMX car is that it is heavy and the pads produce drag, with grades you need real power to do the grades, even the 2 percent ones.

 

As Brent suggests, this is actually ideal....to me.  I figure I want real scrubbin' goin' on down there, none of this lightweight boxcar with a scrubby pad weighing all of one full ounce or two.  So, I put my PCM Y6b behind the CMX and let 'er tip.  In fact, what I have been doing is shoving a Bachmann scrubber boxcar with the simple floating pad ahead of the Mallet and dragging the CMX behind it.  That has worked out really well....so far.

Just put a lashup of two or three diesels behind yours. Cool

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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, November 11, 2021 4:46 PM

rrebell

Only problem I have had with the CMX car is that it is heavy and the pads produce drag, with grades you need real power to do the grades, even the 2 percent ones.

 

I agree, I have 3½% grades and it takes a pair of my heavy weight E7s with 8oz drawbar to push my CMX up the grades towing a mop up car.  The mop up car is a Mel made Athearn caboose with a 4oz felt slider.
 

Mel


 
My Model Railroad   
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
Bakersfield, California
 
Turned 84 in July, aging is definitely not for wimps.

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Thursday, November 11, 2021 5:25 PM

No problem for me. I lash up 3 of my 4 axle, or 2 of my 6 axle diesels and let her rip.

Most times it's my matched set of 3 C430's doing the honors, and that lash up could pull everything from the yard, including the tracks if needed. 

(I have used 2 of the C430's before on that train successfully on my last layout, but like the "More Power" as Tim "The Toolman" Taylor would say. Cool)

That will still be the standard track cleaning protocol on my new layout. A "Shoving Platform" (Caboose for those pre-2000's modelers), followed by a slider box car, CMX Car, Centerline "Mop Up" car, then the loco's shoving.

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

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Posted by Renegade1c on Thursday, November 11, 2021 5:50 PM

ricktrains4824

I have both a Centerline and a CMX. (Got the Centerline car first.)

I now run the Centerline dry, kind of as a "mop up" car.

 

Ditto. Although I ended up with Two Centerline Cars because a caboose I bought from a friend was actually a centerline car with a caboose body. I run caboose first, CMX car, second centerline car, 2 locos. this way I can run bi-directionally and the centerline cars mop up any residual gunk.

 

 


Colorado Front Range Railroad: 
http://www.coloradofrontrangerr.com/

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Posted by hbgatsf on Friday, November 12, 2021 9:19 AM

selector

The three best fluids for cleaning tracks, according to a detailed study published in a competing ezine about three/four years ago, are, in order:

a. Kerosene;

b. WD-40 Contact Cleaner (note contact cleaner, not the fishy, oily preservative/water displacement formula commonly found); and

c. CRC Contact Cleaner.

The idea is to use a non-polar fluid, which these are. As you go down the list of what must have been about another 12 fluids, they become increasingly more polar in nature.

 

Here is the full list.  The lower the number the better.

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Posted by BATMAN on Friday, November 12, 2021 9:29 AM

Interesting list, now for the benefit of us less educated in such things, what ones on the list eat plastic?

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1/videos 


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Posted by hbgatsf on Friday, November 12, 2021 10:51 AM

BATMAN

Interesting list, now for the benefit of us less educated in such things, what ones on the list eat plastic? 

With a little caution is doesn't matter a whole lot.  Before reading that article I used acetone for years, which can damage paint and plastic.  It was recommended in the instructions that came with the CMX.  The key was to be careful not to park the cleaner on the track with a heavy drip going.  Otherwise it just evaporated without doing any damage.  The worst that happened was it damaged the paint job I did on the CMX.  I didn't care about that as it now looks weathered.

I have switched to mineral spirits as it is easy to get and store.  I don't keep kerosine around and don't have a container for it.  I did not want to be messing with gasoline (which I do have around all the time) in my basement.

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Posted by selector on Friday, November 12, 2021 3:16 PM

BATMAN

 

Interesting list, now for the benefit of us less educated in such things, what ones on the list eat plastic?

 

Pretty much any one of them, Brent, although I would happily stand to be corrected. The obvious exceptions would be the vinegar, ammonia, peroxide, and similar water-based ones which you and I would know immediately ought to present no problems.

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Posted by selector on Friday, November 12, 2021 3:27 PM

hbgatsf

 

 

I have switched to mineral spirits as it is easy to get and store.  I don't keep kerosine around and don't have a container for it.  I did not want to be messing with gasoline (which I do have around all the time) in my basement.

