Track cleaning

Includes workshop practice, painting and weathering, model photography etc.
User avatar
Paul Townsend
Posts: 767
Joined: Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:14 am

David Thorpe wrote: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


I reckon such a complex brew would need a test similar to what I am planning......Heptane already on order!

I prefer to KISS the issue and use the least ingredients that do the job.

User avatar
Rod Cameron
Posts: 637
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:01 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Rod Cameron » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:29 am

Paul Townsend wrote: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.


Very good of you Paul - I look forward to the results!
Rod

User avatar
Noel
Posts: 1077
Joined: Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:04 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Noel » Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:25 pm

David Thorpe wrote: 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?


Given the extremely large range of materials that the term 'plastic' includes, I suggest that it would be helpful if you could tell Gordon what sort particularly concerns you.
Regards
Noel

Enigma
Posts: 223
Joined: Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:49 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Enigma » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:22 pm

For some time now I've used a piece of thin MDF rubbed along the rail top. On plain track a piece approx. 20 - 25mm wide and then around point work etc. the same is used on edge along the rail top. Just cut the dirty area away when required. I have also used a piece of cotton cloth and MekPak or similar which gets rid of any 'gunge' left over. My HO American layout with Peco code 100 track very rarely needs cleaning, even after a long period of idleness. 8 wheel pickup obviously helps!

David Catton
Posts: 57
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:23 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby David Catton » Sat Jun 15, 2019 3:26 pm

Solely in the interests of offering another opinion - albeit not my own - I have taken the liberty of copying the following from RMWeb where Mike Edge states:

"I've been using graphite now for 3 years on my own layout, Carlisle and LMRS Chapel-en-le Frith. The track does get an occasional clean with a very fine abrasive rubber pad but I haven't cleaned any loco wheels at all in that time. If a loco does seem dirty it's run up and down a few times on freshly graphite rail. At first glance the wheels may appear dirty but the "dirt" conducts electricity.

DCC or DC control is irrelevant although I did change part of Herculaneum Dock to DCC partly because there is always full voltage on the track. The comment above about Portescap motors is relevant, their very low current consumption results in far less arcing between rail and wheel which is responsible for much of the problem of dirty wheels - this is also why shunting locos with frequent reversals give more trouble than those simply running through trains. Graphite on the railhead eliminates all this and all locos always start and don't stall, it is applied with a graphite pencil to the top and inner corner of the rails, it doesn't gum anything up and it doesn't appear to affect adhesion.

It isn't exactly new technology, I've since found references to it in pre-war magazines.

That's a rather long reply for a very simple solution but I do find it very difficult to convince others that it works - just try it."

Apparently the graphite comes in the form of a LYRA Graphite Crayon 9B.

Each to his own . . .

David C

User avatar
Paul Townsend
Posts: 767
Joined: Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:46 am

Regarding graphite, it is recommended in the article to be used very sparingly.

I have had adhesion concerns but have now committed to the objective test with a very little bit of it.

User avatar
Paul Townsend
Posts: 767
Joined: Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Sun Jun 16, 2019 8:04 am

In my yesterday’s look at solvents I referred to an apparently useful table of common solvents and their dielectric constant on a favourite website:
https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/liqu ... _1263.html

I have used this site often and found it usually reliable so was sad to find an error which makes this table suspect. I feel its info needs checking against source and told the editor.

This table shows correct DC for IPA at 20 but wrongly shows it’s isomer n-propanol at 1.8. The correct value is 18.

There are other tables for DC which one can search for if you want to try something else, but check toxicity first!

Terry Bendall
Posts: 1609
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2008 7:46 am

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Terry Bendall » Sun Jun 16, 2019 8:30 am

Will L wrote:I've never been convinced by the suggestion you would significantly damage your rails with an light abrasive cleaning method.


I agree. 600 grit is very fine and you would have to work very hard (and press hard) to change the profile. The paper will wear through before there is any change to the rail profile.

In the end, we all have our preferred methods for all sort of tasks and those who want advice will have to decide which view they want to adopt.

Terry Bendall

User avatar
steamraiser
Posts: 388
Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 4:49 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby steamraiser » Sun Jun 16, 2019 6:16 pm

As requested I have squirted some of the WD40 contact cleaner on some sheet plastic sheet that I first roughed the surface with wet and dry.
There was no reaction or tackiness on the surface after a couple of hors.

