DCC and Track Cleaning and Locomotive Wheels

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Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
This is for the modelers running their layouts on DCC. Here's several questions regarding track and DCC operations.

How often do you clean your track?

What method(s) do you use to clean the track?

Do you use any track cleaning aids like Dust Monkeys from Woodlands on rolling stock when running trains?

How often do you clean the pick wheels on your locomotive fleet?

Do you alcohol or products to clean the locomotive wheels?

It will be interesting to see the results.

Thanks.

Greg
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
I don't clean my tracks monolithically except after I have completed all scenery spraying and want to start off right. Afterwards, it is piecework, and that might be after not having been in the train room for a few weeks. Otherwise, running a train around once or twice a week seems to keep the rail-tops clean.

I use a cloth remnant soaked in isopropyl alcohol to wipe first, then I run a large steel washer back and forth...part of the 'gleaming' process. I sometimes gently wipe the inside faces of points and the stock rails with 600 grit if contact seems weak. I have learned that kerosene is at the top of the list of approved cleaning fluids for N/S rails, it being the most non-polar of the list of commonly used/tried fluids that people report have worked. When I do that Big Kleanup, I will begin to use kerosene, perhaps even on the track cleaning car's pad. Have to think about that.

I purchased a Walthers Track Cleaning Car three months ago, but since I'm still puttering and building scenery, and haven't taken an hour to do a full after-scenery cleanup, I have yet to run it. That will come later.

I only clean the tires on my locomotive drivers, which, except for steamers' tenders, are the pick-up wheels, when the locomotive begins to falter and the decoder restarts. I invert the steamer on a cradle, apply feeders with clips to the tender wheels, get speed step 10 on the throttle, and then use a Q-Tip soaked in kerosene to clean the tire surfaces.

So far, only alcohol to clean tires, but I did clean a BLI Niagara's drivers and wheels a couple of weeks ago, and I used kerosene throughout, including on the newly-cleaned wipers under the tender axles. It ran like a hot damn afterwards.
 

wvg_ca

Active Member
i don't clean the track, and haven't for six years ...
i do however, vacumn it twice year ...
i coated it with no-ox a long while back ...
HO, mostly atlas code 100, nickel silver which is 60-80 percent brass / copper anyways
 

Alcomotive

Grandson of ALCO Bldr
Oh boy....well I have been reading up on track cleaning recently to get a consensus on this. I am glad you posted this query.

I have used some variations. Still searching for the magic bullet.... I am inclined to stay with 91%-95% alcohol. I sometimes run Goo Gone then run the alcohol afterwards for final cleaning.

I wish I could find CRC 2-26 electrical contact cleaner in a non-aerosol can and use that....that there takes care of a lot gunk for sure.

I will be curious to see what everyone else has to say....
 

daves68

Member
i don't clean the track, and haven't for six years ...
i do however, vacumn it twice year ...
i coated it with no-ox a long while back ...
HO, mostly atlas code 100, nickel silver which is 60-80 percent brass / copper anyways
what is no- ox ?
 

PrairieKnight

Active Member
WOW....... you brought up a very timely subject here Greg. I have been researching this and reading up on track cleaning in other forum websites. As a result of said research I recently purchased a can of "WD40 Electrical Contact Cleaner". I never heard of this stuff until a respected member in another forum talked about it. It is said that this stuff will clean the track and the locomotive wheels as well after it is applied to the track. It was recommended that you spray an old T-shirt and then wipe the track with the wet cloth. I have always been a 91% alcohol on an old T-shirt type of cleaner. I have been looking for this particular version of WD40 at auto supply stores and Lowes and Home Depot with no luck. Of all places ...I found it at Walmart. I have not had a chance to try this out yet... if anyone has used this I would love to hear what they think of it.
 

bob

Administrator
Staff member
The model railroad club I belong to did some extensive testing and we’ve had great success with automatic transmission fluid. They’ve tested sectors with and without for a period of 6 months if I recall, verified it works and have been using it for a few years now.