 

I work hard at keeping an open mind, and thankfully it has paid off quite often.  When I saw the list, I immediately sought some kerosene, wondering if a local wholesaler would spot me a quart for a couple of bucks.  Then, wandering through Canadian Tire's camping section, I spotted quart bottles of clear kerosene meant for wick laterns.  I snagged one off the shelf and have used it only once to clean the rails.  As far as I can tell, it did no harm, and it has not impeded my rail electrical continuity up to the decoders and beyond.  Applied in dabs here and there, not poured onto the rails, and when the tires spread it around, I don't detect any problems.

So far, I have used Dextron III Mercon ATF without any obvious impairment, and I used quite a bit of that in an attempt to determine what deleterious effect it would have on traction (none), but also lacquer thinner on Doc Wayne's say-so (no problems), and most recently kerosene, again no apparent diminution in desired operations.  I have never tried No-Ox or any of the contact cleaners, but my guess is they wouldn't hurt....at all...and they'd probably improve track that was laid well but not well maintained.

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Posted by Southgate 2 on Monday, November 15, 2021 11:47 PM

Some time ago I bought a roll of the fabric used on The CMX car and was going to make my own...Someday.  I just bit the bullet and bought the real Macoy. I'm looking forward to putting it to use. (tunnels, ughhh!)

You guys are pretty convincing! Of course, I had to run this purchase through Congressita.Laugh It passed! Dan

I saved this thread to my favorites for reference on the fluids.

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Posted by hbgatsf on Wednesday, November 17, 2021 8:21 PM

Southgate 2

Some time ago I bought a roll of the fabric used on The CMX car and was going to make my own...Someday.  I just bit the bullet and bought the real Macoy. I'm looking forward to putting it to use. (tunnels, ughhh!)

You guys are pretty convincing! Of course, I had to run this purchase through Congressita.Laugh It passed! Dan

I saved this thread to my favorites for reference on the fluids.

 

When you get it and run it for the first time go slow the first time and watch for clearances at the pad.  I had run mine for years without a problem until I ran it through a reversing loop.  I discovered that a feeder wire was sticking up a little.  Wheels had no problem but the pad hung up and it derailed.  

If sections of track are really dirty you can push the cleaner so it does the rails before the locomotive.  I have an old Blue Box SD45 that I put a decoder in just to clean track.  It doesn't have any problem on a long 3% grade.  

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, November 18, 2021 3:59 PM

hbgatsf
I have an old Blue Box SD45 that I put a decoder in just to clean track.

I have a pair of Blue Box FP-45s that I plan to add A LOT of weight to and use them just for a track cleaning train. I might paint them MOW gray just for fun!

-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 jjdamnit on Thursday, November 18, 2021 4:43 PM

Hello All,

I use a multi-step approach...

For the cleaning fluid delivery car I use the Dapol "Motorized" cleaning car, which is available in North America.

The "Motorized" function does not mean self-propelled, it means there is a motor in the car that can propel an impeller or rotary disc.

The impeller creates a vacuum function. The rotary disc can be fitted with pads from abrasive (sandpaper) to felt for polishing.

It has a reservoir for cleaning fluid that drips onto a replaceable sponge wiper that rides on the railheads.

This car can be run on DC or fitted with a DCC decoder to control the motor function.

An on/off button is installed for both DC and DCC operation.

The PCB in the car insures that the motor spins in the same direction to create a vacuum, whichever direction the car is moving.

Depending on the direction the car is traveling the vacuum/polishing function can lead or trail the cleaning fluid applicator.

This is helpful for removing pet hair from the track, which can foul motive power.

For cleaning fluid I use the Dapol fluid or Aero-Car ACT-6006 Track & Rail Cleaner.

I also use a transfer caboose fitted with a masonite pad kit from A-Line for the second step in the cleaning process.

The masonite pad absorbs the excess cleaning fluid on the rails and polishes the railheads without leaving abrasive marks that lead to fouling (contamination) of the railheads.

An advantage of the masonite pads is they can be cleaned with isopropyl or denatured alcohol.

For spot cleaning, I use Homosote® pads that are available through A-Line.

Homosote® pads absorb excess cleaning fluid while also removing tough residue by hand.

They can be refreshed by using a SureForm® plane to remove the soiled layers.

Hope this helps.

 

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

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