Best way to clean up a prewar Blue Comet

So I picked up a standard gauge prewar blue comet set yesterday. The set is in pretty nice shape but has some layers of caked up dust. I been using a soft bristle brush to take off the top layer of dust but the last layer is a bit sticky. I am tempted to take a damp rag to it but I fear taking off any paint, I dont want the paint to loose any of its richness in color. What would be my best bet?

Original Post

I've been cleaning my originals with soap & water & a toothbrush, then doing a polish with some mild metal polish to remove paint oxidation. Usually turns out pretty nice.

Here are some pictures I posted a while ago of a 217 Caboose I did in this fashion. All original paint, compare it to the MTH 217 and it looks almost as good!

Just don't polish the rivets or raised areas too much!

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If you can't buy it... restore it. If you can't restore it... make it. If you can't make it...dangit...

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Do not use soap on Lionel blue...it'll white spot the paint.  Blue is so fragile.  It's thin and tends to absorb dirt.  Polish can sometimes save the spotted paint, but do you really want to polish an entire blue comet set?

The later baby blue /nickel trim is slightly more durable, but even then, use caution.

Start with a soft, damp microfiber cloth and see how that goes first.  An old soft toothbrush and cold water works well around the trim.  Be gentle with your rubbing.

Wash the cloth(s) in the washing machine first to remove any mfg. Chemicals.

Also, cold water, always.

"Built like a Battleship" -Baldwin

Do you think waxing them will take awaY value? I can tell this set will clean up nicely and all the years of caked up dust has left the finish dull. The white spots is what I’m afraid of and I know what your talking about ,, sometimes the wax can bring it back but sometimes not. I’ll try the cold water and damp cloth

stevin posted:

Do you think waxing them will take awaY value?

I’ll try the cold water and damp cloth

Two things an old timer taught me.

1. Always start with "least aggressive methods" and slowly/cautiously go from there.

2.  If it looks like someone has been messing with it, it will almost certainly hurt value to some point.

Also, nothing worse than a nice piece with dried wax caked into all the books and crannies.

 

So you want to clean it up a bit, but retain that age, originality, and slight patina.  If you wanted new paint..., well, that's why there's reproductions.

"Built like a Battleship" -Baldwin

Ives1122 posted:
stevin posted:

Do you think waxing them will take awaY value?

I’ll try the cold water and damp cloth

Two things an old timer taught me.

1. Always start with "least aggressive methods" and slowly/cautiously go from there.

2.  If it looks like someone has been messing with it, it will almost certainly hurt value to some point.

Also, nothing worse than a nice piece with dried wax caked into all the books and crannies.

 

So you want to clean it up a bit, but retain that age, originality, and slight patina.  If you wanted new paint..., well, that's why there's reproductions.

Wax is the best way to protect paint. I have never heard that waxing a piece of tinplate would hurt the value. It takes patience and you need to remove the excess wax so there is no dried wax left in the nooks and crannies or on the trim. This is standard maintenance. 

George

Wax is the best way to protect paint. I have never heard that waxing a piece of tinplate would hurt the value. It takes patience and you need to remove the excess wax so there is no dried wax left in the nooks and crannies or on the trim. This is standard maintenance. 

There certainly are folks who think that waxing or polishing would hurt the value.
Are you really worried about future value? The market for collectables of any kind is shrinking, and most items are steadily loosing value. As the market shrinks, those who still want to collect can be more and more selective when it comes to condition.
IMHO, the question is: what is your preference?

My suggestion is to carefully clean your train. Evaluate the condition and decide on next steps, if any.

By the way, some Lionel paints just about rinse off with water. Be careful.
Louis Hertz recommended trying on a hidden area first.
If I recall correctly, he recommended using light oil.
Of course he was writing a long time ago, and a lot of new products have come and gone.

I've used original formula Zymol on some inexpensive tinplate with good results.




