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I'm sure this will have been covered in some form or another a few times but I've been doing some research and thought it might be an interesting topic.

 

I have a potentially large layout in a loft space about 600m from the coast. I say potentially because its debatable whether I’ll ever finish it……..but let’s hope for the best….

 

See here : https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/22986-hatfield-part-the-second/page/2/&tab=comments#comment-3514265

 

This thing has been on the go for ages with a huge pause caused by employment related issues. And so on getting back into it I find there is oxidation of the NS rail sufficient to stop the thing functioning at all.

 

It’s not like I wasn’t aware of the likelihood of this. I bought a CMX and a Dapol cleaner with the intention of making a cleaning train and that is still the idea except that now I’m at a place where it needs a decent clean before even bothering to try to run anything.

 

I have been investigating options and thinking about the whole strategy because it need a cunning plan.  My thoughts follow and I’d be interested to know what you all think about this.

 

Fundamentally there are three goals, preferably to be achieved with minimum effort :

  1. Recovering trackwork to runnable status
  2. Maintaining existing and further trackwork in a runnable status - cleaning the track
  3. Maintaining existing and further trackwork in a runnable status - preventing the track getting dirty

 

The fact that some trackwork is going to be harder to access also needs to be considered.

 

Based upon a lot of googling  and some direct experience I have formed the view that :

  • Generally, track cleaning rubbers are deemed to cause scratches on the rail surface that retain dirt. Some of them crumble and leave remnants
  • IPA is great for cleaning but not for removing oxidation
  • 1200 grade removes oxidation well but no doubt see first pt above
  • Mag wheel polish works well having experimented applying with one of those washing up scourers that has a mini nylon “brillo” and a handle that would hold and dispense detergent in normal use. But have to be careful not to apply too much or there is white deposits left over. Provided the polish is used sparingly the scourer is probably better as it is a) a scourer and b) generally flat helping prevent overlap. Using a cloth increases the tendency to spread spare polish on the sides of the rail
  • Dapol generally only deemed good as a vacuum. Mine still in its box
  • CMX considered great. I haven’t ever actually used it so far……
  • Graphite pencil on cleaned rail top works and supported online by those who have tried it

 

Plan :

Recover existing track

  • Obtain DCC concepts fine track cleaning block (probably) and restore existing track through use of this and 1200 grade all used as gently as possible
  • Follow up with polish of rail tops using mag wheel polish
  • Complete by applying graphite to rail tops

Maintain the track

  • Build a battery powered cleaning train comprising loco switchable between battery and DCC and otherwise comprising CMX with IPA, Dapol in vacuum mode, possibly another wiper truck and a coach with pick-ups to provide extra power reliability when in DCC mode. Use a RC car LiON battery, 7.2V. Speed test might be an issue
  • Separate track and point control DCC so that points can still be operated and run the train around using battery power if necessary
  • Potentially have a 2nd train with simpler config to run around in sequence
  • And I suppose revert to track cleaning block if there are any persistent issues but if this happens it sort of implies fail

Protect the track(/layout)

  • acquire some synthetic close weave fabric to cover layout when not in use
  • keep rolling stock wheels clean using a rolling road of some sort

 

There are many people who say that once the rail top is polished and/or coated with graphite then they have never really needed to clean it again.

 

I think the above measures should be effective but I’m wondering whether the cleaning trains use of CMX will just clean off the graphite leaving that whole step pointless………………

 

 

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Interesting thoughts.

 

With due respect to those who say one should avoid abrasives for cleaning track, I have occasionally used wet & dry emery paper on my 00 gauge layout without noticeable problems (used dry).  I don't suffer the problem you describe to anything like the same degree (I am nearly 100 miles from the coast) but I find the CMX machine to be very good.  However, it needs a powerful loco with good traction to pull it and if you plan to have several cleaning trucks in a single train you may need more than one loco in a consist to pull the train.  A tool I have also found useful is the Woodland Scenics track cleaner WTT4550.  The cleaning pads are shaped to fit over the rails so clean the rail shoulders too (no use over points).  Using that prior to running the CMX may be quite successful.  I have not tried appl;ying graphite as I should have thought it would encourage wheelslip (I have a rather steep incline) but it should improve electrical conductivity.  As you suggest, I imagine use of the CMX would remove the graphite but, if the graphite prevents the build up of dirt or oxidation, the CMX machine should be redunbdant!   If you make your cleaning train battery operated, you really need some form of remote control.

 

An occasional vacuuming of the layout is beneficial but I am unsure about running the Dapol machine in the same train as the CMX (preferably in front of the CMX).  I use a compact, mains powered vacuum that I can hold in one hand whilst using the other to aim the nozzle where it is needed.  The CMX is run afterwards.

