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Hey guys,

Recently I’ve acquired myself a three rail O scale CMX clean machine. Since this is an all metal construction car, I have chosen to use acetone to clean my track. I ran it around one stretch of track and in it cleaned it wonderfully. A couple months later I realized that my track had a rust on it. Is the acetone taking down the layer of protection on the track making is susceptible to rust? Just so you know I am using Gargraves Track. I thought to cure this I could use the acetone to clean the track and then lightly oil it was some sort of lubricant like WD-40 to prevent rust. Have any of you had this problem and if so what did you do to prevent the rust. Note, I clean the track first in around early February and didn’t have a problem until yesterday. The trains ran fine through the track the week before and then they stopped. I allways keep my basement dry by using a dehumidifier set to keep it at around 53% humidity. Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks, Daniel

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Roo  - while I agree that acetone wouldn't be my choice of track cleaner either, I'm not clear on what your table sez in this regard.  For something that winds up as a thin film on the rails, such as WD-40 or other oils, a low dielectric constant (I guess the preferred term is now relative permittivity - a 'trick' this old dog is gonna have trouble remembering) would be preferred - quite apart from whatever other properties a specific cleaner/solvent might have.  But if the solvent, like gasoline (low dielectric constant in your table) or acetone (higher dielectric constant in your table) evaporates, then it seems to me the dielectric value is largely irrelevant, is it not(??). 

More importantly from a safety point of view, the use of gasoline is a terrible idea as a solvent - especially when used in enclosed spaces that might have a source of flame or ignition (basement with a furnace or water heater...).  Carbon tet - while not flammable - is a liver toxin and frankly, not something to mess with (when there are better, safer, alternatives).  Both butyl and ethyl acetate, while in the middle of your table of dielectric constant values, are both flammable also.  I think there is a very important distinction between what one might use as a solvent in a well-ventilated space - a garage workshop that isn't part of the house - and what one uses in a basement or living space trainroom.

  Graphite is on that list too 😏

  But looking at some of the more oily substances is interesting. I recall someone loving kerosene and with a hefty dose of moderation seems intriguing.  Transmission fluid too, but friction modifiers like that can vary too much for me to speculate on; I prefered manuals anyhow  

   I usually use alcohol and follow with a trace wipe of wahl hair clipper oil ; but I don't clean live track. Lots of small scale folk do alcohol/wahl and their traction issues being greater out of the box (imo) intrigued me enough to try that. Though applying oil sparsely has a learning curve to keep traction normal, it's not hard and I like the result. I've also been using a Birchwood Casey gun cleaner/protectant, Sheath, on a small loop with similar results.  Both penetrate and break up light rust well. I imagine kerosene's oils would too.

  I really soak um pretty good once in while, making sure to get the rail foot, web and web to railhead transition/"corners" well. Then I concentrate on removing excess from the railtop and inner radius to the flange rub, but not below that. 

  Besides holding moisture, fresh acetone would strip any oils providing protection too. It might not be an issue if there were oils left to migrate. I.e. it cleans too well and needs follow up surface maintenance.  

I never considered acetone holding water before. It made me realize I don't really recall to what extent alcohol might do this. I know it mixes and there is attraction, but don't recall what's actually happening or how fast; e.g. how atmospheric moisture vs liquid build up/ useage as fuel dry might differ. I just know oils are good protectants.  

 Trace debris from old wheels rusting? Steel dust is like seeding for redness spread around. 

  I see cleaner cars used "daily" as beneficial. But not as a replacement for cleaning by hand.

(funny, I went decades not cleaning my track but once on a table it became needed kinda often..?¿?¿?)

richs09 posted:

Roo  - while I agree that acetone wouldn't be my choice of track cleaner either, I'm not clear on what your table sez in this regard.  For something that winds up as a thin film on the rails, such as WD-40 or other oils, a low dielectric constant (I guess the preferred term is now relative permittivity - a 'trick' this old dog is gonna have trouble remembering) would be preferred - quite apart from whatever other properties a specific cleaner/solvent might have.  But if the solvent, like gasoline (low dielectric constant in your table) or acetone (higher dielectric constant in your table) evaporates, then it seems to me the dielectric value is largely irrelevant, is it not(??). 