C.W. Burfle
George S posted:
Wax is the best way to protect paint. I have never heard that waxing a piece of tinplate would hurt the value. It takes patience and you need to remove the excess wax so there is no dried wax left in the nooks and crannies or on the trim. This is standard maintenance. 

George

It's not that wax doesn't have it's place, but expecting someone who's obviously new to Lionel blue paint to do it correctly on a fairly valuable train is asking a lot.  This is a very advanced job that will require a lot of time and extreme detail work to get right.

Also, while you've never personally heard of wax and polish affecting value, I can tell you with some assurance that it does.... IF it's obvious the piece has been cleaned.

Aggressive cleaning and polishing tactics not only harm a pieces "original patina", but it can be very off putting to a potential buyer, when an antique item looks too new,  perfect, or otherwise messed with.  You can watch it happen all the time at the auction houses.  Unmolested pieces tend to bring the most money.  The one uncle George polished the paint off all the edge lines and rivet heads, sells for a lot less.

Blue is one of the hardest colors to clean correctly. Period. 

Blue is not always 100% salvageable either...especially if it has low/no gloss.

"Built like a Battleship" -Baldwin

Aggressive cleaning and polishing tactics not only harm a pieces "original patina", but it can be very off putting to a potential buyer, when an antique item looks too new,  perfect, or otherwise messed with.

I've never understood how people are willing to pay more for rust and oxidation than something that looks new. But I've never purchased anything for keeps because I thought it was valuable either.

To me, they were built as a play thing for children, and I treat them as such.

If you can't buy it... restore it. If you can't restore it... make it. If you can't make it...dangit...

To me, they were built as a play thing for children, and I treat them as such.

They ceased being children's play things long ago. They are now prized collectables.
Would you pay what our poster did for a child's train?

Nobody looks for rust and oxidation. Collectors want their items in best original condition that they can find and afford. Some collectors not OK with polishing, others are. Some collectors are OK with restorations, and so on.

C.W. Burfle

Stevin, Had to go back to your other posting asking about the value for a photo. In looking at that, the paint seems in good shape. I don't profess to be an expert on cleaning but gotta agree with others that go at it slow, in measured steps that won't ruin the value. Very soft brush, very soft clean cloth(s), cool water (heck use distilled water if concerned). On this particular piece I would not use wax but that's just me.

The temptation to get that original gloss back may ruin the value but hey it's yours. To cure my own temptation on nice glossy trains I started buying junkers and refurbishing which I suspect a lot of us tinplaters do. Not having a crystal ball, but at the current rate, it's going to get even harder to find nice original pieces.

If it was easy, anybody could do it!

My biggest concern is not bringing back the original shine. The dust on it is so caked up that a paint brush alone could not even remove it all, a dry rag took off all the dust except for a final stubborn layer that was actually sticking to the train. So as everyone recommended using a damp cloth and some elbow did start to remove the final layer of stubborn dust but that spot was now a lighter shade then the rest of the surface! I just didnt want it to look like a two tone mess. Anyway I took the tender apart last night and used a damp cloth to remove most of the dirt, not going at it crazy but just enough that it looks good and then I used mcguires and I must say I am very happy with the results. I am nervous about doing the engine as the paint seams to act differently painted on the boiler then it did on the large diecast tender. 

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C.W. and Ives1122 make very good points. This, however, is a $3200 Blue Comet, not a $14,000 Blue Comet. I still think wax is the best thing for it and will not in itself drop the value below where it is now. If the paint ages further without protection the train could be damaged. I do respect the opinion that this job could be challenging. Zymol is a lightweight carnauba-based liquid wax that would work nicely. Use small amounts and work on small sections at a time. 

Or, clean it and leave it. If it were mine, I would wax it.

George

Ed Walsh posted:

Steven,

I think the best thing to do would be to send it to my house where I will study the problem for a year or so and then get back to you 

Ed

Ed I justified the purchase in my head by saying I will clean it and sell it down the line and even make a profit on it but I dont know if I could let this beauty go! Im falling in love and I have always been an O scale guy. I would love to set up some standard gauge around the tree this year.   

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