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Author Topic: Conductive transmission fluid tracks  (Read 9189 times)
W8JI
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« on: August 20, 2011, 06:29:41 PM »

This is not Ham radio, but it is electronics. :-)

I went to a model RR meeting and someone was very forceful about automatic transmission fluid being good for model railroad tracks. He claimed it was conductive, which sounded pretty weird to me.

So........ I measured several types I had around here for GM and Ford and racing. Even a very thin film of all of them was a good low voltage insulator. I just can't imagine lubing a band switch with ATF, let alone a wheel rolling lightly on a track with low voltage and about half an ampere. :-)

So here is question...

Other than dry gold or silver is there anything that is not slippery or greasy that will hold off tarnish or conduct with low resistance and not evaporate?   

73 Tom
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AC5UP
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« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2011, 07:46:55 PM »

ATF is a fairly good solvent / cleaner and if you look at products like Marvel Mystery Oil it will remind you of ATF. Does a nice job of freeing lifters by dissolving gunk slowly and that's important... Last thing you'd want in a car engine is a solvent that dissolves all the crud instantly so it plugs up the filter and oil passageways.

In the case of model railroad track ATF will give the rails a nice shine and leave a non-permanent residue that inhibits new corrosion, but it's the last thing I'd ever want on my track. Back in the day I learned that any oil on the track goes a long way when the wheels are HO sized and nothing runs well on slippery track.

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Other than dry gold or silver is there anything that is not slippery or greasy that will hold off tarnish or conduct with low resistance and not evaporate?

The only thing that comes to mind is Brasso, and that's a bit of a stretch. Very fine abrasive in a petroleum base that does leave a slight residue to inhibit oxidation. Last month I polished up a brass trim plate and discovered that it beads water so that's my confirmation of a surface treatment. Aside from the clean surface there's no conductivity enhancement and I don't see Brasso as particularly easy to use on model train track, but for all I know there's a trick for that as well.

BTW: I've also discovered that Brasso does a pretty good job on watch crystals and calculator windows... Even if a scratch is too deep to come out completely a good polishing can feather the edges of a scratch and leave the crystal so clean it looks noticeably better.
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KD7KCR
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« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2011, 08:50:38 PM »

Permatex makes an anti-seize with a blend of aluminum, copper and graphite lubricants. It has a very "copper look" to it.
But it wipes away pretty easily, it doesn't seem to stick well.

But the anti-seize compound made with nickel has some interesting properties. If you get a little dab of it on your fingers and then wipe it off with a rag you'd swear your finger is nickel plated. You have to do some serious rubbing to remove the stuff, it really does have amazing staying power. I always cut it with some oil for applying to bolt threads, a little dab of the nickel goop goes a long ways.



 
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K2OWK
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« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2011, 10:24:20 PM »

A little off subject, but KD7KCR did you ever notice how Anti-seize migrates. A tiny bid on the end of your finger and it appears all over everything you touch. Just a tiny drop turns into a mess all over everyware. It always seams to amaze me how it does that.

73s

K2OWK
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W8JI
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2011, 06:21:10 AM »

Thanks for the suggestions, I'll try some Brasso. I asked my wife if she had any brasso, and she said she married one. I'm not sure we are communicating clearly.

Any other suggestions??

73 Tom
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W6RMK
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2011, 07:46:54 AM »

so you want something that can be wiped onto the track, that will have good conductivity, and inhibit corrosion, and not make the track slippery.  I can see some sort of conductive grit in a oil carrier working (brasso might).  The oil inhibits the corrosion, but the grit keeps it from being slippery.  Since the grains would be very small, they don't have to be metal.  Maybe silicon carbide (which is available as a fine grit for polishing).. it's somewhat resistive (used in high temp heaters and RF loads for vacuum use).  The problem is that SiC grit is really nasty stuff if it gets into bearings (it's an abrasive after all).

Something like aluminum or copper powder in a carrier?  (that's what those antiseize things basically are), but you might also need some grit in there to keep the traction ok since all the likely carriers are slippery.

I'm assuming that some sort of chemical conversion coating (iridite, etc.) isn't practical, because you want to do it in place on existing tracks.  As you noted silver or gold would be good but I don't know how you would get it on the surface.  Nickel and some sort of electroplating brush scheme?  Nickel is pretty tough, doesn't corrode, and is fairly easy to electroplate.  You'd put the plating power between a (conductive) brush and the track.

