Bob’s track cleaner

“1) I am a strong proponent for using any brand of Automatic Transmission Fluid for track cleaning.

With an initially hand cleaned track, apply ATF with a Q-tip at about 1 inch per rail for every 2-3 ft.

ATF has conductive additives that will keep the track clean for many days but, it is an oil so use sparingly or you will quickly loose locomotive traction.

The right balance is required for best performance. Also good for cleaning locomotive wheels sparingly.

2) Best approach for a track cleaning car or vehicle is to use an old diesel locomotive that has the driving equipment remove but has the heavy frame available for downward pressure.

By using stick-on furniture felt pads available at any hardware or most discount stores, you can create a great track cleaner and you can easily replace the stick-on pads by pulling off the old pad and sticking on a new pad.

The stick-on pads are available in a variety of sizes to fit virtually any old heavy diesel locomotive frame.

Below is a gutted Kato n scale diesel with a stick-on pad. Simply push it around with a good powered locomotive.

N Scale P-42 gutted as track cleaner 1

N-scale P-42 Gutted as track cleaner 2

Typical stick-on felt pads for N & HO

3) When you have a sluggish locomotive, check your track with a good running locomotive from another track before assuming you need to clean the track.

Quite often you may need to clean the wheels, wheel contactors or the motor brushes.


Big thanks to Bob.

When ever I get a track cleaner idea in, I’m always reminded of Kim’s, (which is here). It could scrub anything clean.

And now on to Dave, who’s been having fun with his iphone thingy:

latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Still going strong.

That’s all for today’s missive.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you decide to start laying tracks again, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

24 Responses to Bob’s track cleaner

  1. Chris says:

    I to have been using auto trans fluid on my layout for over 8 months & I reckon its the best thing since sliced bread for keep tracks clean & getting good electrical connections from the loco’s wheels. I got onto this method via a video made by a club in the USA on You tube. I was constantly cleaning the tracks & loco wheels due to oxidisation. Like every week & it was a pain. Since using a dab of auto trans fluid on the tracks in a few spots & letting the trains spread it around I haven’t had to clean the tracks since. A couple of my loco’s never ran smoothly but using this system has cured all there jerky behaviour. if your a sceptic like I was get you worst performing loco & give it a try – you will be amazed.

  2. Peter Jones says:

    Thanks Dave, it is good to see that the great man has the odd derailment like we lesser mortals ha ha. As far as the demise of the majestic Regal cinema to what looks like a most interesting club if the neon sign has anything to go by, no wonder the passengers want a good look. Once again Dave you give us all a great insight and good ideas with the pipes and passengers for the coaches. Keep it going.

    Peter the Mackem.

  3. builder Kim says:

    lol Dave . How much is it for a pint in that club. Starts like that a new strip club and before ya know it. You have ladies of the night hanging around corner’s and such. That idea with the iphone. does that only work on that controller model. or can you do the same to another controller? So love your video’s and watch many time’s. thanks very much for the intertainment video’s keep up the great work. maybe open a shop up to sell them leg’s you keep chopping off lol.

  4. Rod Mackay says:

    You’re right Dave, that 56 is a bit of an anachronism, that livery puts it into the 80s/early 90s. To have it at least match the train, you could put it on the fuel tanks, those 45t tanks worked into this century on the Llandarcy bitumen and other flows, and your green 20s would look reasonably at home on the vacuum braked vans, well, apart from the ones still in pre-1948 Southern colours anyway. Can’t say I’m impressed with the special effects on the 56 though, when starting up it ought to produce a huge cloud of light blue oil smoke, a real blinder, and the most notable sound effect when running was the chattering of the suspension over railjoints, they sounded like a real bag of bolts. Much admiring of the tail lamps on the LMS blood-and-custard rake though. Tick VG!

  5. Jim says:

    I have never heard of using ATF for tracking cleaning. Well try it and see how it works. As for the track cleaning car, what in ingenious idea. I have several tracking cleaning cars, one motorized that does a great job, and two with cleaning pads on them that also do a great job. However I am going to try this idea and see how it performs.

  6. Jim says:

    Dave lol what have you done? Any way it is good for a laugh and a good way to show what can be done with a little imagination. As for the PILE UP we call that a big OOOPPPPPS and from time to time it does happen to all of us. I enjoy your ideas and have plans of putting some in place on my layout soon.

  7. Toni O. says:

    I’m sure your suggestion of the heavy engine frame is a very worthwhile idea, but some of us may not have a spare engine to use. So I’m pretty positive that the same idea can be applied to using a weighted boxcar that we may already have spare of, that we could alter for track cleaning. The close-up photo was helpful. Thank you

    Dangerous Dave,
    Again, you have provided an informative video and I’m sure that other would agree when I say; “Thank you.”

    It appears that you need to be a two headed person or you need to have a second Conductor or Engineer for proper operation of your layout. A terrible crash like you had can be a huge drawback if you are looking to have customers use your trains to move their products around the countryside.

