What is the best cleaner for old tubular Lionel track

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November 7, 2011 10:51 AM

I want to know what is best for cleaning tubular track? I have Scotch Brite pads and they do a good job. What liquid(s) can be used? Can WD-40 be used? What can be used to get inside the rails to get rid of rust or dirt?
Thanks,
Nick
 
 
 
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November 7, 2011 10:58 AM

Everyone will have a favorite...Me I use rubbing alcohol, have for years. WD-40 is for rust, not good for the top rails so if you use it clean off the top of the rail before running your trains.
 

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November 7, 2011 11:00 AM


Lemon Pledge

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November 7, 2011 11:04 AM

quote:
What can be used to get inside the rails to get rid of rust or dirt?


Pipe cleaner, and WD would be alright for that. Let it dry, then shoot it with a few drops of this:

http://store.caig.com/s.nl/it.....f?sc=2&category=188

I've been using it for years on my music and pro sound gear, expensive but it works really well! I think RatShack may have it now, if not, Guitar Center should.

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November 7, 2011 11:31 AM

As mentioned, everyone has their personal favorite. Me, I use Goo-Gone first followed with an denatured rubdown to remove the crap that the Goo-Gone loosens up.

I've tried other things but keep coming back to Goo-Gone. No matter what I used, if I would follow up with a Goo-Gone "test" I would get more dirt coming up. So now I start with it but like to remove it from the rails, thus the denatured follow up.

I use a pipe cleaner for inside but with the modern tubular, it's impractical to do both ends, given that they newer track has its pins crimped in place. I started doing this one year after seeing black gunk on the pins where ever there was any type of gap between 2 pieces of track, which is almost unpreventable. I was amazed at how much gunk seemed to force it's way inside the rail. Not far in, but definitely there.

- walt
 
 
 
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November 7, 2011 12:38 PM

soak it in CLR cleaner for 2 hours.
 
 
 
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November 9, 2011 12:44 AM

I may get a lot of heat for this answer...i have tried Goo-Gone several times..i can't find any good use for it at all..infact i think its a big joke..on the back of the bottle it states what it's suppose to clean...didn't clean a thing it was suppose to do...Lionel track cleaner is a joke too...Life Like works the best for me plus that hard eraser that comes with the Lionel pack. which brings me to this point..how much oil does Lionel have to give you with that pack its sells??? How about more grease instead Lionel?????? I have three tubes of oil with maybe a inch out of the first one i bought...DOES LIONEL THINK I AM GOING TO LIVE TO BE 200 YEARS OLD TO USE THREE TUBES OF OIL????? AS I HAVE BOUGHT THREE OF THEM PACKS OVER THE YEARS...THAT IS JUST ONE OF MY PET PEEVE'S ABOUT LIONEL'S LUBRICATION/MAINTENCANCE SET...IT SHOULD BE PRICE AROUND $10.00 not what it's going for nowdays...
RN...and don't worry group...i have thick skin..i can keep up with the best..



quote:
Originally posted by walt rapp:
As mentioned, everyone has their personal favorite. Me, I use Goo-Gone first followed with an denatured rubdown to remove the crap that the Goo-Gone loosens up.

I've tried other things but keep coming back to Goo-Gone. No matter what I used, if I would follow up with a Goo-Gone "test" I would get more dirt coming up. So now I start with it but like to remove it from the rails, thus the denatured follow up.

I use a pipe cleaner for inside but with the modern tubular, it's impractical to do both ends, given that they newer track has its pins crimped in place. I started doing this one year after seeing black gunk on the pins where ever there was any type of gap between 2 pieces of track, which is almost unpreventable. I was amazed at how much gunk seemed to force it's way inside the rail. Not far in, but definitely there.

- walt
 
 
 
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November 9, 2011 7:17 AM

quote:
Originally posted by RN:
I may get a lot of heat for this answer...i have tried Goo-Gone several times..i can't find any good use for it at all..infact i think its a big joke..