 

Regular running of the layout with all stock on metal wheels certainly helps keep the track clean (at least in the uK) but some form of track cleaning is bound to be necessary from time to time.

 

My layout is loft based and quite extensive with difficult to reach areas.  Fortuitously, having erected an insulated enclosure into which the layout is built, I have found it remains remarkably clean, so some form of breathable covering would appear to be beneficial in your case.  Problem is, how do you place it and remove it without causing damage to delicate scenery items, and where do you store a large cover when running the layout?

 

Please let us know how you resolve the matter.

 

Harold.

 

 

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I may go with a slight alternative. Cleaning train 1 to have the IPA and wipers and run on the mainline loops only. Train 2 to be the Dapol in vacuum mode so it’s short and easier to run everywhere.

 

All following an initial clean and polish for all track – both existing and yet to be installed.

 

As for the graphite this can initially be an experiment in one of the yard spaces only. Ongoing cleaning there can be vacuum only and then I can see whether use of graphite coating and nil cleaning thereafter actually works. If it does then clearly expand to everywhere else !

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I read your Hatfield thread and I see its about 6 years worth of oxidisation in a room 600 metres from the ocean?  

You have a true monster of a layout for one person to run let alone build.  Ours is a lot smaller, 00, DC, 60 miles from the sea and 35 years into the build is 100% complete track wise but maybe 50% complete time wise.   We have tried the Dapol unit and a roller with fluid (IPA?) but end up towing a good old Peco track cleaning rubber around fixed to a wagon and using a similar rubber hand held on points etc. the fluid was not much good and one run with a loco with traction tyres it was absolutely filthy again. We have tried to ban traction tyred locos but Hornby keep sneaking them in on 4-4-0s etc 

One section is outside and that shows up the poor pick up of many modern lightweight locos.   Old cast body locos like Graham Farish 94XX with 4 wheel pick up splash through waterlogged track with impunity where the Bachmann with 6 wheel pick up will not move at all.

The hidden sidings are only cleaned with the towed cleaning rubber and were last uncovered about 8 years ago.  track is Peco code 100, some steel some N/S obviously the points are all N/S

Your locos poor haulage performance on grades suggests a chronic lack of weight, (or your base line was not level)   Our class 5 and above are ballasted to pull 7 Hornby or Lima Mk 1 coaches up a curving 1 in 36 approx. (OK I know the real thing managed 12 up a 1 in 37)   Bog standard Hornby Black 5 and County 4-6-0 can manage 6 with the tender lightened and the tender pick ups removed, or 3/4 with pickups.

I reckon ballasting your locos would be a good start, maybe shift the decoders to the tenders, stick anything with traction tyres on eBay and use the Dapol vacuum.  I also have a magnet wagon, a wagon with a big magnet under it for retrieving stray bits of steel and some battery powered Lima Diesels which can tow the track cleaning train.

  I think avoiding rubbing sideways across the rail head with a track cleaning rubber is a good idea, but towing one or using it in the direction of travel doesn't seem to cause issues.    Best of luck with the project, it looks like you need three or four operators minimum.

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I would make one alteration to your plans - I can vouch from first-hand experience that the CMX works best when used with Lacquer Thinners.

 

I chose that solvent, after reading this review:

 

https://tonystrains.com/news/chemist-reviews-cmx-clean-machine/

 

There are always health risks in handling any hydrocarbon, and the mere mention of lacquer thinners will bring out loud roars of Danger Will Robinson! from some quarters, so you should take appropriate precautions, but as the chemist in the above article points out, the CMX actually minimises skin-liquid contact. 

 

The good news is, it's readily available locally from Bunnings.

 

By all means, make an informed choice; In my opinion, the minuscule quantities involved make using it a low risk that I am prepared to take - your mileage may vary, of course.

 

Cheers

 

Scott

 

 

Edited by jukebox
  • Agree 1

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Having once lived even closer to the sea and had a layout in the loft, I think you need to do some fundamental first protection steps.

 

 Lofts are notoriously dusty.  Dirt gets blown under slates or tiles and finds it way down into the loft.  The same will apply to salt laden water as a fine mist/ humid vapour.  Although you have clearly insulated and blocked off most of the gaps, there are clearly still some areas where the roof space is not fully sealed.   Find some way of sealing these gaps - not so easy now the layout is in place, but I promise that this will cut down the future problems. 

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5 hours ago, Andy Hayter said:

Having once lived even closer to the sea and had a layout in the loft, I think you need to do some fundamental first protection steps.

