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Graphite Treatment to Rails.

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In the past, some members have recommended using Graphite to treat the rails.

 

What is is best method to try this?

Would you use artist's Graphite sticks or Graphite powder?

 

 

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Carpenters pencils....

 

Andy G

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Out of curiosity, why would you want to graphite your rails? Surely (don't call me Shirley!), it's slightly greasy to the touch and would get onto your wheels?

 

I know graphite powder was recommended for creaking stairs or floorboards years ago - but rails?

 

Cheers,

 

Philip

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50 minutes ago, Philou said:

Out of curiosity, why would you want to graphite your rails? Surely (don't call me Shirley!), it's slightly greasy to the touch and would get onto your wheels?

 

I know graphite powder was recommended for creaking stairs or floorboards years ago - but rails?

 

Cheers,

 

Philip

Graphite conducts electicity. Graphite on the rails helps loco performance (edit - in terms of electrical pick-up, reducing stalls or stuttering on dirty track).

I use an artist's 2B graphite stick, but only sparingly, if I really have to, as it does make the track look dirty, & might lead to lack of traction if overdone, since graphite can also be a lubricant, as you note.

The rails also need to be clean in the first place, before application.

Edited by F-UnitMad
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Also note that you need to have only have metal wheels on your stock, any plastic wheels pick up other dirt and lay it on the track, defeating the whole object...

 

Andy G

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Not a good idea if you have any gradients. I know someone that found out the hard way, took him ages to clean all the stuff off the rails.

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11 hours ago, F-UnitMad said:

Graphite conducts electicity. Graphite on the rails helps loco performance (edit - in terms of electrical pick-up, reducing stalls or stuttering on dirty track).

I use an artist's 2B graphite stick, but only sparingly, if I really have to, as it does make the track look dirty, & might lead to lack of traction if overdone, since graphite can also be a lubricant, as you note.

The rails also need to be clean in the first place, before application.

But isn't the metal from which the track is made also electrically conductive.  If there is a problem with conductivity (e.g. dirty track), isn't it better to remove the problem (clean the track) than cover it.

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I use a 1b artists graphite stick like this https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lyra-4336947169-Graphite-Stick-9b/dp/B0012EXM62/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3KMKBJSSB6GYX&keywords=graphite+stick+9b&qid=1578992909&sprefix=graphite+stick+9b%2Caps%2C170&sr=8-2

Having given the track a first thing clean to clear any non conductive carp off. Then run round all the rails with it. 

I've a slope on a branch line of 3 inches in about 6ft, and a loco and 2 coaches happily go up it..

 

It definately does help keep things running and can be a quick fix at a show, rather than trying to clean track..

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1 hour ago, rab said:

.........If there is a problem with conductivity (e.g. dirty track), isn't it better to remove the problem (clean the track) than cover it.

 

I think the idea is to clean the track first, then treat it with Graphite, not to cover up the dirt.

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15 hours ago, Philou said:

...I know graphite powder was recommended for creaking stairs or floorboards years ago - but rails?

I wouldn't. Clean is best of all, but I can see it may be a handy expedient in the filth laden atmos. of a show. I did put graphite powder into the 'bearings' of near worn through the plating split chassis steamers, to get the last bit of life out of them, and it was effective where applicable (generally the plating wore through on the tyres first, no hope if that was the case). Also good in small mechanisms: recommended by Kadee, and for close coupling mechs.

 

Killer app elsewhere: if a car window rubber 'screams', powdered graphite along the wiping edge fixes it.

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I use a graphite pencil (bought from Hobbycraft) with a groove filed in the end. This is run along all the rails, the result is that no loco ever hesitates or  fails to start . On Herculaneum Dock this was spectacularly demonstrated on the MDHB part of the layou. One of the locos is a Hornby L&Y Pug, it has re-machined wheels but otherwise unmodified. This used to be so unreliable that at an exhibition it would be run on to the layout from the fiddle yard and back, at which point it would need its wheels cleaning to run again. With the addition of graphite to the rails it has been working regularly (through several exhibitions) without stopping and hasn't been cleaned for at least three years.

If that doesn't convince anybody I don't know what will.

I know all the theoretical arguments about lubrication and difficulty with gradients but my new layout (Wentworth Junction) has 1 in 40 gradients and there's no trouble. Admittedly the trains on the visible part are all banked but there's an equivalent gradient up out of the fiddle yard going the other way and most of the locos have no difficulty lifting 60 wagons in this direction.

Never mind the theory - just try it.

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As above, I have used it for years and I have gradients, not having to clean the rails is a real bonus as some of mine are difficult to get to, I do get the occasional wheel slip from some steamers when starting on a gradient, but I put that down as prototypical.

