Author Topic: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?  (Read 1102 times)

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mmagliaro

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Suppose you have a curvy grade up around a mountain, and there is one little spot where trains
just always seem to lose their grip.  It could be that the rails aren't perfectly in the same plane for a little stretch,
or there's a little "lean" on the terrain, or maybe your trackwork isn't spotless.

You could try shimming, leveling, fiddling to figure out what's not quite perfect about that little stretch, or.... 

A few quick swipes with some not-so-fine sandpaper (like 220 or 150 grit) will leave a roughened surface at that spot,
and a quick experiment shows that it definitely helps.  As a general rule, I wouldn't want to do this, because
the roughened track will no doubt be more prone to collecting dirt.   But for little 6" critical stretch on a hill?

What do you think?
Has anyone else resorted to this?   It sure does work, and it seems like it would last, too, because the trains are not going to
smooth out" that rough patch very easily.

-- Max
 

basementcalling

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2013, 08:49:39 PM »
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Have you ballasted that section of track yet?

If not, try it and see what happens. If the increased dirt in the scratches becomes a problem - think crud making rails slick again and poor electrical contact - then you could replace the track section fairly easily and then attempt to find a construction flaw that could be causing the problem and fix that as well.

If ballasted, I would add another unit or maybe look into some  Bullfrog Snot for a traction tire solution. Scratching rails up on purpose in my experience does cause dirty track - and I hate cleaning track.
Peter Pfotenhauer

pnolan48

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2013, 09:10:39 PM »
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Max,

I had nothing but grades and transitions on the Portsmouth Branch, and the method worked like a charm. Once I smoothed things out, and this included the inside of both rails, with a 100-grit sanding stick, I found I could then use successively finer grits, up to about 600 grit for "polishing." Now, sanding the inside of the rails sometimes led to gauging problems (too wide) which were remedied with spikes that pushed the rails inward. And I think some of my vertical transitions got down to perhaps Code 49 rail, which led to minor clattering with some Life-Like diesels.

I never had a problem with cleaning. Perhaps a dry climate-controlled environment in a sealed room in Albuquerque was the first reason. Putting only scrupulously cleaned wheels on the track (and never taking them off) was perhaps the second reason. Running frequent long trains surely helped: the layout routinely ran five 40-cars trains at ten minute intervals through milepost 0, all at once. The mainline run was 40 miles.

I sure had rails with sanding grooves, but they never seemed to be dirt collectors. I'm not sure if grooves actually collect grime and, after 40 years of running on my six layouts, think it may be an MRR myth. If I hadn't run trains for a while, oxide build-up was a minor problem, so running a track cleaning train after a hiatus was effective. Now my track cleaning train was an impressive consist, but that's another subject.

mmagliaro

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2013, 09:23:48 PM »
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Supplying facts:
1. The track is ballasted
2. Adding another unit.... not an option.  This is primarily a steam railroad, and I rarely double-head.  Mostly,
this is a case where an engine might be able to pull a 20 car train over the whole layout except for 2 little spots.
Reducing the train length to 15 works.

3. These are all engines that already have all the weight they can hold, and traction tires, so Bullfrog Snot isn't going to
help (unless I am willing to give up pickup on the non-traction tire drivers, which I am not.

MOSTLY, I asked this as a more generic question, as in, have people tried this?  Was it a success?  What bonafide problems
did they have that they can definitely attribute to sanding the rails?   Is it a handy technique that model railroaders
might like to know about?


I just happened to try it an hour ago.  Just a few mild swipes with 330 grit was all it took to change a little 6" stretch
from slippery into "no problem."    It seems a bit of a nutty idea, so I thought I'd ask.

SkipGear

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2013, 11:58:13 PM »
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Truly the equivalent of "sanding" the rails without having to worry about drying the sand, clogging of the sanders and cleaning the sand off the rails before the cars roll by.  :D
Tony Hines

mmagliaro

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2013, 12:24:44 AM »
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Heh, yes Tony, "Sanding" the rails!
There are clearly ways to make this go horribly wrong.  For one thing, I'm sure if you did this over long stretches,
the track would be noisy, the drag would increase, and it might just plain look funny.

