Track Gleaming - Sanding, Bright-Boy or It Doesn't Make a Difference?

Metro Red Line Jul 15, 2010

  1. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I'm old enough to remember when skateboards were actually skate boards. Roller skates dismantled and then attached to a piece of 2x4 or 2x6.

    Shot peening is a cold process that makes a surface layer stonger. I've had plenty of that done to gears, rods, cranks, etc.

    Boxcab E50
     
  2. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you very much! So 600 then 1200 it is. I've heard conflicting information as to the order of steps though, mainly others have said the washer burnishing goes next and the polish goes last. I'll try both and see what happens.
     
  3. dgwinup

    dgwinup TrainBoard Member

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    Just a few corrections to Crandell's report.

    A modeler named Richard Breton reported on the gleaming process around the time Crandell mentions. He has since claimed that he did NOT invent the process, but was passing along information that he had learned in his modeling. Whether he invented the process or not, he has steadily promoted its use for years.

    Shortly after reading Richard's comments, I gleamed a short section of track on my layout. Now, remember, my layout sits for weeks or months at a time without any trains running on it. I always made excuses to visitors that the trains weren't running. The tracks were always so dirty that the trains wouldn't complete a full lap of the small layout without a lot of stalling. After gleaming that short section, no matter how long it had been since a train ran on it, it worked perfectly. I was convinced and gleamed the rest of the layout. Over 4 years now, and except for a few pesky spots that required spot gleaming, I haven't cleaned the rails at all. Trains run just fine no matter where they are on the layout.

    As to the process itself, the procedure is sand : burnish : polish.

    Sanding is done to remove dirt from the railheads AND to smooth out any roughness on the rails. Both are important for success. Bright Boys will clean the dirt off quickly, but they do leave scratches on the rails, heavy enough that you can see them with the naked eye. These scratches collect dirt and hinder electrical conductivity. Sanding reduces the scratches but doesn't completely eliminate them. Sanding with two very fine grits, like 600 followed by 1200, helps to get the railheads really smooth.

    Burnishing further prepares the railheads by eliminating all but tiny microscopic scratches left from the sanding process. Burnishing helps to flatten the scratches on the surface of the rails and slightly hardens the railheads in the process.

    Polishing is the final step in the original gleam process and is accomplished using a metal polish. Most often recommended is Flitz's Metal Polish and Mom's Mag Wheel Polish. Flitz is getting a little hard to find but the Mom's polish is usually available at Wal-Mart and auto parts stores. Polishing is done to thoroughly, well, polish the railheads. It removes anything missed by sanding and burnishing. Using the products mentioned, the rails are clean, bright and shiny. And they STAY that way for a long time!

    Since I gleamed my layout, I have heard about good reports of success with No-Ox, a metal treatment product. Having used Rail-Zip in the past (which worked well but needed repeated applications), I have some doubts about No-Ox, but it's hard to ignore the reports I see about it's usefulness. This past Christmas, I built an HOn30 layout (loop) for under the Christmas tree. Yes, I did gleam the layout, but as an additional step, I applied No-Ox according to directions. The little loop performed perfectly all season long with no hint of stalling anywhere. Whether this is the result of gleaming or No-Ox, I can't determine. What will help determine it's future use on my layout is how the HOn30 layout performs under the tree next year. It is currently stored in the basement on open shelving. It has not been covered or protected in any way. When I set it up, I think I'll have a good indication that adding No-Ox to the gleam process will guarantee, if not improve, trouble-free operation.

    Sorry for the long-winded reply. I wanted to correct the order of steps that Crandell mentioned and provide some additional insight into the effectiveness, and necessity, of each step in the process.

    I will report on the (expected) success of gleaming and No-Ox sometime during the upcoming Christmas season. Stay tuned!
     
