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  • Topic: Carbon buildup on stainless steel track running dcc

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    • August 9, 2018 8:05 PM EDT

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      Carbon buildup on stainless steel track running dcc

      Hi folks, I seem to get carbon deposits on my stainless steel aristo track. I guess this is from micro arcing between the rails and the wheels. I run relatively low current <2 amp locomotives. I get the same deposits on the wheels. I guess this is normal but I was wondering if there is anything I can do to minimize this. I clean my wheels with alcohol and use a swifter wet pad on my track. I notice I get quicker deposits when I run at night due to moisture. As I said I run dcc with no immediate plans on going battery.

      Thanks for reading.

      Steve

    • August 9, 2018 8:50 PM EDT
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      Steve Mitchell said:

      Hi folks, I seem to get carbon deposits on my stainless steel aristo track. I guess this is from micro arcing between the rails and the wheels.

      Who told you that?

      Are you running solid brass wheels? If that is the case I would consider it electrolysis not carbon build up myself. Are you having "power" problems through the rail?  If so then my suspect would be the rail joints not the rail head. Perhaps a bit more detail into your query as to the issues you are having which prompted this post could help us possibly resolve the issue ?

    • August 9, 2018 9:00 PM EDT
      • Santa Ana, CA
         
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      What make engines?

       

      I get the same thing with brass track and regular old dc and yes, it is worse after the sun goes down, most likely due to lowering of the dew point.  I also attribute it to micro-arcing.  But I also attribute this to the ground getting moist and the resistance between the rails drops bleeding off some of the current.

       

      Aristocraft engines (I don't run B'mann) seem the worst due to the wheel plating.  I turn the engines over and put a 12 volt battery to the pickups to spin the wheels against an X-acto as a lathe.  This gets rid of the carbon build-up (comes off as a fine, black "smoke") as well as the flaking plating.  Then I go over them with alcohol/Q-tip.

       

      I use a drywall pad (220 grit) to clean the track (AristoCraft brass).

      This post was edited by Todd Brody at August 9, 2018 9:04 PM EDT
    • August 9, 2018 9:10 PM EDT
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      Todd Brody said:

       

      I use a drywall pad (220 grit) to clean the track (AristoCraft brass).

      Me too but I will await his response as to the reason for his post. Perhaps there is a deeper issue?

    • August 9, 2018 9:11 PM EDT
      • Carlsbad, CA
         
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      There is an extensive thread on this either here or on MLS.

       

      A lot of speculation, but one of the members took the black stuff and had it submitted to spectral analysis.

       

      The results are not carbon, but indeed oxidized copper and zinc in the proper proportion for brass.

       

      Thanks, Greg

      This post was edited by Greg Elmassian at August 9, 2018 9:13 PM EDT
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    • August 9, 2018 9:25 PM EDT
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    • August 10, 2018 12:00 AM EDT

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      In response to Rooster’s request for more details. My locos are the Bachmann Connie, Climax, Forney and the Annie. All have sound and dcc. Track is Aristo stainless steel with Split Jaw stainless rail clamps. Grade is less than 2% on concrete roadbed with crushed granite balist. Track has been outdoors in New England for four years not near the ocean. No plastic wheels are used. I do not seem to have any power drop issues and I use snubbers at the farthest ends of my layout. My dcc system is NCE 10 amp PH-10 radio with repeater powered by a Meanwell 13 amp 24 volt power supply. My only maintenance issues are clearing leaf debris and black build up on the track and cleaning of the loco wheels. The reason I would like to minimize the wheel and track deposits is that I would like to do some automated running and the deposits make this difficult starting and stopping the engines at their proper location.

      I think I covered most of the details.

      thanks again

      Steve

      This post was edited by Steve Mitchell at August 10, 2018 12:03 AM EDT
    • August 10, 2018 12:27 AM EDT
      • Carlsbad, CA
         
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      Sorry Steve, I missed somehow you have stainless rail.... we only tested brass rail. But the black stuff came from the rail, not the wheels.

       

      I too have stainless and run high current. I get the greasy black stuff. I believe it is indeed oxidized metal, whether from the wheels or the rail.

       

      One finding from this testing is that it was found that basically all metals, when oxidized, give a black residue.

       

      So, it's most likely oxidized rail, but could be wheel plating. And it apparently comes from the arcing that occurs from power pickup. At night, I can see little sparks/arcs between the wheels and rails, no matter how clean they are.

       

      I found the best way to clean SS rail is a Swiffer, using their wet disposable wipes. If you try it, you will be amazed not only how easy and fast it is to do, and the fact that the mop head is the perfect width to follow the rail. The degreaser in their wet wipes works perfectly, will get the rails so clean, you cannot get the black streak on your finger from wiping the rails.

       

      An added benefit is that the cleaner drys a bit slowly, and will actually dislodge and clean your rolling stock wheels. What happens is the rail is so clean, but still has the cleaning solution, the grime transfers from the wheels to the clean track... run a train around, and follow it with the cleaner a few times, you will be amazed.

       

      Greg

       

      p.s. Swiffer found in grocery stores, and don't buy the off-brand wet pads... they are not nearly as good... and don't use the dry pads.