Gordon A

User avatar
Venturer
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Sep 30, 2013 7:40 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Venturer » Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:53 pm

Hmm. Must have been Thursday I looked in here last. Some of the previous posters will know I am as anti-IPA as TimV is anti-graphite. I saw the MRH article when it came out. I had a printed version of the league table with me at ExpoEM Bracknell last month as an operator on Rod Hall’s Llanastr. Anyone who stopped at the Society stand at Railex a week later may have seen the blue and yellow sheet hanging about along with the graphite sticks and the 5000 and 7000 grit (extremely gentle) abrasive paper. I have since purchased the WD40 product.
I’ve always thought IPA was the ‘wrong sort of clean’. It keeps the dirty marks off your fingers, but it doesn’t do the conductivity any good! Interesting to see Mr Edge’s thoughts copied across as I gave him his first graphite stick just over 3 years ago. I seem to remember Don Rowland writing somewhere about polishing wheels and track as the dirt gathers in the scratches. I now polish wheels with graphite and polish most of it off with cotton buds. It seems I have been over generous with the graphite on the track, but for a different purpose. Allt y Graban Road has steel rail and lives in a garage (albeit with full time dehumidifier) so benefits fom a corrosion inhibitor. Must remember to stick to the light application after the next track clean. The layout has operated very rarely in recent times, but is booked to appear at the South Hants show at Portsmouth Sat 16Nov. (Operators welcome, please get in touch)

Bernard C Baker

martin goodall
Posts: 987
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2009 6:20 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby martin goodall » Sun Jun 16, 2019 8:09 pm

May I throw another pebble into the pond?

The article referred to cited micro-arcing producing metal oxides. I have no means of verifying or refuting this analysis, but I was under the impression that for those of us who use nickel silver rail there is a problem of the nickel silver simply oxidizing in the atmosphere, without adding in the possibility of additional oxidisation through micro-arcing, but I defer to anyone who can provide any technical evidence on this point.

I understand that oxidisation is much less of a problem with steel rail (unless you live somewhere with a very humid climate).

I have given up using various solvents and other liquids, and now rely solely on abrasive cleaning, using a Peco track rubber. This seems to cut through the oxide layer and avoids the risk of damaging lineside details with a hand-held rag or tissue. I might possibly try a thin application of graphite, simply in order to cut down the frequency of track-cleaning.

User avatar
David Thorpe
Posts: 809
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:13 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby David Thorpe » Sun Jun 16, 2019 9:37 pm

steamraiser wrote:As requested I have squirted some of the WD40 contact cleaner on some sheet plastic sheet that I first roughed the surface with wet and dry. There was no reaction or tackiness on the surface after a couple of hours.


Thanks Gordon, that's reassuring. I tried a squirt of Halfords Surface cleaner (naphtha, IPA and xylene) onto a very thin piece of plasticard and there has been no adverse reaction. By way of an extremely unscientific experiment I also wiped one rail of a track in my fiddle yard with some Surface Cleaner on a cloth, and the other with some IPA. The former certainly seemed to take off more dirt.

Incidentally, I note that Halfords also have their own brand Electrical Contact Cleaner, £3.99 for 500ml. The sole ingredient, other than propellant, would appear to be naphtha hydrotreated light.

DT

Philip Hall
Posts: 1258
Joined: Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:49 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Philip Hall » Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:59 pm

For years I used Radiospares Electrical Cleaning Fluid. No longer available, I guess either because it was full of nasty ingredients we didn’t know about then (in the early 1990s) or because people had started drinking the stuff. Not having had a layout since then (hopefully soon about to change) I have cleaned my various test tracks with either a DOGA or EMGS track rubber or a Garriflex block. None of these seem to have done the rail much harm, although some deposits from the block do find their way onto the track bed, but this is easily blown or vacuumed off. I clean the test tracks about once a month, just a quick rub over, but also find that having lots of wheels picking up the juice results in far less wheel cleaning.

Incidentally, I spotted xylene as one of the ingredients in some of the potions being discussed. I guess the quantities are small, but this stuff frightens the life out of me since it was responsible for giving me a breathing problem about ten years ago which still occasionally manifests itself today. I say it was responsible, probably more correct to say I was irresponsible in not checking the contents of the spray can and not having enough ventilation around me.

Philip

User avatar
Jol Wilkinson
Posts: 778
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:39 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Jol Wilkinson » Mon Jun 17, 2019 7:04 am

Xylene was a constituent of Floquil paint and apparently the reason it was discontinued.

User avatar
Paul Townsend
Posts: 767
Joined: Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Paul Townsend » Mon Jun 17, 2019 9:10 am

Xylene is particularly hazardous in part because it is so volatile. That is why it makes a good paint thinner but also means if you spill a puddle it evaporates very quickly and gets into your lungs quicker than many other solvents would do.

ALL the organic solvents we use or might use should be used in a well ventilated place and appropriate filtering applied via an extractor hood and/or facemask designed for the job.

It is clearly publicised that Parkinson's disease and several other neurological disasters can be triggered by this sort of thing. One of our best known and respected modelling colleagues attributes his Parkinson's to this.

Having suffered a near death experience from an acute neurological crisis myself ( from an unrelated cause) I move mountains to avoid another go at that caper.

As a kid I used Benzene for a modelling solvent. Gave it up because I didn't like the pong and later read it is carcinogenic.

