Caring for Steel rail

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ClikC

Caring for Steel rail

Postby ClikC » Wed May 26, 2010 10:29 pm

Without meaning to stir up a hornets nest, in terms of the Nickel Sliver Vs. Steel rail debate. Could any members fill me on on what they do to:

1) Solder steel to Brass, Nickel Sliver and/or Copper, including preferences for neutralizing any particular flux used.

2) Keep the rails from rusting before painting, what paints to use (red oxide? Hammerite?) to aid in the fight against rust.

3) Keep the rail tops clean and rust free during a life time of usage. I'm particularly interested in what people may do on layouts that spend long periods in storage (if indeed, any do). Also, has anyone tried polishing the rail tops, to improve the appearance?

I'd originally planned to use C&L's HiNi rail. But as I'm using the Exactoscale / P4 Track Co kits for the S&C, I'm debating if it may well be false economy to replace the supplied steel rail, rather than stick with it.

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Matt

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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby grovenor-2685 » Thu May 27, 2010 6:47 am

But as I'm using the Exactoscale / P4 Track Co kits for the S&C, I'm debating if it may well be false economy to replace the supplied steel rail, rather than stick with it.


I don't see that idea as any kind of economy at all. ;) A large part of what you are paying for with the kits is the beautifully formed point blades and crossing, if you intend to throw those away to replace the rails, then why buy the kit in the first place, just buy the timbers and chairs.

I have now had steel rail since it was first introduced 40 years ago, I'll respond to the first part of your question when I have time, leaving for work now.
Keith
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ClikC

Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby ClikC » Thu May 27, 2010 10:58 am

grovenor-2685 wrote:I don't see that idea as any kind of economy at all. ;) A large part of what you are paying for with the kits is the beautifully formed point blades and crossing, if you intend to throw those away to replace the rails, then why buy the kit in the first place, just buy the timbers and chairs.

I have now had steel rail since it was first introduced 40 years ago, I'll respond to the first part of your question when I have time, leaving for work now.
Keith


I should probably clarify. The original plan was to use the supplied switches and crossings as a guide, especially for the larger C10 and 1 in 8 double slip. The rest I was fairly confident with, and would just ask for the various moldings.

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Matt

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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby Tim V » Thu May 27, 2010 7:21 pm

ClikC wrote:3) Keep the rail tops clean and rust free during a life time of usage. I'm particularly interested in what people may do on layouts that spend long periods in storage (if indeed, any do). Also, has anyone tried polishing the rail tops, to improve the appearance?

Matt


How long a period of storage?
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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby grovenor-2685 » Thu May 27, 2010 8:43 pm

and perhaps more to the point, storage in what sort of conditions? Your location is Sidmouth, how near the sea? Will you have to contend with a damp and salty atmosphere?
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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby grovenor-2685 » Thu May 27, 2010 9:30 pm

1) Solder steel to Brass, Nickel Sliver and/or Copper, including preferences for neutralizing any particular flux used.


You will find some of this in my other articles on track building on here and on my website. As my track is ply and rivet most of the soldering is to rivets, either the original tinned steel variety or the currently available brass ones. The track is built off the layout on paper templates and I have used solder paste/paint from the various suppliers, originally the Fryolux from Studiolith, then more or less any I could lay my hands on including te London Road models offering. These have a corrosive flux and I wash it off by scrubbing with an old toothbrush and Ajax at the sink.

When it comes to wiring the connection of droppers to the rail is in situ so non-corrosive flux is needed as it cannot be effectively washed. For this normal cored solder as sold for electronics does the job. I always tin both rail and wire end before making the joint, its easier that way to see that the solder has taken properly to the rail and to make a neat joint.


2) Keep the rails from rusting before painting, what paints to use (red oxide? Hammerite?) to aid in the fight against rust.


I have not had a problem with rusting before painting, I have not had anything I would recognise as a fight against rust, :) Hence my question about your weather. Some of my track spent time in a beachfront residence in Adelaide subject to sea air without problem, a small amount spent time in Zambia and all of it has been in my London loft for almost 20 years now. I paint the rails with normal modellers paints, Humbrol, Floquil etc. The layout being round the walls where only one side of the rail can be seen, for the most part only that side is painted. The other side only has odd flecks of rust, nothing to worry about.

3) Keep the rail tops clean and rust free during a life time of usage. I'm particularly interested in what people may do on layouts that spend long periods in storage (if indeed, any do). Also, has anyone tried polishing the rail tops, to improve the appearance?


Well usage and storage are not the same :) Various bits of my layout were stored for years and needed a clean up afterwards, using the traditional abrasive rubber block. The sections built with Nickel Silver rail before steel was available needed much more effort than the steel. in the loft I apply a light coat of oil letting the wheels carry it around, this seems to condition the rail nicely and if i manage to run a few trains once a week or thereabouts then it will go for a couple of months before needing a bit more oil. After about a year it will look pretty black and a wipe over with a block of balsa cleans it off nicely.

