Spray Furniture Polish For Cleaning External Surfaces Of Vintage Rolling Stock?

I'll have to do a search on the Forum for "tried and true" methods of cleaning the external surfaces of grimy,  vintage rolling stock, as the Lionel set that my brother-in-law kindly gave to me from his youth needs some love.  In this regard, an article in the December, 2017 issue of CTT suggests the following method:

        "To remove heavier grime and smudges from external surfaces, spray them lightly with furniture polish and wipe dry with a clean, soft cloth."

I've not seen this method used before.  Has anyone successfully tried using spray furniture polish for this purpose?   And, sorry if I failed the Forum "SEARCH" test and this topic has been discussed previously.

Cordially,  Dennis

The Water Level Route

Original Post

At the Lionel SS I worked at in the mid-70's, after we cleaned the exterior of diecast engines with dishwash & a toothbrush (being careful of the lettering in certain cases...), we'd give 'em a mist of lemon Pledge. We'd then let them "simmer" on top of an old oil-fired furnace that was warm, not hot, for about an hour. The heat just really helped the Pledge bond a bit better to the paint.  After time was up, buffing it with a soft cotton cloth would make it look brand new. When coupled with our paint touch-up method, you couldn't tell the difference.

Carl

TCA 07-61628, LCCA 40022, Lone Star Hi-Railers, EAA, AOPA

I have a friend who is a professional furniture restorer.  Spray furniture polishes, like Pledge, are very difficult for him to remove.  I'm not sure why at the moment but I'll ask him.  So using them to clean or restore our trains may not be the ideal method.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Carl Orton posted:

At the Lionel SS I worked at in the mid-70's, after we cleaned the exterior of diecast engines with dishwash & a toothbrush (being careful of the lettering in certain cases...), we'd give 'em a mist of lemon Pledge. We'd then let them "simmer" on top of an old oil-fired furnace that was warm, not hot, for about an hour. The heat just really helped the Pledge bond a bit better to the paint.  After time was up, buffing it with a soft cotton cloth would make it look brand new. When coupled with our paint touch-up method, you couldn't tell the difference.

That's awesome!  Would you use the same method for the plastic rolling stock?

Cordially,  Dennis

The Water Level Route

Dennis,

That suggestion had been made a few years ago in that magazine and was met with letter after letter criticizing the technique. I'm surprised they repeated it. Any sprayed on finish, while maybe looking nice and shiny at first, will not be true to the original appearance. Many of us prefer that original finish.

But, if you like that appearance, by all means, do what you like best. But, it will definitely make a huge difference in future value for really collectible pieces if that is of any concern to you. 

Warm water, mild dish soap and maybe a soft toothbrush have been the tried and true cleaning methods.  Even at that, avoid soaking or rubbing the lettering as some is water soluble. Blot carefully with a soft cloth around lettering.

Jim

Jim Policastro posted:

Dennis,

That suggestion had been made a few years ago in that magazine and was met with letter after letter criticizing the technique. I'm surprised they repeated it. Any sprayed on finish, while maybe looking nice and shiny at first, will not be true to the original appearance. Many of us prefer that original finish.

But, if you like that appearance, by all means, do what you like best. But, it will definitely make a huge difference in future value for really collectible pieces if that is of any concern to you. 

Warm water, mild dish soap and maybe a soft toothbrush have been the tried and true cleaning methods.  Even at that, avoid soaking or rubbing the lettering as some is water soluble. Blot carefully with a soft cloth around lettering.

Jim

Thanks Jim!  Your first paragraph crystalizes my original thoughts when reading the CTT article and thinking about the likely consequences.  I will first try the method outlined in  your final paragraph which is the method I was trying to recall in detail at the outset. 

On a jocular note, since my brother-in-law is my Dentist, he'll be pleased to hear I used a toothbrush on his trains.  

Cordially,  Dennis

The Water Level Route

I don't remember where the idea of using Pledge furniture polish on toy trains first came to my attention back in the 1970s, but I have used it on some of my vintage Gilbert AF trains, both tinplate and plastic since then with very satisfactory results.

All of my trains, whether MIB, Like New or well-loved and well-worn, new production or vintage, are available for operating and are expected to be run on a layout.  I am, however, partial to the clean, shiny look of tinplate, even when the tinplate is plastic, and to traditional toy train layouts.  

Accordingly, I have used Pledge as the final step in preparing those trains and accessories that come to me well-used and/or dirty for running or display.  Restoring a shine to these items allows them to blend in better when displayed or run with more highly graded vintage or new production items.

So far I have not detected any damage caused by the polish, and the items so "restored" continue to look much better than when I aquired them.

As a side note on the removal of Pledge polish, back in the early '70s my wife went to polish our solid wood coffee table which was one of our few pieces of good furniture that we purchased new.  As soon as she sprayed it on, she realized from the smell that she had grabbed the Easy Off Oven Cleaner instead of the Pledge.  We quickly wiped the oven cleaner off and found to our great relief that we were in time, and the wood table top was undamaged.  On the other hand, there also was no trace of old polish or wax build up to be found on the table top.

Still, unlike Pledge, oven cleaner is not a cleaning method I would recommend for our toy trains!

Cheers!

Alan

Great advice for cleaning postwar trains!  My modest number of postwar trains from my youth have generally been boxed since they were stored after other interests took over in the 60's, so, they have not required much cleaning.   After I returned to the hobby  when our youngest son was about 8 years old, I focused on newer items, as postwar trains were becoming more scarce and pricey.  The new decoration was also much more colorful in many ways, and, therefore more appealing to my son.  Also, I fell in love with the Lionel GS-4, and, the N&W No. 611....  

This postwar set from my brother-in-law is actually the first postwar set that  I own that needs some TLC!  

Cordially,  Dennis

The Water Level Route

In the 1970s I worked part time for a hobby shop doing repairs and the shop cleaned the steamers and put a red liquid furniture polish on them.  We did not use spray pledge, but applied polish with a small brush.  The owner argued that it made them look new and did no harm as the polish gradually faded over time.  He said that customers loved it and always remarked at how the engines looked new.  Some customers would remark years later about the great job we did rehabbing the engines.  Did not do it to diesels.  I did some of my post war steamers and they looked too polished at first, but really looked great after the polish diminished some.

Bill

Except plain painted tinplate I never use any chemicals to clean shells. Good old soap and water and an old toothbrush is always the first and last resort. On painted metal tinplate if the soap and water method does not help I remove ALL trim and lightly use paste automobile wax to get most of the dirt up and restore shine.

Tin

Dennis GS-4 N & W No. 611 posted:

FYI the article is:

"Get Your Trains Ready! Our 9 tips For Dusting Off Your Trains And Getting Them Rolling."  The article begins on p. 22, and, is authored by Joseph L. Mania and the CTT Staff -- obviously all very knowledgeable on this topic.

Cleaning threads will be like oil change interval discussions -- it's like God, religion, and politics.  For folks who may not know, Mania is a restorer and he does beautiful work.  He restored a few of my dad's accessories so I speak from personal experience.  If he says Pledge is fine, I would not hesitate to use it (and I may now try it).  Don't forget too, some of the stuff for which he is recommending Pledge is far from collector grade anyways and it is a question of making older, perhaps well-worn trains look nice for a holiday display.  I don't think Joe would tell people to rip out the Pledge with abandon for a pristine 700E.  Who wants to look at old, scratched up and dull junk running around the Christmas tree?

Fwiw, I have used a soft paint brush or detail brush and a neutral detail product (e.g., Griot's Garage Speed Shine) in a very modest amount, wiping with a microfiber towel, to spruce up trains.  I have found if they are dusted regularly the need to use that type of product is minimized and that is probably for the best. 

 

Going way back in time, the fifties, I remember my father using Jubilee wax or polish on a operating white milk car. So I searched to see what the polish could be used on and this is what I found. I don't think myself I would try anything but the tried and true methods mentioned here.............Paul

Jubilee wax

  • 15 oz
  • Protects, shines and cleans Cuts through grease, food stains, cooking film and other tough kitchen soils
  • Puts down a hard shine that protects surfaces without scratching
  • makes spills easier to wipe and clean
  • Use throughout the house on appliances, countertops cabinets, formica, laminate, bathroom fixtures, chrome faucets, woodwork, vinyl, leather, plastic and tile
  • Not for use on granite or stainless steel
  • Plastic bottle

Cleaning threads will be like oil change interval discussions -- it's like God, religion, and politics.  For folks who may not know, Mania is a restorer and he does beautiful work.  He restored a few of my dad's accessories so I speak from personal experience.  If he says Pledge is fine, I would not hesitate to use it (and I may now try it).  Don't forget too, some of the stuff for which he is recommending Pledge is far from collector grade anyways and it is a question of making older, perhaps well-worn trains look nice for a holiday display.  I don't think Joe would tell people to rip out the Pledge with abandon for a pristine 700E.  Who wants to look at old, scratched up and dull junk running around the Christmas tree?