The trick is that it’s conductive. So it forms a film on the rails that keeps them from oxidizing while also allowing power to get through.

Clean the rails and apply a TINY bit. Only a few drops.

Also note that your car wheels must be clean. If not, you’ll get a gooey film. So, at first, you’re going to have some work to do. But long term, it’s great stuff.
 

daves68

Member
The model railroad club I belong to did some extensive testing and we’ve had great success with automatic transmission fluid. They’ve tested sectors with and without for a period of 6 months if I recall, verified it works and have been using it for a few years now.

The trick is that it’s conductive. So it forms a film on the rails that keeps them from oxidizing while also allowing power to get through.

Clean the rails and apply a TINY bit. Only a few drops.

Also note that your car wheels must be clean. If not, you’ll get a gooey film. So, at first, you’re going to have some work to do. But long term, it’s great stuff.
i heard that before people have used it and never cleaned their track again is that true ? and any special brand or type ?
 

bob

Administrator
Staff member
i heard that before people have used it and never cleaned their track again is that true ? and any special brand or type ?
That's correct, and that's the idea at the club. The layout is gigantic, and nobody wants to clean that much track. So you clean it once and put the transmission fluid down. However, as I mentioned, it's critical the wheels are clean. If not, you end up with "gunk" you have to remove. But if you know that in advance, you're prepared, and once you clean the wheels it's not an issue.

Host Gene Swanson welcomed a full house Thursday night to hear Al Babinsky explain maintenance and lubrication procedures used by The Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers (PSMRE) to maintain the four trains that run on the eight scale mile “auto loop” at the Washington State History Museum.

The two problems encountered at the PSMRE are gunk on the rolling stock wheels and wear in the locomotives. The “gunk” is a muddy substance caused by the mixing of airborne dust with the automatic transmission fluid used to improve wheel-to-rail electrical continuity. It can be removed mechanically from car wheels and from loco wheels using alcohol on a paper towel, cleaning one truck at a time while the wheels are turning.
 

Railrunner130

Well-Known Member
I'm certainly no expert. However, several years ago I purchased a product from my LHS that was made (I think) by Life-Like. (I can hear your eyes roll, but hear me out.) It was a white pad that was sort of sponge like. I believe it to be Magic Eraser that Life-Like purchased, cut up and rebranded.

It does the job and leaves no residue. It does, however, crumble when you use the edges.
 

TLOC

Well-Known Member
I clean my track usually once a year or just the area if I have been working on scenery. I use mineral spirits with a rag and paper towel a couple moments later. I do about 10’ at a time. By time I wipe down the track for the 10th I can go back with the paper towel. Then I use a graphite stick every 20’ or so and scrape the rails for about an inch. I dont have electricial pick up issues on my layout, other issues, yes, just not pick up issues. For cleaning wheels, I pour the mineral spirits on a paper towel, lay it on the track, put one set of locomotive wheels on it and run the engine while holding it.

The best advice I have ever heard about cleaning and keeping track clean is to run trains on it. While I have a ISL I try to run at least 15 minutes a day. YMMV. Have fun.

TomO
 

Rico

BN Modeller
I clean my wheels with Aerolube track cleaner on a J-cloth.
For cleaning track I call in a Loram rail grinder.
Well ok, it doesn’t grind but it pulls a series of track cleaning cars, both wet and dry.

6FD35587-B942-490F-8746-48C5B301CBC3.jpeg
 

jdetray

Well-Known Member
For anyone who is interested, here are the detailed instructions for using No-Ox (the full name is No-Ox-Id "A Special"):
Track cleaning, Linn Westcott, and No-Ox

Important: No-Ox is not a track cleaner. It is an electrical contact grease and anti-corrosion conductive lubricant and should be applied only to track that is already clean. The fact that it is a grease/lubricant is one reason why you should use only a tiny amount to condition your track. Anyway, the link above provides all the details.

I use No-Ox exactly as directed and find it to work as claimed.

- Jeff
 




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