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Author Topic: What can be used to keep the rail from oxidation?  (Read 10343 times)
chieffan

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« on: August 04, 2014, 09:27:51 PM »

I have my garden railroad on the only fairly level ground on the property.  Unfortunately it is next to a gravel road and the road is on the South.  Road dust (lime dust) is a real problem during the dry summer months.  I have Brass rail and some curves with aluminum rail.  When the rail are coated with dust and a heavy dew at night the rails get real dirty and oxidized.  It takes 400 wet or dry sandpaper to get them clean again.  Is there anything that can be put on the rail so they will wipe clean with a cloth and denatured alcohol?  I won't use any oil base product as it will compound the problem with the dust-oil mixture.  Would appreciate any advise anyone wants to share.  Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
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Chieffan
rogertra


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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2014, 04:41:01 AM »

I have my garden railroad on the only fairly level ground on the property.  Unfortunately it is next to a gravel road and the road is on the South.  Road dust (lime dust) is a real problem during the dry summer months.  I have Brass rail and some curves with aluminum rail.  When the rail are coated with dust and a heavy dew at night the rails get real dirty and oxidized.  It takes 400 wet or dry sandpaper to get them clean again.  Is there anything that can be put on the rail so they will wipe clean with a cloth and denatured alcohol?  I won't use any oil base product as it will compound the problem with the dust-oil mixture.  Would appreciate any advise anyone wants to share.  Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

My advice is brass rail oxides badly, which is why indoor railway use nickel silver rail.

Aluminium rail?  Can't help.

Seems you have a large scale model railroad so I suggest you move this post over there before Mr. Bachmann does it for you.

Cheers

Roger T.



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rbryce1

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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2014, 06:49:10 AM »

You may want to look into this.  Aluminum and brass are not equal on the electrolysis scale and one will cause the other to corrode through electrolysis.  It needs an electrolyte that the limestone and morning dew may be providing. 

If this is the case, I would suggest either covering the rails to prevent moisture from settling and creating the electrolyte or removing either the brass rails or the aluminum rails to make all the conductors the same.  Boats use zincs for this purpose, but I think that may not be an option for you.

Not saying this is your problem, but you may consider it, as I don't often hear of this corrosion problem on garden railroads.
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mabloodhound


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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2014, 08:22:03 AM »

This is an ideal problem to solve using battery power.   Change your engines over to batteries and you won't ever think about rail oxidation again.
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Joe Zullo

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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2014, 11:30:22 AM »

When I start to have conductivity problems with my brass track that Scotch Brite and drywall pole sander doesn't seem to correct, I give the rails a "douche" with white vinegar, and all is well for another month or two.
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Chuck N

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« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2014, 02:15:17 PM »

I'll second Joe's suggestion.  I have been using a green Scotchbite pad on a dry wall sanding pole for over 30 years.  It is easy, quick and simple.  No bending down, just walk around the layout pushing it ahead of you.  Cleans off debris too.

I do not recommend sand paper.  Regardless of the grit size.  It will scratch the rail leaving more places for things to accumulate.

Chuck
Note added later.

This is what Joe and I are referring to.











The colors in the picture are poor of the pad.  It is a bright green.  The maroon pad will scratch the track.

Some times I have to pull the pad back and forth to remove the oxidation.  When all else fails, I bring out my LGB track cleaning engine.  It requires monitoring.  If it stalls and the motor keeps going it will grind divots in the track.

Chuck

« Last Edit: August 05, 2014, 04:51:40 PM by Chuck N » Logged
Doneldon

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« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2014, 09:15:21 PM »

Electrolysis should only be a problem near the actual mixed metal joints. It sounds to me as though the OP is writing about gunk on the track, generally. Dust, especially road dust, will concretize if it gets wet and is left undisturbed for a while. However, the cure for both problems might be to go with stainless steel rail. That will eliminate any possibility of electrolysis and will enable the OP o aggressively clean his track. Stainless steel rail and battery power will solve everything because it won't matter if there is some build up on the rails.

                                                                                                                                                            -- D
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armorsmith


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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2014, 10:00:03 PM »

Chieffan,

I am not sure your real issue is oxidation as much as concrete. From personal experience, limestone dust (especially the real fine stuff from gravel roads) plus moisture will generate a concrete like material that is difficult to remove. Using 400 grit sand paper on brass or aluminum rail is ABSOLUTELY NOT the right answer. What you have done is generate micro scratches in the top of the rail giving even more tooth for the concrete to adhere to.

There is no easy solution for your issue. The short answer is clean your rail daily (not necessarily what you want to hear I am sure). A few minutes with the garden hose may be your solution at the lowest level. Just flush the track daily or at whatever interval will maintain usable track.  Joe has another solution with the white vinegar. Battery power is an excellent solution for conductivity, but does nothing for the physical build up which will continue to get worse the longer it is ignored.

My best suggestion for the immediate moment will be to clean the rail as best you can and try to keep it that way. Personally I don't think your problem is in any way connected with electrolysis.

Opinions vary.

