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Cleaning HO track rails


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#1 Dallas Racer

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 12:55 PM

I was reading a model train guys discussion, among other things, on the web. I found these suggestions for cleaning rails. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

 

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#2 Geary Carrier

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 02:42 PM

Eraser and a vacuum cleaner...


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#3 Dallas Racer

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 03:33 PM

Geary, MaxTrax literature suggest an erasure. The grand kids and I gave that a try and it didn't work. Maybe we need a courser grit erasure.

 

I've been using a 1971 dollar coin since I've owned the track for no other reason than that's what was handy at the time. It works OK but it's surely not good for the track.

 

An acquaintance has a back yard train track. I took the grand kids to see it. He hadn't used it for at least months. He sprayed WD40 on the rails. Not scrubbed or wiped, just sprayed, and it worked. I couldn't believe it. That method obviously isn't going to be very good for traction on a slot car track. None of the the things I listed would be either. I guess I could spray it on then clean the track.


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#4 glueside

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 04:51 PM

We would use 409 and wipe down immediately, then use WD40 and wipe down.  Would clean the track and then keep the rail from rusting.


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#5 John Streisguth

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 06:26 PM

Use an eraser style HO railroad rail cleaner, then vacuum to get any dust and residue up.  Wipe with a cloth with WD-40 on it. 


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#6 bbr

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 10:29 PM

very fine diamond polishing block


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#7 Alan Dodson

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 11:44 AM

Golfworks.com has a grit embedded rubber block called a Multi Purpose Finishing Block that works really well. It's probably similar to the railroad rail eraser that John mentioned in post #5.


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#8 Dallas Racer

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Posted 16 February 2020 - 07:04 PM

What kind of tracks were you guys wiping WD40 on? MaxTrax says that WD40 can harm the track.

 

I found a Dremmel very fine grinding disk rubbed by hand works really well. 2 or 3 strokes and it's clean. But I really hate doing that. I'd rather not abrade it if I don't have to.


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#9 Horsepower

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Posted 18 February 2020 - 02:42 AM

How about Mr.Clean magic eraser? 


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#10 Dallas Racer

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Posted 18 February 2020 - 12:38 PM

Someone else suggested Magic Erasure to me as well. I just looked it up. It sounds like it's pretty abrasive.

 

Test a small area with light pressure before use. Not recommended for the following surfaces: high gloss, polished, dark, brushed, satin, faux, bare/polished wood, copper, stainless steel appliances, non-stick coating or vehicle body. Rinse required for surfaces in direct contact with food. Do not use with chlorine bleach or other household cleaners. Do not use on skin or other body parts. Using on skin will likely cause abrasions. Avoid contact with eyes. May cause eye irritation. Keep out of reach of toddlers and pets to avoid accidental ingestion.

 

I researched the Dremel wheel I used. It's a polishing/buffing wheel, not a grinding wheel. Very, very fine grit, so if I have to use an abrasive, it's probably no more harmful than any other abrasive.


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#11 MSwiss

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Posted 18 February 2020 - 01:00 PM

On an erasure, did you buy a Bright Boy, or just a similarly shaped, separate pencil erasure?

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#12 Dallas Racer

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Posted 18 February 2020 - 11:50 PM

I've done a lot of research since posting this. Most info I've found is on model train forums. Cleaning rails is an old subject with them. There are many, "Not another cleaning rials thread!" posts. There are many ways to clean rails mentioned and much debate on what's the best way. Many of them think Bright Boys are too abrasive and scratch the rails up, which gives a place for dirt and dust to accumulate, which they think is a bigger problem than oxidation.

 

The polishing wheels I have are actually a 400-600 grit Cratex wheels. I found a whole box of Cratex stuff that I didn't realize I had. They work. I've already got a bunch of them so I'll just use them. I think they'll be alright.


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#13 Revtor

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Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:19 AM

220 - 4000 grit, here ya go!

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#14 Dallas Racer

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 02:31 PM

I'm starting to hate this track. Last week I clean the rails. My grand kids practiced but we didn't race. 4 days later the rails need cleaning again. It's been rainy and humid and that was enough to make it really bad. So I clean and vacuum the surface and wipe it down with WD-40. At this point I don't care if WD-40 hurts the track or not, I'm tired of cleaning the rails, which I've had to do often.