The steel tyres on the stock also stay clean with this regime provided that they are running on the rails with a bit of weight, stock with poor suspension will have one or two wheels unloaded which then collect crud, so finding a crud layer on a wheel is a trigger to sort ot the suspension on that vehicle.

Usage is the best way to keep everything sweet.
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Keith
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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby Will L » Thu May 27, 2010 10:57 pm

grovenor-2685 wrote:
The steel tyres on the stock also stay clean with this regime provided that they are running on the rails with a bit of weight, stock with poor suspension will have one or two wheels unloaded which then collect crud, so finding a crud layer on a wheel is a trigger to sort out the suspension on that vehicle.


Now that is an interesting and useful observation

Will

ClikC

Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby ClikC » Thu May 27, 2010 11:51 pm

Tim V wrote:How long a period of storage?


grovenor-2685 wrote:and perhaps more to the point, storage in what sort of conditions? Your location is Sidmouth, how near the sea? Will you have to contend with a damp and salty atmosphere?
Keith


Really can't say off the top of me head, but I'm envisioning periods during construction of the larger layout, or during pursuit of other interests where the space the layout takes up is needed for other things, anything between 3 to 6 months mayhap. Storage conditions will be, with the layout well packed and stored within an insulated (and occasionally heated) garden shed. Said shed will eventually become home to various machine tools, and the big layout in between shows. I'm about 1.5 miles from the sea, so I don't think I'm too bad off in that regard. I'm also hoping that as the layout is going to be exhibitable, and is primarily a glorified test plank for conversions, I'm hoping it should see some regular usage. But I was working on the assumption that I'd best plan some sort of fortnightly Planned Preventative Maintenance an inspection routine if it was to go into storage.


grovenor-2685 wrote:
1) Solder steel to Brass, Nickel Sliver and/or Copper, including preferences for neutralizing any particular flux used.


You will find some of this in my other articles on track building on here and on my website. As my track is ply and rivet most of the soldering is to rivets, either the original tinned steel variety or the currently available brass ones. The track is built off the layout on paper templates and I have used solder paste/paint from the various suppliers, originally the Fryolux from Studiolith, then more or less any I could lay my hands on including te London Road models offering. These have a corrosive flux and I wash it off by scrubbing with an old toothbrush and Ajax at the sink.

When it comes to wiring the connection of droppers to the rail is in situ so non-corrosive flux is needed as it cannot be effectively washed. For this normal cored solder as sold for electronics does the job. I always tin both rail and wire end before making the joint, its easier that way to see that the solder has taken properly to the rail and to make a neat joint.


I think the only soldering I need to do is, droppers, board joints (both of which i'll be doing something akin to Jim Smith-Wright's method, using brass lace makers pins) and soldering switch rails to nickel sliver wire as=per the exactoscale method. I was considering using Carr's Orange Flux with the 179c solder / solder cream, but i've a large roll of cored electrical solder so might have crack at your method.


grovenor-2685 wrote:
2) Keep the rails from rusting before painting, what paints to use (red oxide? Hammerite?) to aid in the fight against rust.


I have not had a problem with rusting before painting, I have not had anything I would recognise as a fight against rust, :) Hence my question about your weather. Some of my track spent time in a beachfront residence in Adelaide subject to sea air without problem, a small amount spent time in Zambia and all of it has been in my London loft for almost 20 years now. I paint the rails with normal modellers paints, Humbrol, Floquil etc. The layout being round the walls where only one side of the rail can be seen, for the most part only that side is painted. The other side only has odd flecks of rust, nothing to worry about.


More of a post handling of the rail, once track has been constructed issue. I was going to used some lighter fluid and cotton buds just to remove any finger grease likely to cause some premature rust, but was interested in others opinions.


grovenor-2685 wrote:
3) Keep the rail tops clean and rust free during a life time of usage. I'm particularly interested in what people may do on layouts that spend long periods in storage (if indeed, any do). Also, has anyone tried polishing the rail tops, to improve the appearance?


Well usage and storage are not the same :) Various bits of my layout were stored for years and needed a clean up afterwards, using the traditional abrasive rubber block. The sections built with Nickel Silver rail before steel was available needed much more effort than the steel. in the loft I apply a light coat of oil letting the wheels carry it around, this seems to condition the rail nicely and if i manage to run a few trains once a week or thereabouts then it will go for a couple of months before needing a bit more oil. After about a year it will look pretty black and a wipe over with a block of balsa cleans it off nicely.

The steel tyres on the stock also stay clean with this regime provided that they are running on the rails with a bit of weight, stock with poor suspension will have one or two wheels unloaded which then collect crud, so finding a crud layer on a wheel is a trigger to sort ot the suspension on that vehicle.

