Track cleaning

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Paul Townsend
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Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Fri Jun 14, 2019 4:39 am

Steamraiser recently reported to the Bristol AG that he has seen a report that rail cleaning with Propanol aka “ IPA” to us, is bad practice.

As I am a long user of this I am keen to see the original article.
Does anyone know the source?

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Rod Cameron
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Rod Cameron » Fri Jun 14, 2019 2:28 pm

I don't know Paul, sorry, but alongside this what do people use? Acetone, lighter fluid?
Rod

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Tim V
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Tim V » Fri Jun 14, 2019 2:52 pm

I didn't hear that, was I asleep when Steamrsaiser mentioned it?

I certainly had no problems using IPA over many shows, and wouldn't hesitate to use it again.
Tim V

davebradwell
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby davebradwell » Fri Jun 14, 2019 3:28 pm

This could be it, sent to me by the East of Scotland group.

DaveB
Attachments
MRH track cleaning.docx
(109.75 KiB) Downloaded 78 times

Terry Bendall
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Terry Bendall » Fri Jun 14, 2019 3:51 pm

I stopped using nay sort of cleaning liquid at least five years ago. Rails are now cleaned using a piece of 600 grit silicon carbide paper(sometimes called wet and dry paper) wrapped round a small block of wood. Wheels are cleaned using a glass fibre brush. The amount of gunk that collects is now almost non existent. Works for me. :)

Terry Bendall

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Tim V
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Tim V » Fri Jun 14, 2019 4:05 pm

Terry Bendall wrote:I stopped using nay sort of cleaning liquid at least five years ago. Rails are now cleaned using a piece of 600 grit silicon carbide paper(sometimes called wet and dry paper) wrapped round a small block of wood. Wheels are cleaned using a glass fibre brush. The amount of gunk that collects is now almost non existent. Works for me. :)

Terry Bendall


Do you know that nearly 50 years ago (C1972), I was told that using any form of abrasive was bad for the rail profile, as it wore it away. Now this was in the very early days of P4, the person who told me ( I believe no longer with us) was an EM modeller. I still have some of his track, made with Chairway (remember them?) components. At the time he was talking about PECO track rubbers ...

I see no reason to disbelieve him, and haven't changed my opinion since.
Tim V

John Palmer
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby John Palmer » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:04 pm

Interesting article. One of the problems I have with USA texts is the difference between their nomenclature and ours. If the article is correct then the optimal cleaning fluid is kerosene, as it is known in the USA. However, this may be better known in the UK as paraffin, and although the two substances are similar, I gather paraffin is more refined form of kerosene and as such differentiated in the UK as a more suitable fuel for indoor use. I must see if I still have some salted away for use in my Tilley lamp...

Edited to add that when I opened the article in Open Office the formatting was so sadly awry as to render the text almost incomprehensible. I have cleaned it up for my own use, and if anyone else is having this problem I could post my version as a .pdf file.

trustytrev
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby trustytrev » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:37 pm

Hello,
So heating oil is the best thing for cleaning? I could start bottling my next 1200 litre delivery. :D
trustytrev. :)

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Paul Townsend
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:54 pm

John Palmer wrote:Edited to add that when I opened the article in Open Office the formatting was so sadly awry as to render the text almost incomprehensible. I have cleaned it up for my own use, and if anyone else is having this problem I could post my version as a .pdf file.

Yes please. I use Libre Office and it has the same issue

David Knight
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby David Knight » Fri Jun 14, 2019 7:01 pm

I’ve been using a wine cork sliced in half the long way. It cleans the muck off but does not abrade the rail head. The good part is that when the old one wears out all you need is a fresh bottle of wine (screw tops don’t work).

Cheers,

David

John Palmer
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby John Palmer » Fri Jun 14, 2019 7:43 pm

As requested...
MRH Track Cleaning Article.pdf
(105.6 KiB) Downloaded 70 times

Tony Wilkins
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Tony Wilkins » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:12 pm

My preference for many years was a glass fiber brush, sold as commutator cleaning brushes, but I ultimately got fed up with the glass splinters.
I currently use a 240 grit abrasive block if the grot is really bad followed by a cloth with lighter fluid. I then prefer to use just the cloth and lighter fluid for repeat cleanings.
However this article definitely gives food for thought and is worth some experimentation I feel.
Tony.

