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Graphite on track - clarification please


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3 hours ago, Dagworth said:

Interestingly the last time we discussed this there were some photos taken under a microscope that showed the surface of a rail that has been cleaned with an abrasive block is smoother than that supplied by the manufacturer. 
 

Andi

I think that is a key point, the item you clean it with. I don't presently have a layout, but I used various methods to clean rail and what worked best was 2 different abrasive blocks, one coarse and a fine one. The coarse one was obviously used first and only on really dirty track. The finer one was more of a polisher and put a shine on the rail, for a while anyway.

 

Any one who uses sandpaper or grit sheet, no matter how fine, is asking for trouble, as both with scratch the rail.

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Curiously, graphite pencils are made by blending china clay with graphite to get variable hardness. More clay, harder; less clay, softer. Now china clay particles being flat, would be useful insulators. But probably they dont stick to the metal, whereas graphite which has no crystalline component to its structure will certainly fill in gaps. Something to try out, though, when I have a layout built to try it on. If I use something in a situation like this I really want to understand why it works and what conditions should be avoided.

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If people want cheap 99.9% pure graphite, rather than the clay/graphite mix found in pencils, you can buy carbon graphite electrodes for welding, which are very pure graphite and cheap. You can get them on eBay as well as other places in both rod and plate form.

 

Cheers,

 

Jack

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I tried it.

One loco that has dodgy pickups (can't really be solved) ran better.

Not discounting it maybe a placebo effect but I'll keep using it every so often.

Still wouldn't sell my CMX cleaner though.

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I doubt that graphite would be effective or lead to any perceptible improvement in performance in situations where the tracklaying is less than perfect or where baseboards cause irregularities.  One has to get it right at the start, with the track laid smoothly and level on good trackbed, and fully tested for running and electrical continuity before being permanently fixed down and ballasted, as well as at the fixing down and ballasting stage and if you paint the sides of the rails. 

 

This means that graphite will only make a difference in situations where running is not bad to start with; no amount of cleaning by whatever method or graphite on the railheads will overcome the physical gaps between the railhead and the wheel, or between the wheel and the pickup strip, that will result from poorly laid track or baseboard distortion using rigid chassis-ed RTR steam outline (includes 08s, 03s etc).  So, it is only effective where it is least needed.  Nothing is effective where it is most needed; this seems to be an immutable law of nature!

 

Contrary to accepted 'good practice', I use insulfrog turnouts (for electrical simplicity on a DC layout).  These demand that pickups of my mostly 6-coupled locos are correctly adjusted on all wheelsets to ensure smooth slow running, a vital prerequisite of my operation.  I have very reliable running, but it needs all the help I can give it all the time, and my feeling is that graphite does give an extra layer of help, and improves the running; it is therefore worth trying even if you can't quantify why or how it works exactly.  I have been using it for about 18 months now with no ill-effects whatsoever, but it isn't a panacea or miracle cure.  By this time of course it has been picked up on wheels and has found it's way everywhere on the layout it is going to find  it's way to.  I have noticed that it builds up a little on coach and wagon wheels, all metal on my layout, and an occasional cleaning session for these is needed, about once every 6 months on a layout used on most days.  It does no direct harm, but if the build up is not dealt with will eventually cause the wheels to run out of true.

 

A plan is on the list for replacing track on the scenic section with Peco Code 75 chaired, which may highlight further issues, but I doubt they will anything I can't deal with.  I suspect I may have to pay more attention to coach and wagon wheel hygiene, though.

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On 02/03/2021 at 20:58, Sir TophamHatt said:

I tried it.

One loco that has dodgy pickups (can't really be solved) ran better.

Not discounting it maybe a placebo effect but I'll keep using it every so often.

Still wouldn't sell my CMX cleaner though.

Would applying graphite to the inside of the wheels improve pickup? I have a class 47 that just refuses to run consistently, despite all other locos gliding along nicely...

 

*Edit- my impatience got the better of me, just rubbed a 4B fairly liberally on the inside edges of the wheels and gave it a run - marked improvement!!!!! 

Edited by Ray Von
Over-excitement
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On 28/02/2021 at 20:15, Nearholmer said:

Can someone run their layout in pitch dark before graphite, and again after graphite, and report whether tiny arcs are visible at the wheels before and after?

yes no

 

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On 28/02/2021 at 20:15, Nearholmer said:

Can someone run their layout in pitch dark before graphite, and again after graphite, and report whether tiny arcs are visible at the wheels before and after?

When I was a kid I used to love turning out all the lights and letting my "Smokey Joe" go as fast as I could.  That's not a euphemism...

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In the post on “ track cleaning fluid which is best” there is a video on polar, non polar cleaners which is quite interesting. So the question is to first use a non polar cleaner to give the track a heavy clean then use the graphite after ? I am thinking of trying a small section to try this.

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10 hours ago, Ray Von said:

Would applying graphite to the inside of the wheels improve pickup? I have a class 47 that just refuses to run consistently, despite all other locos gliding along nicely...

 

*Edit- my impatience got the better of me, just rubbed a 4B fairly liberally on the inside edges of the wheels and gave it a run - marked improvement!!!!! 


Didn't think of this.
Will do this!

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12 hours ago, Ray Von said:

Would applying graphite to the inside of the wheels improve pickup? I have a class 47 that just refuses to run consistently, despite all other locos gliding along nicely...

 

*Edit- my impatience got the better of me, just rubbed a 4B fairly liberally on the inside edges of the wheels and gave it a run - marked improvement!!!!! 

Yes this certainly works - I think that as well as improving electrical continuity it reduces friction at the pick up. I also suspect it suppresses rust on steel wheels so well worth doing in my opinion.

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5 hours ago, Ray Von said:

I'm assuming the higher the "B" the better? 

I dunno. I have a 2B stick and a 9B, which really lays it on a bit too thick, I think. The 9B certainly makes the track look like it's so filthy nothing should run on it at all, but does spoil the look really, without enhancing running any more than the 2B does. The 9B is also rather softer, so wore a groove in the stick pretty quick and then snapped in half once during application.

So just a guess, but maybe around a 4B is about as far as one needs to go for our purposes.

Another believer here as well in applying to the rear of wheels with pickups. I have two Caboose (UK = Brake Van) with pickups for a roof beacon; the one in particular had a couple of 'squeaky' pickups & graphite on the rear of the wheels cured it. At a push the squeaking could almost pass for flange squeal, but it got too irritating to put up with!!

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6 hours ago, Ray Von said:

I'm assuming the higher the "B" the better? 

Pencils are graded H and B.

HB is normal, medium grade.

Higher H numbers are harder graphite,

Higher B numbers are softer graphite.

 

So 9B is pretty soft.

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I’m going to take the plunge, I will soon have a new section of the layout finished. It is brand new track, firstly all the track will have a heavy clean with my normal track cleaning fluid. I have to do this as those who know tillig track is blackened, then after reading another post on cleaning fluid I shall do a clean in WD40 contact fluid, then a 2B graphite stick will be used. Once I have tested after a time I shall report the findings

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  • RMweb Gold
Posted (edited)
On 28/02/2021 at 19:09, Andymsa said:


sorry if I don’t have the eloquence or the skill of using the queens English, it was meant as a joking comment but I guess some are more sensitive.  No topic is ever beneath me.

 

...or the Queen’s grammar*

 

* and, no, I don’t mean the Queen Mother’s Mother.

 

Cheers

 

Darius

 

 

 

Edited by Darius43
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Having 2% and 5% grades any graphite is out of the question, so making sure pickups function correctly is important.

I've not had any issues with poor running locos, and I do run a large fleet of small narrow gauge 0-4-0 types. But one of my groups exhibition layout which is flat does use it, does it run any better, not sure. Ultimately over a period of time the graphite does build up on the wheel, this is very noticeable on some of the fleet, which has been running for 20 years and requires removal as it's had an effect on the running quality. This isn't a negative view but based on a long term observation.

Simon

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