It does seem to be a big help for a small limited area.
And actually, the problem doesn't necessarily have to be bad trackwork.   When a train crests a hill, it is at the
maximum pull point where as many cars as can be on the hill are on there, so the load is highest. 
A little "sanding" right at the crest of the hill could provide the little bit of extra traction you need.

The specific case in question is an Athearn Challenger pulling 28 cars up a curved grade.   The engine pulls like
a bull, but over one little bit of the curved grade, it loses its grip and slips (and slips).  Just a few swipes on that spot,
and it glides right over it, and has been doing it for hours.

Lemosteam

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2013, 07:15:22 AM »
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Max, I've often thought oubout doing this too.  Have you tried sanding the rails ACROSS the track rather than parallel to the rail?  I've also often wondered about sandblasing the non TT drivers for a similar effect.

Nice pun Tony!  :P

DKS

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2013, 07:55:09 AM »
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Many years ago, a European model manufacturer offered a tool to do just this. It consisted of a handle with a small hardened steel roller on one end that looked rather like a tiny tubular file, mounted crosswise. It also had small guides on either side of the wheel to help keep it aligned on the track. The idea was to simply roll it along the track, using a little pressure, to roughen the surface of the rail.

Basically it was a knurling tool designed just for track. I don't recall who made it, and I doubt it's still available, but my thought is that perhaps one could use a regular knurling tool, since this is a common tool that's readily available and not all that costly: http://www.micromark.com/Diamond-Pattern-Knurling-Tool-1and2-Inch-Shank,8207.html
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Sokramiketes

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2013, 10:45:38 AM »
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Once I smoothed things out, and this included the inside of both rails, with a 100-grit sanding stick...

Holy bejeebus, Batman.  Forgetting to put the rail inside the railjoiners is no excuse to need a 100-grit sanding stick on N scale rail!   :D
Mike

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mmagliaro

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2013, 11:01:31 AM »
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Max, I've often thought oubout doing this too.  Have you tried sanding the rails ACROSS the track rather than parallel to the rail?  I've also often wondered about sandblasing the non TT drivers for a similar effect.

Nice pun Tony!  :P

Actually, that's what I did, sand ACROSS the rails, so there are scratches perpendicular to the rails.    Good point, John.

David, I think to make a knurling tool work, you would have to apply an awful lot of pressure or the pattern would not
penetrate into the metal rail.  Could that really work on installed track without crushing it into the roadbed, or just crushing
the track itself?

DKS

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2013, 04:50:18 PM »
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David, I think to make a knurling tool work, you would have to apply an awful lot of pressure or the pattern would not
penetrate into the metal rail.  Could that really work on installed track without crushing it into the roadbed, or just crushing
the track itself?

It takes relatively little pressure, actually. A knurling tool is very sharp, hardened steel. Nickel-silver, on the other hand, is a relatively soft metal. I have used the tool to which I referred, and it's quite effective with little effort.
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Cajonpassfan

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2013, 07:13:41 PM »
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My blood is curdling at the thought of knurling my trackwork.... :facepalm:
OttoK.

mmagliaro

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2013, 07:28:24 PM »
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It takes relatively little pressure, actually. A knurling tool is very sharp, hardened steel. Nickel-silver, on the other hand, is a relatively soft metal. I have used the tool to which I referred, and it's quite effective with little effort.

Really?  It can be done in-place on the layout without damaging anything?
Hmmmmm.... must .... try....

SCIENCE.

pnolan48

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2013, 08:38:01 PM »
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Holy bejeebus, Batman.  Forgetting to put the rail inside the railjoiners is no excuse to need a 100-grit sanding stick on N scale rail!   :D

LOL! Methinks I've been roughing out too many hulls these days. Of course I meant the finest of fine jewelers files, carefully swiped, and cleaned after every swipe with the finest of cotton, preferably 1200 weave.

Actually, I do the entire progression, no matter how rough I start. !00-150-220-320-400-600-800 . . .

My modeling approach is not subtle.  :D

peteski

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Re: Roughening rails at critical spot on grades for that "extra grip" ?
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2013, 03:28:13 AM »
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My blood is curdling at the thought of knurling my trackwork.... :facepalm:
OttoK.

Yeah - it'll eat up traction tires like there's no tomorrow!  :trollface:
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