I know of no other more controversial subject than track cleaning. I am not posting this to convince anyone to give up a tried and true method that works for them. I am simply pointing out an easier way. This comes from my being inherently lazy, so any avid “track cleaners” can skip this post. If you hate cleaning track, read on.
One of the things that Linn Westcott wrote back in 1965 was that (quote) “many model railroads are operated successfully without ever having to clean the track”. That was an eye opener for me. I bought the book that I quoted from (764 helpful hints for model railroaders) in the late ‘70’s but filed it away and forgot about it until I built my current layout over 5 years ago. All of the track was atlas code 80 nickel/silver with half of it new, and half 29 years old. I’ve known about NO-OX for some time, but like many of us I was brainwashed by track cleaning dogma, and didn’t try it. I had to clean my track weekly, or they simply wouldn’t run right. An Aztec cleaning car helped somewhat, but I still had to clean track. I finally got fed up with the weekly ritual, remembered the book, and decided to give No-Ox a try. When Linn wrote his article No-Ox was in liquid form, and has since evolved into a paste form that resembles axle grease.
I know what you’re thinking. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD PUT GREASE ON THEIR TRACK? I went through the same thought process, but also believed that Mr. Westcott knew what he was talking about. I bought a quart can of it and went through an application method that I developed, and will share with you.
An explanation of what No-Ox is, and what it does, is needed at this point. No-Ox (plastic safe) is a rust preventive with a corrosion inhibitor system that prevents the formation of oxides. It penetrates and chemically treats metals to convert the insulative, naturally occurring, oxide coatings to a surface that is a conductor. Nickel Silver rail has been said to have an oxide coating that is conductive, but since it is mostly copper, it will still form a non-conductive oxide. No-Ox prevents this. It works especially well when 2 metals come in contact with each other. Prime examples are loco wheels and track, internal loco contacts, turnout pivot points, or any other type of contacts. NO-OX doesn't wear off, because it becomes part of the rail or contacts by penetrating them.
Future cleaning of the rail, loco wheels, or other contact surfaces will not affect the chemical transformation, and this transformation is very long lasting. The increase in conductivity is so noticeable that you will think your loco engineer put sand on the track. It does not increase traction, but the increase in conductivity makes it seem like traction is improved. No-Ox will not repel dirt. Nothing can do that, but it SEEMS to do just that, and for years. It will reduce your cleaning to occasional light vacuuming. Period.
Sanchem (the maker of No-Ox) makes several variants; the one you want is NO-OX-ID “A SPECIAL”. To properly treat metals with No-Ox, a very small amount is used on the surface or surfaces. A waiting period of 24 to 48 hours allows the chemical process to take place, after which ALL TRACES OF THE PRODUCT ARE WIPED OFF, or otherwise removed. In my case, scenery was completed and all track was ballasted before applying. I felt that getting the track dirty after application would affect its performance, but it didn’t matter.
All contaminants such as plaster, glue, or oil, should be removed prior to NO-OX application. The steps below are all VERY important and none should be skipped.
1. Use a mild abrasive such as fine sandpaper or a brite boy on all rails to remove any oxidation.
2. Wipe all rails with a rag and alcohol to remove any dirt and fine particles.
3. Vacuum all rails to ensure cleanliness.
4. Put very thin smears on your finger and rub it on your rails. The total amount of NO-OX-ID “A SPECIAL” that should be applied to 500’ of N scale track is about ¼ teaspoon.
5. Run all your locomotives (no rolling stock yet) over all of your track for at least 2 hours. You may notice some wheel slippage. DO NOT PANIC, THIS COMPLETELY GOES AWAY, and it ensures that all loco wheels get treated with NO-OX.
6. Remove all locomotives from track and wipe all rails with a clean rag to remove any excess product. Don’t scrub, just rub.
7. Wait 24 hours.
8. Run trains and forget about cleaning your track except for occasional light vacuuming.
If you still have a slippage problem, you may have too much on loco wheels. Clean off excess with a clean rag or Q-tip. You don’t want the rails slippery. What you are looking for is an almost MICROSCOPIC layer that will replace the insulating oxide coating with a long lasting conductive rail.
If you are worried about scratches on your rail from the brite boy, once you’ve applied No-Ox, you can throw it away because you won’t need it any more.
I applied NO-OX to my layout 5 years ago, and have experienced skip free running ever since. This is even after periods of no running for as long as a month. I HAVE NOT CLEANED MY TRACK IN 5 YEARS! An added bonus is that the NO-OX has changed my loco wheels into better conductors, as I have not had to clean them either. The results it produces are truly amazing and will make you wonder why you ever cleaned your track. No-Ox resembles grease, and therefore creates a natural resistance in the minds of some modelers. The fears are totally unwarranted, and the product has been successfully used on model railroads for over 45 years.
About 6 months ago I had a loco that started skipping badly. It was a Concor SW1200, and never did run that well. I decided to disassemble and discovered that the contacts were full of grease and dirt. I cleaned it all off and put a pinhead sized bit of No-Ox on the contacts. I reassembled and ran it on my track. The loco now runs better than it ever did, no skipping, and will run VERY slow. I have a video if anyone is interested.
I’m not the only one that has used No-Ox. Perhaps the most notable is Art Fahey of Bar Mills. He told me that he has been using No-Ox since the 70’s and that quote: “My N scale layout runs like a watch because of it (after wasting about $200 on track cleaning cars)”. He mentioned that he couldn’t understand why more model railroaders weren’t using it.
When I bought the quart can, I had so much left that I started giving samples to friends. Those sample giveaways resulted in many testimonials from amazed and happy users. A few years later I contacted Sanchem (the maker of No-Ox), and told them about my results, and the results of others. At the time, their site had no mention of its use in model railroading. They revised their site to include my testimonials and my application directions and can be seen here by scrolling down to paragraph 9:
Those same directions are included in every container sold by Bar Mills (also available through Walthers). You can also get No-Ox on Ebay. So far the records I’ve been keeping are perfect. Those that I’ve sent samples to (61), that have used it, and reported results, have all said that it works great. To my knowledge, EVERYONE who has properly used No-Ox has had nothing but GOOD things to say about their results. The only BAD comments come from those that HAVE NOT TRIED IT.