RN...and don't worry group...i have thick skin..i can keep up with the best..



No heat, but I've been using Goo-Gone for well over a decade on my S Scale railroad with excellent results. I just soak the roller on my Centerline track cleaing car and orbit 3 times and presto, no further electrical problems.
I probably clean my track every 3-4 months, depending on how often I run.

Works well on Flyer, AM and SHS track as well.

Your mileage may vary...

Rusty
 
 
 
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November 11, 2011 9:16 PM

quote:
Originally posted by Texas Pete:
quote:
What can be used to get inside the rails to get rid of rust or dirt?


Pipe cleaner, and WD would be alright for that. Let it dry, then shoot it with a few drops of this:

http://store.caig.com/s.nl/it.....f?sc=2&category=188

I've been using it for years on my music and pro sound gear, expensive but it works really well! I think RatShack may have it now, if not, Guitar Center should.

Pete


I agree with Pete.

Download the Deoxit brochure here.
http://store.caig.com/s.nl/it....?sc=17&category=-117

Deoxit is an electrical contact cleaner. Your train engine and cars make electrical contact with the track.
 

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November 12, 2011 9:15 AM

I use these McMaster-Carr SS Spiral Brushes to clean inside the track ends. Scroll down the page for the proper ones, I'm using the 0.125" ones.
 

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November 13, 2011 11:50 AM

Dishwasher, then a little buffing with Scotch Brite pad and wipe clean.
 

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November 13, 2011 12:12 PM

quote:
Originally posted by Susan Deats:
Dishwasher, then a little buffing with Scotch Brite pad and wipe clean.

Susan, I've heard this before but never tried it. Does it help with rusted track? Does it remove any of the paint on metal ties? Thank you.
 

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November 13, 2011 3:00 PM

I miss the good old days when Lionel sold Carbon tetrachloride in a can to clean tubular track.
 
 
 
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November 13, 2011 4:25 PM

quote:
Originally posted by InsideTrack:
I miss the good old days when Lionel sold Carbon tetrachloride in a can to clean tubular track.
Maybe, but perhaps not having that around is the reason you don't have kids with six fingers or toes. Wink
 

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November 13, 2011 4:42 PM

quote:
Maybe, but perhaps not having that around is the reason you don't have kids with six fingers or toes.



Then you've never heard one of those kids on a piano!
 
 
 
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November 14, 2011 9:40 AM

quote:
Originally posted by Cubbie:
quote:
Originally posted by Susan Deats:
Dishwasher, then a little buffing with Scotch Brite pad and wipe clean.

Susan, I've heard this before but never tried it. Does it help with rusted track? Does it remove any of the paint on metal ties? Thank you.

It removes all the powdery rust, not paint.
Wet or Dry Sandpaper (black) will remove what's left after the dishwasher.
 

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October 30, 2012 9:37 PM

OK, it's been almost a year since the last post on this thread and I'm still looking for a miracle. I have 80 pieces of old Lionel O gauge tubular track thats rusty. I've sprayed it with Goo Gone and rubbed it with Scotch Bright but the rust is still there. So I'm going to Home Depot to get sandpaper but what grit? 200? 400?

Isn't there something I can soak the track in that will make the job easier and faster? I've finally got enough of my attic room finished to lay some track and run some trains but I gotta get this track cleaned up first.

Help!

 

Oh, one more thing...the pins are covered in rust, too. Should I just replace them?

 
 
 
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October 30, 2012 9:48 PM

Well, we know it's not this stuff. Don

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October 30, 2012 10:24 PM

For cleaning I usually use 90% iso. Alcohol.  Let dry.  Then use TV tuner cleaner.  Then run a Marx 333 or 666.  If the center sliding shoe does not spark too muth, I am in good shape.  Let track dry before placing an engine with rubber traction tires on it.

 

Now for rust, depends how bad of shape it is in.

