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Track Cleaner with Magnetic-Attraction

By Don Fries

Cleaning track is a necessity for all model railroaders. For me, I would occasionally use a cloth and a solvent to remove grime from the rails. However, there always are track locations that are hard to reach.

I have tried some mechanical track cleaners, but I was never very pleased with the results. Recalling that wiping with a cloth was effective, I decided to make something that simulated the wiping action. VOILA, the improved track cleaner. The feature of Magnetic-Attraction came later…entirely by accident.

I had the a Lionel gondola and a Lionel tank car. I put the tank in the gondola, just to be different. The size and weight of this combination, along with the old style metal trucks, made for a good candidate for the cleaner.

I mounted a 0.005-inch thick stainless steel spring beneath the gondola. There is a screw forcing the spring away from the bottom of the car. I attached adhesive-backed Velcro to the spring, which holds the felt wiping pad.

The felt squares are 1 ¾ inch per side. By rotating the pad and also flipping it to the other side, you can get many uses.

Adding a solvent to the pad will clean the rails. Then follow it with a clean dry pad. If you wish to place a very thin film of WD-40 on the rails, just wet the pad and run it on the track.

The side view shows how the spring is deflected when placed on the track. The weight of the car kept the cleaner on the track, but I thought some more weight would be beneficial.

I had some magnets lying nearby and when I put the car down near the magnets, the magnets jumped right to the metal trucks. Placing the thin magnets on the bottom side of the trucks provided a considerable attraction to the track, thus keeping the car on the track without additional weights. Hence…Magnetic Attraction.

A side benefit of the magnets is the automatic maintenance of the track area. Several years ago, I lost a screw from a car and could not locate it. Running the cleaner around the track, it picked up the screw. The magnets also pick up very fine metal filings as shown in the photo of the car upside-down.

Thus, in addition to cleaning the rails, the unwanted metal around the track is also picked up.

The final touch was to paint the cleaner orange as a piece of M-O-W equipment. The bright paint also makes it easy to spot on a busy layout.

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