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Discussion Starter #1
When switching from DC to DCC did you find your locomotives run more reliably without stalling over dirty track, rough spots, etc.?

Sorry for the basic question, I have no experience with DCC. My guess is that having full voltage to the track is an advantage re stalling.

Or is reliability more related to having a 'keep alive' on board?
 

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No. The wisdom is that if an engine runs poorly in DC, it will be no better, and probably somewhat/a lot worse in DCC. DCC has to send digital signals concurrently with the AC full-voltage-all-the-time current applied to the rails, so it needs a robust voltage, clean track, clean wheels, well-designed and maintained pickups on axles or rubbing against the back of wheels....that sort of thing. If your service is intermittent in DC, it will probably be terrible in DCC.

Yes, a keep-alive is really an elegant, if daunting, solution...for those who have never installed one. I think the modern decoders are coming with caps, at long last. Maybe 10 years ago would have been nice.
 

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When switching from DC to DCC did you find your locomotives run more reliably without stalling over dirty track, rough spots, etc.?

Sorry for the basic question, I have no experience with DCC. My guess is that having full voltage to the track is an advantage re stalling.

Or is reliability more related to having a 'keep alive' on board?
Well, you're right: full voltage to the track all the time is certainly an advantage... UNLESS it can't get to the wheels or motor of your loco. Then it does you no good at all. Dirty track is the main cause of this, although dirty locomotive wheels don't help either.

Mesenteria is correct: if you have cruddy track, DCC will likely be worse than DC. But if you have nickel silver rails, it's much less of a problem than with brass or steel, where the oxides aren't conductive. Nickel-silver's oxide conducts electricity, so it takes more crud to interfere with your locos. Just because you get black gunk on the rag doesn't mean your track is too dirty to run trains.

You mentioned that you have a lot of trouble with the black gunk in a different post. A lot of that may be coming from plastic car wheels, especially if you have a lot of them. But a good cleaning goes a long way. Model Railroad Hobbyist did a study of track cleaning chemicals, and lists the best 3 as kerosene, WD-40 Contact Cleaner, and CRC Contact Cleaner and Protectant (if you're looking for the last 2, make sure you get EXACTLY that product, because both companies make similarly named products that aren't as good). Mineral spirits are also pretty good. Just about any solvent will CLEAN your track, but the best ones also inhibit micro-arcing, which helps your track stay clean longer.

My hunch, though, is that you have some other problems with power transfer, though, because it you're cleaning your track regularly and thoroughly, it shouldn't be that big a deal in smooth operation.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
it's been a big deal for me yes. I clean about once a week, and have used a dry paper towel, a bright boy eraser, and clean wheels too. No plastic wheels either. I find where there is an imperfect rail, like where 2 sections of my Kato HO track do not line up perfectly in the vertical direction, a black oxide deposit will form. Once I do a good cleaning everything runs smoothly for a while. BUT, I am running a little 0-4-2 Porter and I doubt it has much torque and probably no flywheel. Same goes for the Bachmann ON30 trolley I run. And I run at fairly low speed. I'm thinking 14 hours of run time around a 40" oval should not require the weekly cleaning but it does. Maybe running heavier locos, maybe 4 axle HO scale with flywheels and a high quality Kato engine will help me?
 

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Get rid of the brightboy. I think CTvalleyRR has some good ideas from MRH. I use a couple of dabs of ATF (not newer ATF) and it seems to spread around the RR and has eliminated cleaning. You might have to run a piece of masonite around a few times to heal the micro abrasion caused by the brighboy.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Get rid of the brightboy. I think CTvalleyRR has some good ideas from MRH. I use a couple of dabs of ATF (not newer ATF) and it seems to spread around the RR and has eliminated cleaning. You might have to run a piece of masonite around a few times to heal the micro abrasion caused by the brighboy.
what about Labelle 105? 105

what about these wipers? Noch wiper

and what about the use of Walthers track cleaning box car: car
 

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How about using a large socket set breaker bar with a cleaning pad on it? I think Fugate (MRH) uses something like this. Its heavy so you don't have to press down so hard. You just have to figure out how to adapt a cleaning head to it.
 