Near the top of the thread it says:

 The article begins on p. 22, and, is authored by Joseph L. Mania and the CTT Staff -- obviously all very knowledgeable on this topic.

I don't think I want to assume that Joe Mania wrote that part. Maybe it came from the CTT staff without his review.
In any case, it's up to the owner of the train to do as they please.

 

C.W. Burfle

As I posted sometime ago, on my old pre-war  trains I use a piece of Bounty paper towel and polish with cold cream.  Takes time, is tedious but I have cleaned up several old Standard gauge cars. They don't look new, don't expect that, but have taken a lot of black dirt accumulated by poor storage. Part of the reason I bought them cheap-they were dirty. I am afraid of aerosol sprays  and modern cleaners. I have tried most everything-toothpaste, liquid soaps, furniture polish, ad nauseum.  If you damage the finish it is irreversible so be careful.

I'm also into wood working and spray polish usually has silicon added to it.  If a piece of furniture is going to be restored, the silicon is difficult to remove and prevents new 'coatings' from sticking to the surface.

For furniture I only use General Finish Orange Oil to clean and protect furniture, plus the furniture smells nice after it's use.

 

C W Burfle posted:

Cleaning threads will be like oil change interval discussions -- it's like God, religion, and politics.  For folks who may not know, Mania is a restorer and he does beautiful work.  He restored a few of my dad's accessories so I speak from personal experience.  If he says Pledge is fine, I would not hesitate to use it (and I may now try it).  Don't forget too, some of the stuff for which he is recommending Pledge is far from collector grade anyways and it is a question of making older, perhaps well-worn trains look nice for a holiday display.  I don't think Joe would tell people to rip out the Pledge with abandon for a pristine 700E.  Who wants to look at old, scratched up and dull junk running around the Christmas tree?

Near the top of the thread it says:

 The article begins on p. 22, and, is authored by Joseph L. Mania and the CTT Staff -- obviously all very knowledgeable on this topic.

I don't think I want to assume that Joe Mania wrote that part. Maybe it came from the CTT staff without his review.
In any case, it's up to the owner of the train to do as they please.

 

Of course -- people will do what they want with their trains.  If you disagree with the advice to use Pledge, by all means do whatever you do. 

Personally,for dirty plastic locomotives and rolling stock,I use the Dawn/warm water/soft toothbrush method and after drying 24 hours gently polishing with Armor All. I've used this method for 30+ years with no adverse effects. On tinplate, I just use Armor All only - applied only with a soft flannel polishing cloth.It often takes about 2-3 light applications. Armor All is water based with traces of silicone and mineral oil. The results are stunning and a interesting side effect is that the trains attract less dust. 

I advise not attempting to clean trains (especially plastic with rubber stamped lettering) with WD40 or other petroleum distillate based products.This can dissolve the rubber stampings and etch the surface of the plastic. While attending a meet back in the 1980's I watched in horror a fellow spraying and cleaning his trains with WD40 while setting up his display. Even though I warned him,he went on and ruined the lettering and stripes on a 2330 GG1! 

I'm a simple man...I see a train I like and I buy it! 

Boomer posted:

Personally,for dirty plastic locomotives and rolling stock,I use the Dawn/warm water/soft toothbrush method and after drying 24 hours gently polishing with Armor All. I've used this method for 30+ years with no adverse effects. On tinplate, I just use Armor All only - applied only with a soft flannel polishing cloth.It often takes about 2-3 light applications. Armor All is water based with traces of silicone and mineral oil. The results are stunning and a interesting side effect is that the trains attract less dust. 

I advise not attempting to clean trains (especially plastic with rubber stamped lettering) with WD40 or other petroleum distillate based products.This can dissolve the rubber stampings and etch the surface of the plastic. While attending a meet back in the 1980's I watched in horror a fellow spraying and cleaning his trains with WD40 while setting up his display. Even though I warned him,he went on and ruined the lettering and stripes on a 2330 GG1! 

