Monday, May 03, 2010

How do I clean the track?

At the start of each season I have a major track cleaning session to remove the accumulated gunk from the rails. The first job is to clear the rails of overgrowth.
For this, I use a simple scraper made from an offcut of ply:

Next comes the actual scrubbing of the rail surfaces. I use the track cleaning blocks which I bought from Garden Railway Specialists (GRS).

Rather than buying the aluminium handle from GRS, I made my own by drilling a hole into the end of a broomstick, cutting a slot, inserting the knob into the hole and tightening up with a jubilee clip.

To make the abrasive blocks last longer I place a thin piece of plywood beneath them when they get worn down.

In this way I can make a pair of blocks last a whole season.

As I'm mkaing my way round the line, polishing the track, I prune the plants which are encroaching on to the railway:

I also spend a while hoiking out stones, grit and debris from each point (switch) with, variously:
  • a piece of copper wire;
  • a small electrical screwdriver;
  • a plastic plant label:
all of which I keep in my back pocket.

Finally, I go round the track with a garden vac to remove the chunks of moss, clippings and dislodged ballast.
It takes me around an hour and a half to clean the entire line in this way, but once I've done this at the start of the season the upkeep for the rest of the season is a lot less (around 20 mins before each running session).

I do have a track cleaning loco which I use from time to time during a running session, but I'm not convinced it's actually worth the £350 (now over £400) investment. Maybe if I was running trains every day it might be worth a quick whizz round at the start of each session - but with my intermittent running sessions (owing to the pressure of the day-job), I find the GRS abrasive pads to be far more cost effective in terms of time and outlay.
I have found since going over to DCC, that locos are more tolerant of tarnished or slightly mucky track, but as my locos are mostly based on short wheelbase 0-4-0 chassis they often struggle to run through pointwork without stumbling.

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