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    • August 11, 2018 7:45 AM EDT
      • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
         
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      Steve, I run 2 trains with 2 stop blocks sometimes, so each of my 2 trains will stop at 2 locations so that they take turns. Sometimes I just run one continuously. When I run 2, using the stop blocks, I have to clean that residue off the tracks before the run, and usually about 20 to 30 minuets into the run. Then the 2 trains will play tag for the rest of the afternoon, usually without any issues. Its like the tracks/wheels have to get the black crud out of their system, and once they do that, things are good for hours.

       

      My track is Aristo stainless. My locomotives are USA (F3), Aristo (RS3, E8 & PCC), LGB (Moguls, Porters, Chloe, Olomana and a Forney), Bachmann (10 wheelers, Shay, Climax and Heisler), Heartland and  Delton.

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    • August 11, 2018 1:44 PM EDT
      • Santa Ana, CA
         
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      Something else to consider..., the compatibility of ozone with the rails and wheels.  The arcing undoubtly creates localized ozone concentrations and these oxidize various compounds and components, especially zinc, steel, and magnesium.

       

      http://www.ozoneapplications.com/info/ozone_compatible_materials.htm

       

      This post was edited by Todd Brody at August 11, 2018 3:36 PM EDT
    • August 11, 2018 6:37 PM EDT

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      Thanks guys for the response. Dave I plan on running similar automation using a NCE mini panel. Do you run your lighter engines in the blocks as well or just the heavier dieseals with skates? I guess I’ll just have to clean before and during automated runs. Also Dave do you use momentum or quick start and stops in the blocks?

      Thanks

      Steve

    • August 12, 2018 6:09 AM EDT
      • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
         
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      Steve, Chloe and Olomana are light LGB steam locomotives. The F3 and RS3 are heavier locomotives. I run everything I have. The starts and stops are quick starts and stops, but I run my trains at slowish speeds, usually 10 to 12 volts on the rails.

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    • August 12, 2018 3:18 PM EDT
      • Carlsbad, CA
         
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      Steve, you must have a lot more airborne contaminants than me, so I'm a bit at a loss. My trains will run flawlessly for many hours, but eventually the "black stuff" returns. I might swiffer once during a 12 hour session, but this also cleans the wheels.

      Once cleaned, how long can you run before you have issues?

       

      Greg

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    • August 12, 2018 4:41 PM EDT

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      Greg, I can run about twelve hours spread out over a couple of days but if I run at night I can only run about three hours before loco start having issues. Dave thanks for the information. I would guess the skates play a part in overcoming the wheel build up and  keeping the rail clean longer. I’m thinking that the problem is 80% wheels and 20% rail. I still contribute the problem to micro arcing. Too bad there wasn’t a solution for that.

    • August 12, 2018 7:58 PM EDT
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      Steve Mitchell said:

       I still contribute the problem to micro arcing. Too bad there wasn’t a solution for that.

      I tend to disagree however I'm no expert. Why not try wiping the rails down with "white vinegar" then apply a "few drops" of Zap rail Zip to both rails and run a train around to disperse it.

    • August 12, 2018 10:44 PM EDT
      • Carlsbad, CA
         
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      It's an easy experiment, put some on the rails and see if the arcing diminishes. I did not see any reduction in the experiments I tried. If anything, ANYTHING on stainless rails makes it worse. Since SS is not as good a conductor as brass, you would expect more "arcing".

       

      My experience is that for brass rail, a coating of almost anything retards oxidation (not arcing), but this is stainless steel rail, and my experiments is that anything on the rails is worse than just plain clean rail. Stainless does not have the oxidation issues that brass has. For brass rail, I have seen CRC32, ATF, WD-40, Wahl clipper oil, all work at retarding oxidation.

       

      I do put a light coating of "De-Oxit" on my Z scale track which is nickle-silver and it does indeed make a difference.

       

      Greg

      This post was edited by Greg Elmassian at August 13, 2018 10:59 AM EDT
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    • August 13, 2018 5:01 PM EDT
      • Cut n Shoot , Texas
         
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      Material IACS (International Annealed Copper Standard)
      Ranking Metal % Conductivity*
      1 Silver (Pure) 105%
      2 Copper 100%
      3 Gold (Pure) 70%
      4 Aluminum 61%
      5 Brass 28%
      6 Zinc 27%
      7 Nickel 22%
      8 Iron (Pure) 17%
      9 Tin 15%
      10 Phosphor Bronze 15%
      11 Steel (Stainless included) 3-15%
      12 Lead (Pure) 7%
      13 Nickel Aluminum Bronze 7%

      * Conductivity ratings are expressed as a relative measurement to copper. A 100% rating does not indicate no resistance.

    • August 13, 2018 5:13 PM EDT
      • Carlsbad, CA
         
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      ok, but you left out nickel silver, and the specific stainless steel conductivity.

      pretty sure Lewis said it was 406...

       

      Of course this thread is not about conductivity, but the black junk that collects on track powered stainless steel rails.

       

      Greg

       

      p.s. it could be theorized however that the lower conductivity of SS might result in increased arching though!

      This post was edited by Greg Elmassian at August 13, 2018 9:16 PM EDT
      ____________________________________

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