User avatar
David Thorpe
Posts: 809
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:13 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby David Thorpe » Mon Jun 17, 2019 1:11 pm

While there is considerable evidence linking TCE with Parkinsons, there's no statistical link connecting xylene with Parkinsons. According to Wikipedia, the main effect of inhaling xylene vapor is depression of the central nervous system (CNS), with symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. At an exposure of 100 ppm, one may experience nausea or a headache. At an exposure between 200–500 ppm, symptoms can include feeling "high", dizziness, weakness, irritability, vomiting, and slowed reaction time. The side effects of exposure to low concentrations of xylene (< 200 ppm) are reversible and do not cause permanent damage. Long-term exposure may lead to headaches, irritability, depression, insomnia, agitation, extreme tiredness, tremors, hearing loss, impaired concentration and short-term memory.

Wikipedia's article appears to rely largely on a medical study into the health hazards posed by xylene - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996004/ . It also appears that there is inadequate evidence for the carcinogenicity of xylene in humans.

DT

Philip Hall
Posts: 1258
Joined: Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:49 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Philip Hall » Mon Jun 17, 2019 5:29 pm

David, interesting reading. I am still convinced that the xylene (in ‘Spray Away’ airbrush cleaner) was what did for my respiratory system all those years ago. And I certainly didn’t recover reasonably quickly, it took years! My doctor reckoned that I had most likely sensitised myself to something in the process. I read at the time of one chap who simply didn’t recover after heavy exposure. I stopped using an airbrush immediately at that time and have used the manual version, with water based paint and windows open. I am also increasingly cagey about the solvents we use.

Philip

User avatar
steve howe
Posts: 500
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2009 10:16 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby steve howe » Mon Jun 17, 2019 5:58 pm

There seems to be a lot of chemical alchemy going on here for what, to me, is quite a simple problem: electrical continuity is inhibited by a mixture of grease, dust and oxidation accumulating on the rails, wheels and collectors of the locomotives. Any solvent will, to some degree, remove this leaving a clean surface. For years I used meths, as I suspect do many others judging from the odour hanging in the air just before an exhibition opens! I tried IPA which seemed very efficient, but the real breakthrough for me came with the application of a graphite pencil to the railhead. Running on my industrial plank 'Horsley Bank' which relies on 0-4-0 shunting locomotives moving slowly, was transformed as it were, at a stroke. Applying 'dirt' to the rail seems counter-productive, but as Mike Edge found, the graphite is electrically conductive and, I suspect, closes the tiny air gaps between the wheel and rail increasing the area of contact.

I fully appreciate the concerns regarding adhesion on long trains and gradients - graphite is a lubricant after all! but on layouts where reliable slow running with short wheelbase locomotives is the norm, I can heartily recommend it. My method now is to clean the rails very occasionally, once a year if that, with either IPA or WD40 squirted onto a soft cloth, followed by a wipe with a Lyra 6B stick. I also think that steel rail seems to have better conductivity and keeps cleaner than nickel silver - but that's another argument!

Steve

David Catton
Posts: 57
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:23 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby David Catton » Mon Jun 17, 2019 7:34 pm

This https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/282600896158 is on its way to me so I will soon be able to observe its success or failure.

David C

PS Yes, there may be a cheaper (post paid!) one on eBay but the seller is apparently away on holiday and not taking orders!

Alan Turner
Posts: 540
Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2008 4:24 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Alan Turner » Tue Jun 18, 2019 9:13 am

I find these to be ideal as they are square and therefore rub along the top of the rail better.

Available from any decent art shop.

https://www.derwentart.com/en-gb/c/prof ... l-graphite

or these: https://www.cassart.co.uk/drawing/paste ... gIpnfD_BwE

regards

Alan

User avatar
Tim V
Posts: 2213
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:40 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby Tim V » Tue Jun 18, 2019 11:03 am

All this correspondence - must be an article in there somewhere ...
Tim V

User avatar
zebedeesknees
Posts: 37
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:15 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby zebedeesknees » Tue Jun 18, 2019 2:50 pm

Full springing of all stock really helps; battery powered traction solves the problem.

billbedford
Posts: 670
Joined: Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:40 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby billbedford » Tue Jun 18, 2019 4:05 pm

Bill Bedford
Mousa Models
http://www.mousa.biz

billbedford
Posts: 670
Joined: Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:40 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby billbedford » Tue Jun 18, 2019 4:06 pm

zebedeesknees wrote:Full springing of all stock really helps; battery powered traction solves the problem.


As does steel rail.
Bill Bedford
Mousa Models
http://www.mousa.biz

User avatar
grovenor-2685
Posts: 3136
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2008 8:02 pm

Re: Track cleaning

Postby grovenor-2685 » Tue Jun 18, 2019 6:19 pm

Alan Turner wrote:I find these to be ideal as they are square and therefore rub along the top of the rail better.

Available from any decent art shop.

https://www.derwentart.com/en-gb/c/prof ... l-graphite

or these: https://www.cassart.co.uk/drawing/paste ... gIpnfD_BwE

regards

Alan

There is a big difference between graphite and charcoal! I would not use the latter on my track.
I have successfully used the carpenters' pencils, from Dad's workshop.
Rgds


Return to “Tools and Techniques”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests