Cleaning old American Flyer track?

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fairbro

Member
Don't see forum for American Flyer, so I guess it goes here...

This track has some major rust on it I cleaned a few (first photo) with a 2-wheel grinder (the steel wire-brush wheel) but that just cleans the surface of the rail. I don't like using a grinder, I am afraid it will spit it the rail back in my face. I used to use a grinder 8 hours a day, to clean the foot-long bolts they use to put together construction cranes, and had plenty of accidents.
IMG_1075.JPG IMG_1083.JPG

For the HO rail, it is too small for the grinder, but sandpaper works well, and they make a special hard eraser. Lionel, with its 3-"pointed" (not-flat) rails would be hard to clean with a grinder.

Has anyone been able to bring back this sort of old track?
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Rust will generally leave pitting in the rail's surface, which to remove completely will require removing as much of the parent metal as the pits are deep into it. Not practical if they are deep. The best therefore you can hope for is to clean the surface sufficiently so the wheels get enough contact. Cleaning the wheels also will help. You could use some rust remover/killer found at Auto parts/accessory stores, but make sure to wash with water to neutralize it once it's done it's work (metal will turn black) because it contains phosphoric Acid. Use protective gloves and glasses. Painting the track will protect the parts not contacted by the wheels. Mask the pins that join them and sand the paint off the tops of the rails. A fine (800-1000 grit) wet and dry automotive painters emery paper, (black surface) wetting plentifully with water plus some dishwashing liquid in it will give a smooth finish.
A small round, rat tail (tapered with a pointed end) that fits inside the open rail ends, should remove any surface rust inside them.
 

Alcomotive

Grandson of ALCO Bldr
Don't see forum for American Flyer, so I guess it goes here...

This track has some major rust on it I cleaned a few (first photo) with a 2-wheel grinder (the steel wire-brush wheel) but that just cleans the surface of the rail. I don't like using a grinder, I am afraid it will spit it the rail back in my face. I used to use a grinder 8 hours a day, to clean the foot-long bolts they use to put together construction cranes, and had plenty of accidents.
View attachment 45419 View attachment 45420

For the HO rail, it is too small for the grinder, but sandpaper works well, and they make a special hard eraser. Lionel, with its 3-"pointed" (not-flat) rails would be hard to clean with a grinder.

Has anyone been able to bring back this sort of old track?

I would use simple white vinegar. Pour the vinegar into a plastic shallow storage box like 9x14 or bigger. Pour enough in the bottom shallow enough just to submerge the tracks and let soak for 24 hours then rinse with water and thoroughly dry. It will take a lot of it off if not the majority of the rust off without being corrosive.

My 2 cents. I have done this with a lot of metal parts and tools and it works great. I lived in Florida and an o'l timer told me about this it works like a charm. Salt down in Florida is hard on metals. Good luck.
 

fairbro

Member
I would use simple white vinegar. Pour the vinegar into a plastic shallow storage box like 9x14 or bigger. Pour enough in the bottom shallow enough just to submerge the tracks and let soak for 24 hours then rinse with water and thoroughly dry. It will take a lot of it off if not the majority of the rust off without being corrosive.

My 2 cents. I have done this with a lot of metal parts and tools and it works great. I lived in Florida and an o'l timer told me about this it works like a charm. Salt down in Florida is hard on metals. Good luck.
I wonder will this work with Lionel Track, too. The edges on top of the 3-rail Lionel are rounded, rather than flat.
 

Patrick

Well-Known Member
Vinegar being a mild acid should work well. I know with auto parts they do acid wash *usually a much stronger solution) to get rust and other stuff off. If you can stand the smell, heat it up as it works better when hot.
 

Sirfoldalot

Product Tester ACME INC.
Staff member
The simple solution, if available is to sandblast it. Have to be careful not to remove the paint on the sleepers, or they can be repainted.
How much track are you talking about?
 




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