Here is a post from my dark/secret past that was posted on the TTML some years ago:

How to Clean Your Toy Trains

Helpful Hints that Will Keep your Trains Looking Good.

 

A large part of the enjoyment that we get from our trains is fixing and repairing them.   This is very relaxing. I like to listen to tapes or watch movies, my father watches sports while he works (this is not a good word- it's only work if you don't enjoy it.) on the trains.  We collect trains made with a variety of materials - from wood to plastic - but the techniques that I discuss below will work with all of them.  Always test any cleaner on a hidden spot before you apply.  You can ruin the finish if are not careful.  We have some pieces that we do not even dust because we have not found a method of cleaning them that is satisfactory.  Until we can get acceptable results on common pieces with the same problems, we will not touch the rarities.  Practice on junk until you have the techniques down.

 

Every train that we add to our collection is cleaned and repaired to operating condition before it is placed on a layout or shelf.  In the next few paragraphs, I will share some of the techniques that we have learned over the years.  Remember to test and practice on junk.  First, we remove the shells,  if they are extremely dirty or stained, we wash them in warm soapy water. Important : never wash lightly colored (aluminum, white, cream, etc. . . ) items made between 1935 and 1956 in water, you will remove the paint.  For lightly colored items use a damp rag and rub the dirt away.  DO NOT put soap on the train it will cause spotting.  Put the soap in the water.  Remember, always test.  It may seem like I’m be laboring this point, but I have seen many damaged trains because this step was ignored.  Additionally, do not use any cleaners like 409, Windex, etc. - they change the color of many items - especially lettering.  After wetting the train lightly scrub with a soft toothbrush being very gentle around the lettering.  Remember, you want to remove the dirt not the paint.  Rinse it under cold running water.  Then shake and pat all the water you can off.  Allow to air dry.  While the train is drying the motor is repaired. Mechanical repair will be covered in a future issue.

 

After the train is dry. examine it for stains.  If there are small stains, they can be removed by compounding.  Use a soft rag (an old flannel shirt works great-just make sure it is clean.  We use disposable rags) and a light cut compounding agent.  3M Light Duty Compound and Glaze (part #051144-05935) which is available in auto paint stores is great.  It works by chemical action not by abrasives.  DO NOT use Turtle Wax or other cheap brands - they are too abrasive and will destroy the finish very quickly.  DO NOT compound lithographed items.  The ink is very thin and will be quickly removed.  Gently rub the stained areas with a rag- put the compound on the rag.  For small areas a Q-tip works good.  After the stains are removed the residue needs to be buffed away with a new rag.  Now the train can be waxed

 

The best wax for toy trains is liquid furniture wax. The brand that we use is Howard's Feed and Wax.  You can find this at antique stores.  This wax is a blend of orange oil, Carruba wax and Beeswax in a petroleum base.  Do not use turtle wax or any other kind of paste wax.  Paste wax leaves white residue in the hard to buff areas. As an aside if you have trains with this residue, you can remove it with a dab of Howard's wax on a Q-tip.  I use a disposable foam tipped paint brush to apply the wax and then I wipe off the excess with a clean rag.  The whole train is then buffed with a large horsehair shoe brush.  After the shell is waxed and buffed any missing trim is replaced and then the train is reassembled.  Now the train will only require periodic oiling and dusting to keep it running and looking great.  We dust our trains with soft china bristle paint brushes. For bigger items on the layouts, we use a canister vacuum with a soft brush attachment.

 

If you have specific questions or helpful hints please drop me a note at the email link below or post on the General Topics Board.

Follow this link to the Train99 Home Page  1997-2000 by Terry Gibbs. All rights reserved.

Just a shout out to Gene for the duster in a tunnel pic. Something so basic yet I never thought of it. I remember rears ago someone manufactured a contraption that was triggered to blow dust off as the train passed through. It had to be connected to a small air compressor. The problem (and demise) of this item was that it blew detail parts off also!

Boyd Mason of the Hazlet Train Stop in Hazlet, NJ told me to use Pledge when I was a teenager in the 1970s.  I'm pretty sure that Joe Mania worked at the Hazlet Train Stop so this might be where he picked it up.

I will say that a light dusting of Pledge followed by polishing with a paper towel makes the item look like new.  I did this with out questioning "The Master" (i.e., Boyd Mason) over 40 years ago and I have seen zero adverse long-term effects.  There is no evidence of "waxy build-up".