 

WD-40 didn't help at all. So should I clean the rails and then wipe them down with WD-40?

 

PS: I found what appears to be a Bright Boy. I've bought some slot car lots off of ebay over this last couples of years and it must have been in one of them. It works great, but it's feels like very low grit. I'm afraid I'm going to sand the rails away using it. So I made a grip and guide for my Cratex wheel. It's not the best job in the world but it works. It's very fine grit and takes a lot of passes. It seemed to work well at first but not any more. Maybe it's gummed up.

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#15 Brian Czeiner

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 02:53 PM

The Max Trax we had in our old store required cleaning every day. But that isn't limited to only Max Trax. Nearly every HO track I have ever had access too required cleaning each day. I put a drop of comm lube on the pick up shoes on my Tyco garage track. Have you tried using a green scotchbrite or would it clog the slots?

 

 


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#16 Geary Carrier

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 03:34 PM

Phil,

 

Have you tried to burnish the rails with copper? Half hard ETP 110 or a penny, just to see.

 

Burnishing would reduce the surface area as opposed to an abrasive that would increase surface area and remove material.

 

Ask Bob he gots all da answers...


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#17 Rotorranch

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 04:31 PM

A real copper penny is what I always used.

 

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#18 Dallas Racer

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 06:24 PM

Brian, Scotchbrite would sand the track surface too. That's not going to work, is it?

 

Funny y'all should mention it: A while back I saw a video of a guy with a routed track wiping WD-40 on it and then rubbing a big copper bar over the rails. Big thick bar, long enough to cover all 4 lanes at once. He made quick work of it.

 

I didn't use WD-40, but 4 or 5 days ago I tried rubbing a piece of brass bar on the rails. I went at it pretty hard and it didn't help. I'll give a penny a try.


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#19 Dallas Racer

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Posted 25 March 2020 - 08:37 PM

Please check this out: http://slotblog.net/...shoes-question/


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#20 Geary Carrier

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Posted 20 April 2020 - 04:02 PM

http://siberiaracing...axRailFinal.htm

 


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#21 John Streisguth

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Posted 21 April 2020 - 05:51 AM

I didn't realize you had a max trak.  WD-40 is mostly solvent, so it could be that using it would be an issue.  Maybe you could use a block with a very low-nap cloth, so it only goes on the rails.  A little will go a long way to prevent the oxidization.  But rail cleaning is a maintenance chore with HO tracks that you'll never get away from, so you just need to figure out the quickest and easiest way to deal with it.  

The other option is put a car on the track and keep pushing it around until it can make full laps under it's own power....


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#22 Ace

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Posted 21 April 2020 - 12:13 PM

Cleaning Ho track rails can be done by using a heavy magnet car with small tires. Wipe track down with low tack rag then run car around track you will have to push car a couple of times but once car makes a lap run ten more do this on each lane. Track will be ready to use after completing this process.When we hosted the HO Nationals in 1997 we did this every morning to the tracks works like a charm. In fact Mark at Marks Model World in Canton Ohio does this every day to his shop HO track.


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#23 John Streisguth

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Posted 21 April 2020 - 12:28 PM

Darrell, was that the HOPRA or UFHORA Nats?


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#24 Revtor

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Posted 21 April 2020 - 02:46 PM

Ace, it sounds like a dedicated chassis for rail cleaning would be a worthwhile project.?
get a chassis, spring mount some copper strips to the bottom, put a heavy body on it and lower the gear ratio so it can drag the copper along the rails without burning up. A couple minutes per lane and its done!
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#25 Dallas Racer

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Posted 21 April 2020 - 10:47 PM

 

Thanks, Geary! Lots of good info. I already decided that I'm going to clean the whole track, rails and surface, with WD-40. It works great and the track seems to stay clean for much longer. I don't have to clean the tires nearly as often.

 

My track rails never rusted. Even after not touching the track for a couple of years. After cleaning the rails, which took quite a bit of scrubbing, they would be very shiny, as you would expect. The next day they'd still be just as shiny, but the cars would no longer run, and I'd have to clean the rails all over again. It was quite puzzling. And frustrating.  And probably not so good for the rails. There was obviously some type of oxidation on them but you couldn't see it.


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