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Author Topic: Track Brands and Track Cleaning  (Read 3839 times)
RkyGriz


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« on: April 20, 2015, 02:59:34 PM »

I've been running G Scale trains for over 10 years now. I mostly use Lionel track (made in the USA), which uses hollow brass rails. I like Lionel G Scale track as it's sturdy, and has track pins and there are snap-in locks on the plastic rail bed  so the track snaps together and doesn't come apart easily-unlike other brands of track that use rail joiners do. I also own a 8-foot circle of solid aluminum tracks made by American Main Line, which, with the exception that it's put together with rail joiners( which I'm not fond of), works very well for the most part. I have had, and quickly sold, Bachmann stainless Steel G Scale track. The reason that I sold the Bachmannn track was that I found that it bends very easily as compared to the Lionel or the AML tracks.
All of my trains are indoors only and the issue that I have is that oil and grease build up fairly quickly on the rails and I spend a lot of time just cleaning them before operating my trains. I've tried dry Scotch Brite pads, Scotch Brite pads with soap and hot water,and 2000 grit sand paper ( which does the best cleaning job of all but is tedious, finger cramping work but the cleaning job it does is fantastic as I can get in there and polish the entire railhead and it lasts the longest between cleaning sessions.). I see rail cleaning cars on Ebay that use Scotch Brite pads on Ebay running in the $60.00 range. Are they worth it or is there something that will do a better job ? What do you guys use to maintain your rail systems?
Thanks!
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Joe Zullo

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« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2015, 04:32:44 PM »

Bachmann never made stainless steel track. It's tin and it rusts big time outdoors.
Are you running plastic wheels on your rolling stock? They are notorious for leaving black residue on any rail material. Switch to metal wheels and you will be surprised how long your rails will stay clean.
Solid brass rail is probably your best bet even indoors. It is less expensive than solid SS, and a lot stronger than Lionel hollow rail.
USA Trains, Aristo Craft, and some other track uses rail joiners attached to the rails with screws (very strong). You can always use split jaw rail clamps although that gets expensive. I only use them on my switch tracks, as it makes it simple to pull a switch out for maintenance (I run outdoors). HTH  Grin
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RkyGriz


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« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2015, 05:48:50 PM »

Thanks! I meant steel-alloy track. I don't know why I said stainless. It's horrible track and I get rid of it immediately after I buy a starter set. I have considered Bachmann solid brass track as it seems reasonably priced and I've heard/read that it's pretty decent.
Anyway, all of the wheels on my cars are metal. This problem with greasy rails has been going on since day one with these trains. Even my H.O. Scale trains do it . I know that it's not from over lubricating the locos. I use Bachmann Heavy and Light oils with a needle bottle dispenser to lubricate the locos . I lubricate them very sparingly and wipe up any excess. I even remove the drive rods every other time and clean them as the Bachmann oils become gummy after a while. My best guess is that the grease and oil leaks out of the drive shafts during operation. The cars aren't the problem. I use LaBelle #106 grease for the wheel axles on all of my rolling stock and also on the main motor gears of the locomotives. It works very well and doesn't get gummy over time-unlike the Bachmann lubrication products.
I'm hoping to find an easier way to keep the rails clean than using elbow grease. It's tedious and time consuming. I bought a Lionel Thunder Mountain passenger starter set on Ebay back in October . The seller claimed it was in excellent running condition. Right. When I received it , it didn't want to run. One passenger car had a broken wire for the lights, and the track was covered in corrosion and what looked like brown paint on the rails. I tried to contact the seller. No response. I filed a claim with Ebay. Still no response from the seller. I finally decided to just give the seller negative feedback and restore the train myself. The track alone took me over 6 hours to clean using 2000 grit sand paper. The loco and cars took me about 4 hours to restore and repair. Today, it runs like a dream and I'm very happy with it. My fingers were cramped and filthy by the time I finished cleaning that track and I would like to find a better solution to the problem other than manually cleaning the track with either a Scotch Brite pad or 2000 grit sand paper. One thing that was suggested ,and seems to work fairly decentl , is to use Isopropyl Alcohol to clean the rail heads. I've been wetting small pieces of paper towel and wiping the rails. I've also been using it on Q-Tips to clean the wheels on all of my rolling stock and locomotives. It doesn't do a bad job.  It sometimes seems that I spend more time track cleaning than I do actually running these trains! Oh, well. Part of owning them I guess!
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jviss

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« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2015, 06:11:20 PM »

Bachmann never made stainless steel track. It's tin and it rusts big time outdoors.
I don't think it's tin, it's some kind of corrosion resistant steel.  It's magnetic.  I would be surprised it turned out to be tin plated.  Yes, it will rust if exposed to the elements, but I think it's very good indoors, considering the handling it gets. 

I have tried abrasive cleaning on some older pieces, but I'm not satisfied with any technique I've tried yet, except on relatively new track I've wiped it with a cotton cloth with alcohol and then applied Bachmann's conductive oil.  This works very well. 

I would love to hear about home-brew track cleaning fluids.
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Joe Zullo

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« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2015, 06:57:03 PM »

When I was using the Bachmann steel track with plastic wheels indoors I cleaned the track every couple of days with oder-less paint thinner (the white stuff). I called it track milk and it worked pretty good. I used a paper towel wrapped around a wood block.
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Chuck N

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« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2015, 07:11:37 PM »

A few years back there was a lot of discussion over on mylargescale.com about the black powder that forms on track and wheels.  Some said carbon, others thought it was plastic and a third group thought it was very fine grained metal dust.

I ran a test to see what it was.

