Track Cleaning: Pulling all stops

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)

#1
Ok, my layout is huge and unfortunately in the basement. I've tried about everything to manually clean the track and that's just not possible anymore with all of my scenery in place (trees, telephone poles etc). I've also tried cheap track cleaning cars that run bright boys underneath with little results. I'm now thinking about buying something like this: https://tonystrains.com/product/cmx-clean-machine-ho/
Expensive as all get out but I'm so frustrated I'd do about anything to enjoy the running of trains without headache. Thoughts on this product or something similar? Maybe cheaper?

Thanks!
 

Selector

Active Member
#3
I don't mean to challenge you so much as to establish for myself the necessity of such an expense. What about your operating experience these months has led you to this costly decision? How have you reached the conclusion that your problem is dirty track as opposed to something about the powering of the rails, or maybe the condition of wipers, metal tires, or the wiring inside the locomotives? Do your locomotives run much better on a friend's layout or on the local club's layout?
 

santafewillie

Well-Known Member
#5
Allen - I cannot speak specifically about the CMX car as I don't have one. I do use a Centerline car in conjunction with a homemade "John Allen" masonite car. Gene and Ken seem to like it. Just playing "devil's advocate" here, along the line that Crandell alluded to. Dirty track can certainly be the culprit, but just cleaning the track regardless of how you do it, will not resolve the overall issue if the wheels on your rolling stock are also dirty; they probably are to some extent. Many modelers clean track and loco wheels, but neglect the rest of the rolling stock and just repeat, repeat, repeat. Metal wheels are less of a problem than plastic, but if the track is so dirty as to impede operations, chances are that even the metal ones could use some cleaning. The "crud" just goes back and forth between the track and wheels. Staying ahead of the problem is also required, especially in some basement environments; that's not to say that you haven't been doing that already. Frequent operation also helps, if you don't run for two months, it's wise to run a "cleaning train" before continuing. OK, all of that being said, for those hard to reach places a product from Woodland Scenics called "Tidy Track" is a long handled wand with detachable cleaning blocks on the end. Less expensive than the CMX car, but requires some labor. Just don't apply too much pressure or the wand might break...don't ask how I know this!
It does sound like you might have a significant task ahead of you and I wish you all of the luck that you will need.

Willie
 
#6
I avoid track cleaning. After an initial cleaning I apply no-ox and forget about it.
If you want to spend your money than there isn't a cheap way to make one of those cars. You also have to be careful handling the solvent.

Modeling the roaring 20's
President of the Lancaster Central Railroad
President of the Western Maryland Railway
 

fcwilt

Active Member
#7
I have just about every serious track cleaning car there is.

I have the CMX which I use with lacquer thinner when the track is really bad, alcohol otherwise. The lacquer thinner can damage track, foam, etc so you need to be cautious in it's use.

I have the Aztec Annihilator with the DCC option which provide good control of dispensing of the cleaning fluid - I use alcohol.

I have the MNP with the motorized cleaning pads which is nice for a quick polish.

I have the "Atlas" which can be used to do a light vacuuming.

Frederick
 
#8
Allen - I cannot speak specifically about the CMX car as I don't have one. I do use a Centerline car in conjunction with a homemade "John Allen" masonite car. Gene and Ken seem to like it. Just playing "devil's advocate" here, along the line that Crandell alluded to. Dirty track can certainly be the culprit, but just cleaning the track regardless of how you do it, will not resolve the overall issue if the wheels on your rolling stock are also dirty; they probably are to some extent. Many modelers clean track and loco wheels, but neglect the rest of the rolling stock and just repeat, repeat, repeat. Metal wheels are less of a problem than plastic, but if the track is so dirty as to impede operations, chances are that even the metal ones could use some cleaning. The "crud" just goes back and forth between the track and wheels. Staying ahead of the problem is also required, especially in some basement environments; that's not to say that you haven't been doing that already. Frequent operation also helps, if you don't run for two months, it's wise to run a "cleaning train" before continuing. OK, all of that being said, for those hard to reach places a product from Woodland Scenics called "Tidy Track" is a long handled wand with detachable cleaning blocks on the end. Less expensive than the CMX car, but requires some labor. Just don't apply too much pressure or the wand might break...don't ask how I know this!
It does sound like you might have a significant task ahead of you and I wish you all of the luck that you will need.

