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Author Topic: Thoughts on Graphite for Shay Gears  (Read 1147 times)

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« on: July 02, 2018, 04:05:14 PM »

I operate in the dirt, as my yard and ballast are all Decomposed Granite (DG) that goes from almost clay like fines to small gravel of about 1/4+ inch diameter. It all seems to work fine as live ballast, through the seasons of heat, cold, rain and snow. However, when the wind blows a fine dust can fly onto the exposed gears and other parts, and obviously sticks to the oils or grease that is on those exposed parts. I am trying powdered Graphite on the driveline and wheel bevel gears as they seem the most exposed and susceptible of all, and having a dry lube helps minimize the problem of fine dust sticking to "wet" lubes and thus causing excessive wear!

Do any of you have experience with using Graphite in this manner? I wonder if it might even be a superior way to lubricate the cranks and valve gears, or even siderods and crossheads on conventional locos?

What got me started down this "train" of thought was walking up to the side of my Shay to turn on the R/C one day and scuffing my foot in such a way as to shower the side of the engine with the DG such that some of the wheel gears were nearly packed with everything from dust to fine gravel. An obvious problem that would have been very destructive had I not noticed what I did, and gone ahead and run the engine anyway. Actually, the size of some of the "rocks" that stuck in the gear teeth would have jammed something fierce no doubt, but also cause damage no doubt.

I now have perhaps a dozen hours run time on the engine using Graphite for the bevel gears, and all seems fine so far. But if anyone knows of any down side to this technique, or has greater experience using it ... I'm all ears!!!
« Last Edit: July 02, 2018, 04:07:02 PM by Stokerman » Logged
Joe Zullo

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« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2018, 08:28:15 AM »

I think you are probably over lubricating those bevel gears in the first place. They serve to make the pistons go up and down but are not the prime mover of the loco. They are basically "decoration". They do not require as much lube as you seem to be applying. I don't see how dry graphite could possibly hurt anything.  Cool

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« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2018, 04:23:55 PM »

I've been using graphite in journal bearings for years with no ill affects. If you use it on a loco, you might want to use an index card, or something, to keep it from going places you don't want it to be. Graphite is a conductor, so keep it away from places it might create an unwanted short.


If at first you don't succeed, throw it in the spare parts box.

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« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2018, 05:36:40 PM »

Hello Again All

Just an update on my use of graphite for lubing my Shay drive train, especially the bevel gears and drive line lube points.

No I wasn't using too much grease and oil before, but any film of oil is going to catch dust, and dust will catch bigger particles in the wedge of an open gear face, so any oil that is enough to provide lubrication is a liability that close to my kind of ground it seems!

I now have another 8-10 hours on my Shay, which is equal to about another 100 or so scale miles, and perhaps 4-5 actual miles, of running with just the dry graphite lube on most all of the moving parts that are low to the ground. Seems to be working just fine, and may even be imbedding somewhat into the plastic so that it will be there essentially forever, with a minimum of re-lubing. Most important thing is that it doesn't attract or adhere dust and larger particles like wet lubes do.

It's working so well that I'm now trying it out on my ten wheeler Annie with all the rods and linkages that were exposed to the same problems. There was still a trace of oil on most of those lube points, so it made a bit of graphite "mud" which seemed to hold it in the proper locations better than just a dry application, but at the same time it seems to have sucked up and dried the old oil enough that dust should be less of a problem there too. I probably have about 20 hours run time on my SPC #21 Annie now, lubed up with graphite, which is about 400-500 scale miles or 20+ actual miles, and I see no problems.

Lubing these things with graphite is a bit messy when you first do it, but then so is using the "wet" lubes, but as it runs in it seems to kind of imbed in the joints, bushings and slide-points, while sort of falling away and blowing off of the other areas where it is not needed. Just a damp paper towel to daub it off of unwanted areas before putting the engines away seems to be all that is needed.

Oh yeah, and I've been using it in all my rolling stock trucks also, where I think it will prove to be really long lasting and low maintenance.

I will certainly continue on with this experiment, and report back as it progresses, but for now I'd cautiously call it a real success!!!

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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2018, 01:59:13 PM »

Put another four or five hours of run time on my Shay with very little addition of graphite to the normal lube points and it ran the distance smooth and trouble free. I clocked a couple of laps and found it was running just about 11 scale mph, and kept that speed or near it for most of the run. So there's another approximately 50 scale miles run, or about 2.5 actual miles, and no sign of any trouble or visual wear at all.

On another note, my test oval of live ballast, fully floating track has made it through the summer in good form with just using the Decomposed Granite from my yard, sieved to about 3/16ths and below, for ballast between the rails and the coarser material placed on the outside berms of the roadbed. We have now likely seen our last temperature over 100 degrees, and the only expansion / contraction related issues that I've seen is the center bar that links the ties together on Sunset Valley tie strips with track in six foot sections seem to shed the ballast placed on top of them after just a day or two at the initiation of the curves for about a foot or so, just after the long straight sections. Center 12-15 feet of the curves show no sign of shifting ballast, and neither do the straight sections. It has already wintered over from late last years installation, so the only thing that hasn't been tested is how it reacts to deep snow, as we only had several light snows last winter.

These results suggest that I may wish to use Micro-Engineerings tie strips and rail, as their system has the link that holds the tie strips together placed under the rails between alternate ties, so even as track expansion / contraction movement shifts a bit of ballast, it won't uncover and show a central plastic tie link strip like the SV tie strips seem to do.

Now I just have to come up with about a dozen turnouts (to be built from SwitchCrafter's "kits") and regrade the long settled roadbed of my proposed layout, and I'll be in business. Perhaps by next spring?!?!

Meanwhile, I'll continue to run on my test oval, get my Three Truck Shay Battery Powered and R/C controlled, and add a live steamer or two into the mix, and keep reporting results back here.

Once again, if anyone else has long running experience on using graphite, or other products, successfully for lubing up our trains, it would be great if they would post about their experiences here!

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