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Rusting Track Problems

Michael G asks readers:

“My HO railway layout is in our garage. My wife doesn’t drive so we only have one vehicle which takes up the other side of the garage. The problem is that we live just a short walk from the coast, and although you don’t see the salt spray in the air, it has had an effect on our outdoor furniture, and there’s even rust developing on the mailbox. I do my best to keep my train track clean, but I think longer term I will be fighting a losing battle with the invisible salt vapors in the air. Does any one have any ideas for preventing the inevitable problem of rusting track?”

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18 Responses to Rusting Track Problems

  • Stephen F. Duncansays:

    I hear your pain, smile. I live on Galveston island in the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast of Texas south of Houston. I have found nickel silver track and running the trains daily to be very helpful. A dehumidifier can also help. The fact that a garage is essentially open to the elements s going to let more salt air in than you wish, but run your trains daily, it really helps. Run a train with electronic, wet, dry and roller track cleaners every so often. That can keep ahead of a lot of it. Best of luck to you. Mine are doing better than I had expected, though not near
    Y as trouble free as when I lived in New Mexico.

    • Joe deBysays:

      You could try wiping the rails with WD40. Another trick I learned long ago for eliminating conducting problems is applying a drop of Wahl Oil to locomotive wheels. It’s available from any hairdressing supply store.

  • Ross Kellysays:

    Yea, Michael,
    I have a very similar problem, but having watched a video some time ago I noted somebody was using “inox” so I have been experimenting with it. I clean the track firstly with the rubber and then apply inox with a clean cloth.
    This seems to help and last a couple of months.

  • Tony Pietromonicosays:

    I’ve had that problem too. I know I’m going to get a lot of backlash on my comment but here goes. If you already have rust, I cleaned my track with a light steel wool. When you rea h your desired results, vacuum your track real good and inspect for any wool left behind. Then with a lightly damp soft cloth of WD40 wipe tray k down and then with a lean cloth wipe it down so there is just a minute film of WD 40 left. I know it dont sound so good but it works. I lived 10 minutes from the beach. It worked for me. Now let’s hear all the negative comments on this one….. Haha

    • John Leonsays:

      If it works for you great. Luckily I don’t have your problem

    • Raysays:

      I use transmission fluid in the same manner.

    • SteveBsays:

      I am sure you were expecting a lot og grief about steel wool particles, but the stuff works and vacuuming helps keep the steel fibers in control. I would add that a strong magnet passed around the track might be a good idea.

  • Steve Lauderbaughsays:

    The only perment solution, if keeping layout in garage, is to switch to Battery Powered Radio Controlled (BPRC) system which has many advantages over track prower but you don’t have to worry about crud on your tracks and having to clean the tracks all the time. My HO layout is in the basement so I don’t have problems with my power through the tracks but BPRC system has many advantages of which one is you don’t have to wire under the layout board. BPRC system was developed oringinally for G scale systems because usually they are out side and many things can happen to short out the track. But over the last two years BPRC systems have been used in HO layouts like mine. There are some really good U tube videos out on internet to help you get to understand how BPRC systems work and the advantages to converting to that type of system. Good luck in you new venture!

  • David Gladwinsays:

    We had an HO [German] layout on the bridge of my old tramp ship. Using Tillig track rusting was never much of a problem altho expansion/contraction of the baseboard was until strengthened by Roger the Engineer with steel sections- pre galvanized. One Russian ship had a similar set up but had chrome steel ‘O’ gauge rails. Their problem was corrosion of the controllers innards.

  • Herbsays:

    You need to find another location for your layout. In the meantime, go out and buy several dehumidifiers.

  • Lindsay Brownsays:

    Use WD40 as it is a good water/air displacer along with allowing good wheel to track contact. The trick is to not to much, use a cloth and wipe the tracks regular over time you will notice it needs less wipes and looks good too. So Start heavy then go light and lighter. Apply after day of track enjoyment and you will see the wheels also will benefit as they will stay clean too, have a area to side the trains that any drips will not be an issue over time. Every so often as with any good track check out your engines and clean under the bottom to remove excess WD40 as part of your engine checking.

    Just a Note….. any grades need to be careful as it may cause some slip if the weight of the load was close to causing the engine to slip before. If grade is an issue with slip I would recommend first to use light sandpaper. Do not sand with track go across the rail 🙂 get a coffee sit take you time and go at 90degress to track, (have seen 75degress across track work too) can be fun if you want to see your efforts.. This will make the track still look smooth yet provide a surface for the wheels to grab rather than slip (shiny steel to shiny steel)

    Enjoy and have fun.

  • Justinsays:

    If you din’t want to pull it all up and relay with nickel-silver, try the old paste of graphite and Wahl hair clipper oil.

  • Alan Barlowsays:

    Hi In use wet and dry with a bit of oil and rub the track.

  • Bruce feldmansays:

    I have a garage layout in my Fla home. High humidity in the summer. I keep it covered with a large plastic painters drop cloth. Seems to help a good bit. No rust yet after 2 years

  • Bill Andersonsays:

    When I had steel rails, I found occasional wiping with a rag dampened with K-1 kerosene seemed to forestall rust/corrosion, act as a mild solvent to clean the rail head and seemed to improve the conductivity between the rails and wheels.

  • Steven Porceliussays:

    I clean my track with a pole sander and 220 grit drywall sanding screens. I run “G” Scale outside year round. Even after sitting outside all winter, just a couple of swipes and the track is shiny and ready to run. And that my friends is how you do it!!

  • Harrysays:

    I have Trains in the basement. I clean my track with Vinegar and then baking soda, clean it and like new. I do wheels anything I want to remove rust, except for printed items. Now to keep rust off AND to keep the track clean for a long time I do what Ray mentioned, moisen the track with Transmission fluid and works well, inexpensive and you put on with a sponge and wipe it on, it helps clean wheel also from black carbon. Works so good for me. I seen it done on a channel on Youtube! Wish you luck and heh, helps your cars trans, so why would it not work, your car is in the salted air, so wish you well, try it, NOT expensive!

  • Lindsay Neilsays:

    Using Inox or WD40 is a good idea – Inox can be used more liberally of course and won’t effect traction tyres on the locos. Years ago Peco made galvanised steel flex track, which I used with
    Tri-ang locos with ‘Magnadhesion’, where there were magnets between wheels to improve pulling power. Nickel silver rails were out of the question.You could consider stainless steel rail from Gaugemaster – LTK-SR10 Legacy OO Scale Bullhead Rail Stainless Steel 960mm (10). It is code 75 though.

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