 
 
 
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October 31, 2012 6:48 AM

If you have rusty tubular track and want an easy way to remove the rust, it may be worth your time to look into a gallon of evapo-rust.

 
 
 
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October 31, 2012 7:12 AM

Originally Posted by scale rail:

Well, we know it's not this stuff. Don

91869

I think Simple Green is a great idea!  Buy several gallons, put it all in a tub.  Then soak your track in it for about two weeks.  At the rate it ate up my Fastrack it will completely dissolve your track--> problem solved, you have no more rusty track!

 

Seriously, a year ago I "restored" about twenty feet of very old (might even have been pre-war) Marx track including two switches and a similar batch of very old Lionel track, so it worked well.  Now, quite honestly, it does not brand new - but it works well.  Also, I started with twenty four feet of each -  ten to twenty percent of each batch  never did clear up well enough to work and look good. 

 

Deoxit is worth it.  Texas Pete's recommendation is certainly good. I used another brand, a penetrating electrical cleaner/decorroder I bought on Amazon - don't remember what, but essetnially the same I think.  But that was step two . . . 

 

First, I used Evapo-Rust , pretty much doing just like it says in the video in the link below - put some in a tub and soaked pieces for an afternoon.  This product is not quite as fast or complete in removed rust as it shows in the video but it did a good job and it certainly seemed safe and non-toxic. I was concerned that it might "eat" the insulating pads in the track center rail, etc, but I didn't have any problems except with a few that were bad anyway.   

http://www.evapo-rust.com/

 

Second, I rinsed and dried the track well putting it in an oven and heating it to about 240 degrees (i.e., above boiling) and leaving it for an hour in case evaporust or water had soaked into the track pins, etc.  I'd didn't warp badly or anything doing this.  I have no proof this step was necessary but it took nothing but a little time.  Then when cool again, used the Deoxit on the pins, trying to get it to soak into the pins held in the track as a final "chemical" step. 

 

Third: Bright Boys - I bought several and wore them out.  About half the track (both Marx and Lionel)  worked well once cleaned as above and then bright boyed "aggressively" - just lots of gentle pressure and time - stroke after stroke.

  

Sandpaper -in my opinion it is only a last resort.   Don't use anything like 200 or even 400 sandpaper.  Most auto parts stores stock at least 800 - the Autozone near me stocks down to 1500 grit wet-dry sandpaper, and sometimes you can find all the way to 3000 (which feels about like paper, it is so smooth).  If bright boys don't work, 1500 won't either, so I generally use around 1000 and gentle pressure and a little time, maybe 800 if desperate.  However - if a bright boy will not clean it up, it may be so bad that sandpaper is only going to make it worse, about 10% of my old track did not restore well..  Anything over 600 will ruin the track.

 

Pins - I oppose removing them if you don't have to: sometimes it takes enough force to bend or open up the track so why not leave well enough alone if it is?  On my track, just because the visible outside part of a pin was rusy did not mean the pin did not have good connectivity to the rail.  I used a penetrating electrical cleaner like Deoxit or something similar, then cleaned the rust off the pins with a Brightboy or sandpaper if need by.  I then tested the connectivity of pin the track with a mulit-meter.  If it was bad, then I pulled the pin and cleaned agressively.  I used no new pins.  I never thought of a pipecleaner to clean the inner side of the track, but had made sure the Evaporust got into the open ends of the track when pins would go and all, and cleaned each out well with the end of a fine rat tail file, carefully.

 

I then wiped it all with a thin layer of WD-40.  Yeah, I know what people say, but I did it, and some friends did it, and if the track was badly rusted it will try to rust again, so this does work.  Thin - keep it thin.

 

Just about all of the track treated like this "worked": trains would run on it.  About 20% would rust again soon or looked really worn and bad.  But 80% was good.  I have some of it on display in my study (with my Dad's 1937 Marx train set) and it has not rusted in the last year.  The rest I'm not using now and I put it in a sealed plastic bag into which I threw a bunch of old descicants from trains I bought in the hope they had some effectivness left.

