Author Topic: Cleaning Wheels  (Read 2394 times)

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strummer

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Cleaning Wheels
« on: August 27, 2013, 10:27:43 AM »
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The current thread regarding the Kato Mike got me to thinking; what's the best and/or easiest and/or your favorite way to clean wheels?

The Dremel idea sounds good, but in N scale the wheels are so small that it seems like it might prove somewhat difficult; (the size of the attachment being larger than the wheels.)

I remember reading somewhere about spraying contact cleaner on a paper towel,laying that across a length of track and running the cars back and forth over it...

Mark in Oregon

mark dance

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2013, 02:25:47 PM »
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I use isopropyl alcohol soaked paper towels laid across live tracks.  For diesel locos I put one power truck on the live rails and the other on the soaked paper towel.  Letting the wheels spin on the paper towel, and gently sliding them back and forth on the towel, seems to do the trick well. 

A year ago I made a more robust cleaning jig which uses the same approach.  The jig is made from a melamine book shelf with a paper towel holder attached.  Paper towels are pulled across a length of powered track glued to the bookshelf surface.  A couple of brass rods, which freely roll in plastic wire harness bushings, hold the paper towel down on either side of the track and allows it to be advanced across the  rails when it is time for a clean section of towel.  I have a rolling computer stand I used for various things and the jig fits nicely on this.  I put a few power drops around the layout so I can plug the jig in at a few places and move the jig to roughly where the locos are so I don't have to centralize them for cleaning. 

Yes, it's overkill but it saves me time and I like to clean all the wheels on all 40 locos between sessions.  Any stalling during a session is a "flaw" far as I am concerned.

md
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C855B

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2013, 02:31:51 PM »
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+1 on alcohol moistened paper towels. Most consumer-grade contact cleaners have a residual lubricant. Probably not the best idea for loco wheels... at least if you want them to pull anything. :D
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seusscaboose

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2013, 03:56:09 PM »
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I use a brass wheel attachment on my dremel on my kato cars and tenders

Works fine
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Nato

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2013, 04:56:29 PM »
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 :|       If we are talking car wheels then an ultrasonic cleaner is a must have item. For locomotive wheels the paper towel on the rails works, also units like MT and Trix have offered where you put the loki in a cradel that has clip leads going to the track and run it inplace. Nate Goodman (Nato).

randgust

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2013, 05:40:57 PM »
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Since this got transplanted, it deserves clarification.....

What we were referring to is cleaning Kato tender wheels - metal - in metal end-axle pickup cups.   And not powered.

I have an ultrasonic cleaner.   It still doesn't get the factory 'polish' back on metal treads.   The Dremel felt-polisher attachment is being run on medium-medium low speed (not 10,000 RPM!) and the edges of the felt attachment are run on the wheel treads.   I've also lubricated the axle end-cups with Conductalube before I do this.

Please don't trash freight car wheels in delrin or plastic trucks trying this, I suspect you might.   There's lots of other good methods to clean freight car wheels and this isn't one I'd use.  And while it 'might' work on an upended locomotive, just do the paper towel thing on powered axles, its much easier.   The challenge has been a way to clean unpowered pickup axles without disassembly or damage.

The results I got on Kato pickup wheels were just outstanding.   The polish surface is as good as new and the performance was excellent.



rogergperkins

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2013, 06:18:50 PM »
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Woodland Scenic under their Tidy Track brand sells a device that can be placed on the track and just set locomotive on and run it to clean wheels.
Works for diesels and shorter steam.  I have considering buying a second one to clean wheels of longer steam. 
I have not use any liquid, but the device. 
Not the solution for tender pick up wheels on steam. ;)

chicken45

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2013, 07:12:43 PM »
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I actually used a WS rescue pad on my Mike tender wheels. It made a HUGE improvement. Does chemical blackening hinder conductivity? I didn't think it did, but the difference was night and day on TWO engines. Yes, I cleaned the wheels before using the rescue pad.
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robert3985

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2013, 09:24:12 PM »
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I've been cleaning model railroad wheels since the middle '60's using a Q-tip, alcohol and/or Bestine.  Q-tips, with their paper shaft and finer cotton are the only brand I use.  I don't use the off-brands with the plastic shafts and poorly attached cotton swabs.   If you need finer points, Q-tips makes a "precision tip" nowadays that's pointy instead of spherical.  If you need to scrape some especially difficult crud off, cut the paper shaft with an Xacto blade, and use the edge.  A great non-scratching tool for getting the deep wheel crud off.   

For powered wheels (those which rotate under power) I use my trusty Kadee wheel cleaner hooked up to the track and my wireless throttle.  I've had that since at least the early 80's, and it's always worked well for me for powered model locomotive metal tires.  I use it dry, no solutions whatsoever.

As for buffing with a Dremel...I kinda think that's a bit of overkill unless you've had to file down nicks, ridges or other protrusions on your locomotive's tires.  In my experience, that's not needed for simple and regular cleaning.

I have several ultrasonic industrial cleaners.  They're not supposed to polish anything, they CLEAN things, so they won't restore a scratched-up surface...but they will (with the proper cleaning solution) clean the HELL out of metals, and in the process, they might remove the paint too.