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Tim V
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Tim V » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:26 pm

The whole thing sounds like 'fake news'.
Tim V

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Will L
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Will L » Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:37 pm

Interesting, looks like the guy may have invented graphene.

I've never been convinced by the suggestion you would significantly damage your rails with an light abrasive cleaning method. A view reinforced by exhibiting a layout for 15 years about 4 times a year with regular use in-between shows. Plenty enough people use abrasive cleaners, so has anybody ever actauly managed to wear his rails out? Or is this one of those things that seams to be theoretically possible but is not actauly a real problem.

Also I do rather wonder if liquid cleaners which leave any sort of oily residue on the track are part of the problem not a solution.

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steamraiser
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby steamraiser » Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:56 pm

Thank you chaps.

The words in the MRH track cleaning article are the same as that I have circulated to the BS4 group but without diagrams and colour.

I have given WD40 contact cleaner a try on my 16ft by 8ft test track prior to our meeting on Tuesday. Robin Gay's rtr conversion of the Oxford Rail Radial tank and my Peckett chassis ran fine.

I purchased the WD40 contact cleaner from Screwfix.
It will be interesting to see how well this stuff works over time.

Gordon A

jasp
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby jasp » Sat Jun 15, 2019 6:57 am

I am the guilty party who forwarded the article to the East of Scotland group.
I did so because it appeared to be scientifically based rather than the usual anecdotal evidence, often presented as “fact”
Jim P

jasp
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby jasp » Sat Jun 15, 2019 6:58 am

I am the guilty party who forwarded the article to the East of Scotland group.
I did so because it appeared to be scientifically based rather than the usual anecdotal evidence, often presented as “fact”
Jim P

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Guy Rixon
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Guy Rixon » Sat Jun 15, 2019 7:44 am

Some switch cleaners dissolve plastics, particularly polystyrene. Does the WD40 contact-cleaner do that?

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Paul Townsend
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:21 am

Guy Rixon wrote:Some switch cleaners dissolve plastics, particularly polystyrene. Does the WD40 contact-cleaner do that?

The manufacturers spec sheets say no, to plastic in general.
I would want to test it on any particularly fragile plastic, especially expanded poystyrene.

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David Thorpe
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby David Thorpe » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:41 am

Feedback on Amazon (93% 4 or 5 star) suggests that this stuff is pretty good at cleaning anything electrical, so it may be worth a punt. May also be good for cleaning loco driving wheels too, I suppose. Might also be worth trying on the control knobs of my crackly old hi-fi amp!

DT

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Paul Townsend
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:17 am

I am very glad to see some objective work done at last on this issue which affects us all so much.

The only previous attempts that I have seen to analyse this have been by the makers of CMX tankers. Someone did publish an analysis of the contents of the black gunge years ago but didn't really offer any cure or mitgation process.

The ingredients of WD40 contact cleaner are declared on its SDS sheet (US of our COSSH) as:
Heptane 25 +/- 5%, IPA 15 +/- 5%%, Difluoroethane 50 +/10%

The non-polar low dielectric-constant ingredient is the Heptane and it is this which mostly gives it the desirable properties claimed in the MRH article.
The IPA (Iso-propyl alcohol) with its polar, high dielectric-constant presumably helps dissolve some greases.
The Difluoroethane is the propellant for the aerosol.

All are known to not adversely deplete the ozone layer and to have moderate toxicities to us in small concentrations but are also very dangerous if spilt or in high vapour concentrations.

I am not mad keen on moving from plain IPA to the recommended WD40 contact cleaner for these reasons:

1. I don't really want an aerosol for MR use, so why pay for 50% chemical that is not needed and a clever packaging.
2. One would need to spray a rag or into a pot for cotton bud use if wheel cleaning. Ditto for manual track cleaning.
3. When I want to do a routine solvent clean on my track I use a CMX tank wagon which drip feeds solvent onto a pad rubbing on the track. As squirting an aerosol an aerosol into the tank is likely to be messy it is unappealing.
4. Heptane is available from the usual chemicals suppliers on EBay and I have a stock of IPA .