  4. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Could some one elaborate about the use of masonite. Do you just drag a piece flat on the track. Or is there more to it.
    I would just as soon not us flamable stuff in the house.
    Rich
     
  5. jeffrey-wimberly

    jeffrey-wimberly TrainBoard Member

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    I threw my Brite-Boys away years ago and went with the GLEAM method of track polishing. It involves some work on your part but it works well. What I did back in 2006 was to sand the rail heads with 800 grit wet/dry then 1200 grit wet/dry sandpaper. I then went over the track with a piece of stainless steel to close up any remaining gouges in the tops of the rails. Next I used a piece of cork to apply a thin coat of Blue Magic metal polish to the rail tops and let it dry thoroughly. I then used more cork to buff the polish off then gave the track a final wipe with a clean dry cloth. Since then I've only to give the track a quick wipe with a dry cloth if it hadn't been used for a long time or if I had spilled something on it. Don't use any abrasive type thing such as sandpaper or a Brite-Boy. I've found that the Brite-Boy actually does more damage than the fine grit (600 or better) sandpaper will do.
     
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  6. jhn_plsn

    jhn_plsn TrainBoard Supporter

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    Yes, soft side down, but is not part of the gleam method. Most guys have it attached under a car so they can just pull it around the layout while in a train so its less intrussive on the overall scene.
     
  7. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    John aka Spidge,

    Is also responsible for reintroducing No-Ox, to us here at TrainBoard.

    I know little of the gleaming process as this is the first time I've heard of it. You'll forgive me if I'm a little cautious and recommend you do the same. I would hate to remove the natural finish on the track....it's been my experience that the track will get dirtier quicker due to the fine grooves the sanding or I would think gleaming would create. Microscopic of course and perhaps, that isn't much to worry about.
     
  8. jeffrey-wimberly

    jeffrey-wimberly TrainBoard Member

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    Go to the Trains.com forum and do a search on 'GLEAM'. You find tons stuff about it.
     
  9. dgwinup

    dgwinup TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, it was John's (Spidge's) comments about No-Ox that got me to try it. Sorry I didn't give that credit earlier.

    I'm not an experimental-style modeler, or in other words, it takes me a while to try something new. I usually DON'T jump in with both feet without first testing a toe! In regards to gleaming, I one-toed it on a little used siding after cleaning the entire layout in my usual manner, ie: Bright Boys. Weeks later, my engines would stall anywhere on the layout EXCEPT the gleamed siding. That was enough to convince me!

    If track has a "natural" finish on it, the finish doesn't last long. The trains probably wear it off pretty quickly. From the factory, the railheads probably have scratches on them from the manufacturing process. 600 to 1200 grit sandpaper (either dry or wet/dry) is much finer than Bright Boys, which I think are equivalent to 100 grit, maybe 150. The finer grit leaves a much smoother surface, even on brand new track. Burnishing all but eliminates any scratches left behind and the polishing finishes it off.

    What I have noticed is that the wheels on my locomotives and rolling stock don't seem to accumulate as much black crud after the rails have been gleamed. That's strange to me since after some operations, I can run a clean patch over the rails and pick up crud even though the locomotives still run fine. Maybe the gleamed rails are cleaning the crud off the wheels????

    If anyone is still reluctant to try gleaming, do what I did; select an area and gleam it. After a while, I believe you'll notice that you get no stalling or hesitation on the gleamed section.

    A tip of the hat and thanks to Spidge for the No-Ox suggestion. Sorry I forget to metion where I read about it, my friend.

    Darrell, quiet...for now
     
  10. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    After reading how this "Gleaming" thing is done it sounds like what, as a machinist, I refer to as "Burnishing". A process of crushing the machined surface flat. Eliminating the ridges and filling in the valleys. It also puts a hard surface on the area burnished.
    It should make the track surface smoother and harder.

    I would venture a guess the term "gleaming" comes from the fact the process also makes the surface shiny. Or makes it gleam. It's old slang.
     
  11. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, I expect that is essentially what it is...a gleam in one's eye, for example, is a shiny dot, and that is what one would hope to see from overhead lighting reflecting on the surface of the newly 'gleamed' rail tops.

