June 9, 2014

A cleansing Oil.

There is no getting around it, dirty track won't enable smooth operation and can be very frustrating when rolling stock stops/starts. For Cudgewa, I didn't think about it much, lightly rubbing a track rubber (I think Faller or Fleischmann, quite a solid chunk) followed by a vacuum to pick up any rubber bits and dust afterward. I did this every month or so but found this a bit annoying as breaks in layout operation would necessitate a re-do before next running, quite a chore. Added to this was the task of replacing all the detail bits taken out by friendly fire while cleaning. When planning "Glenburn" I took the matter more seriously - the layout would be much larger and would be under wires. Cudgewa's solution wouldn't cut the mustard. So I went exploring the options and I looked at very many. Now, any modeller worth his salt will know that track cleaning prophets and solutions are like vacuum cleaner sellers, each one entirely devoted to his/her method and swearing it's better than all else. A tip - It's always a good idea to ask people who actually run trains on layouts (nb. Decent sized also, not just a couple of metre section of track), rather than the legions of online experts who perhaps last saw model railway track when they were 16 or know someone who knows someone who always did, or has a cupboard full of the latest RTR and could imagine what would work etc. etc. I looked to those who actually run model trains on good size layouts. All Aboard Modellbahn in Mittagong get the credit in my case. Dropping in one day I noted they had a several largish layouts running smoothly in regular operation. I asked and they advised nothing more complex than the Noch (one of the US brands now makes them too) axle-mounted pads with the tiniest drop of oil (I think I use Fleischmann loco lubricating oil) regularly kept things ship shape. So I bought a pack of four pads for a massive $10 that fit to the axle, and some loco oil for same amount and these are still in use 8 or so years later. There's no miracle with their use, they just take the fine layer of dust off the railhead. Regularity is the key - I run them across all track of the layout typically once a week. To access all areas, this involves shunting all stock which provides a further benefit of making sure all stock gets a test regularly. I used to just clip the pad under a heavy wagon but a couple of months ago used an old kit to make the heading photo item - functionally rich, beauty she ain't. Equipped with a weight (ex-Weico Walker roof...), Kadee at one end and three link at the other, and with nice large buffing plates to make quick shunting around a breeze, it gets pushed around by the few non-operational locos I own, heck sometimes even something blue and gold gets a turn. Takes around 20 minutes for two passes over the entire layout track acreage. Rather than a chore, this is actually Ok, not as much fun as running real operations, but very very much better than an eraser. This is pretty much all I do. Costs very little. Works. If there is a small spot causing stopping I use the eraser, I have had to do this 4-5 times in 5 years, other than that major runs over the entire layout with an eraser have been undertaken in December 2009 and March 2012 - not what one would call often. Downsides of this method? Apart from the need for regular running of the "Cleaning Train" (and it may be that a fortnightly clean would work, I've rarely had to try it), the oil on railhead does induce slightly more slipping on grade for some locomotives. With a flatish layout not such a problem, but perhaps an issue for anyone with heavy grades. But I'm not here to recommend what works for me, what I do recommend is that given how nice good running is, and how frustrating bad running is, if you are looking at a track cleaning system that works, ask someone who actually operates trains. Regularly.

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