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I Have a LOT (several scale miles) of used Gargraves track and 20+ 100 switches and a box of unused flex with varied levels of rustiness (see pics) some of it is pretty rusty. I have been researching cleaning methods and I have watched some clips about an electrolysis tank, vinegar removal, rust removing chemicals and all the other common methods like scrubbing with scotch-brite pads, etc. I am wondering what experiences anybody has had any experience with cleaning rusty Gargraves track using an electrolysis tank or what methods worked for you. Scotchbrite pads have only been effective on the light surface rust. I also wonder if maybe sanding the rails with high grit sandpaper, like maybe - 800, 1000, 2000, 3000 grits would clean away the rust for good electric contact and then maybe give the rails the 'No-Ox' treatment to it. If the center rail gets shiny on the top, I don't really care, plus if I can clean this well my track will already be WELL weathered

The pics show some of the heavier rust, about half has light surface rust, the other half is like this.

So - finally, my question: What would you do to get this ready to use again?

a) scrap it - the track is dead, you're wasting your time.

b) scrub it with scotchbrite and if that don't work, chuck it.

c) electrolysis tank it (i wonder what will happen with the wooden ties?)

d) sand/polish it with high grit sandpaper.

e) something else... like?... suggestions, please.



20221124_12451620221124_12454520221124_12460520221124_134541

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Images (4)
  • 20221124_124516: Rusty Gargraves
  • 20221124_124545: Rusty Gargraves
  • 20221124_124605: Rusty Gargraves Switch
  • 20221124_134541: Rusty Gargraves Switch
Original Post

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@Fred M posted:

I would use a red scotch pad with simple green.  Then clean with alcohol and a rag if your not worried about the sides of the rails or the black oxide finish on the center rail.

I would not use Simple Green on track after the problems that have been reported with it on this forum.  Here is one thread on the subject: https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...reen-does-hurt-locos

@PGentieu posted:

I would not use Simple Green on track after the problems that have been reported with it on this forum. ... https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...reen-does-hurt-locos

Oh yeah, reading that simplegreen thread that jogs my memory - They used to sell a 'train track cleaner' that was pink colored in a little plastic jug I think, but we felt it was expensive and tried other cleaners - I suspect that some of this rust may have started in the 80's when we used 409 or other household cleaners (probably similar to simple green) on these tracks to get the gunk from typical dusty basement funk and over oiling off of the rails. Days or weeks later the rails were a bit sticky, some traction tires would sorta swell or distort and crumble/fail. eventually we only used scotchbrite pads. I kinda like the distressed/rusty look of the sides of the rails, but I know they aren't useable in their current state.

Evaporust  After that, you can clean off any remaining contamination with something like Scotchbrite....

I have a little evaporust in the garage. I thought that was a product that needed you to submerge the items to get it to work well. Does it work when wiped on? If submerging is best, I would need a bathtub full

Last edited by woodsyT

The side rust, in most cases is not a problem.  Very top edge is the electrical contact point.  Most abrasive cleaning material would work well.  I use Scotchbrite pads.

Note: Once the very thin layer of Galvanize, (Zinc plating) is removed, the exposed steel will continue to rust.   You might consider wipe-ing with a clean cloth, and 3-in-1 oil, or any light oil as a storage preparation.  Oil would have to be removed before using again. 

There are track system, other than Gargrave/Ross tubular sheet metal.  Tubular may be the most economical.

Actually, your bigger problem with the rust on Gargraves track may not be in establishing good reliable electrical contact with the trains again.  It will be in the loss/difficulty of taking advantage of the track's flexibility in forming curves and smooth alignment at the joints.

The rusting (oxidation) tends to bond the rail to the wooden ties, inhibiting one of the main values of using Gargraves...flexibility for forming curves and smooth transitional alignment with adjoining pieces.  Never had this sort of rust problem myself, but there's been other threads that talk about using, say, WD40 to restore some flexibility to rusty GG track.  Of course, then there's the lingering odor of WD40...at least for awhile.

Returning to the electrical question...  Anyone have experience or an opinion on whether track that's reconditioned from this degree of oxidation is any more prone to sparking at wheels or center rail roller/slider contact points??  Seems like the pitted surface would lead to faster accumulation of carbon deposits/dirt which, in turn, seems to cause excessive sparking.  Anyone?

All in all, you've got a fair amount of work ahead to make it usable.  (My 78-year old elbow aches just looking at the photosl!)  Let us know how you choose to proceed...and whether you find it worth the effort.

Good luck!

KD

Last edited by dkdkrd

Electrical contact usually involves two surfaces.  I had a difficult time with an Atlas RS-1 model. With the tracks, spotlessly clean, Eventually I had to clean, (remove paint), from the wheels/flanges with lacquer thinner.

The advent of traction tires seems to increase the amount of gunk, that inhibits good electrical contact.  IMO, Mike CT.    Who would'a thunk ???

Last edited by Mike CT

Evaporust  After that, you can clean off any remaining contamination with something like Scotchbrite.  I wouldn't use sandpaper and certainly do not use steel wool!  Note that with that much rust, no danger of damaging the tin plating, it's long gone!

@woodsyT posted:

...I have a little evaporust in the garage. I thought that was a product that needed you to submerge the items to get it to work well. Does it work when wiped on? If submerging is best, I would need a bathtub full

I have some rusty GarGraves track that I'd like to save, and was not familiar with Evapo-Rust until seeing this thread.  I was recently given some rusty tools and files, so I bought a gallon to experiment with.  After soaking a plane in it for about 10 hours (instructions say to soak for 1 to 12 hours), I'm underwhelmed by the results.  Took a lot of scrubbing, and some of the rust remains.  Soaking some files now - we'll see. 

It's nice that it's reusable and has no fumes.  Finding a suitable container for soaking the track will be a challenge.  While buying it, I noticed that there is also a gel version - it might be easier to use on the track.

Note:  When searching for it, or if the clerk at the auto parts store needs to look for it in the system, spell it with the hyphen (i.e., "evapo-rust").  The guy at O'Reilly's couldn't find "evaporust" in his system until he added the hyphen.   

@Mallard4468 posted:

I have some rusty GarGraves track that I'd like to save, and was not familiar with Evapo-Rust until seeing this thread.  I was recently given some rusty tools and files, so I bought a gallon to experiment with.  After soaking a plane in it for about 10 hours (instructions say to soak for 1 to 12 hours), I'm underwhelmed by the results.  Took a lot of scrubbing, and some of the rust remains.  Soaking some files now - we'll see.

Interesting, I rescued a bunch of cars and a few engines that were submerged in the Sandy floods on Staten Island, I had great results with Evapo-Rust.  I guess every situation is different.

@ogaugenut posted:

Evapo-rust will strip paint, dont ask how I know this.  I am concerned that it might take the black off the center rail of Gargraves.  I would test with a single piece first.

It depends on the paint.  if there was any rust under the paint and the chemical could get to it, it certainly takes it off.  OTOH, I had MTH cars submerged in Evapo-Rust with no paint loss.  Lionel cars, OTOH, it stripped the frames clean.  Obviously, MTH used better paint.

@Richie C. posted:

Try this "fine" SANDFLEX sanding block available on the big A

DUDE! that Klingspore Sandflex block is the ticket! I was trying the evaporust method, and it works pretty well - but the mess and the cleanup and the soaking and then the drying and still scrubbing it to get the result the sandflex gave me in a minute - literally a minute or two for a section (37" gargraves) of track.

A) The Evaporust is a good product, but it wont remove it without first submerging and soaking it for hours or days, then the drippy wiping it off and drying it, and then another minute with a scotchbrite rub-down. It's too many steps and too much time for the same results and a significant amount of stain/color was removed from the wooden ties - the sides of the rails are cleaner though.

B) Sanding - I used 1500 and 3000 grit wet/dry on a section of rusty track and it came out pretty well with good results, but the dust kinda gets spread farther no matter if I hand sanded or used a 5" oscillating power sander. The sanding does make a shinier surface, probably because it removes more material/steel.

C) The Sandflex block needed maybe 20 or so rubs/wipes back & forth and was clean! There is some dust/debris but it was all right there easily swept or vacuumed up. The rail looks ready to roll on the tops where it matters. The rail sides are still a rusty mess, but I am unbothered by the look. The dirty sides look weathered-is (shrug) to me



Apologies for my camerawork

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Images (5)
  • BEFORE cleaning: Dirty/rusty track before cleaning
  • BEFORE cleaning: Dirty/rusty track before cleaning
  • AFTER scotchbrite only: After scotchbrite only
  • AFTER Evaporust and scotchbrite: After Evaporust and scotchbrite
  • AFTER sandflex block: After sandflex block
Last edited by woodsyT

OK, so here's the situation.

When I sanded (using 1500 grit) or when I used the Sandflex block on my rusty tracks - if you scroll back two posts/messages you will see some pics. Pics 1&2 are rusty and pics 3-5 are in varied states of clean - and then I treated a few of them with NO-OX-ID from Sanchem before testing. I can get trains to move. But it sure ain't smooth. They arcs, they sparks, they sometimes stops, they sometimes pops the e-unit over, or some combination of those three. I have a couple of these sections sanded down pretty hard, harder than anyone should or would recommend, just to see if somehow it changed something. It didn't. Anyhow, I haven't lost days to this, just 5~6 hours. Of almost 40 sections that I cleaned I am able to reclaim maybe 10 sections that will be delegated to yards or shelving displays. Those 10 sections that ran with no stops at slow and high speeds with post-war single and double motored locos and with a modern k-line wre Sandflex cleaned and No-OX'ed - and I think they'll be ok, but they will be used as yard tracks or some such.  I might sand the ever-luvvin' be-jeeziss out of the remaining sections for shelving display. It really comes down to the visible and non-visible (depending on how recently you've seen the eye doc) pitting. The rust pitting and places where the rail's tinplating/galvanizing has delaminated due to corrosion/rust interrupts good contact with the center rail/roller, there are 4~16 other wheels making contact with the outer rails and only 2~4 rollers. So, I'll be shopping for new or good-used track

I have used a product called OSPHO, I believe it is a mild concentration of phosphoric acid. Available in most marine stores in gallon jugs around $20.

As I recall after a light brushing with a fine and full stainless-steel brush you wash on the OSPHO with a clean paintbrush  (it has the consistency of water) let it dry. I would then use a sanding sponge or block with very fine sandpaper to lightly clean the top of the rails.

The OSPHO will inert and seal the rusted surfaces and leave them blackened and ready for paint if desired. When ready to bend old Gargrave's flex, just prior to bending, buy a gallon od WD-40 a apply generously with a paint brush to all six sides of the rails, the bending will go much easier

To get old stiff flex track 'flexible' again,  I heard that spraying the whole section with WD-40 works.  I have not tried this, just read about it somewhere.  Liberally spray the top and bottom, rails and ties.  Slowly work the track back and forth on your curve tempate (or even on your water heater) Then of course clean the top of the rails with alcohol to get the oil off before running any trains.    Let us  know if anybody has success with this.

@Fast Mail posted:

...When ready to bend old Gargrave's flex, just prior to bending, buy a gallon od WD-40 a apply generously with a paint brush to all six sides of the rails, the bending will go much easier

@Drummer3 posted:

To get old stiff flex track 'flexible' again,  I heard that spraying the whole section with WD-40 works.  I have not tried this, just read about it somewhere.  Liberally spray the top and bottom, rails and ties.  Slowly work the track back and forth on your curve tempate (or even on your water heater) Then of course clean the top of the rails with alcohol to get the oil off before running any trains.    Let us  know if anybody has success with this.

How long will it take for the WD-40 smell to go away?  I assume that it will evaporate from the rails fairly quickly, but not sure about the wood.

Last edited by Mallard4468

I’m a bit late to the game, but…

For track that is lightly rusted, you may be able to use some Scotch bright pads to bring it back.

For the track in the photos, I would do what you said on 12/9.  Sand the top surface, mask the ties and paint the rails rust colored.  Use it for display track or an unpowered siding.

The pictured turnout/switch is an old design.  I believe Gargraves moved away from the sheet metal points in the early 90s.  The old design tends to cause derailments on occasion.  I still have a few on my layout, but if they are that rusty, I would not spend any time on them.

BTW, that track looks like a prewar loco that I have… probably stored in a shed wrapped in newspapers under a leaky roof.

Currently laying track on my layout. I am a novice. Only with the encouragement of others did I make a first attempt to lay flex.  Most of the Gargraves flex sections are 10 or more years old.

At first I tried spaying with WD-40, I did not feel I was getting the coverage and penetration as I did with a paint brush and a cup of WD-40 from a gallon can (also the gallon can cost about $20 so the gallon was a whole lot cheaper than spray). Before the WD-40 I soldered my wire drops. Then after brushing with WD-40 I cleaned up with a green 3M pad and rag. Before bending to marked centerline. After laying track I cleaned up with mineral spirits (as recommended in a track cleaning thread).

I found that the track was easier to conform when very wet. I had soaked a few pieces for 24 hours, surprisingly this made track harder to bend (I assumed the ties had swelled). I have to admit I felt very unsure about building a layout out of old flex. There was a learning curve (no pun intended) but after about 6 pieces mostly on hidden tracks I got the hang of it. Every piece I do I feel more confident.

Being able to ease the track into curves was very important to me.IMG_2849IMG_2847IMG_2848

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  • IMG_2847
  • IMG_2848

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