What I will do is buy some Heptane, try it in CMX alone or with IPA in the proportions used by the WD40 product and do some trials in my CMX tanker:

1. Clean GWR Up with IPA alone
2. Clean Gwr Down with Heptane + IPA mix
3. Clean S&DJR with mix as 2 and then a light rub of graphite on gauge corners.

I will then clean all loco wheels with mix 2 and run trains as usual.
I have a similar intensity of service on GWR Up and Down and the time in weeks to needing a reclean will be recorded and reported here.

The S&DJR service intensity is lower so time to reclean comparison won't be meaningful, but interesting for anecdotal observations.

If the tests 1 and 2 show an advantage to 2 then I will do another test cleaning GWR Up and Down with mix 2 but only one with post cleaning application of graphite.

In the interests of keeping an open mind ( listen up Tim ) I will also buy a small aerosol of the WD40 and assess it in the fiddle yard.

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Paul Townsend
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:19 am

jasp wrote:I am the guilty party who forwarded the article to the East of Scotland group.
I did so because it appeared to be scientifically based rather than the usual anecdotal evidence, often presented as “fact”
Jim P


Thanks to jasp and SteamRaiser for propagating the article....plenty of food for thought there.
Ta to John Palmer for making a legible version for we anti-Word-ites.

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Paul Townsend
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:33 am

Will L wrote:Interesting, looks like the guy may have invented graphene.

I've never been convinced by the suggestion you would significantly damage your rails with an light abrasive cleaning method. A view reinforced by exhibiting a layout for 15 years about 4 times a year with regular use in-between shows. Plenty enough people use abrasive cleaners, so has anybody ever actauly managed to wear his rails out? Or is this one of those things that seams to be theoretically possible but is not actauly a real problem.

Also I do rather wonder if liquid cleaners which leave any sort of oily residue on the track are part of the problem not a solution.


The application of graphite has been advocated for many years. As it has been promoted as pragmatic without any theoretical justification I have avoided trying it since I was concerned about the lubriaction reducing adhesion which is anissue on Highbridge's 1:40 gradients on 4ft radius curves. This article encourages me to give it a go and use very small amounts.

Prior to saving up for other cleaning machines I used fibre-glass brush cleaning. I have never used any other abrasive.
Apart from the troublesome bristles I became increasingly aware that minute scratches on track and wheels invite more gunge build up and force more frequent rubbings.

Eventually I adopted the Pendon method where the bumpy side of hardboard is applied to the track, dry or solvent moistened. This works well on plain track but is less thorough on complex pointwork, barrow crossings etc as some parts of rail head are not touched by the "rigid scraper". A follow up with fibreglass brush or solvent wipe was often needed on these areas. The more recently acquired CMX helps better.

I would never argue that gentle abrasives will wear the rail down but still am unhappy about gunge in tiny scratches.

It seems to me that this latest report offers a route to the highly desirable lessening the frequency of track cleaning...I hope my tests noted in another post in this thread will clarify the validity of the claims made in the MRH article.

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Paul Townsend
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:37 am

David Knight wrote:I’ve been using a wine cork sliced in half the long way. It cleans the muck off but does not abrade the rail head. The good part is that when the old one wears out all you need is a fresh bottle of wine (screw tops don’t work).

Cheers,

David

We have a copious supply of these tools, only retained for protecting scalpel tips. Maybe a variant of the hardboard skid
" Pendon" cleaner is called for.

Track cleaning is such a boring but essential chore that it should always be accompanied by a glass or two of your favourite bevvy.

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David Thorpe
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Re: Track cleaning

Postby David Thorpe » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:06 am

Paul, I look forward to hearing the results of the tests you propose. And Gordon, would it be possible for you to test your WD40 Contact Cleaner on a bit of plastic to see if there is any reaction?

Meanwhile I've been looking at a can of Halfords Surface Cleaner which I've had for some time but not used much. According to the SDS sheet, its ingredients are Naphtha (petroloeum) hydrotreated light 30-60%, Propan-2-ol (IPA) 10-30%, and Xylene 5-10%. It also contains Propane 10-30%, Butane 5-10%, and Isobutane 1-5% which I assume, quite possible wrongly in view of my utter lack of scientific knowledge, are propellants. As the main ingredient appears to be petroleum, and as propanol and xylene are excellent cleaners, I wonder if this product would also be a suitable non-polar cleaning fluid.

DT


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