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I have a basement layout for the past 15 years.  I have never had a problem with rust.  This year however, about half of the 027 and 031 Lionel template track has nasty rust on it. Short of tearing this out, is there a way to remove this rust and get my trains running again?

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Well I'm somewhat disappointed.  I thought this thread was about the movie/soundtrack.  Not a big fan of Neil Young but I did enjoy seeing the movie "Rust Never Sleeps " way back in the day.

Looking forward to the answers on this topic however.  Currently moving from south central Texas to middle Tennessee.   Rust is a large concern/unknown in my mind.

Hmmm, cheap Chinese plating again?😉

The easiest way to remove rust is to prevent it altogether. Once it starts, it will always come back if the moisture causing it is not eliminated.

Others have mentioned that humidity in the basement is B.S.

In spite of these wise words. I've had a dehumidifier in my basement since the layout was constructed 17 years ago. I have never had rust on (my cheap Chinese plated) fastrack..

Even after one of my kids created a plumbing issue that resulted in 1/4 of the layout getting a substantial amount of water on it. Dried things up by hand  and kept the dehumidifier rust. That incident occurred 10+ years ago.

If you have rust, you have moisture…’s that simple,….If you want to stop the rust, you got to get rid of the moisture,……so dehumidifier, etc,.etc,…if you want to combat the rust, clean the tops of your track with a clean, dry, scotchbrite pad, then wipe the rails down with lighter fluid, ….( obviously let that evaporate )  the lighter fluid will have just enough petroleum distillates in it to slow the rust down, depending on moisture level,…but it will never stop it cold Turkey ……if the amount of rust is so great, you’re getting pits and a lot of rust dust, then you should look into having the air in your basement checked for humidity levels….to be sure you’ve got a neighbor or buddy that might have a simple meter for testing it,….then you can make plans from there if you’re humidity level is better suited for goldfish and not model railroading,….


If you have rust likely you have humidity in your basement. I recommend getting a humidity gauge (they are cheap enough) and seeing what it is. If you live in a place with high outside humidity your basement can end up becoming very humid. Anything above 50% is really suspect, I would try for 40-45.

And yes, the plating does matter. I have a problem with rust on Ross track I have, and Steve told me that they had a batch batch when they were forced to shift platers (his old supplier was knocked out by a fire I believe). On my rail it was weird, it was the center rail that got it, the outer rails were fine.  On the other hand I did have high humidity, my old dehumidifier died, I have an ac unit down there and I thought it would didn't, and this year was especially humid, it was like the gulf coast of Florida in summer.

With tinplate track, I would use a sanding block or fine grit wet/dry sandpaper (I have used 800) to clear the rust from the top of the rails. By doing that, you won't removed much of the plating, a rougher paper would.Others have suggested using vinegar on a rag, I haven't tried that.

The biggest thing though is again get a humidity gauge, and see what you have. It could be it is fine today, but in the heat of summer it could be really bad, it is a worthwhile investment (you can get them really cheap, less than 10 bucks). Even if it looks dry today, it could be bad in the future. The weather is definitely changing, could be you were once fine and now are getting higher humidity weather regularly.

@POTRZBE posted:

I have a basement layout for the past 15 years.  I have never had a problem with rust.  This year however, about half of the 027 and 031 Lionel template track has nasty rust on it. Short of tearing this out, is there a way to remove this rust and get my trains running again?

1. Apply some Evaporust and let sit overnight. Clean with a dry rag to remove as much rust as you can.

2. When dry, sand lightly with this Fine sanding block.

You may have some pitting left, but that should remove most of the rust without damaging the track.



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You could apply a conducting grease and solve the rust problem at any humidity.  One conducting grease many use is NO OX ID A special conducting grease from eBay etc.  It will improve the train operation to boot and has been used for over 50 years and eliminate track cleaning forever!  It has really improved my post war conventional controlled layout, especially slow speed operation.  Search OGR forum for more details.


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie


I have stored my layout, for 10 months a year, in an unheated and uncooled storage building in humid South Louisiana for 17 years.  Some rust would form and it was removed with some fine sand paper lightly applied.  The track was old used 027.  Most of the tin plating is gone.  The layout is up permanently now, in a better environment and does not get rust.  The NO OX repaired the damage from sand papering and the layout runs great now.  We will see if track cleaning is over forever.


I have some questions about no ox. From what I can tell, it is an electrically conductive grease. Won't that cause dirt and the like to stick to the track (it sounds like you put it on and then wipe it off, leaving a thin film). The other thing is when I searched I saw a lot of similar products, which one do people use? (as you can tell, I have some rusty track to deal with).

I have used the NO-OX-ID on my N gauge layout which I was having running issues with. It fixed the issues. I was concerned about the film attracting dust as well. However, it is a fine film on the track, not really detectable. You clean the track, put a small amount on your finger and rub the rails. You then take a rag and wipe most of it off. After that you run your trains to get some on the wheels and distribute it evenly.

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