Track oxidizes – that means the electrical flow to your engine will be less than optimal.
In the days of brass track, you could easily see this as the rail would no longer gleam with its bright metallic color. It’s harder to see with nickel silver rail, but if you clean a section of it you will be able to see the contrast with an uncleaned section.
Not too long ago, I was attempting to demonstrate an engine and it just sputtered along. I hadn’t cleaned the shop’s test track in a while, so I figured that was the reason. I got out the Walthers Bright Boy, gave the track a quick rub-down, and the engine ran flawlessly!
There are two methods of cleaning track: liquid and eraser style. Some railroaders opt for a combination of both.
The old standby is the Walthers Bright Boy. Its consistency is like that of an ink eraser. Walthers also has a track-cleaning box car which drags a pad made of the same material as the Bright Boy along the rail.
The other type of cleaner is a liquid, such as Rail Zip that that penetrates the track and leaves a conductive “film” on the rail. It is applied with a cloth.
Rail Zip’s literature says that “it penetrates existing corrosion layers and restores electrical conductivity to the track. Also inhibits future corrosion.”