More importantly from a safety point of view, the use of gasoline is a terrible idea as a solvent - especially when used in enclosed spaces that might have a source of flame or ignition (basement with a furnace or water heater...).  Carbon tet - while not flammable - is a liver toxin and frankly, not something to mess with (when there are better, safer, alternatives).  Both butyl and ethyl acetate, while in the middle of your table of dielectric constant values, are both flammable also.  I think there is a very important distinction between what one might use as a solvent in a well-ventilated space - a garage workshop that isn't part of the house - and what one uses in a basement or living space trainroom.

If you look at the list again it states WD-40 CONTACT CLEANER further down WD-40 regular gets a higher reading which means it's not as good I would not use the higher reading.

Kerosene surprised me so I decided to wipe as much of the rails on the layout that I could reach and apart from the smell which lasted for two days it was a complete success I also already had the WD-40 CONTACT CLEANER here that I use for cleaning ..what else.. electrical contacts, but the Kero is cheaper than the WD so that's what I tried haven't cleaned the track for 3 weeks since.

This was from a five page yes five (5) page article on an English website which gave a very comprehensive explanation on why track needs cleaning and the correct way to go about it the solvents were all checked by a qualified chemist to give some credence to the report who also helped the writer prepare the report it is very interesting to read the five pages not just look at the list  there is much more. I only have a copy of the report given to me by a friend so can't tell you where to read it off the English site. Kerosene works believe me.

OK, I just found it and have attached it here. Roo.

 

 

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I have original AC Gilbert American Flyer track, all of it over 50 years old and some of it with oxidation. I have used Scotch Brite green pads to remove the rust and liquid track cleaner afterwards to remove residue. Running trains regularly and periodic cleaning with the liquid cleaner  seems to be a way to keep track in good shape. A Bright Boy track cleaner also does a good job of removing the rust, but keep in mind that you need to control the humidity in the train room.

As an added note the track cleaner I use is called "Track & Rail Cleaner ACT-6006

Ray

Last edited by Rayin"S"

Danielk

I too own the CMX cleaner car and YES I use acetone. I think people are not familiar with the car. For one, like you say it is a sealed brass tube body with a needle valve to regulate the DRIP that is used to drip into a brass block which holds the pad. 2 the pad is a piece of material that you cut and clip on. The PAD DOES NOT BECOME SATURATED to the point of acetone running everywhere. I have used this car for years and it is the ONLY one that I have found that actually cleans and can us acetone. The vapors of the acetone are NOT high enough to cause a BURST of flame as people think. You have a better chance of flame with KEROSENE! As for the material used I found some at Hobby Lobby that matched the sample they sent but is a different color. I am not familiar with Gargraves so can not answer as to rust reason. I use mainly Atlas 21st Century track with some MTH RealTrax.

Good luck with the cleaning car I rate it excellent and as far as I am concerned it is the BEST! Course that is MY opinion.

CurtisH posted:
The vapors of the acetone are NOT high enough to cause a BURST of flame as people think. You have a better chance of flame with KEROSENE!

Sorry, I don't know where you get your information, but that's not true!

The most hazardous property of acetone is its extreme flammability. At temperatures greater than acetone's flash point of −20 °C (−4 °F), air mixtures of between 2.5% and 12.8% acetone, by volume, may explode or cause a flash fire.

 The flash point of kerosene is between 37 and 65 °C (100 and 150 °F), and its auto-ignition temperature is 220 °C (428 °F).

I don't see anything in that data to suggest kerosene is more likely to ignite!  One spark and you have fire with the acetone.

Last edited by gunrunnerjohn

First, I agree with GRJ - the use of flammable solvents like acetone indoors is a terrible idea - true maybe not enough gets volatilized to reach the concentrations that are really hazardous when used carefully - but one cannot always assure that is gonna be true when making making generalizations on a forum like this.  There are alternatives that don't run the same risks.