Bob C.
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Greg Elmassian


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« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2014, 11:42:50 PM »

I don't usually recommend anything left on the rails, but in this case, a light wipe with some kerosene or some other light solvent that does not evaporate quickly may help.

Greg
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chieffan

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« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2014, 08:17:24 AM »

Thanks for all the good information from you guys.  So far, I am not having the conductivity problem associated with the alum/brass joints.  It is basically keeping the top of the rail clean for transfer of power from rail to wheels.

I have thought about battery power but that is cost prohibitive, even for a couple engines. 

One thing that I just thought of that has not been mentioned is to use an old sock (or similar) on the sanding pole with WD-40.  WD-40 will remove tar, bugs, etc. from your vehicle finish with out any harm so why not use it to clean the rail?  Going to give it a try, but not today.  Track got washed off my mother nature this morning with 3/4" of much needed rain.

Thanks again.    Roger
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Chieffan
Chuck N

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« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2014, 08:27:34 AM »

Check to see if WD-40 is plastic compatible.  Just in case any gets on your ties.

Chuck
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chieffan

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« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2014, 01:46:15 PM »

I'll second Joe's suggestion.  I have been using a green Scotchbite pad on a dry wall sanding pole for over 30 years.  It is easy, quick and simple.  No bending down, just walk around the layout pushing it ahead of you.  Cleans off debris too.

I do not recommend sand paper.  Regardless of the grit size.  It will scratch the rail leaving more places for things to accumulate.

Chuck
Note added later.

This is what Joe and I are referring to.











The colors in the picture are poor of the pad.  It is a bright green.  The maroon pad will scratch the track.

Some times I have to pull the pad back and forth to remove the oxidation.  When all else fails, I bring out my LGB track cleaning engine.  It requires monitoring.  If it stalls and the motor keeps going it will grind divots in the track.

Chuck

I disagree on the sandpaper scratching the brass rail.  400 or finer grit wet or dry sandpaper has been used extensively for years as the final sanding before painting by auto body shops.  It is also a good choice for the final sanding to REMOVE scratches on fine hard wood furniture.  A nicely worn 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper does a great job of POLISHING the rails. 

If that track cleaning engine will grind divots in the rail is is much more harsh and leaves a lot more scratches than any 400 grit sand paper could ever think of leaving.

I appreciate your comments but believe your off track on what wet or dry sandpaper will or won't do.

Thank you.    Roger
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Chieffan
armorsmith


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« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2014, 02:46:00 PM »

Roger,

I agree with Chuck on the sandpaper issue.  Keep in mind that at a body shop, the last sanding is to produce a FINE tooth for the paint to mechanically adhere to. The 400 grit is fine enough to allow the paint to 'fill' the scratches and not be seen in the finished product. Similar for a wood finish. I suggest you get out a good quality magnifying glass or an optivisor and do a close up inspection of your rail and you may be surprised at what you see.

I lived in east Tennessee for a while where there were a great number of Limestone gravel roads (and a couple of limestion quarries), so I fully understand your issue with fine limestone dust and moisture. My answer for the cars  at least was a wash every weekend it didn't rain.

Bob C.
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Chuck N

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« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2014, 04:47:00 PM »

Roger:

I'm not the only one who thinks that sandpaper, regardless of size, scratches the rail.  Greg E who commented earlier in this thread has commented in other posts in other forums about sandpaper.

As Bob said, check your track with a magnifying glass.  I once tried 600 and 1200 mesh emory paper (wet).  I didn't like the result.  It took several years with the green pad to get the polish back on my LGB brass track.

Chuck

PS. For what ever reason the LGB Track cleaning engine, does not appear to scratch the track, unless the engine part of the unit, derails.  It usually takes several passes of the engine to get the track clean.  The normal pressure on the track is not that much, as the polishing wheels hop along the track.  On the first pass there are polished parts and non polished  parts.  They are separated by about 3/4 of an inch.  This is why it takes several passes.

PPS, I've been in this hobby since 1980 and been outdoors since about 1985.  I don't know everything, but I have some ideas to help.

There are very few absolutes in this hobby.  I think that sandpaper is one of them.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2014, 07:15:16 PM by Chuck N » Logged
chieffan

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« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2014, 10:03:36 AM »

Thanks much guys for all your good suggestions and comments.  We all have an opinion as to what will or won't, or shouldn't be done.  Years ago when I was in HO scale I was using brass track.   Then DCC came along and I decided to try it but was told that DCC would  not work with brass rail.  I did not see or agree with their reasoning.  5Years and 2 layouts later I was still running DCC on brass rails.  I switched over to nickle silver rail when I decided to hand lay all 600' of track.

Point is I like proving that not everything you hear or read is hard fact.  That is where I am on the wet or dry 400 grit sandpaper.  If it takes a high powered magnification to show up the "scratches" from the sandpaper, then they are much to fine for road dust to get into.  Take a look at new rail and you will find it is a long way from being perfectly smooth and will be full of casting marks.

I will  never  live long enough to have "polished" rail from the green pads so why worry about it.  Thanks again guy and I fully respect your opinions and comments.  But I guess there is nothing I can put on the rail to help keep them clean.

Roger
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Chieffan
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