Contact Cleaner and Dirty Track
This article, is intended for the "clean track" gurus. My intention here is to say, "Keep it dirty!" Why, read on! Don't be scared of black buildup.
This article is intended to be a counterpoint!
Well, trial & error! I run the Old Town Model Railroad Depot full time. In this endeavor, I run lots of trains. 6-8 hours a day!
In the past, they cleaned the 3 Rail AC power O gauge layout with denatured alcohol, which lapsed into the "ban" category in California in 2018. At the end of 2019 we switched to 99% isopropyl alcohol. This works great with daily cleaning.
With the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, we drastically changed operations. Notable, the O gauge layout is off when California bans indoor museums. BUT! we set up a Bachmann HO train set outside, in direct view of street traffic. This train immediately posed a cleaning problem. 99% Isopropyl worked, for a day. Eventually it worked for half a day...
I read about using contact cleaner and protectant in MRH (https://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/magazine/mrh2019-05/publishers-musings), in this, I found that Contact cleaner and protectant worked wonders!
Simply looking at that photos, you would say "Track is dirty, trains won't run", but this $130 Bachmann train set, has run on track looking like that, for 3 months, non-stop! All of that black build-up is CONDUCTIVE black carbon.
I followed normal track cleaning procedures, using a rag and 99% Isopropyl alcohol to clean the track. I then sprayed a new rag with CRC 3140 Contact Cleaner and Protectant. This spray cleans electrical contacts, and promotes contact. After more than 3 months without cleaning, the introductory train set from Bachmann still runs strong.
As you can see in the photos above and below, the tracks and wheels are FAR from clean. But this train runs perfectly fine, outdoors, 20 feet from an active street, 3-4 days a week! But this train set:
Don't be afraid of dirty tracks, just learn the root cause!
©2020/2021, Josh Baakko, https://www.modelrailroadtips.com