 

 Lofts are notoriously dusty.  Dirt gets blown under slates or tiles and finds it way down into the loft.  The same will apply to salt laden water as a fine mist/ humid vapour.  Although you have clearly insulated and blocked off most of the gaps, there are clearly still some areas where the roof space is not fully sealed.   Find some way of sealing these gaps - not so easy now the layout is in place, but I promise that this will cut down the future problems. 

Please be VERY CAREFUL about sealing off all the air gaps in your loft. You could end up causing structural damage, depending on where your insulation is located and what type of insulation it is. Rigid insulation between the rafters can be either full-fill (no air gap) or with a 50mm air gap above the insulation and below the roof tiles. Probably OK, probably! Until the exact form of construction is known it's not possible to advise.

A soft quilt type insulation (Rockwool, Fibre insulation) between the floor joists (ie: at ceiling level) needs to have an ventilated airspace above. Lining your loft with foil sheets is OK as long as you maintain a ventilated loft to let the moisture escape to atmosphere.

 

Too many permutations to go through here, but this has been amply covered many times on RMWeb.

Here:

and here:

and here:

Just some quick pointers. There are probably many more relevent posts.

 

  • Agree 1

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Thanks all

 

DavidCBroad

It is a monster but I’ve started so I’ll finish. Or fall trying.  That said there is much to do but it is at least progressing again. I try to keep a few work fronts open at once so that there’s always something that can be done. The primary goal at the moment is to get the continuous loop in place and functioning although I’m a way off that at the moment……

The haulage performance on grades probably dates back a long way as an issue. I don’t find it’s a disaster now although diesels are a lot better than steam. The problem area is the end of the straight where there is both gradient and curve. But I take your point about weight – something else to add to the list.

In terms of operation I’m hoping that a combination of ECoS and PC software will enable me to run it solo. Essentially it’s a huge figure of eight folded via a gradient. It should be possible to run mainline continuously if desired while separately goofing around in either yard separately. Of course without DCC the whole thing would be impossible

 

Jukebox

Noted re lacquer thinners thanks. I will compare with IPA. And who knows graphite might make cleaning unnecessary….

 

Andy H and Damo

There are immense gaps that will never be sealed as such. In essence the area above the track is lined internally with foil type sheets but the areas below baseboard level or away from the layout at all remain entirely unlined. As it’s a tile roof and a windy environment in Perth this still means a) the loft remains ventilated b) a fair amount of crud moves around the loft space.

I agree re the saltwater vapor as well but it is what it is in that regard. I thought the lining measures might be enough but they aren’t.  Hence the first protection steps are required and I intend to find some lightweight close weave material to use as a cover when not in use. Not ideal probably but the only option

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6 hours ago, Damo666 said:

Please be VERY CAREFUL about sealing off all the air gaps in your loft. You could end up causing structural damage, depending on where your insulation is located and what type of insulation it is. 

 

Having looked at the pictures it was clear that the insulation was the foil type leaving the rafters and purlins well ventilated, but your comment is well made as a general comment.

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The Dapol "vacuum cleaner" is IME not long lasting; the dust collecting compartment is not adequately sealed from the motor and consequently on mine the motor drew more and more current as it got clogged up by dust until the pick ups failed along with the motor. Suppose it might be possible insulate the dust collecting compartment to overcome that issue. The motor incidentally is the cheap Scalextric type so I did get it working again with a new motor and battery powered although the 9v battery did occupy most of the dust collecting area and instead invested in a hand held vacuum cleaner with a hose like this one https://www.argos.co.uk/product/7063442

The  CMX is great but needs a powerful loco to shift it - Heljan Bo-Bos being ideal IME and I also use a Ten Commandments track cleaner https://tencommandmentsmodels.co.uk/product/track-cleaning-wagon/ as a wet and dry combination

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Hello,

        A good way to clean track corrosion/dirt film is to use one of the old triang models with the serrated wheels. Dock shunter , green DMU , or Blue Pullman diesel units. l load them up with trucks or coaches till they slip the driving wheels then let them go.

They might stutter along at first but gradually run smother as the rail becomes cleaner. No good for fine-scale track unless you sort the rims out though. I use a pair of dock shunters front and rear in case one stalls.

trustytrev.:)

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I visited Pete Watermans massive O gauge layout recently , he said he never cleans the track 

The layout ran beautifully 

Dave 

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20 hours ago, trustytrev said:

Hello,

        A good way to clean track corrosion/dirt film is to use one of the old triang models with the serrated wheels. Dock shunter , green DMU , or Blue Pullman diesel units. l load them up with trucks or coaches till they slip the driving wheels then let them go.

