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TRACK CLEANING. isopropyl Alcohol v track rubber


andy stroud
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Hi guys.

 

I know this subject has been done to death on other threads, but I have a particular issue which I havent seen discussed. That is, that cleaning with Isopropyl Alcohol simply doesent seem to clean my rails.

 

My previous layout was EM gauge and I used a track rubber which always left the rails spotless and shiny. It did however leave small particles laying in the ballast which is why, having built a new layout in N using Easitrac, I 'switched' to Isopropyl Alcohol which I understand many 2mm scale modellers use.

 

However I am finding that after applying it, even rubbing quite hard, that track is still very dirty. Also, if I apply with a cotton bud, as has been suggested, I find small bits of fluff left around the track especially caught in pointwork. If I use my old track rubber, the track is instantly clean, albeit with the particles left on the track which is obviously not good in this scale, although I do have a battery operated hoover which can remove them.

 

I wondered if anyone had any thoughts on this and also, if I did continue to use a track rubber on 40 thou rails, would the rails be damaged over a period of time or would the track rubber absord all the abrasion?

 

Many thanks in advance,

Andy

.

 

 

Edited by andy stroud
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My previous layout was EM gauge and I used a track rubber which always left the rails spotless and shiny. It did however leave small particles laying in the ballast ...

 

...which is why, having built a new layout in N using Easitrac, I 'switched' to Isopropyl Alcohol which I understand many 2mm scale modellers use.

 

Hi Andy,

 

Forget agressive track rubbers and messy alchohol (except the consumable kind!). Get yourself a 1/2" wide slightly bendy nail-polishing stick (the pink/white/grey type) from Boots or Superdrug and use that to clean your rails. Much kinder on the track, no gritty after-debris, and easy and precise to use on delicate pointwork and in otherwise 'difficult to access' places. Oh, and dead cheap.

 

The 1/2" (13mm) wide versions are perfect for 2mm scale trackwork and the differently coloured sides represent slightly different grades of abrasiveness, which can be useful. Give it a try anyway, you'll soon get the hang of it.

 

As for your "new layout in N using Easitrac" - well done for attempting to adapt Association sleeper units to 9mm gauge! But errr... I assume that was a typo for "in 2mm"?  :derisive:

 

Good luck and tell us how you got on.

Edited by Phil Copleston
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Hi Phil,

 

many thanks indeed for your reply. What you discribe sounds good and I will give it a try!

 


As for your "new layout in N using Easitrac" - well done for attempting to adapt Association sleeper units to 9mm gauge! But errr... I assume that was a typo for "in 2mm"?  :derisive:

 

 

 

I have used the easytrac rail together with the plastic sleeper sections for my plain track. It works fine with modern N gauge wheelsets. As for pointwork, I have used the easytrac rail, soldered to copperclad sleepers. The gauge of the pointwork narrows slightly from the plain track. It's a concept that I had read about beforehand and it does seem to work well.

 

Many thanks again Phil,

Andy

Edited by andy stroud
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Phil has beaten me to it, but another tool to use is a strip of hardboard about an inch wide and 6-9 inches long. Taper one end to 1/2 inch wide and use the end to rub the track. This will polish the rail without causing any abrasion. Of course the track has to be free of any gross contamination first. To remove paint from the rail head after painting new track I made a scraper which I described in the magazine.

Jim

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IPA is only best on track that has not been previously damaged by using a track rubber or other abrasive.

 

The rails when new are polished effectively hardened. When you use any abrasive (and infernal track rubbers are the worst culprit - just one step down from a file or sand paper) the polished surface becomes scratched and the tiny scratches become full of an organic mixture of sweat/breath/general damp plus dust (skin cells) and other detritus. The mix gets hammered in place by the weight of the trains passing over it and the gentle cooking of the electric current.

 

When use use IPA it is essential to use lint free cloth which does not leave bits of cloth behind - not cotton wool!

 

If the surface of the rails have already been damaged by the use of a track rubber then you might as well use something else just as aggressive like wet'n'dry or emery paper.

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I've had some success using little rectangles of balsa (roughly a sleeper length in width) with IPA - it's absorbent enough to soak the stuff up and resilient enough to allow a bit of rubbing where needed. More IPA is added as needed with a squeezy plastic dropper.

 

If any bits do come off they are usually big enough to spot and remove easily. When it gets too mucky or starts to disintegrate I just start a new piece. You get a lot of pieces from a normal sized piece of balsa.

 

Regards, Andy

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Thankyou guys for the replies and different ideas.  My layout is currently packed away as I work on   some more baseboards but I am looking forward to trying out these suggestions when I re-assemble the layout, especially as it will then be a continuous circuit for the first time, with much more running (and track cleaning!) anticipated.

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Phil has beaten me to it, but another tool to use is a strip of hardboard about an inch wide and 6-9 inches long. Taper one end to 1/2 inch wide and use the end to rub the track. This will polish the rail without causing any abrasion. Of course the track has to be free of any gross contamination first. To remove paint from the rail head after painting new track I made a scraper which I described in the magazine.

Jim

Pendon use a square of hardboard, rough side down,  weighted and mounted between two bogies as a simple wagon that can be run round the entire layout. Of course their track is pretty clean to start with. I find Isoprop good for cleaning wheels but I'd like to find something better than cotton buds to apply it with.