Usage is the best way to keep everything sweet.
Regards
Keith


I was informed that it's generally considered best not to use any from of abrasive, but i suppose if the damage is already done. What kind of oil do you use Keith?

Thanks for the pointers,

Regards

Matt

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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby Will L » Fri May 28, 2010 9:00 am

ClikC wrote:
I was informed that it's generally considered best not to use any from of abrasive..

Matt


Yes I've heard that too..., but why? There is no surface coating on a steel rail you might be disrupting. Yes if you do it hard enough often enough you will effect the rail profile, but does you track cant in by the correct small angle now? Anyway I think you'll have spent a prohibitively large fortune on rail cleaning blocks before you get there, and then Don Roland's recent Snooze article suggested that a polished wheels and rail top would produce better adhesion.

Will

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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby grovenor-2685 » Fri May 28, 2010 10:28 am

The idea seems to be that use of abrasives creates scratches in the rail surface which then collects dirt more easily. Does depend on the abrasive, I have not had any problems that i have noticed from using Peco track cleaning blocks but the blocks now sold for cleaning up printed circuit boards before soldering are a finer grade and what i would now use if the need arises.
As I indicated this is usually only an issue after prolonged storage/disuse when the surface has built up an oxide layer. You will not get this off with solvents.
Its also helpful to use the abrasive blockif you allow paint to dry on the rail top, its not always easy to wipe it off while still wet, especially with acrylics that dry quickly.
Keith
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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby Stephen F » Fri May 28, 2010 10:50 am

Somebody mentioned using brasso on rail tops, which sounds reasonable. Has anyone reading tried that?

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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby Mark Tatlow » Fri May 28, 2010 1:05 pm

I use steel rail and seem to do several things that appear not to be recommended (no surprises there.........).

I find that any type of flux will lead to rusting when it is used - after all they are all acids and are there in part to degrease. All I do is go over with a a strong solvent (lighter fluid) on an old tooth brush to clear the residual off when the soldering is finished. After about a couple of days, there is a light film of rust on the rail which I remove with a glass fibre brush and in the process removing any residual flux I suspect. Certainly rust does not reappear.

I do not find a problem with any corrosion appearing over time. My layout tends to spend several months between use, and the rail heads come out fairly clean straight off. I rub them with a fine wet & dry and from then on I find that the rails will stay clean for some time. At exhibitions, I will typically also clean the rail heads with lighter fluid at the outset of the show and again at the outset of the second day, I do not find anything else to be required. On previous layouts, that used nickle silver rail, i found much more cleaning to be required. To be fair though, the layout is stored in a dry (but not heated so there will be some change in moisture content) loft.

Oh, I also hoover the whole layout once I have used the wet and dry. I have always assumed that the grit from the paper (and this would apply to track rubbers too) is not something you want in gear trains.

Stephen F wrote:Somebody mentioned using brasso on rail tops, which sounds reasonable. Has anyone reading tried that?


Would you not get problems with the scuss of the dried paste spilling? If it got into the ballast, it would be a devil of a job to clean it off?
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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby Tim V » Fri May 28, 2010 2:31 pm

My layout has longer periods of storage in an uninsulated garage. No problems with rust, but I found some damp patches on the backscene, so invested in a dehumidifier.

These days for cleaning track, I only use cotton buds and fluid, very very rarely track rubbers in small locations. If a track rubber is used, the cotton buds come afterwards to clean the crud left by the track rubber.
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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby martin goodall » Fri May 28, 2010 8:06 pm

There seem to be two developing threads here - (1) Steel rail vs. Nickel Silver and (2) track cleaning methods and materials, although I think it would be convenient to continue to run them together.

I have always used NS rail, but have heard strong claims made in favour of steel. On the other hand, I can think of one person who, having built and displayed an exhibition layout with steel rail, says he will never use it again (although I am still unclear as to his precise reasons).

If anyone can explain precisely what problems (if any) there are with steel rail, please let us know. The general consensus seems to be that oxidisation (rust) is not a problem, nor is cleaning or electrical contact (but, again, contrary evidence would be helpful).

I know from experience that oxidisation of NS is a real problem – you can’t see it, because it doesn’t form as rust, but any period of non-use of track laid with NS rail seems to result in an oxide film forming, which needs to be cleaned off.

I have tried various solvents for cleaning NS rail, but have never been happy with any of them. I also tried Rail-zip, which after a time led to a filthy black residue forming on the rail.

I now use a Peco track cleaning block. Like other contributors, I really don’t see any risk of wearing down the rail, eroding the profile of the rail-head, etc., but the resulting dust needs to be vacuumed off afterwards.

