Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

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roganty
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Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by roganty »

Long story short:
Our washing machine has stopped working, I got some new brushes but they don't fit.

Seeing as some people use graphite sticks to clean track [improve conductivity] does anyone know if these brushes would also work?

Anthony
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glencairn
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by glencairn »

No idea Anthony. Why not try one out on a siding on your layout and let us know your findings?

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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

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It is said to work very well but it is a bit of a trade off as graphite is a lubricant so don't expect trains to pull well up hills. As a means to improve electrical conductivity it does mke an improvement. I once met a man who had used it for a while with greatly improved running. His layout was a 7mm narrow gauge one and it had no gradients. The good thing was that the track top survace looked darkened so the yellowness of the nickel silver rail didn't show through.
Graphite is used to lubricate locks. Also used in carbon brushes for motors, so one the one hand it is ideal but on the other it is not.

I have also heard some use a very tiny dab of automatic gearbox fluid to improve running. They only use a single small drop on each rail. Others have said not to try this. Those that have said it works well and others say it will ruin the track or any traction tyres etc. I may try it as my track and stock are rather hardy, but if one has expensive RTR stock I wouldn't risk it just in case. It is better to wait for others to try first rather then destroy ones own models in experimenting!

Electrical alcohol is said to be safe for track cleaning. A few years ago a specific popular brand of model railway track cleaning fluid was said to be ideal but one person found it damaged their sleepers on their pointwork. They reported that they sent their point back to Peco and Peco was said to contact the manufacturer. The plastic on Peco flexible track is different so was not an issue.

I have used electrical switch cleaner to clean locos wheels and track BUT I found out to my horror that it leave white marks on factory made models. On my own hand painted models there were no issues. My track uses PCB sleepers. I paint my models with oil based paints.

Cleaning track. The safest method is the electrical alcohol and for dirtier track and for more stubborn stains a Peco or a Hornby rail cleaning rubber are good. I slightly perfer the Hornby ones but there isn't a lot between them. I have had a try of a Gaugemaster rail cleaning sponge thing but to be honest I didn't find it anywhere near as effective as a Hornby or Peco rail cleaning rubber. It would be ok for new track if one uses it regularly... It is on par with using pieces of hardboard furry side down. They do work but not that great. At least hardboard is cheap!
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by Bufferstop »

If you don't want to track down large carbon brushes, get a carpenter's (flat) pencil, sharpen it to a chisel point, then use it like a scraper.
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by roganty »

Mountain wrote:It is said to work very well but it is a bit of a trade off as graphite is a lubricant so don't expect trains to pull well up hills. As a means to improve electrical conductivity it does make an improvement. I once met a man who had used it for a while with greatly improved running. His layout was a 7mm narrow gauge one and it had no gradients. The good thing was that the track top surface looked darkened so the yellowness of the nickel silver rail didn't show through.
Graphite is used to lubricate locks. Also used in carbon brushes for motors, so one the one hand it is ideal but on the other it is not.
Thanks Mountain, that is good information, I hadn't realised the graphite would work in that way.
glencairn wrote:No idea Anthony. Why not try one out on a siding on your layout and let us know your findings?
To quote Mountain: It is better to wait for others to try first rather then destroy ones own models in experimenting!
TBH, I had done a quick search and found nothing, so I thought I'd ask and see if anyone else had tried it.
Bufferstop wrote:If you don't want to track down large carbon brushes, get a carpenter's (flat) pencil, sharpen it to a chisel point, then use it like a scraper.
I got a pair off eBay to replace the brushes in the washing machine. But the angle on the end is wrong, so I have got a new pair.


I could always experiment using the old worn out bushes, and if it works keep the new 'incorrect' pair for use on the main layout.
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by Mountain »

Graphite pencils from an artist shop are the easiest way to apply graphite to the track.
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by roganty »

glencairn wrote:No idea Anthony. Why not try one out on a siding on your layout and let us know your findings?
Mountain wrote:Graphite pencils from an artist shop are the easiest way to apply graphite to the track.
Now that I've had a test of using the carbon brush, I think I might have to agree with you Mountain.

I think that the carbon is too hard and that a graphite pencil (or stick) would be softer and easier to apply

I tested on my shunting picture frame, and the test was inconclusive, I think it did improve running as there was no stalling on straight pieces of track.
I think I have issues with the pickup wipers on the wheels which caused some stalling on the (dead frog) points.

Unfortunately I could only test with my one and only DCC loco, as my other loco's and DC controller are all packed away ready for an imminent house renovation.

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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by Mountain »

The thing is that carbon brushes are designed to last while graphite artist pencils are not, so the artist pencils will distribute a reasonable amount of graphite onto the rails, while the idea of the carbon brushes is to have the qualities that carbon provides without it all dissapearing in a short period of time.
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

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Mountain wrote:The thing is that carbon brushes are designed to last while graphite artist pencils are not, so the artist pencils will distribute a reasonable amount of graphite onto the rails, while the idea of the carbon brushes is to have the qualities that carbon provides without it all dissapearing in a short period of time.
A lot of ‘carbon’ brushes are actually sintered bronze.
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by Mountain »

RAF96 wrote:
Mountain wrote:The thing is that carbon brushes are designed to last while graphite artist pencils are not, so the artist pencils will distribute a reasonable amount of graphite onto the rails, while the idea of the carbon brushes is to have the qualities that carbon provides without it all dissapearing in a short period of time.
A lot of ‘carbon’ brushes are actually sintered bronze.
Hence the different colour. :)
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by roganty »

Mountain wrote:The thing is that carbon brushes are designed to last while graphite artist pencils are not, so the artist pencils will distribute a reasonable amount of graphite onto the rails, while the idea of the carbon brushes is to have the qualities that carbon provides without it all dissapearing in a short period of time.
I'll have to agree with that, the new ones I put in were 25mm long, the old ones had got down to 4/5mm. They had been in the machine for almost 15 years, that's about 1.4mm wear per year!

After some vigorous rubbing there was some faint marks in the carbon, so something was transferred to the tracks.
RAF96 wrote:A lot of ‘carbon’ brushes are actually sintered bronze.
Mountain wrote:Hence the different colour. :)
I wouldn't know the difference except that they were advertised as 'carbon' and are black.

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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by Mountain »

The black ones are carbon. Some replacement brushes look an almost coppery colour. These will be the sintered bronze ones that RAF 96 mentioned.
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by RAF96 »

Just dragging this old post back into the light.
I have just built a fairly large layout (single garage size), which required a first time clean of the track. My good lady was watching me struggle with the usual methods and suggested using her nail buffer sticks. These are cheap as chips and sturdy enough to take a bit of abuse rubbing grubby rails clean. They have different grades on each side and I found you could feel when the track was clean. I only used 2 cleaning a double track folded eight and many sidings before they gave up. Definitely putting them on the shopping list.

I shall also check conductivity or not of auto-tranny fluid as I have seen several reports of its beneficial use on track.
Last edited by RAF96 on Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Carbon brushes for track cleaning??

Post by Dad-1 »

With carbon being so highly conductive I'd be cautious about using for general track cleaning.
Too much carbon dust in the wrong places just could cause unexpected short circuits, well a
flash as it burns up at the very least !!
Mention earlier said about poor wiper pick-up from the backs of your loco wheels. Here I do
use a nice quality pencil to draw lines along the wiper tracks - best After cleaning wheel backs.

Running locos every day is usually the best thing for keeping track working well.


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