 

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October 31, 2012 8:06 AM

Here, someone actually made a video on cleaning Lionel Tubular track!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObcKEQ6_Em0

 

Mark

 

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October 31, 2012 8:41 AM

How about brake cleaner or carb and choke cleaner?

 
 
 
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October 31, 2012 9:16 AM

Originally Posted by Nick DiSandro:
I want to know what is best for cleaning tubular track? I have Scotch Brite pads and they do a good job. What liquid(s) can be used? Can WD-40 be used? What can be used to get inside the rails to get rid of rust or dirt?
Thanks,
Nick

Can't see any reason to get inside the rails. As long as the exterior rails are not bent, (especially at the ends), and are free of rust.

What is important are the pins. If they're coroded, pitted or loose you'll have endless continuity problems. Change them.

If your tracks are rusty, pitted or detinned, toss it. Nothing will save it.

If its just real dirty & grimmy, what I do is, first wash & rinse, then I use this stuff called Earth Brite. Its mostly powered clay and other cleaning agents. You apply it with the enclosed sponge.  (Made for stainless, granite, pots and pans), then rinse it off and dry the track.

I put it in the oven at 200 degrees for a few minutes..When thats done I use a light wire brush to further smooth out the rail tops and its done. As good as new.. 

Remarkable stuff. The pins are instantly returned back to shiny, the rails clean and far brighter. 

Joe 

 
Last edited by JC642 October 31, 2012 10:09 AM
 
 
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October 31, 2012 9:57 AM

Hi Guys,

 

I'm an Oscale 2-railer, but I still set up my old post war Lionel trains each Christmas and will do so again this year. I first remember them when I was about 4 or 5, so they are at least 60+ years old, and they were used when Dad got them. After all this time the track is old, but not very rusty.

 

Has anyone used a bench grinder with a soft wire wheel to clean their track?? I saw no mention of this in the preceeding discussion. I have 0-31 and 0-27 tubular track and have used this method several times over the years. All with very good results and no damage to the track. Use light pressure and let the wheel do the work. That way you won't damage the center rail insulating pads.

 

Something I use on the 2-rail scale side may work for Lionel 3-rail. Home Despot sells CRC - QD Contact Cleaner and CRC - 2-26 Multi-purpose Precision Lubricant. About 3 bucks a can. Spray the Cleaner in a soft cloth (old piece of T-shirt) and rub the top of the rails to remove oxidation and dirt. Then spray some of the 2-26 onto a old piece of HO cork roadbed, let it soak in, and then burnish the top of the rails. This removes left over dirt, cleans the rail without scratching and leaves a water thin coating that protects against further oxidation and does not allow the drivers to slip.

 

For tubular track, subsitute a fine Teflon pad for the soft T-shirt, if the track is extremely dirty. Then use another Teflon pad with the 2-26. Treat the inside ends of the track the same way. Clean first with Contact cleaner on a pipe cleaner, then 2-26 on a different pipe cleaner.

 

The results are immediate and the track can be used right away. Once on the layout a monthly top clean with a rag and cleaner,then and a few drops of 2-26 on the rails and let the train spread it around.

 

Hope this works for y'all.

 

Buzz      

 
 
 
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October 31, 2012 10:04 AM

If you use Goo gone you will be replacing rubber tires frequently. Sandpaper can eventually remove the plating on the rails and will leave tiny scratches that will collect dirt. If your track is too rusty just toss it. TV tuner cleaner has OIL in it. It will eventually get into the pins. I use the green scotch pad if really dirty, or a Bright Boy pad, then wipe with denatured alcohol or the 90% stuff. I think there is some merit to trying to clean the inside of the rails out if you can.  I have done this with a properly fitting drill bit in a pin vise. You would not want carb cleaner or brake cleaner in your train room. It eats paint and its not good for your hands as well. MTH only recommends using denatured alcohol to clean track.