    Darryl, thanks for jumping in and correcting my order of work. I often get the last two stages reversed when describing the process. Probably because I have never actually undertaken it. I will at some point, but no need on my layout. I seem to be largely unaffected by the troubles other people report, even after extended periods of not running trains. No idea why...it just is.
     
  12. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    OLD SLANG, now that's a Rail Modeler after my own heart. Grin!.

    I do have some areas where paint and glue got on to the track. The only way I had to remove it was with sand paper. I never could keep that section of track clean after that. So, forgive me if I'm real slow at adopting the gleaming procedure.

    It does sound good and I'm impressed with the comments here. Like others of you, I will need to experiment with it before I give it a go on my layout.:pcute:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 27, 2010
  13. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Yeah, Gleeming just sounds like a fancy (or dumb depending on your point of view) for burnishing and polishing the railheads.

    Rick, the key difference is the use of such a high grit sand paper, wet dry in particular, This is a different world of sand paper than your standard stuff or a brightboy.

    And I have no problems believing this method works. After all, Burnishing and polishing a metal surface does exactly the same thing when you do it to any other metal surface. railroad tracks aren't unique in this manner.


    My only concern, and it's not so much a concern as a frustration is that on a completed layout, there are going to be sections, such as in tunnels that simply cannot be burnished reasonably. And if that's the case, then they will need to be cleaned in the old fashioned way.
     
  14. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    Point well made. Although I think there was a not so hidden message there...just for me. Grin!

    I will give it a go on some track I haven't been able to keep clean and see what happens. How's that for a test?
     
  15. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    Hi,

    I have heard of the Gleaming method of track cleaning before, but have not attempted to use it. Reading this thread makes me want to try it.

    I do have a question or 3 about the Gleaming method of track cleaning.

    1. Way use both 600/800 grit and 1200 grit wet/dry sand paper and not just the 1200. In theory the rails should not need much sanding to smooth out any irregularities.
    2. What type of metal polish should one use?
    3. Could or should one use No-Ox instead of metal polish for the final step?
    If any or all of my questions were addressed within the posts of this thread, I apologize for overlooking them.

    I had never heard of No-Ox until this thread and while researching it I found this article on No-Ox and using it for your railroad. It is dated 7/23/2010.

    Gary
     
  16. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Well, both 800 and 1200 grit Sand paper are extremely high grit. the lower number is courser, for courser rough spots.

    So the 800 will basically clean up the scratches that are caused by bright boys, track cleaning cars and lower grit paper.
    Then the 1200 essentially cleans the microscopic inperfections that the 800 left.

    The 1200 though isn't efficient at fixing the deeper scratches that the 800 grit will get.

    If you've ever done a fine sanding job on woodwork, this is the process. You start with the course paper and work your way down to the finest paper.


    Or to put it more simply, using 1200 grit paper only would require significantly more work or might not even work.
     
  17. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    Okay,

    Question 1 was answered and confirmed what I was thinking. Though I have not used a bright boy for a few years and my track cleaning car is basically a big eraser, I'm sure there are some groves that need to be removed. Thanks YoHo.

    Anyone with an answer for questions 2 and 3?

    Gary
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 28, 2010
  18. nscalerone

    nscalerone TrainBoard Member

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    I have found "Flitz" to be THE BEST metal polish going, bar none.
     
  19. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    2 questions down, one to go.

    Thanks nscalerone.
    [​IMG]
    Gary
     
  20. jeffrey-wimberly

    jeffrey-wimberly TrainBoard Member

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    The No-Ox might reduce the effectiveness of the process. Then metal polish (I use Blue Magic) leaves a film which protects the metal but doesn't insulate it. You could try the No-Ox but I've had absolutely no need of it, just a clean dry cloth to wipe the track oince in a while. I gleamed my layout in 2006 and haven't had to use any cleaners of any kind on it since.
     

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