They might stutter along at first but gradually run smother as the rail becomes cleaner. No good for fine-scale track unless you sort the rims out though. I use a pair of dock shunters front and rear in case one stalls.

trustytrev.:)

I had - indeed, still have 'somewhere' - one of those Tri-ang 'dock shunter' models which IIRC was based on the same type of 4-wheel bogie fitted into their old EMU model. It was amazing just how s-l-o-w-l-y you could get it to run on an old type controller - with the body off, you could watch the commutator almost 'step' a segment at a time as it crawled at a snail's pace. I thought of using one as the basis for a Sentinel or 'tram' loco, but never pursued the idea. But.....it took a-g-e-s to clean out all the serrations with a pin :-( :-(

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I am a Graphite user, on my old Inglenook layout once I had cleaned the track thoroughly and applied the graphite (6B Artists Graphite stick) I did not have to clean the track again in the 4 years that I ran it, sometimes it went 3-4 months between running sessions with no problem

 

When you first apply it you may have to clean off and redo some sections if the underlying track was not cleaned thoroughly.

 

The only thing I would add is that you need to avoid steep gradients, and maybe long trains with lightweight locos may have wheel slip.

 

Obviously if you then use regular cleaning methods it will remove the graphite.

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35 years plus of cleaning model railway tracks so for what its worth here are my thoughts.

Peco (and other) track rubbers - Makes it look clean but it isn't (run your finger on it). Pits the rails with scratches and leaves more detritus than was there before. Avoid at all costs.

DCC Concepts track rubber - An excellent product uses aluminium oxide, leaves little residue and doesn't scratch the rails. A quick run over with this before an exhibition is usually all that's needed.

Dapol track cleaning machine - IMHO totally useless. Not fit for purpose.

CMX - Good quality machine ,does the job but easier to use on less complex track, not great for sidings etc. I use one on my own layout with IPA. Not tried with any other thinners yet.

Graphite - currently trialing this with good results. to be honest anything that cuts down the chore of track cleaning can only be good BUT the track MUST be very clean before putting it on. The trial area has not been cleaned, other than vacuumed, for 4 months and is running perfectly.

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I have a loft layout with about 150 yards of track some of which is a bit tricky to get at. I found a cheap cleaning regime by buying two old Triang cleaning cars from eBay (you can still get the cleaning pads for them) and then I run them together. The lead wagon has it's pad absolutely soaked in IPA and the second one I leave dry. Sort of a wash and dry! Seems to work OK.

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I tend to use a track rubber or suade brush (on non-scenic areas) if it hasn't been cleaned for a long time, followed by a run around of a heavily-weighted Lima GUV with Gaugemaster track cleaning pads clipped to the outer axles, one facing each way, to rub off any remaining detritus and debris from the rubber. A run over with a finger before and after gives an easy indication of the success of each method (as well as also removing any remaining dirt - not suitable for large layouts though!)

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Thread resurrection time...

Tried my shunting plank which hasn't been used in a couple of years (probably three)... Wouldn't run - dirty track, and an engine which I believed to have dubious pick-ups anyway (would run ok, but turn the sound on, and it would cut out and die often). Tried it on a rolling road on the layout, and it ran perfectly, with sound. OK, so the track never was as clean as I thought it was then. Looked for what I have to clean it, and could not find my track rubber anywhere, but did find a fibreglass pencil. Now I normally hate this thing - it just puts tiny bits of glass in my fingers, no matter what I do, but it does clean PCBs for soldering beautifully, so I gave it a go. Immediately vacuumed up the layout to try and keep those glass splinters at bay, and wiped over the rail tops with IPA on a cotton bud to be sure. Hey Presto, railway runs like it never has before!

I also used a x10 loup to look at the railtop, and see all sorts of things I have never seen before in terms of residual paint, little marks, and scratches. Also at a rail joint a burr that I never felt before, because it is right on the end (I usually "look" for stuff by running my fingernail across it), so that was also filed down.

 

So, apart from those pesky glass splinters (which in fact, this time, haven't troubled me so far), can anyone see any reason not to use the fibreglass pencil? I don't honestly know if the scratches I have were existent, or cause by it... but I would welcome any comment...

 

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"Conventional wisdom" is that any sort of mechanical abrasion will create scratches on the rail head - microscopic or otherwise, depending on your choice of abrasive - that over time will collect dirt and put you back to square one.

 

I'm not a metallurgist, so cannot vouch for this as being fact.

 

But I do see the logic, and choose to use the strongest solvent (Cellulose thinners) as a chemical cleaner, rather than mechanical means.  It comes with a truck load of OH&S warnings as being carcinogenic, but my way of thinking is I'm more likely to die from having a high-blood pressure-induced coronary over trains stalling on dirty track, than from exposure to the small amount I used to keep the rails clean... 

 

Presented as opinion, not advice.  :)

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