I decided to put up my layout this year, and one of the first (and least welcome) steps is to unbox all of the track and make sure itís clean, the ties are tight, and the rails are not bent. My usual procedure is to brush the dust and dirt off the track and roadbed, then polish and oil the rails.
This year, I noticed a simple dusting did not do much to improve the roadbed appearance. It still had that light brownish-black dusty look, plus the roadbed had gotten a bit stiff over its fifty-odd year life. I went on a hunt to find a solution.
What I found at my local Walmart was a product called Armor All Low Gloss Natural Finish. The product is a rubber and vinyl cleaner and rejuvenator. It comes in several sizes, the 10FLoz size will clean about 150 pieces of roadbed and track. In addition to the Armor All, youíll need a stiff bristle brush, and a few rags. (see pic 1.)
Lay out several layers of newspaper on a worktable, then arrange about 20 pieces of track and roadbed upside down on the paper. Give the roadbed a good coat of Armor All, then turn all of the roadbed over, and give the topside another generous coat. In accordance to the directions on the bottle of Armor All, I gave the cleaner about 5 minutes to "work". I then gave each piece of roadbed and track a quick brisk brushing, making sure I also cleaned both sides of the rail. Then with the rag, I wiped off any excess cleaner. I decided to clean the track and roadbed together, since I didnít want to spend a whole night separating the track and roadbed. I found the Armor All helped to dissolve any minor surface rust and grunge from the track rail, and the track didnít get in the way of cleaning the roadbed.
What I ended up with was a much more supple, almost-like-new, rubber roadbed with a rich black color. The track itself was much cleaner, and almost all of the dirt and light rust was gone. I was pleased it only took me an evening to clean all of the track and roadbed I had. (See pic 2)
I finished up the cleaning by taking a 6" square piece of cloth and lightly spraying it with WD40. By bunching up the cloth, you can pinch each rail in the cloth and with one swipe, give it a light coating of oil. This will prevent any rust from forming on the rail. Later, after I have fastened the track on the layout, I will give the track a light rubbing with a dry cloth to remove some of the oil from the tops of the rail.
With the recent success of my roadbed cleaning project, I decided to try the same process on my switches. By giving a light spritz of Armor All to the switch, and then briskly brushing the cracks and crevices around the molded surface detail, and then buffing the switch with a clean cloth, I was able to quickly remove years of grime and crud. The transformation of the switch to an almost factory black shine was very gratifying.
With only a couple of nights of cleaning, Iíve greatly improved the look of the track, roadbed and switches. plus the Armor All will help keep the rubber pliable and in good condition. Next year, Iíll be able to tell you if the process needs to be repeated, or maybe, I can get away with just a light dusting and oiling.
In the meantime, somebody hand me that bottle of smoke fluid - I just gotta see how my 326 looks runniní down that clean and shiny track!
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