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Author Topic: Track cleaning cars  (Read 3538 times)
lucy 1

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« on: January 14, 2009, 03:37:20 PM »

  Has anyone out there used a track cleaning car,
if so what are your likes & dislikes about the car?
Thank you, lucy1
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.

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« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2009, 04:28:33 PM »

I used to use a track cleaning car. It worked best in a round-and-round situation where I could just leave it behind a locomotive until it had been over the tracks a dozen or more time.  For an operating layout where there is a lot of switching in and out of sidings, it was a chore to run the cleaning car in and out of each siding a dozen times.  To make matters worse, my cleaning car did not have a coupler on the rear so I had even more problems if there was a string of cars sitting of the siding.  I couldn't easily use a second locomotive to move the cars as this was long before DCC.

Then I discovered oil, which I have been using to avoid track cleaning for more than 25 years.  A tiny amount of oil applied to the tops of the rails with an almost dry cloth saves 90 to 99% of the track cleaning.  I originally used Singer Sewing Machine oil, then switched to Labelle 108 and now use any of the light weight, plastic compatible, "conductive" oils, including Hob-E-Lube light oil, LaBelle 108, Conducta lube and the all time classic, Wahl's Hair Clipper Oil.  For a cloth, I use use a bit of well washed cotton about 3" square and apply half a dozen drops of oil to it.  Then I squeeze it repeatedly to spread the oil through it.  After thoroughly cleaning the rails with a bit of Varsol or alchohol, I wipe all the rails with the oiled cloth, adding a few drops of oil to the cloth from time to time.  This takes off the last trace of dirt and leaves an invisibly thin layer of oil behind.  If you can see the oil on the top of the rails, you have applied too much!  All you should see is a subtle change in colour of the metal, a change so subtle that unless you compare a piece of clean, dry rail to a piece of clean, oiled rail, you will most likely miss it.

I used to have to clean rails every time I ran the trains.  With the oil, I have to wipe the rail heads with the oiled cloth about once every six months and do a good cleaning about every five years.  Your results may vary.  Things that make track get dirty faster include:
- smokers in the house
- an open ceiling over a basement layout
- construction in the house or in the trainroom, particularly if drywall sanding dust is involved
- spray painting in the train room without using a spray booth
- furnace filters that need changing.

And lastly, a warning:  3-in-1 oil, motor oil, chain saw oil, furniture oil, WD-40, and a number of other common oils are NOT plastic compatible and do not qualify as "conductive" oils.  They, along with track cleaners that leave deposits behind, will make cleaning chores worse, not easier.  Now you know how to cut the fuss and spend your hobby time enjoying your trains.

Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.
Paul W.

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« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2009, 09:19:00 PM »

I use track cleaning cars with great success. We don't have many sidings for switching like Jim mentioned, as that would create a problem with the cleaning cars.
We use the cars on HO, O, and our large scale layout. The HO car you fill with cleaning fluid, then just pull it around the track. The O car is an old Lionel car from the 50's that is still going strong.
The large scale (1:22.5) cleaner is mounted under a caboose. 

All of the cleaners are non abrasive, as the abrasive ones actually will end up scoring the railheads, and causing more dirt to stay on the track.
I have also used the Labelle oil, and that works well also.

Good luck

Happy Steamin'


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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2009, 06:11:46 PM »

I do what Jim does, except I apply the alcohol and oil with Centerline Producs Rail and Wheel Cleaning cars. I use two; one with alcohol and one with oil.

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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2009, 04:32:40 PM »

         Hi Craig,
   I just picked up a used on of these:             I haven't used it, yet as I need to replace a missing pad holder.


« Last Edit: February 22, 2009, 04:53:34 PM by BIG BEAR » Logged


...all the Live long day... If she'd let me.

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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2009, 10:27:53 AM »

From reading reviews of track cleaning cars I am currently thinking about this car from Tony's Trains, pricey but may be the best I ever read about. Link;
« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 10:33:48 AM by Rangerover » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2009, 12:12:20 PM »

It's a good car.  My only problem is getting the cleaning liquid flow at a correct volumn. 

Chief Brass Hat
Virginia Tidewater and Piedmont Railroad
"Only coal fired steam locomotives"
Yampa Bob


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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2009, 12:31:37 AM »

I'm considering one of these in UP, price is reasonable.

I know what I wrote, I don't need a quote
Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.

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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2009, 10:55:20 AM »

I'd vote against it.  If nothing else, after a bit of use the car gets splashed and sprayed with the cleaner, leaving spots and discoloration.  It's also not heavy enough to be really effective. 

Chief Brass Hat
Virginia Tidewater and Piedmont Railroad
"Only coal fired steam locomotives"
CNE Runner

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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2009, 11:24:57 AM »

I have to agree with Steamgene...I had very limited success with a track-cleaning car...they seem to work best on layouts that feature distance running. I found that: 1) the car was too light to be very effective, 2) my layout consisted of too many sidings - which is a less than conducive environment for this type of equipment, and 3) I had considerable trouble getting the fluid flow rate correct. Eventually we sold this car at a train show.

One of the best ways of keeping your track clean is to: use metal wheels (it has to do with physics and electron-transfer), and run trains frequently. I have found Wahl's Clipper Oil to be excellent as an oxidation barrier; but its use takes a little practice. Jim Banner's post was dead on. A [very, very] little oil goes a long way. Also if you don't examine the environment of the train room and correct some of Jim's findings - you are wasting your time. Thanks for the excellent post Jim.

I clean all the wheels, on my locomotives, once every 6 months. Additionally I clean the wheels, on my rolling stock, once a year. At wheel-cleaning time, I also check clearances, coupler height and general condition of each car (in other words: is Car ABC missing a brake wheel or step?). All this information is logged on the back of a 3x5" card I keep on each car. If I were more organized, I would set up a monthly maintenance schedule that would result in only having to clean the 50 million wheels on 1/12th of the fleet instead of all at once (there are a lot of things I should do). BTW: I have found that a Q-tip soaked with Goo Gone (available at Walmart) - followed with a quick swipe with an alcohol-soaked Q-tip works great on all those car wheels.

Happy cleaning Lucy...'sorry but there ain't no free lunch.


"Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on the rail"

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« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2009, 01:19:54 AM »

That is what I use to clean my track . I use a thick pad and soak it with alcohol or contact cleaner from Radio Shack. I don't fill the tank. For the size of my layout and configuration it works just fine.
Don Cool
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