That said, one needs to use common sense.  The application of any substance other than a mild soap would depend heavily on the item involved:

  • A black diecast loco with heat stamped numbering?  Sure, bring on the Pledge.  

  • A diecast GG1 with fragile painted side stripes?  Let's think before we put ANYTHING on, including our own fingers.

  • A 2350 NH EP-5 with a flaking decal on the snout?  NOTHING that's wet or could wet or could abrade the surface should be applied.

  • A 6112 blue plastic gondola that's caked with dirt and grime?  You'll be amazed by how new the Pledge makes it look.

For my next round of serious cleaning, I'm going to remove a shell from a KW transformer, put it in the dishwasher, and then hit it with Armor All after it comes out.  If it looks good, I'll do all the others using the same technique.  If not, I'll need to find another cheap shell from a junker KW and I'll have a story to tell ... and advice to give.

Bottom Line: 40 years of first-hand experience tells me that Pledge seems ok.  BUT, like anything else, one should use common sense and consider the specific needs (and value) of the item you're trying to spruce up before putting ANYTHING on.

Steven J. Serenska

 Pledge may not have silicones.  I have been using it for 40 years on fabric airplanes, with no problems recoating.

cheaper stuff in similar bottles does have silicone - be careful.

My ancient Mustang convertible dash pad is 53 years old - no cracks after 40 years of routine Pledge applications.

The stuff is expensive, and only available in spray cans which run out of air before they run out of product.  Still . . .

bob2 posted:

 Pledge may not have silicones.  I have been using it for 40 years on fabric airplanes, with no problems recoating.

cheaper stuff in similar bottles does have silicone - be careful.

My ancient Mustang convertible dash pad is 53 years old - no cracks after 40 years of routine Pledge applications.

The stuff is expensive, and only available in spray cans which run out of air before they run out of product.  Still . . .

I had a trick when I toured with rock bands as a guitar tech. I would clean each guitar at the end of the show right away. Knowing that at anytime pictures could be taken or the guitars could be played again, I'd shine them with Pledge. It didn't build up ugly like some other stuff, and seem to be the best for quick shine and some level of protection.

 Ooops, Did I share my secret???  

" on Sour mash and cheap wine " ??

Why go back to DCC when I have DCS!

I had always heard that Pledge in non-aerosol bottles was best for tinplate. I used it for a while after I did a total cleaning of a piece (no water, just a little McGuire's liquid car polish). A  little bit of the pledge and a nice careful buff with a clean rag would make them shine nice, though they would seem to dull back to their natural patina after a while, and it never seemed worthwhile to repeat the process. 

Not a good idea. can build and hold dust. I've seen many a piece ruined by application of pledge. a soft cloth with warm water dampness and MAYBE a little ivory soap is ok, or a light application of automobile low cut polish , but that is it.  Like one statement above,  "test, test, test".

 

Prewar Tin...Any maker, any gauge, anytime!

I like them slighty dusty, but theres a line

I use a tiny bit of soap premixed in water with paint brushes large and small a towel, hair drier, and oil on hand. Wetness on metal isn't a big deal if it is dried fast and well, and re-oiled. I've dunked whole engines and rinsed them with a laundry hose.

  For stubborn plastic especially, but NOT for all equipment, post war Lionel suggested Zippo lighter fluid/ Naphtha. That's what my Grandfather used  most for cleaning. I think it leaves a very light trace oil behind. Pledge replaced Turtle wax. 

  I don't spray anything directly unless overkill is on the agenda. I spray  a spot a paper towel/rag and wipe with a dry spot.

   I was told what Pledge did for plastic was slow the leaching of the plastic's embedded oils; and it fills light scratches hiding them. It works great on lexan and plexiglas .

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





Adriatic posted:

I was told what Pledge did for plastic was slow the leaching of the plastic's embedded oils; and it fills light scratches hiding them. It works great on lexan and plexiglas .

Armor All has been mentioned somewhere above. FWIW, I will never use Armor All on anything again as I believe it sucks the plastic's natural oils out over time. Why do I say that? Because every automobile dash that I tried to protect using Armor All, CRACKED!

I have never had any problem using Pledge on a dash. 

In previous years I have mentioned my experience using Pledge on slot car motors and how the lubricating properties (silicone ?) made them the fastest cars on the track. I'm not sure I would use it on my model's finishes though. I have an old shaving brush that I dust them off with and that is all that I do.

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