Rob

 

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October 31, 2012 1:05 PM

CLR cleaner, soak it for two hours or untill you see shiny track. then put in oven on lowest temp to dry out.

 
 
 
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October 31, 2012 4:03 PM

Originally Posted by SJC:
My personal favorite was the Blue Life Like Solution. Sad it isn't produced anymore. That was the best IMO. Now, I use Goo Gone and can't say I like it. Just putting up with it. Wish I could get a stash of the "blue stuff..."

I don't understand why this 'rumor' persists...

 

So, what is this...

https://dealers.walthers.com/e...productinfo/433-1415

..if not the infamous blue stuff???  Gee, it's in stock and even currently on sale!!!

 

I mentioned this on another thread.  We (LHS) go through a 12-bottle case of this abouit every 2 months...more during 'trains season' and the holidays.  In the last 14 years since I've been at the store I can only remember one occasion where this cleaner was on back order for any length of time.

 

Don't understand the Goo-Gone gripes, either.  Our best-selling track cleaners...ALL gauges...are by Centerline, who endorse the use of Goo-Gone...followed up by a few trips around with a clean, dry roller to pick up the loosened crud.  Can't remember a single complaint, including deterioration of tires, from dozens of customers, .

 

Track cleaning solutions, IMHO, rank right up there with politics for impassioned opinions re what works and what doesn't. 

 

To each his own.

 

KD

 
 
 
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October 31, 2012 4:18 PM

Read the Goo gone instruction page. It clearly states that the product WILL damage rubber.

http://www.ehow.com/about_6546...goo-gone-safety.html

 

Here is a story from someone who used it to remove chewing gum from rubber. It destroyed the rubber.

http://www.riderforums.com/gen...-gone-take-note.html

 

Rob

 

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Last edited by oldrob October 31, 2012 4:32 PM
 
 
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October 31, 2012 7:08 PM

Originally Posted by oldrob:

Read the Goo gone instruction page. It clearly states that the product WILL damage rubber.

 

Here is a story from someone who used it to remove chewing gum from rubber. It destroyed the rubber. 

 

No argument re Goo-Gone interaction with rubber.

 

However...

 

I'm not sure most traction tires for the model/toy train engines have a significant rubber content.  That may be more intuitive than fact.  There are a lot of synthetics that have the qualities necessary to improve traction over metal-on-metal (e.g., Bullfrog Snot).

 

Besides, removing residual cleaning fluid of any type from the track would seem to just make good sense for improving traction, minimizing continued dirt attraction and gunk build-up, and avoiding electrical problems.  That's the advice we give our customers.

 

Like I said, though, to each his own.  If you find something that works, stick with it. 

 

KD

 
 
 
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October 31, 2012 7:46 PM

Scotch Brite Pad.

 
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November 1, 2012 11:37 AM

Originally Posted by oldrob:

If you use Goo gone you will be replacing rubber tires frequently.

Which is why I said this in post way at the top of this thread:

 

As mentioned, everyone has their personal favorite. Me, I use Goo-Gone first followed with an denatured rubdown to remove the crap that the Goo-Gone loosens up.

I've tried other things but keep coming back to Goo-Gone. No matter what I used, if I would follow up with a Goo-Gone "test" I would get more dirt coming up. So now I start with it but like to remove it from the rails, thus the denatured follow up.


- walt

 
 
 
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November 1, 2012 12:30 PM

I'd also recommend a dish washer, followed by a cleaning of the inside of the rails with a rat tail file. Then buff the top of the rails with a buffer wheel and some rouge.

 
 
 
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January 8, 2014 3:10 PM

Thanks for all of this good information. I have a bunch of O27 track from the 50s. After trying many things listed here I've settled on goo-gone, though 30 minutes in Evapo-rust first may help a bit.

 

A long time in Evapo-rust didn't remove anything Goo-Gone didn't remove except some paint. The dishwasher didn't see to do anything.