 

Diesel and Electric locos have no problems at all.

 

Again as Michael says, try it, if you don't like it, it comes of easily enough with IPA

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Maybe it's a way of simulating leaves on the line?

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I have used artists graphite sticks on several layouts for the last 5 or 6 years. It greatly improves pick up on a DCC layout. I can't say I've noticed any reduction in hauling capacity of locomotives although I don't run excessively long trains. The longest being 12 to 15 vehicles on an American layout. All vehicles have metal wheels. I tend to clean and re-apply to track before an exhibition and don't bother between times. The only problem I have encountered is if too much is applied it can get in insulated joints, fishplates for example. This doesn't affect the DCC but can give enough leakage current to give false triggering of track circuits. Easily remedied with a little isopropyl alcohol. Graphite doesn't attract dust, improves running and I don't have to clean the track.

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I`ve been using graphite sticks on the rails now for sometime. My layout is in an integral garage with the usual lifting door which when opened can let in all sorts of mother nature so the top of the layout requires cleaning fairly often.

I use graphite sticks after reading a mention by Phil Parker about a layout in Australia that used graphite because of difficulty reaching some of the areas on their layout.

I`m not sure what the grade is but it`s pretty hard and does wear a groove in the end after some use. Obviously the usual cleaning of wheels etc. still takes place but I find it works well.

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8 hours ago, rab said:

But isn't the metal from which the track is made also electrically conductive.  If there is a problem with conductivity (e.g. dirty track), isn't it better to remove the problem (clean the track) than cover it.

Exactly what I said in the last sentence of my post you quoted!! ;)

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When building or rebuilding stock, I rub a pencil over the bearings, and/or axle-ends to improver ollability.

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A cautionary tale: When I began to ballast the track on my shunting plank I used real, genuine, loco ash that I got from the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, and to my eye it looked quite realistic. Fast forward a few years ( I was now using a Lenz DCC system) and a Sunday afternoon 'playing trains' as opposed to modelling. None of my locos would work reliably. Cleaning track and wheels had minimal effect.

Clearly there was something else amiss. Putting the same locos and controller on a simple bit of flexi track gave good running. So there had to be a problem with the layout.

 

So with the controller disconnected and no stock on the rails a DVM, set on the Ohms scale, was connected across the track. To my surprise there was a reading of around 50kOhms. Despite having changed to DCC a few years earlier the old section switches were still connected. Using these I was able to determine that the leakage on some part of the track was worse than others - and the better the ash ballast looked the lower the leakage resistance between the rails was. So in the period between laying the ballast and that afternoon the molecules of carbon in it had been busy re-arranging themselves to the extent that the leakage current was messing up the DCC control system.

 

I had no option but to painstakingly dig out a large amount of the ash ballast.

So I would be VERY wary of applying carbon to the rails as, given time, it may well build up and start to create all sorts of interesting routes for the electricity to avoid having to go through the motors in your locos.

Geoff

20200112_174521_cropped.jpg

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I've never seen anything like that, my layouts do get vacuumed regularly anyway. Many years ago though we did ballast part of a club layout with some shot blasting residue (we thought it would look like ash), appropriately enough it was the ashpit area since it started to get hot, possibly even glowing a bit, when power was applied to the track.....

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I too use graphite on DCC (Denton Brook, and The End of The Line before that...). It greatly improved reliability. Denton Brook has a 1:10 gradient, and the use of graphite reduces the adhesion performance to something like scale capabilities. The Garrett will cope with anything that fits, whilst the little Fowler can only cope with two wagons. All in all, it works very well!

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Bear in mind that the differing hardnesses of pencil are due to different quantities of an inert filler (a clay of some description). It would be interesting to know which grades of pencil have the least, to mimimise surface contamination.

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19 minutes ago, Fat Controller said:

Bear in mind that the differing hardnesses of pencil are due to different quantities of an inert filler (a clay of some description). It would be interesting to know which grades of pencil have the least, to mimimise surface contamination.

 

AFAIK the softer (higher B number) the pencil the purer the graphite.

Some time ago I saw an article in the American model press where someone was excited about graphiting the rails. Apparently the author thought it was a British idea and that we all did it. That was the first I'd heard of it and my immediate reaction was, "graphite is a lubricant". I've never had the courage to try....

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A year or two back there was a mass of publicity for the amazing science discovery of IIRC graphene as an electrical conductor.  Basically science catching up and corroborating what railway modellers have done for years, rub a pencil on the track!

 

Edited by john new
Spelling updated to graphene

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