I cleaned my brass track until I couldn't pick up any "black" off the rails.  I then ran a train for several hours and then wiped down the track.  I took the cloth I used to clean the track after the run to the laboratory and had a friend put it through an instrument that can analyze very small pieces of material.  The analysis came back with copper, and zinc, aka brass.  

Your black oil/grease is not that at all, but fine pieces of brass that is worn off the rail head by the harder metal wheels on the engine and cars.  Very fine pieces of metal look and feel like oil or grease and they are too fine to show their true color to the naked eye.

If you have plastic wheels, some of the dust will be plastic from the flanges being worn off by the harder brass rail.  The tighter your curves the more grinding takes place.  I have heard of flanges being worn off of plastic wheels if the train is run constantly, such as if in a restaurant or business.

I have a friend who runs his trains all day every day when he is home.  He has several loops with different diameter curves.  His tightest loop has LGB R1 (4' diameter) curves.  Every couple of years he has to replace his track because the rail heads are so worn away that the engine and cars will fall down between the rails.

I have been using a drywall sanding pole and green Scotchbrite pads on my brass track for 30+ years.  It is by far the easiest method I have found to keep my track clean.  No solvents needed.

If you can't walk around your track with a sanding pole, then a different method is needed.

Increasing the diameter of your curves, will help with the problem, but not eliminate the problem entirely.

Chuck

Here is a link to the black dust question on MLS.

http://forums.mylargescale.com/11-public-forum/26400-origin-black-dust-4.html

Here is a link to another thread on track cleaning, I show, partway through it, my track cleaning setup.

http://www.bachmanntrains.com/home-usa/board/index.php/topic,29253.msg215439.html#msg215439
« Last Edit: April 20, 2015, 11:50:32 PM by Chuck N » Logged
Chuck N

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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2015, 07:26:23 PM »

In case there is any doubt about the ability of wheels on a motor block being capable of grinding brass rail.  Here is an example of track that was left unattended while the owner, not me, got distracted and a car behind the engine got stuck and the motor wheels kept spinning.  I have made similar, but smaller, divots on occasion when I wasn't watching what was happening.  Never deep enough to require replacing a section of track.



Here is a picture of a piece of track from the layout mentioned in the previous post.  Note the sharp angle between the top of the rail and the inside edge and compare the overhang of the rail top with the overhang on a new piece of rail.  Usually, the overhang extends well over the top of the rail joiner.  In this case it is flush with the top of the rail joiner.



The metal that is ground off is the source of the "oil/grease" many report and the source of the black dust found on rugs under an indoor layout.

Chuck





« Last Edit: April 23, 2015, 07:32:21 PM by Chuck N » Logged
RkyGriz


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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2015, 08:04:40 PM »

So, Chuck, is there any track that doesn't get ground away by the wheels, and if so , who makes it and if not , which type of track lasts the longest? I've noticed some brass flakes in the underside of the chassis of my Bachmann 4-6-0 locos( but not on the Lionel or Hartland locos) when I run them on the 4 foot diameter rails, not so much on the 5 foot rails. The 8 foot aluminum rails from AML only get dirty and I haven't noticed any signs of wear like when I run them on the 4 foot diameter the brass tracks.. Which is why I don't understand why Bachmann (and other makers) only includes the cheap, steel alloy 4 foot diameter tracks in their starter sets since the 4 foot diameter tracks cause greater wheel binding with the larger 4-6-0  locomotives than a 5 foot diameter track(as an example) does.
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Chuck N

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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2015, 08:14:24 PM »

The answer is there will always be wear.  The question is in the long run do you want to replace rails, or wheels.  There are harder rails, such as stainless steel.  If they are harder than the metal used in your wheels, the wheels will grind down. 

Plastic wheels run on 4' diameter brass track will loose their flanges after very long run times.

The best advice I can give is to use the widest curves you can and minimize the us of 4' diameter curves.

This excessive wear was because of long and constant running.  Most of us don't do that.

Chuck
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RkyGriz


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« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2015, 08:56:42 PM »

I don't run them much myself. They spend most of their time sitting on the tracks as displays, since they are only run/kept indoors out of direct sun light and the elements. Right now, I have one of my Bachmanns and the Hartland on top of my long desk (It's over 6 feet long and they sit side by side on 2 parallel tracks) with one car each as a display. The remaining locomotives and other rolling stock are all kept in their boxes. I only actually run them very occasionally and never leave them unattended for very long while they're running. Right now, I'm only running any of them once a week at most and on the 5 foot Lionel rails as I have a much smaller space to run/display them than I did before. I'm hoping that my wife and I can move into a bigger place again soon so that I have more room to display them all again! The last place we lived I had the 8 foot diameter rails set up in the center and ran the Lionel 5 foot diameter tracks around them with plenty of room to spare for a couple of "parking tracks". Here,where we live now, I only have enough room to set up the 5 foot diameter rails and run one train at a time-and that's if I set the twin bed in that room on its'' side! Oh, well. Thanks for the info.
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Chuck N

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« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2015, 09:22:24 PM »

It just something to be aware of.  Other than the black dust, it isn't a big problem, with running you described.  With constant running it may become a problem.  It is all in how much you run.

Chuck

It is a basic principle, the harder material will grind away the softer material.  That is why we use lubricants to reduce the friction.  On our trains we don't usually lubricate our rails.  It interferes with power transmission.  If you use batteries or live steam you can lub the track up to the point it effects traction for the load being pulled.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2015, 09:55:01 PM by Chuck N » Logged
RkyGriz


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« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2015, 12:00:15 AM »

Thanks for your help,Chuck. I've included a link to a video I posted to youtube last year showing the track set up I described in my last post. Please check it out if you're interested!
Andrew

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frx8L0MsR0U
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