Cleaning your Lionel model trains railroad tracks is a task that should be conducted when the tracks are noticeably dirty or when the train seems to stick and pause during operation. There are several methods that work well and you may want to experiment to find the one that suits you the best. The more you use your model trains, the less often you will need to clean the tracks. Conversely, with seldom used tracks, you may find you need to perform heavier-duty cleaning almost every time you use your toy model trains.
For HO scale trains, you can purchase a track-cleaning car. You fill the car with light oil and the track-cleaning car is pulled around the track by the engine. Be careful that you don’t overfill the track cleaning car, for in doing so, oil may spill over onto the tracks or the scenery. Add oil sparingly to avoid the mess. The cars contain a small tank with protrusions that rub on the rails, cleaning the rails as the train travels the length of the track. The track-cleaning car can be used frequently. If you use a brass track, you may notice oxidation forming. If so, a more thorough cleaning of the track may be necessary.
For heavy-duty cleaning and eliminating oxidation from brass tracks, you will need a product such as Walther’s Bright Boy. It is a hand-held cleaner that looks like a small flat eraser, measuring about 2” x 1.5”. You rub the bar across the rails, allowing the grit to remove dirt, paint, and oil from your model tracks. If you have brass tracks for your toy model, this cleaner will remove most of the oxidation from the tracks. Using sandpaper or emery is not recommended as these products could leave pits in the tracks of your toy model trains.
Once you have cleaned the tracks with the bar, you will want to rub a soft cloth along the tracks to remove any residue left behind from the cleaner. Cleaning your tracks regularly will keep the toy trains running smoothly, giving you more time to enjoy playing and less time cleaning.
One more cleaning option is to use a liquid product that is made for track cleaning. LifeLike is one such product and can be purchased at your local hobby store. Dampen a soft cloth with the liquid and rub the tracks. Keep changing places on the cloth as you go so you are not using the same spot repeatedly. Dry the train tracks as you go. As you are cleaning, inspect your track for signs of damage and repair or replace them as needed.
Once your model trains tracks are clean, you will need to perform regular maintenance to keep them that way. A product such as Pacer Technology’s Rail Zip is a good cleaner to maintain your track’s cleanliness. You squeeze a drop or two on the track in a few places and let your toy model trains run for several minutes. This allows the product to be spread fairly evenly around the track. Additionally, this product will keep the wheels clean. Rail Zip will also restore the electrical conductivity by preventing and reducing sparking.
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Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about Lionel trains toys. Click here to download a free model trains guidebook filled with hobby tips, ideas and information.
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