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well my small 40" oval of new Kato HO track can be easily navigated around, so access is not a problem for me. When the same 40" diameter oval was new Atlas nickel silver flex track,

I had the same issues, but in fewer places, because I soldered each section. I have 2 constants, I've used only Bachmann Spectrum DC Magnum power supplies, and used only a Bachmann ON30 trolley,

and 2 or 3 different Porters, both DC only and DC/DCC 0-4-0 and 0-4-2 Porters, and always run at slow realistic speeds. Now I did have a couple of larger ON30 Bachmann locos, a 4-4-0 and another,

they both had some weight to them and I never had a stalled engine.
 

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what about Labelle 105? 105

what about these wipers? Noch wiper

and what about the use of Walthers track cleaning box car: car
Wipers etc., are usually just overpriced versions of things you can get just about anywhere. For hard to reach spots, I have an old telescoping radion antenna. I have a big 1/2" nut that I rubber band to the end, wrap the whole thing in a rag, and spray it with CRC Contact Cleaner & Protectant. That's my track cleaning gadget.

Same goes for all the extra parts of the LaBelle 105 kit. Buy the swabs, pads, etc at a hardware store or pharmacy. The solution itself is a crap shoot. Going back to the MRH article, some commercial track cleaners work well, others much less so. That one wasn't tested, so you'd have to compare ingredients to one that was.

Track cleaning cars are fine, but in my experience, no substitute for actually getting in there and cleaning. You may have to clean less often, though.
 

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it's been a big deal for me yes. I clean about once a week, and have used a dry paper towel, a bright boy eraser, and clean wheels too. No plastic wheels either. I find where there is an imperfect rail, like where 2 sections of my Kato HO track do not line up perfectly in the vertical direction, a black oxide deposit will form. Once I do a good cleaning everything runs smoothly for a while. BUT, I am running a little 0-4-2 Porter and I doubt it has much torque and probably no flywheel. Same goes for the Bachmann ON30 trolley I run. And I run at fairly low speed. I'm thinking 14 hours of run time around a 40" oval should not require the weekly cleaning but it does. Maybe running heavier locos, maybe 4 axle HO scale with flywheels and a high quality Kato engine will help me?
Remotoring locos might help. Are you using a solvent when you clean? Using the right solvents (see my previous post) goes a long way towards keeping track clean. And yes, lose the bright boy. Save that for those stubborn chunks that regular cleaning doesn't remove.

And spots where your rails don't line up? That needs a fix. There shouldn't be a bump at the joints. But I'm not surprised you get gunk there: that bump is going to cause arcing, which is a major contributor to corrosion.
 

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I believe the black streaks to be the result of arcing. If you can darken your train room, you'll see a lot of arcing under the wheels in some spots as the train moves. Where the arcing happens, temps rise there for an instant to thousands of degrees. It will quickly carbonize any organic material, no matter what it is or where it is...if the arcing can encompass it, it gets oxidized, and that means tarry...black. Solvents will remove it, as will grit, abrasives, scotch-brites, brillo pads, or just soap and water.

I have taken to scrubbing my freshly wiped rails with a large two inch steel washer. It helps to smoothen the surface enough to minimize arcing and micro-grooving cause by the more aggressing cleaning items. It won't do a danged thing for rails which dip or rise half a mm and lift the axles around them enough to cause the arcing. I recently heeded the advice of those who published that list of common solvents, lubes, and penetrants a couple of years back (thanks, guys), and have begun to apply small amounts of kerosene (the pure kind you get at camping stores meant for lanterns or burners) to my rails.

Two layouts ago, when I knew I would be dismantling one in our last home's basement, I applied liberal amounts of Dexron II Mercon auto-transmission fluid to my rails, and some of the grades on the 45' folded loop approached 3.6%. I ran a BLI Class J 4-8-4 trailing four Bachmann Spectrum heavyweights (modestly free-rolling, not draggers) for 20 minutes and didn't see a single spin or stall, but neither did it lose electrical contact. So, while the ATF fluid isn't very high on that list, it's sufficiently high that it doesn't impede performance, but you KNOW it will prevent any oxygen contact with the rail tops.
 
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