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Monday, April 26, 2021

Street Track and Overhead Cleaning Part 1 ~ What I'm Using.

The BEST way to keep track and overhead clean is to simply run your trains! But oftentimes we need a little extra help to get to that point first.

After spending years trying everything to clean track and overhead, I've seem to have finally settled into a pretty good technique.

As you can imagine, cleaning track under the overhead wires can be quite challenging. But clean track and overhead is imperative for smooth operation. So what to do?

I used to reach under the overhead with a Bright Boy track cleaning pad. But this has proven to be rather destructive, my elbow inevitably bumps a line pole somewhere, slightly bending it enough for the span wire to sag. Unsightly!  And with more and more delicate details being added to the layout, well, my big ol' clumsy paw is just too much. The city now has ordinances against such practice!

The Bright Boy is also too abrasive. It scrapes the paint from the streets revealing the bright white plaster underneath, ruining the realism of the scene. (If I had to do it over again, I would add a grey tint while mixing the paving material (Durham's Water Putty) so if it does chip, it would still have the street color). So at some point I'm going to need to do some touchup painting on the streets- with the overhead in place!

So- except for extreme situations, the Brightboy is out!

So what to do then? Well, one of the benefits of being a member of the Southern California Traction Club are members who have experience of such things.  John McWhirter for one has a great way of cleaning the clubs track and overhead which I have adopted for my own layout:

Double Headed Cotton Swabs. These are perfect for reaching through the overhead to clean the rails. The cotton heads are tightly wound so I'm able to scrub the track without them getting all fuzzed up like Q-Tips do.

Apply drops of the cleaning solution to the ends of the swab for cleaning rails and then apply drops to the sides of the swab to clean the contact wires.
The swabs fit nicely in the girder channel scrubbing the contact surface well.
Slide the side of the swab to clean the contact wire. I'll pinch the wire between my thumb and swab for extra tough spots.

I picked these up at a (now defunct) electronics store, but they are readily available on line. They come in packs of 100 for heap cheap.

For the cleaning solution, DeoxIT works very well for me and seems to be widely available.  Many model train manufacturers also offer track cleaning solutions. A nice property of these contact cleaners are that the solution conducts electricity!

Which brings us to- Wet VS Dry track and overhead. But I'm out of time right now so I'm going to end this here and tackle this subject and the cleaning process with the next post.

Yes sir! Wet VS Dry contact surfaces.


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