The advantage of a block is that you are less likely to damage lineside details when the block is applied to both rails than applying a cloth or piece of abrasive paper to one rail at a time, which then catches on all sorts of things. Using a Peco track-cleaning block also enables me to clean inset track without damaging the road surface between the rails or on either side of the inset track. On the other hand, the block will take paint off check rails and wing rails, and there is really no alternative to repainting these items afterwards.

I would be very interested to read further views both on the merits and demerits of Steel and NS rail and on different track cleaning methods.

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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby grovenor-2685 » Fri May 28, 2010 8:30 pm

by martin goodall » Fri May 28, 2010 8:06 pm
There seem to be two developing threads here - (1) Steel rail vs. Nickel Silver and (2) track cleaning methods and materials,
There has not, till now, been any development of 'steel versus nickel silver' and the original poster said
Without meaning to stir up a hornets nest, in terms of the Nickel Sliver Vs. Steel rail debate.

Could we perhaps respect that by keeping this on topic. "Caring for Steel Rail"

Said shed will eventually become home to various machine tools, and the big layout in between shows. I'm about 1.5 miles from the sea, so I don't think I'm too bad off in that regard. I'm also hoping that as the layout is going to be exhibitable, and is primarily a glorified test plank for conversions, I'm hoping it should see some regular usage. But I was working on the assumption that I'd best plan some sort of fortnightly Planned Preventative Maintenance an inspection routine if it was to go into storage.

I think that any shed suitable for keeping machine tools will be more than good enough for keeping a layout built with steel rail and I don't think you would need to do anything on a fortnightly basis except perhaps chase the mice out ofthe scenery.

The only place I know of with real problems is Brisbane where its really humid in the wet season and the residents are full of horror stories.
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Keith
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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby martin goodall » Fri May 28, 2010 9:45 pm

No, can we discuss Nickel Silver vs Steel rail here as well, please.

It's a perfectly valid topic to pursue under this thread, and the issue of cleaning methods is common to both types of rail.

I have no strong views on Steel vs NS, but I am very interetsed to hear other people's views and experiences.

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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby LesGros » Fri May 28, 2010 11:03 pm

martin goodall wrote:No, can we discuss Nickel Silver vs Steel rail here as well, please.


Martin,
Matt said that he did not want to start a debate on NS vs Steel, why not respect that wish. If you want a debate on one versus t'other, why do you not start a new topic under that heading?
Multiple topic threads are actually a bit of a pain because it makes it more of chore to find stuff later.

Or are you just being a bit mischievous?
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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby martin goodall » Mon May 31, 2010 5:42 pm

I'm still interested in the issue of Steel vs. NS rail. I really would like to hear what people's experiences of using steel rail have been, including necessary or desirable treatment/cleaning, etc.

Quite frankly, I don't give a 'damn' whether or not this is the 'correct' thread for this or not. The subject naturally arises from the previous posts here, and I really see no reason why anyone should wish to restrict or compartmentalise the discussion. (It is not as if I am trying to divert the debate onto the colour of signal spectacle glass or some other unrelated subject.)

I wouldn't even regard this as a 'multiple topic' subject - it is all part of a single discussion on the practical aspects of using of Steel rail (as compared with Nickel Silver).

As I have already observed, I have found that NS rail gets dirty very quickly (and oxidises when left unused for a length of time), whereas I am under the impression that steel rail is easier to keep clean - but I would appreciate the comments of those who have actually used steel rail.

Now, instead of an arid argument as to whether we should be discussing this or not, can we please have some practical feedback on the subject?

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Re: Caring for Steel rail

Postby grovenor-2685 » Mon May 31, 2010 7:47 pm

As I have already observed, I have found that NS rail gets dirty very quickly (and oxidises when left unused for a length of time), whereas I am under the impression that steel rail is easier to keep clean - but I would appreciate the comments of those who have actually used steel rail.

My experience exactly, much further detail already written above, I don't see much to add to it. If you want more details ask about the specific aspects.
Keith
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Caring for Steel rail - Nickle Silver versus Steel

Postby Mark Tatlow » Mon May 31, 2010 8:35 pm

Martin,

I prefer steel rail, having tried both I would not go back to nickle silver; I find the following plus points:

- i think it is easier to keep clean (see posting above from me). Iain Rice talks about it grinding itself clean with wheel traffic (in "An Introduction to Finescale Trackwork") - I am not sure I would go this far, but it does not tarnish in the way that nickle silver does.

- you get much better traction grip on steel rail, nickle silver is quite slippery. If you have lengthy trains, I think this reason alone might well compel you to use steel.

- it looks a bit more like, well steel rail!

And these are my view of the points to watch:

- whilst I do not suffer from corrosion once in use, there is certainly a corrosion issue after you have put flux on it (see earlier posts) so you need to clean it.

- it is a tad more difficult to solder, but nothing really.
Mark Tatlow


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