Willie
Thanks all. ive been working on the layout for years and have only ran trains on it from time to time. I usually have a few cars running just to make sure everything is true. All my wheels are metal and I've tried to keep my locos clean. I'm sure it's the track and the fact I spend most of my time on scenery and not running trains. Every time I do run them, I have to spend an hour cleaning the track and then cleaning the locos.
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
#10
I will probably have to agree with Willie. At the model railroad club in Livingston, MT, they have a couple of track cleaning cars with pads mounted under the cars that are used during operating sessions. It is in the basement of the old Northern Pacific depot and I'm sure that it can get dusty down there, but they don't seem to have any problems with dirty track with these cars circulating around the layout.

I very seldom need to clean the tracks on my home layout. It is in a finished basement, but I do try to run trains as often as possible. Everything has metal wheels which I agree most likely help keep the tracks clean. If I run across a problem spot, which is usually on sidings, I'll use either a bright boy of alcohol. This also doesn't happen very often.
 
#11
Allen:

Just ask any model railroader and you'll likely get a different answer or approach to track cleaning and how its done on that modeler's layout.

Before investing in expensive track cleaning cars or equipment I would recommend the following.

I would first select a section of track and use a high quality track cleaner like ACT 6006 and see if cleaning this section of track makes any difference in the operation of your locomotives. Apply the cleaner using a small sponge or applicator.

If it does make a difference...then you likely have dirty track.

If no real improvement..then check the locomotives first for dirty wheels and then the rolling stock's wheel. This is a process of elimination.

I would suggest for your first attempt to clean the track is to use two cars equipped with Masonite pads and run them over the layout. Maybe use two locomotives to reduce the chances of a loco stalling. After many trips around the layout, see if there's a difference in locomotive operation. I'm sure you'll find there is.

Follow the Masonite pad cleaners with a application of high quality liquid track cleaner.

This may solve your problem at the least expense.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
#12
If you have decided it is in fact the track, and there is no way to reach certain tracks even with something like a tidy track with a 1/2" OVC pipe extension added to the handle,
IMG_0081.JPG
Then maybe you can borrow a CMX from someone. If they are really bad you may need to do the three step. First run googone, second alcohol and last dry or blight coat of no-ox.
you may want to consider gleaming the track you can reach. I did that and haven't had to clean track in months.

Also as mentioned before, keep a couple of track pad cleaning cars like one of these in your train to maintain cleaned track.
IMG_0080.JPG
be very careful with abrasive blocks, you may create more problems than solve them.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
#13
I would avoid using Goo Gone since it leaves a residue that's difficult to remove. I found that Goo Gone will clean the tracks, but unless all traces of the product are removed, the track will get dirty faster.

I agree with Gdelmoro about using abrasive blocks. They can cause small scratches that will collect dirt over time. I use a Bright Boy pad when all else fails.

Check the wheels of the locomotive that behaves the worst, its wheels may need cleaning.

Keep us posted.

Greg
 
#14
Go with Greg's advice. I read on other posts that following the googone with 90% Alcohol cleans it off. However, I have never used it since I gleamed my tracks. Greg likely has experience with it.
 
#18
I avoid track cleaning. After an initial cleaning I apply no-ox and forget about it.
If you want to spend your money than there isn't a cheap way to make one of those cars. You also have to be careful handling the solvent.

Modeling the roaring 20's
President of the Lancaster Central Railroad
President of the Western Maryland Railway
So I noticed there are different version of NO-OX. Can you tell me what version you do use.

Thank you.
Dave
 

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
#20
85262_R-1.jpg

Dust monkeys. They clip onto the axle of one of your rolling stocks. Barely noticeable. Available in HO and N scale. about $8 a pack. They are easy to clean and reuse. Leave them in your train and always be cleaning your track.
 



ModelRailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com