General > General Discussion

The last track cleaner you'll ever need


There's been a lot of discussion online and in the hobby press recently about cleaning track. I came across this simple method that appears to be bulletproof, takes little time, and involves no liquids.

First, clean the rails with an abrasive block designed for track. Then, go over the inside corner of the rails (the only part that contacts locomotive wheels) with a graphite stick. Graphite is electrically conductive. I used an inexpensive softer type B stick available at art supply stores, but a graphite pencil will do in a pinch. A light pass with the stick is all you need. If you're leaving a lot of graphite around the track, that's too much.

I did this a couple months ago and my HO layout has never run better. Trains running in my 3%, 26-inch radius helix have always suffered from annoying draft and buff, but the graphite smoothed out 99% of surging, even with a four-loco, 30-car train. Of course, this method won't help a layout that's improperly wired though it improved operations on sections not yet hard-wired, and I equip my locos with the RailPro PBMs, which are way better than other keep-alives. Also, clean locomotive wheels regularly, and rolling stock wheels if practicable.

I've read about people going more than a year without having to clean their track using graphite, so it's worth a try.

I've been doing this for 3-4 years now. Fixes a lot, but not all the issues. I still have problems with switch points not making good enough contact. I've managed to make quite a few better, but the old Shinohara switches that I got such a good deal on are very problematic. That's why he sold them so cheap.


As I said, the layout should be wired properly. Switches are problematic ands simple enough to improve.

But for track cleaning, graphite is the bee's knees.

I've always wondered about the grading scale for graphite pencil hardness.  this thread sent me into the weeds of the Google machine.  HB is equivalent to the standard #2 pencil.  B is softer and H is harder.  the higher the number before the B, the softer.  Michaels carries 8,6,4,2B and B.  the higher the number before the H is harder.  so the scale goes from 8B or 10B (depending on the reference I found) down to B, then HB, F, H, then 2 thru 10H.

far more than anyone really needs to know, but on a nice summer evening sitting in the back yard with a beer, what else to I have to do other than learn about graphite pencil grading!



[0] Message Index

Go to full version