If you want to get it clean, an ultrasonic cleaner with the proper cleaning solution, will clean things just about as good as anything...but won't re-polish anything or affect the surface of what you're cleaning at all.  That's the beauty of 'em.

I must live in an alternate universe, because clean wheels on cars and engines has never been a major problem with my layout.  Maybe it's because I don't run the same engine all the time, but switch between several dozen locomotives on the mainlines and half a dozen switching.  I don't have problems with "stalling" during my little op-sessions...at all, and all my sound-equipped locomotives don't stop and start, stop and start...nor does the sound cycle on and off...ever...unless somebody shorts that particular power block.

For track cleaning, I just go over everything with my trusty Bright Boy, and run several Masonite plate cleaning cars on through freights all the time.  Works great for me.  No oil or anti oxidation chemicals on the tracks, ever...

Maybe it's just cleaner here in rural Utah.

« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 09:26:43 PM by robert3985 »

peteski

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2013, 10:13:05 PM »
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Here is my wheel cleaner:


I took a piece of pine and nailed a piece of Atlas flex-track. I made 3 "staples" out of 1/32" brass rod and drilled holes in the board to hold those staples. They are used to retain a piece of plan Bounty paper towel. The towel is cut wider than needed. Once the towel gets grungy after cleaning loco's truck the staples are lifted slightly to allow the towel to be slid over slightly to have clean piece of towel over the rail. The middle staple is there to hold the towel better and to prevent loco's coupler pin from snagging it. (usually the towel is full of dirty streaks - I inserted a fresh towel for this photo).

I also extended the width of rail heads by super-gluing piece of styrene strip to the outside of each rail (in the towel area). I did that because the the width of loco's wheel is wider than the rail and I wanted to clean the entire width of the wheel's thread.

This is a very simple setup which works quite well. I haven't had any accidents with the alcohol damaging any parts of the loco or its paint.

I moisten the towel with 99% isopropyl alcohol using an eye dropper to place several drops along the towel over the rail.

I feed power to my setup using pair of leads with alligator clips.  Or, simply roll un-powered boxcars over the paper towel by hand.

For the really stubborn gunk I have a Minitrix wheel brush. I use it first on really gunked up wheels.


You just place the brush on track and crank up the throttle. Then touch loco's wheels to the brass bristles. They supply the power as well as cleaning wheels.

The Atlas Forum has several good wheel cleaning threads. Here are few of them:
http://forum.atlasrr.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=53202
http://forum.atlasrr.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=54878
http://forum.atlasrr.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=42538

. . . 42 . . .

randgust

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2013, 10:20:22 AM »
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Robert, I don't know if it is cleaner is Utah, but it sure is drier, and any kind of corrosion/gunk/dust is aided by humidity.   It's a running gun battle to keep my train room at 75% or below in the summer; run the dehumidifier any harder and it either heats up the room to 80 degrees or ices up.

FWIW, my experiment started with the dremel on used (and expendable) kato caboose trucks that hadn't ever been cleaned and was left who-knows-where by the previous owner, and had deep deposits of crud on them.   The attachment I used was the small felt tip (in the center) of this photo on the wood-screw type manderel:

http://blueroofdesigns.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/felt-polishers.jpg

There are three or more different types of felt tips possible.

After that buffed out as good as a new wheelset, I then cleaned up approximately a dozen various Kato chassis, tenders, and car pickup systems and each came back to factory finish within moments -  3-5 seconds per wheel.   Kind of an AH-HA moment.   Most of the wheels had never been cleaned since the day I got the equipment as I'd never found a really good way to do it.

I'm still struggling with periodic crud buildup on MT wheels.  The scuffing of the treads over time accelerates the pickup of crud, and significantly increases drag through curves.   Cleaning helps, but the only cure is sometimes replacing the wheels.   I find myself having to do a wholesale wheel-tread degunking about annually.    The only liquid I'm using is conductalube on end-axle pickups for all locomotives, that seems to be a big help particularly if they have sat around a while.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2013, 10:25:35 AM by randgust »

strummer

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Re: Cleaning Wheels
« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2013, 11:39:52 AM »
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Here is my wheel cleaner:


I took a piece of pine and nailed a piece of Atlas flex-track. I made 3 "staples" out of 1/32" brass rod and drilled holes in the board to hold those staples. They are used to retain a piece of plan Bounty paper towel. The towel is cut wider than needed. Once the towel gets grungy after cleaning loco's truck the staples are lifted slightly to allow the towel to be slid over slightly to have clean piece of towel over the rail. The middle staple is there to hold the towel better and to prevent loco's coupler pin from snagging it. (usually the towel is full of dirty streaks - I inserted a fresh towel for this photo).

I also extended the width of rail heads by super-gluing piece of styrene strip to the outside of each rail (in the towel area). I did that because the the width of loco's wheel is wider than the rail and I wanted to clean the entire width of the wheel's thread.

This is a very simple setup which works quite well. I haven't had any accidents with the alcohol damaging any parts of the loco or its paint.

I moisten the towel with 99% isopropyl alcohol using an eye dropper to place several drops along the towel over the rail.

I feed power to my setup using pair of leads with alligator clips.  Or, simply roll un-powered boxcars over the paper towel by hand.


I think this is what I remember...

Mark in Oregon