'Time-Effective' Method of Cleaning Wheels on Rolling Stock[?]

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IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
#1
I recently finished a 3-month project of airbrush weathering all of my active freight cars; now it appears I'm facing an equally daunting task: de-gunking their wheels. I've always been proactive about cleaning my track and locomotive wheels; but I'm embarrassed to admit, the need for cleaning my rolling stock wheels never really made it onto my radar screen.

The time it takes me to get all eight wheels clean on a single freight car averages ~20 minutes. Multiply that number by 200 and you're looking at 6 weeks' worth of effort! What I'm hoping is that somebody here can clue me into a less-time-consuming way to clean rolling stock wheels, than pressing a solvent-soaked Q-tip against the wheel tread while turning the other wheel on the axle.

BTW I've already tried a few google searches on this topic, but I always seem to get a million hits hits for cleaning locomotive wheels or cleaning track - hardly anything on rolling stock wheels. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
 

migalyto

Active Member
#3
Soak a very thin piece of cloth 2-3 times longer than the car in 91% alcohol, drape it over a piece of track. Then rail it and roll it back and forth by hand.
 

santafewillie

Well-Known Member
#4
The easiest and most effective way for me was to switch everything over to metal wheels. I haven't had any gunk issues since. If you have already done that, or don't have the $$$ to do this all at once, you might try a soft-bristle burnishing brush in a Dremel tool. Make a cradle if needed and use a finger on the opposite wheel to reduce the spinning tendency. Most freight cars can be hand-held using the thumb on the wheel. Really tough cars might require a bit of alcohol soaking.
 
#5
Hi. What I do, and likely millions over the decades have done is to merely turn car upside down and use my thumbnail as a shovel against the tread and flange while turning it via the opposite wheel.. Then watch that crud lift up onto your nail and fall away.. It's free and you could do 10 or 20 cars in about 5-10 Min. If it's not already, you may first need to grow your T-nail longer..M
 
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IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
#7
The easiest and most effective way for me was to switch everything over to metal wheels. I haven't had any gunk issues since. If you have already done that, or don't have the $$$ to do this all at once, you might try a soft-bristle burnishing brush in a Dremel tool. Make a cradle if needed and use a finger on the opposite wheel to reduce the spinning tendency. Most freight cars can be hand-held using the thumb on the wheel. Really tough cars might require a bit of alcohol soaking.
Willie, thanks for the suggestion - 'cept my roster has been 100% metal since 2006 [LOL]!

One thing that adds to the difficulty in my situation, is that all my wheels are painted on the outer vertical surfaces, and if I'm not careful, I end up scratching some paint off the rim.
painted_wheel_closeup.jpg


I guess I'll give Mike's idea a try, that certainly seems quicker than doing every wheel individually. Just need to find an old t-shirt and some mineral spirits. I'll report back later with the results...
 

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
#9
I have used mineral spirits on a paper towel, laid across the tracks. Roll the rolling stock back and forth over the towel. Have a second towel that is dry available, laid over the track to dry the wheels off doing the same action.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#11
I have used mineral spirits on a paper towel, laid across the tracks. Roll the rolling stock back and forth over the towel. Have a second towel that is dry available, laid over the track to dry the wheels off doing the same action.
Yup, this is almost what we do at the museum. We don't use mineral spirits, we use alcohol, but principle is the same. We clean several whole 45-90 car trains in about an hour and a half. Of course we never let the wheels get super gunky to begin with. I believe the trains are on an every 6 weeks cleaning schedule. Locomotives are cleaned every week.
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
#14
I am in the same boat as Willie. I make sure that all of my rolling stock has metal wheels before they go on the layout and have no gunk on the wheels. Some of them have been around for over 25 years.
 

NP2626

Active Member
#16
One of the reasons I changed to metal wheels is to get away from needing to clean wheels. I started shifting to metal wheels in 2000 and have to say I haven't had a need to clean them since. My track gets as dirty as any of us, so I don't know why my metal wheels don't get gunk on them and some of you still have problems with gunk? The first time I noticed gunk on plastic wheels was I had a car that kept derailing. Upon close examination I found the gunk to be as thick as the flanges and thus causing my derailment problem. Nothing seems to stick to my metal wheels and since I have metal wheels from many different manufacturers, I don't think one manufacturer is more likely to gunk up than any another's.

I do get a thin layer of tarnish on my locomotives and need to remove that every now and then. I use goop to clean them and this does a good job for me.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#17
I've tried the alcohol on the paper towels but it doesn't seem to work quite as well as the mineral spirits.
This is one of the things that causes some confusion here regarding the names of what otherwise might be called "thinners". For oil based paints, we use Turpentine (abbreviated to Turps), but I did notice on a can of Rustoleum I got it said, thin/cleanup with mineral spirits. We have another product which is similar called "white spirits". That was used originally as a fuel for camp stoves and lanterns. Physically the white spirits seems slightly more oily and less aromatic (not so stinky). Any idea which your mineral spirits is equivalent to? Googling doesn't come up with any definitive results.
 

Sirfoldalot

Plucked Tailfeathers
Staff member
#18
TOOT - I wonder if the "White spirits" might be a slightly less,or more, refined Naphtha?
Turpentine and Mineral Spirits are two different animals.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#19
This is one of the things that causes some confusion here regarding the names of what otherwise might be called "thinners". For oil based paints, we use Turpentine (abbreviated to Turps), but I did notice on a can of Rustoleum I got it said, thin/cleanup with mineral spirits. We have another product which is similar called "white spirits". That was used originally as a fuel for camp stoves and lanterns. Physically the white spirits seems slightly more oily and less aromatic (not so stinky). Any idea which your mineral spirits is equivalent to? Googling doesn't come up with any definitive results.
White Spirits is a UK name for Mineral Spirits. I thought in Austrailia and New Zeland they called it Mineral Turpentine. Anyway all the same thing, basically heavy paint thinner.
Turpentine is distilled from the sap of gummy trees.
 

cajon

Active Member
#20
Willie, thanks for the suggestion - 'cept my roster has been 100% metal since 2006 [LOL]!

One thing that adds to the difficulty in my situation, is that all my wheels are painted on the outer vertical surfaces, and if I'm not careful, I end up scratching some paint off the rim.
View attachment 29684

I guess I'll give Mike's idea a try, that certainly seems quicker than doing every wheel individually. Just need to find an old t-shirt and some mineral spirits. I'll report back later with the results...
Actually, on prototype wheels, the outer edges are shiny from having rubbed against rails going through switches, Xings, etc.
 



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