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Pendon use a square of hardboard, rough side down,  weighted and mounted between two bogies as a simple wagon that can be run round the entire layout. Of course their track is pretty clean to start with. I find Isoprop good for cleaning wheels but I'd like to find something better than cotton buds to apply it with.

Jim,

Mick Simpson suggested "micro brushes" for cleaning wheels with IPA.  I bought some from e-bay to try and they work rather well.  Here is a link to some (not the ones I have but to illustrate what I'm talking about) http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/100pcs-Small-Disposable-Eyelash-Extension-Micro-Brush-Applicators-Mascara-3mm-/111470817727?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item19f42db1bf

 

Ian

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Pendon use a square of hardboard, rough side down,  weighted and mounted between two bogies as a simple wagon that can be run round the entire layout. Of course their track is pretty clean to start with. I find Isoprop good for cleaning wheels but I'd like to find something better than cotton buds to apply it with.

Try to get hold of some of the cloth that opticians use to clean lens. Otherwise, look for 'micro-fibre' cleaning clothes. Neither leave fibres behind.

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I've had some success using little rectangles of balsa (roughly a sleeper length in width) with IPA - it's absorbent enough to soak the stuff up and resilient enough to allow a bit of rubbing where needed. More IPA is added as needed with a squeezy plastic dropper.

 

If any bits do come off they are usually big enough to spot and remove easily. When it gets too mucky or starts to disintegrate I just start a new piece. You get a lot of pieces from a normal sized piece of balsa.

 

Regards, Andy

Thats exactly what I use and found it to be very effective.   In addition after cleaning off any solder from my 2mm trackwork, I polished it with brasso on a balsa square to remove any scratches.   This hopefully keeps it crud free for longer.

 

Guy

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Jim,

Mick Simpson suggested "micro brushes" for cleaning wheels with IPA.  I bought some from e-bay to try and they work rather well.  Here is a link to some (not the ones I have but to illustrate what I'm talking about) http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/100pcs-Small-Disposable-Eyelash-Extension-Micro-Brush-Applicators-Mascara-3mm-/111470817727?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item19f42db1bf

 

Ian

They look useful and like so many modelling products possibly obtainable quite cheaply from the cosmetics display in Tesco.

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I've been using butanone on a cotton bud, seems to work wonders.

 

And before anyone comments to the negative, been using it on the current layout for well over 5 years.

 

I do the loco wheels as well, occasionally wagons etc and the track seems to stay clean for ages.

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They look useful and like so many modelling products possibly obtainable quite cheaply from the cosmetics display in Tesco.

 

Possibly so. But at just £2.29 (incl. postage) for 100 micro-brushes via eBay, I doubt it will be worth the bother to look elsewhere! http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/100pcs-Small-Disposable-Eyelash-Extension-Micro-Brush-Applicators-Mascara-3mm-/111470817727?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item19f42db1bf

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I was advised by friends who understand these matters that the NS rails oxidise which gives them a dull colour. Abrasive cleaners such as the track rubber removes the oxide and scratches the surface. Which then re-oxidises. The oxide is conductive so it does not impair the pickup. All that is needed is to remove any dirt both IPA and the rough side of hardboard have their advocates. Regular running also seems to help. So are many of us using track rubbers just to get shinny rails?

 

Don

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A spot of IPA on a bit of old cotton shirt wrapped around a digit is my preferred method. Shifts any muck but there is a risk you are just moving it about. I usually wipe a second time with a dry bit of cotton cloth to get things properly clean.

 

Once things are basically clean they tend to stay that way. A case of dirt attracting dirt I suspect. Also very much depends on the environment your layout lives in. Dry without people is probably best!

 

Cheers

Dave

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I was advised by friends who understand these matters that the NS rails oxidise which gives them a dull colour. Abrasive cleaners such as the track rubber removes the oxide and scratches the surface. Which then re-oxidises. The oxide is conductive so it does not impair the pickup. All that is needed is to remove any dirt both IPA and the rough side of hardboard have their advocates. Regular running also seems to help. So are many of us using track rubbers just to get shinny rails?

 

Don

Funnily enough, I did actually wonder if it was necessary to remove ALL the marks on the rails but was too scared to ask!

andy

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I use both but mainly rely on IPA (this has been on 00 layouts). I wet a piece of cotton cloth (or sometimes a piece of kitchen paper, although that can leave bits of paper along the track) with the IPA and wipe up the grunge off the tracks. I only use the Peco eraser when I'm in a hurry and can't be bothered with the IPA.

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Graham Hughes, on 20 Feb 2015 - 15:41, said:

Do other types of alcohol work or does it have to be India Pale Ale?

Higher-strength alcohol is the substance of last resort. A few glasses and you won't care that the darned layout doesn't run well!

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Drinkable stuff must be saved for drinking.....

 

I dunno about you but I actually prefer a good quality plain Steel rail over Nickel-Silver - both oxidize (believe me I once owned a “nickel-silver” plated pistol - I soon sold it on)  but mainly because I don’t like the “yellowish cast” I usually see on N/S rail.

 

Trying to find good plain steel rail (is it cold-drawn?)  in the ‘States is nigh on impossible (unless someone knows better and can advise on the source).

 

Best, Pete.

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Good timing this thread as was about to pose the same questions myself (always good to do a search prior ;))

 

Think, I will ditch all my track rubbers and try the nail file stick for the track and IPA small brushes for the wheels...

 

Thanks for all the suggestions to Andy's OP :good:

Edited by bcnPete
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