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Cleaning My Ballasted Track

John from the UK explains how he cleans his ballasted track:

“First I Hoover all the ballast with the brush on the Hoover. I then spray the ballast with water, as if you are just ballasting your track.  Then I leave it for a few days to dry. I then clean the rails with a rubber eraser and Hoover the track again, and it will look as if you have just ballasted the track. It looks nice and clean.”

4 Responses to Cleaning My Ballasted Track

  • Ross Donaldson Litmansays:

    I stopped ballasting my track when I performed my annual engine inspection and found bits of ballast in my engine bearings. I use a high powered eye scope and take samples under the microscope. Yes-the debris was indeed the same materials as the ballast. I removed all the track and the ballast and sealed the ballast in a zip lock bag. I cleaned the ballast up and vacuumed well. I washed the track the best I could and inspected all with the eye scope again. I re-laid the track. It took time, but my engines are worth it. It only took a month (I am retired.) since I used metal connectors for the electrics and only had to remove the electrically-connected track a few feet. The track runs even quieter than before. My layout is all DC using 9 Blocks and 4 Power Packs with a 5th for accessories.

  • nick fortessays:

    I’m very grateful for that advice, John, I can see how wetting the ballast and letting it dry may bring the dirt float out of the ballast; thank you

  • Frank Bsays:

    Ross’s comment about removing the small bits that might get into loco gearboxes is good.

    I will suggest that before laying, ballast could be washed in a suitable sieve to remove the smallest bits that could cause problems.

    • Joe Graffisays:

      Yes, I have had issues with AZ ballast over the past couple of years. It is quite dusty and is difficult to “glue down” because the glue, water, alcohol mixture beads up on it.
      Now, I routinely “winnow” (about 2 tablespoonfuls at a time) the ballast in a fine brass coffee filter to remove the dust.*
      I have never found any “loose” dust or dirt in the engine bearings or anywhere else for that matter that effected operations.
      * I called AZ Rock and spoke with the owner regarding the dust: he basically said: “Deal with it!”. If I had not had over ½ the layout ballasted before this issue came up, I would never bought another bag from them.
      I have done the “winnowing” on every bag (at least 5) since and every bag has lots of dust!

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