 

I'm just making a small oval to see if the rest of what I have works. If I get hooked into a bigger or more permanent setup I'll do the denatured alcohol afterwards and possibly the DeoxIT.

 

Next is the wheels of the engine and then a test trip.... Thanks!

 
 
 
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January 8, 2014 3:35 PM

Anybody ever tried electrolysis on rusted track?

 

If you don't know what I'm talking about, check it out on youtube. "Shopdogsam" has a good folksy entertaining explanation of the process over the course of a few videos.

 

I suspect that the track, being so thin, would probably evaporate in the electrolysis tank.

 
 
 
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January 8, 2014 4:49 PM

Cleaning 50 or 60 year old track has never been worth the effort for me. Nothing but electrical issues from oxidation, loose corroded pins etc. Much less hassle and better running to just spring for new tubular. It's cheap and the trains will run much better. 

 

Roger

 
 
 
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January 8, 2014 8:21 PM

Some years ago I cleaned up a few hundred feet of Lionel and Marx 027 by first soaking then scrubbing (with a heavy kitchen type scrub brush) in a water diluted cleaner/degreaser (don't remember which at the moment, something from Lowe's), followed by a good rinsing and drying.  Then inspected and did a continuity check to weed out any bad sections/insulators.  Finished with a light scrubbing of the rail tops with maroon Scotchbrite pads and a mineral spirits wipe down.  Didn't bother with the ends or remove any pins (unless already loose).  Never had any issues with the resulting layout.  I also passed on any heavily rusted track - used 027 is too cheap and plentiful to waste time and elbow grease fighting the seriously abused/deteriorated stuff, just to watch it rust over again.  I'm hoping I can get away with just another good spirits wipe once the layout returns.

 

About the dumbest thing I did (too many decades ago when I was a whole lot younger...) was to use a stiff wire wheel on a bench grinder.  Was just a bit overzealous in trying to make it shiny - rusted back almost overnight and heavier than ever, since the plating was now spread all over the floor around the grinder stand....

 
 
 
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January 8, 2014 9:43 PM

You guys are making this problem too hard.  I use the train to clean the track.  I have recently bought a few hundred feet of used track that was slightly rusty.  Before I connected the track sections together, I bent the rails where the pins are installed so that the pins were slight splayed.  Holding the track section with the pins pointing away from you, grab the left rail where the pin is installed and bend it to the left.  Then grab the center rail where the pin is installed and bend it to the right.  Bend each rail so the end of the pin is offset about the diameter of the pin.  Now when you connect two sections together, the pins will burnish themselves and the inside of the adjacent section.  Now assemble a layout.

 

At this point, I put a loco and some cars on the track, connect up the transformer and run the train.  I initially set the E unit for forward only until the track is clean enough that the E unit doesn't trip.  If there are places that are not getting clean due to too much rust, I use the end of a tie as a scraper to scrape off the rust on the top of the rails.  

 

After running the train for 2 hours or so, you will notice a very narrow shiny stripe on the top of the rails.

 

The last batch of track I did was quite rusty, and I had to clean out the open of some of the rails.  I used a small rat tail file.  I like John's suggestion of a small wire brush which can be obtained from McMaster Carr.

 
 
 
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January 8, 2014 9:45 PM

BTW, Goo Gone and other solvents are for removing oil and grease.  They will not remove rust.  If I have oil on the track, I use a folded up paper towel fastened to a heavy car with rubber bands and soaked with isopropyl alcohol.  I let the engine tow the car around until the track is clean.  No elbow grease required.

 
 
 
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January 8, 2014 11:27 PM

if you have rust inside the rails, cleaning with a spiral brush as John mentioned is the best way. problem is you need to do a very thorough job and then put some kind of coating so it wont rust again after you put it together, which will cause all kinds of headaches and I have seen a rail connection get so hot that I branded my hand because of a poor connection.. to me if the inside is corroded it is not worth the time or effort.     

 

 

 

 
 
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