Second, Roo, thanks for the writeup.  While I'm not sure we are disagreeing that using non-polar solvents is the best bet, I want to stand by my original claim that for solvents like gasoline or acetone (ignoring the more obvious flammability issues for the moment) that evaporate to 'dryness' at normal temperatures, their dielectric constant is irrelevant since there isn't enough of the material left on the surface to matter (with respect to suppressing 'microarcing').  In fact, under most indoor conditions - and especially in humid environments - the amount of water on those surfaces is going to be much larger at equilibrium, which might be one reason why low volatility, hydrophobic materials like clipper oil, WD-40, or even kerosene would be good choices (in addition to the low dielectric constant values).  I haven't tried any of them (and my tracks are dirty...), but I think I'll give something like clipper oil a shot.  I think the odor issue for kerosene and maybe WD-40 is likely to dissuade me from using them (maybe the deodorized kerosene would be ok) - the final 'what's that smell' test would rest with da boss anyway... (and I'm way over my limit on the 'forgiveness/permission' ratio).

Iso. alcohol vs acetone in a watercooler bottle; lit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ui3L5l4NhSg

Lighting kerosene attempts.... spark, flame, torch. All CAN light it, but how easy..? (and note a spark of an heater spark plug would be hotter and often in a steam of kerosene atomized in air.  The heaters without fans always use a battery op glow wire from what Ive seen. Quartz would also usually have a hot blue spark. Our sparks can be blue too. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2EY5jXepbg

Also the clear kerosene burns easier than red dyed stuff IMEx. I think it soots and smells more though. Red is a "home grade". Some stations have both...point is, the grade varies.

J Daddy posted:

Why would anyone want to breath all these fumes in? I purchased a track cleaner block from a dealer at York... best tool ever!

cleaning block

This type of tool including Brite Boys are abrasive. They are meant for those with solid rail track, brass or nickel silver. These will sand the tin plating away on Gargraves or any tubular track in short order. 

Pete

gunrunnerjohn posted:
CurtisH posted:
The vapors of the acetone are NOT high enough to cause a BURST of flame as people think. You have a better chance of flame with KEROSENE!

Sorry, I don't know where you get your information, but that's not true!

The most hazardous property of acetone is its extreme flammability. At temperatures greater than acetone's flash point of −20 °C (−4 °F), air mixtures of between 2.5% and 12.8% acetone, by volume, may explode or cause a flash fire.

 The flash point of kerosene is between 37 and 65 °C (100 and 150 °F), and its auto-ignition temperature is 220 °C (428 °F).

I don't see anything in that data to suggest kerosene is more likely to ignite!  One spark and you have fire with the acetone.

I was referring to the amount of Acetone vs the amount of Kerosene. There is very little acetone dispensed when the car is used correctly. It takes no where near as much of the acetone to clean the track. You are correct that it is more flammable I am not arguing that fact. Again quantities mean a lot! Still with that being said Kerosene is harder to ignite I agree. But as someone who worked in the petroleum industry I can tell you I do NOT want the smell of Kerosene in any quantity in my train room. That is MY personal desire of course! I know people visiting will pick out that Oder VERY quickly and ask what stinks.

I certainly wasn't recommending kerosene for track cleaning.  As for the smell of kerosene, I worked for many years on commercial and military aircraft fuel systems, I'm fully aware of the smell.

I know of two people that have used alcohol in track cleaning cars and have had fires, so this isn't an academic discussion, it can happen.  You probably said the key words, used correctly.

The liquid isn't as much of a concern. You can extinguish a cigarette in gasoline far more often than not.

It's the stoichiometry ratio of the substance you have to be concerned with (air to fuel ratio). 

  Kerosene's low evaporation rate makes explosive combustion less likely than a substance of a high evaporation rate. (each substance also has a different ideal ratio/ stoich value, boiling temp, etc... gasoline is 13-15:1 for automobiles ( 14.1-14.7:1 depending on who you ask) 

I'd personally feel safer with kerosene, but that's also a mixed bag if tricks. It would remain flamable longer, and burn longer though be less prone to accidental ignition. It would also burn cooler if I'm not mistaken; but that is near irrelevant to foam and paper stock. A spill on wood and acetone/alcohol will be gone soon but kerosene is going to embed itself a bit creatin a more flamable wood....point is there is a large balance of variable conditions to be hashed out.... just be careful... the orange halves I'm about to squeeze into shaved ice can burn like candle pretty easily  too 😄

Spellwreck changed my wording. "A spill on wood and acetone/alcohol will be gone soon but kerosene is going to embed itself a bit creatin a more flamable wood.."  should end as "embed itself a bit more, creating a more flamable wood"

Spellwreck is going to cause a death sooner or later imo. Hopefully it doesn't strike close to us.

Sorry, I don't know where you get your information, but that's not true!

The most hazardous property of acetone is its extreme flammability. At temperatures greater than acetone's flash point of −20 °C (−4 °F), air mixtures of between 2.5% and 12.8% acetone, by volume, may explode or cause a flash fire.

The flash point of kerosene is between 37 and 65 °C (100 and 150 °F), and its auto-ignition temperature is 220 °C (428 °F).

I don't see anything in that data to suggest kerosene is more likely to ignite!  One spark and you have fire with the acetone.

Just rereading some of the track cleaning posts and it reminds me of an event at the U of IL School of Chemistry. The Mass Spec lab had a student with an open flame bunsen burner near a shelf with an open bottle of acetone. The fumes likely flowed out of the container and a fire erupted. The lab was burnt out totally in less than 5 minutes. The student suffered flash burns but was ok. Just something to think about when using acetone.

Another caveat is WD-40. I read of a can of WD-40 that fell off a drill press near a hot water heater with flame at the bottom. The WD-40 sprayed out of the can which landed on it's top and started a major fire from the floor up.

Just some seemingly innocent stuff that can surprise you.

20210508_162523When modeling in HO I used a Centerline track cleaning car with "Goo Gone". Had good results. I run these modified m t h flat cars with a magic eraser trimmed to height. This train has six cars with erasers and I'll run it over the layout once about every other time I run and have never had to wipe down the track or have had contact problems. I also similarly did a Lionel traditional size Gondola for someone one time and it worked well.20210508_16310120210508_16301120210508_16250820210508_162610

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Last edited by shasta

I like Goo Gone especially for cleaning up sticky glues, but my wife can't stand the fumes. I love them...aromatic hydrocarbons. So if I use it I have to use it outside and throw away the cleaning paper in the trash container outside. A former boss I had once 50 years ago loved to smell MEK, Methyl Ethyl Ketone. He was a teetotaler but MEK was his one vice

My layout starts with balloon Loops at 44 in off the floor and is mostly a continuous grade up to 76 in off the floor another balloon Loop. I had one balloon Loop that was the town area that was o31 it has since been changed to o 48 but before I changed it I was able to push or pull the train everywhere on the lay out without any derailments

Last edited by shasta

I'll say it to whoever will listen, Acetone is not something you want to have around if there's any chance of a spark.

I’ll 100% agree. I can show you two burn marks on the carpeting around our club layout that resulted from acetone catching fire on the track cleaning car pads when it sparked on a switch. The guys running the car both times managed to grab it off the layout, throw it on the floor and use a fire extinguisher to put it out. Way more excitement than a bunch of old guys need. 😳🔥🧯

We have an absolute rule now - no acetone for track cleaning.

Curt

@RickO posted:

I think we need a separate forum heading, just for track cleaning threads.

Or oil threads. Never thought I would see oil threads, a staple on car and motorcycle forums, on a train forum.

As for cleaning track, I use this. Much lower ignition point than acetone and safe for paint. In fact its used in the auto industry to clean wax and oil from paint prior to repainting. Shop around and you can find it for 18 bucks a gallon. Many other uses around the shop.

Sold at hardware and auto parts stores as well as online.

Pete

Last edited by Norton

I'm surprised you don't have problems with Magic Erasers, being water based I'd expect them to promote rust pretty quickly!

I was not aware of that, I have been using them for about eight years. There have been times when the layout has set for months and the track has gotten really dusty. I can back the train around the layout once and eliminate any contact problems. Because you have pointed that out Gunrunner I will do a close inspection of the track tonight and update.

Last edited by shasta

Not sure I'm that wild about that choice either Pete, but it appears better than Acetone.   Looks like it's mostly naphtha (lighter fluid), another thing I'd be pretty cautious about around any sparks.

I have been using this along with the original DuPont Prep Sol for over 70 years. No fires even with acetylene torches being fired up around me. Nothing is risk free. Drop an engine on your foot and it might send you to the hospital. We still play with trains. YMMV

Pete

Interesting thread.

Whomever doesn't think that Acetone is explosive is dead wrong.

I use 91% to 96% rubbing alcohol from the pharmacy to clean the track.    I just dampen a lint free cloth with it, and clean the rails by gripping the rail with the cloth in hand and pulling it around the track by hand.  It evaporates in literally seconds.   The cloth comes away black with grease etc.  An old cotton undershirt works bets.  I have been using it on my O gauge track for a year and there is zero rust.

I always unplug the transformer from the wall first, and never have the one pint plastic bottle of alcohol on the train table.  I can't imagine how this would be a fire risk.

Maybe the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works, but I hate them.  The Eraser  goo that falls off of the eraser as you use it is more trouble to clean up than the original spots, and they stick.   Get some of those good strands up inside of a loco or in the trucks or axles and you've got a problem. 

Yes, I guess you could vacuum afterwards, but why use anything that you must follow up with a vacuum? 

Mannyrock

There is a Magic Eraser that has no soap or cleaner, it's just the melamine foam pad and it is all white. They  scrub effectively if you need to, can be used dry, and probably not as abrasive as scotch pads. I have not tried them for cleaning track.

This is what we’ve been having decent luck with on old Marx tinplate, except we’re using the thin sheets that come eight to a “book.” Because they’re so thin, they’re easy to use on anything that isn’t flat. Cut a piece of one of the sheets and go over the engine lightly, no scratches and all the miscellaneous crud lifts off. It’s actually more convenient than baking soda (but I’m still nervous about trying it on anything with delicate decals or soft paint.)

We’ve always used alcohol on track and engine wheels and haven’t had fire problems. Don’t soak anything and do let it dry, no biggie.

Just saw a youtube vid from Ron Marsh,who is a N scaler  It is a mush watch, for years model railroader have been using all types of things to clean track.  Mostly bad to very bad.  Rons train and things RTNT is his channel.

While this will only work on the center rail, for 3 rail layouts. most issues are at the point where power is picked up by the roller on the center rail.

WATCH IT and let me know what u think,  BILL 

Giving this some more thought, Gunrunner John's use of 2000 and a light abrasive pad, on the outside rails, would be a good choice, because of drive tires. Many only clean our engines, but car trucks also contribute to poor track  connections , so one must keep rolling stock wheels clean. Power for engines, tracks cirt for signals and assy depend on clean track.   This is the price we pay for having a smooth operation.

It seems from posts online elsewhere that the dry Magic Eraser (again, not the product with any detergents) is already being used by others to clean their track. The melamine foam traps dirt rather than push it away and many like it for this purpose. The main complaint seems to be that the light weight foam snags easily at joints, etc, leaving tiny white shreds. Hand wiping maybe, but probably a PITA if used with a cleaner car.

Hi Gunnerjohn. We have something in common besides trains. I worked for the Liquidometer Corporation in Long Island City working with fuel measuring systems. I also worked for Grumman Aircraft Engineering Company as a vehicle designer. Sorry all for the hijack of the post topic, but I couldn't resist.

As for track cleaning, IMO it takes a petroleum distillate to remove oil and traction tire rubber from the rails. I do a deep cleaning of track by hand with a rag / towel moist with a petroleum solvent. I also run a track cleaning car with a 3M Scotch Bright Pad to lightly scuff the rails and remove dust. My track has durable nickle-silver rails.

Last edited by Bobby Ogage

I use a little  Naphtha on a rag or old sock...one or twice a year. Naphtha evaporates rapidly and leaves no residue. I don't own a track cleaning car and never will.  By the time you fool around with a track cleaning car you could have your whole mainline clean.  I don't clean storage yards or industrial sidings...the dust preserves the track

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