A reader writes:
Do you know what the LGB track cleaner pads are made of?
I started sept 01 2008. I have placed over 22 tons of concrete, 11 tons of rocks 3 small dump trucks of dirt. My problem is the dirty track, from the air, I have no dirt, on the 1000 feet of track.
Thanks for getting in touch. LGB track cleaning blocks seem to be a sort of synthetic pumice. They're abrasive, but not aggressively so. Some folks use Scotch-brite pads, which are meant for cleaning pots and pans without scratching them. Some folks use drywall sanding pads, attached to the poles that drywallers use.
I generally get extra-fine 3M sanding sponges. They're too aggressive to be used on aluminum, but used lightly a few times a year on brass don't cause any wear to speak of.
What you choose depends somewhat on what your track is made of, aluminum, brass, or steel?
I use almost all brass outside, mostly AristoCraft. Much of the track I left behind on our old railroad when we moved was at least 12 years old and had no damage to speak of from the sanding sponges. The problem with the doohickies that "clean" or sand the top of the rails while the train is moving is that they don't get the inside edge of the rail, which is often the only part of the rail that the wheels contact. I wipe the track with my sponge at an angle so it gets the inside of the rails and the part of the top that the wheels are likely to contact.
On my old railroad, which was partly ground-level and often overgrown with weeds and overly-aggressive plants, 90% of my "track maintenance" was really weeding and trimming. Taking a sanding sponge along to wipe the track at the same time was a no-brainer.
My current railroad is raised, with only an inch or two of dirt most places, so weeds and overgrowth aren't a big problem. I also avoid running equipment with plastic wheels when the track is hot from the sun (that causes black gunk to deposit on the rails). So I wipe the track only every several weeks, even in cold weather.
That takes care of any light corrosion and any dirt that has accumulated. I also keep a sanding sponge on-hand when I'm running in case a bit of track starts giving my locomotives a problem.
If you have aluminum track, you wouldn't want to sand it much, and if you have steel track, you shouldn't need to sand it. In both cases, wiping the track with a rag and kerosene would do the job just as well.
I got interrupted about four times while typing this, so it isn't exactly coherent. But hopefully you'll find some helpful tips buried in there somewhere.