    As for Toni’s, remember their phrase. “At Toni’s Strip Palace, located within the plush Regal Theater, we believe in gender equality. So on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday nights, it’s women’s night and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays it’s men’s night. But Sundays we’re closed, because we need or rest.”


  8. paul Otway says:

    I use a hornby track cleaning which is good.

  9. builder Kim says:

    lol Toni

  10. Raymond Bove says:


    The railway modelling scene would not be same without you. So whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to live actively for another 50 years at least, but with the progress of medecine, this shouldn’t be a problem. It was you who motivated me to resume railway modelling when I retired. My wife praises you, the landlord at (what used to be) my local hates you. Keep up the good work.


    Thanks for your contribution. Some years ago I converted an (inevitably) old Triang track cleaner wagon (the one that is actually an American box car), turning it into a self-propelled unit by using the motor bogie of a damaged Fleischmann loco and its unpowered bogie (this was weighted to give it the same weight as the power bogie). It involed a bit of fiddling but hasn’t been any trouble since. I run it pushing with the power bogie at the rear and hauling another one of these cars for an additional sweep. The cars were transformed to make the powered unit look like a steam car (more or less). The whole lot is painted LNER service blue (Oxfored blue)

  11. Daryl says:

    Dave, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you are a breath of fresh air. Don’t you ever give up on this hobby, you are in inspiration to us all.

    Next time you visit New Zealand, look me up, you have a place to stay.

    Best wishes,


  12. mark stjohn-jones says:

    auto trans fluid…never tried that….gunna have to….sounds like it will be a good thing…
    be sure to wear plastic gloves to handle the tranny fluid or it will eat your hands..
    been using kitchen ‘scrubby’ pads attached to ANYTHING to clean my tracks for years…works good……

  13. Ian Mc Donald says:

    great how to on the track cleaner. one is on the pipeline to make. have a small one you tow i must have to many points and comes off so i will try yours. great video Dave you have the strip club on the other side have an adults shop that will really make the train derail.

  14. david howarth says:

    Hi all thanks for the comments , and well as far as Tonys strip club is going , we had a lot of the residents complaining on the Saturday Night , so after agreement with the Police and Council the , the club was removed from the Cinema on the upper level , then opened in the old Bank Building on the lower level , all seem to be Happy about it now …LOL ….Thanks for all your support ….Dave

  15. Billy Mills says:

    Some time ago (maybe a yr) I gave a tip of using rock salt & coating it w/ black paint to for coal.
    Well I have discovered “a fly in the oatmeal” with this one.
    The salt draws moisture & you can end up w/ small amounts of water in your cars.

    Just thought everyone might want to know this.

  16. Would ATF be OK with rubber traction tyres? I don’t know whether these are used on other country’s makes but you see them quite often here in the UK.

    Just wondered!


  17. Robert Brady says:

    NEED AN ANSWER : Bob; Will there be problems running over joints and turnouts
    Pads hanging up on these areas? how much tranny fluid per pad? Couple Eye droppers?

  18. Lester W Larrew in Georgia USA says:

    I have been using ATF for years when I need to lub my engines where I dn’t need grease (I use on connecting rods) but have never tried on track. Works well on engines where needed.

  19. John Duryea says:

    I don’t think using ATF is good for anyone using locomotives with rubber traction wheels. It will penatrate into the rubber and swell up. Any petroleum-based fluids will harm the rubber.

  20. MARKLIN ED. says:

    I like it’s when I read the comments and they answer my questions as i finish reading all the comments. THANK TO ALL THE RAILROADER OUT THERE…

  21. Erick says:

    Pretty neat idea.!!

  22. Franklin Zinanni says:

    I usually don’t have a problem with Al’s posts but Dave’s video seems to have been hijacked & stolen by gremlins in my email. I was wondering if there was a way to remedy this. Frank

  23. David Schaffner says:

    I never get over being amazed at watching Dangerous Dave’s video.. He is most definitely the master of video taping and landscaping with great detail. I never get over the amount of European style houses and old cars. I often wonder, are your houses and structures kits or fully assembled? Love the black tanker cars with the yellow flashes and the fact that you have so many is so cool. I have never seen that brand anywhere…Keep making us feel lost as to what our layout is compared to your magnificent displayof craftmanship….

  24. I’ve seen a lot of past articles on cleaning track, and the biggest no-no is using abrasive pads, as they scratch the track and dirt accumulates in the scratch marks.

    My favorite is the ATF transmission fluid that Bob proposes because a) the price is right and b) it works.

    While using a pad to distribute it makes sense, one video I’ve seen of a large layout built by a RR club claims only to wipe a two- to three-foot section of track and then runs the trains around the layout to distribute the fluid. They don’t wipe the entire trackage. Saves a lot of time and effort. Try it yourself to see if “less is best.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *