If you run battery power you’ll have to learn about track cleaning at some point. This never ending cleaning of the track is what pushes those that can afford it to move to battery power.
The brass (and other types of metal) track that G gauge trains run on oxides over time and this interferes with providing electricity to the engines through the rails. You need to clean the surface of the rails from time to time.
The more you run your trains the less cleaning necessary because the steel wheels of your trains (I’m assuming you are not running plastic wheels on outdoor layouts) will grind the rail tops a bit and help keep the rails clean.
But still, from time to time you’ll have to polish the rails. For that you can use a track cleaning car.
There are many different types of cars and gizmos to clean track sold by many manufactures from track cleaning engines to cleaning cabooses. The prices range from “ouch” to “OMG!” Some work better than others and each has its strong and weak points.
The track cleaner car I favor is the one from Bridge-Masters. This car has a modest price tag ($59 plus S&H when I purchased mine) and what I like best about it is you can use several different materials to scrub the track.
A single thumb-turn screw releases the weight from the plastic block and allows you to clamp in the abrasive of you choice. The car comes with a Scotch-Brite like pad and it works fine. You can replace the pad when necessary or substitute actual Scotch-Brite pads or even dry wall screen material if you want to go for slightly more abrasive rub.
Out of the box the car comes with a hook for use with hook and loop connectors.
There you have it. Dragging this car works better on my layout then pushing it, especially over turnouts.
The bottom line with track cleaning cars is that they are really designed for maintaining clean track. Obviously, if you are running track powered engines the track has to be clean enough to allow it run to pull the track cleaning car.
Some people use a battery powered engine to run the cleaning car which would be great assuming you have a battery powered engine in the first place. If my track is really dirty I use a simple pole sander (used for sanding drywall seams) and just walk my layout and scrub the track by hand. But once clean a track cleaning car will do wonders for keeping it clean.
A tip I’ve heard of (but have not yet tried) is to use WD-40 or smoke fluid to wet the pad where it runs on the rails to improve the cleaning ability. Since I’ve not tried this I don’t know how effective it is. Another tip for the Bridge-Masters car is to place additional weights over each axel. I’ve not tried this either.
Let me know what your track cleaning experiences have been. –TJ
(Originally posted 8/26/2011, revised 4/26/2013)