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I recently read "Tips on Improving Tubular Track".  They suggest a cleaner as well as a way to darken the center rail.   I am interested to know if anyone has any experience with these products and if they have had any positive or negative results.  they recommend.   The products are all used in firearms restoration.

Here is what they say - 

"Start by darkening the center rail with cold metal bluing compound.   Bluing compound is used in firearms restoration and is sold at many sporting goods stores.   Good results have been had by using Birchwood Casey no. 13425 Super Blue Liquid Gun Blue.  An alternative color, is Birchwood Casey 14130 Plum Brown Barrel Finish.

If the track is dirty, first clean it with Birchwood Casey no. 16225 Cleaner-Degreaser.  

After setting the track aside to dry overnight, I place oil or WD-40 on a cotton ball and lightly wipe down the middle rail. Lastly, I wipe all the excess oil off the middle rail.

You must use gloves and eye protection when using these compounds and work in a well-ventilated area."

Please advise if anyone has experience using these products, or, any other products to get the same center rail darkening effect.

Original Post

There are blackening agents that places like micro mark sell as well. I don't think the oil on the center rail makes any sense,by doing that you are leaving oil on the rail that can collect dust and grit, and if the oil is on the top of the rail it will get on the rollers and also will cause problems with conductivity. I assume they say to do that to try and keep it from oxidizing but I wouldn't do that. 

There has been a lot written about making the rail look better, here are a couple of other things

1)Paint the side of the rails with a rust color (make sure to clean the top of the rails)

2)Add extra ties between the metal ones, there are firms that sell wood or rubber ones, or you can make them from appropriate wood. 

3)Once you add the extra ties, color them and the metal ties a creosote treated wood color so they match

4)Ballast the track


I would suggest the biggest improvment would be to add ties and ballast. I cut my own ties as a kid. If you don't want to make your own I believe Gargraves will sell you ties already stained. Gun blue would be OK. The use of oil afterwards prevents the bluing from turning to rust. It won't have any real affect on electrical conduction. Try it on section if you have doubts.;feature=emb_logo


Last edited by Norton

Thank you, Don. The Lionel R-27 set in the picture has a suggestion of a third rail pickup shoe on each truck, but nothing that is true to scale. Also, the photos are a little misleading in that the third rail is quite a bit far in scale distance from the trucks.

I was aiming for a "suggestion" of a subway scene, not a scale replica. I certainly don't intend any disrespect towards modelers dedicated to scale accuracy, I'm just having fun and learning and sharing with others on these forums. 😁

As far as the B&C products go, my Grandfather would say if a product was good enough to be used on or protect his rifle, it was good enough for the trains.

I use B&C Sheath a lot. Lightly spraying w/pinpoint, maybe brass brushing any rust blooms from time to time until gone. I might use a deep penetrate carefully, not on paint/electric windings etc), flush it and more with cheaper wd-40 (including windings, and axle gunk, not all paint but some), and finish exposed metal with Sheath (or fresh lubrication oil vs a protective oil) 

Don't use cutting oil. 🤔  Dispose of the linseed oil if you have to ask and don't let it near cotton for long .🔥🚒 

Most oils can do a little of everything for a short term. But "right tool for the job" applies.  Most do a perfect job at cleaning, and removing rust, from metal gjven time.

WD-40 isn't really a lube, and can't compare to many other products for long term protection without regular application. .It's mainly my spray cleaner & flush.

Wahl hair clipped oil is a good light alternative for protection if handy. It's lube quality is low and excess wipes off easy. Any wheelslips will usually fade in a few passes if you miss a spot. 

Wet a rag,.etc with oil, wipe on, wipe well with a dry spot(s) on the rag.

For lube, a light weight automotive synthetic like mobile 1 are often plastic safe and do.their job, to lube well.  You can get fancy train oils and greases too. 

If the surface treatment or plating on tbe track is worn or cleaned abrasively, or rusting, it is especially important to keep metal (esp deep rust, dark with oil)

When I was into HO, my main objection to "Lionel" was the three rails.  I don't know if I am weird or what- but since taking up 3-rail,  2-rail looks weird.  

For my O tubular track (used over bridges and in a "coal yard") I added ties, and rattle-can painted all three rails a rail brown color using a cardboard mask with cut-out openings.  After painting (before it had a chance to dry)  I wiped the tops of the rails using lacquer thinner on a rag.  Then ballasted and weathered, mainly using a black wash (again wiping the rails while the wash was wet.)

track mask





Images (1)
  • track mask

I'm not sure blackening the middle rail does what you'd expect.  There are many pictures I've seen of layouts where the rails have been blackened.  In a lot of those pics, the darkened rail actually makes it stand out more!

Yes. When Lionel first came out with FasTrack it had a black center rail. Production of that was stopped when it became obvious than it made the center rail "stand out". When I first saw FasTrack at Nicolas Smith Trains around 2005, both were in stock, so I could compare them side by side. I bought the non-blackened version.

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