Rather than treating the tracks, what about doing something to the wheels that allows them to pierce the surface corrosion on the track.  Like if you were to have very small transverse edges machined into the bearing surface of the wheel (not that this is practical, but it's the idea)
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W6CD
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2011, 08:26:51 AM »

G scale and on-board battery power here - I don't miss the track cleaning chore!   Grin
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KI4SDY
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2011, 09:32:20 AM »

The most important thing in model railroad track maintenance is proper storage, especially in humid climates like Florida. I have seen boxes of ruined track that was stored in the garage, attic or an outside shed. This goes for ham radio equipment too!  Wink   
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W8JI
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2011, 09:47:49 AM »

The most important thing in model railroad track maintenance is proper storage, especially in humid climates like Florida. I have seen boxes of ruined track that was stored in the garage, attic or an outside shed. This goes for ham radio equipment too!  Wink   

Yeah, don't I know. I bought a 40 year collection of hundreds of cars and dozens of steam engines and dozens of diesels. Some of the stuff is ruined by rust. Georgia humidity.

Pardon the off topic here, but talking about conductivity and cleaning connections on a model train site is not very productive.

RMK, I can actually silver plate. I'm just afraid it isn't so practical. I'm thinking of building a polishing car.
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AC5UP
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2011, 09:54:07 AM »

Nickel is pretty tough, doesn't corrode, and is fairly easy to electroplate.

Traditional HO track is a pair of brass rails on a dark brown plastic base but nickel plated track is very common on newer layouts. Looks more like the steel rails where I saw UP on the side of a train... <groan>

I'd be leery of any technique that leaves an abrasive residue on the track as it's a short walk from the wheels to the bearings on the cars, loco, and given enough time, the motor(s). Steam locos in particular have a bunch of moving parts and the nice one's don't come cheap...  Wink
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N4NYY
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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2011, 10:08:14 AM »

Tom,

Not sure about your experience with model trains, as I have none. So excuse if this info is useless. I found 2 products, but they may be greasy. At least one is. Both are conductive. One is specific on the prevention of oxidation. You are are a serious modeler, then you have probably seen/used these already. If not, here goes:

http://www.cleantrains.com/id43.htm

http://www.hobbylinc.com/htm/bac/bac99981.htm?source=froogle
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AA4HA
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« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2011, 01:41:08 PM »

I do not know anything about model railroading but I have seen on larger locomotives that work on steep grades a sander box that trickles out silica sand in front of the wheels to improve traction. Could you make a micro-miniature version of the same device for a model railroad but instead of sand it would drop out something conductive like graphite or a powdered metal?

I imagine you are not trying to lubricate the track but increase the conductivity for the (wheels? brushes?) to make an electrical contact?

That is another idea, spring loaded brushes, like a motor commutator? DC motors seem to get by just fine without lubricating the brushes.
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
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AC5UP
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2011, 03:24:00 PM »

DC motors seem to get by just fine without lubricating the brushes.

"Exact composition of the brush depends on the application. Graphite/carbon powder is commonly used. Copper is used for better conductance (rare for AC applications and not on automotive fuel pumps which run on carbon commutators). Binders, mostly phenol- or other resins or pitch, are mixed in so the powder holds its shape when compacted. Other additives include metal powders, and solid lubricants like MoS2, WS2. Much know-how and research is needed in order to define a brush grade mixture for each application or motor."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brush_%28electric%29
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W8JI
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« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2011, 06:52:01 PM »

Thanks all.

I'm still researching this.

I did an experiment with the type of transmission fluid recommended using a really light coat. My most troublesome engine for dirt stopped running as soon as it hit that test patch.  It took about an hour to clean the oil off the wheels and track with Xylene. So much for that suggestion from model railroad forums. :-)

I'm thinking an aluminum oxide non-abrasive stone followed by a brush.
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KI4SDY
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2011, 06:05:33 AM »

Here is the relevance to eHam.net concerning this topic; whatever works to clean electronic relay contacts and or radio front panel controls should work to improve conductivity on model train tracks, as long as it doesn't reduce traction to the point of immobility.  Grin

However, if the track is rusted or corroded, I have used Brasso with some success to restore model train track to its former utility. Then I would try contact and control cleaner or just alcohol to improve traction.  Wink  
« Last Edit: August 22, 2011, 06:14:43 AM by KI4SDY » Logged
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