Track cleaning… not what you think.

When a model railroader talks about “track cleaning” your first thought would be either a bright boy, cleaning solution or a tracking cleaning car being pushed around the layout.

I had mentioned earlier that when the old layout came down I was happy that I had used diluted white glue to hold the ballast in place. Because when it came time to lift the track off all I had to do was wet the track work and slide a putty knife underneath to lift it off the roadbed. The problem is that all the ballast is still glued to the track work.

I had planned to pick a nice summer day and spend a few hours cleaning it outside on the deck, as I didn’t want to do this in the basement because of the water. Best intentions and all, I found myself quickly running out of summer.  Faced with the fact that I will  be done with the basic benchwork soon and will want to start laying track as soon as it’s done and the weather will getting colder outside, I carved out an afternoon to get it cleaned off.

Not that it’s difficult to do. I set up a pair of saw horses and put a plastic storage box with the track in it on them. Next I filled it with warm water and let it soak for awhile.

Track from the old layout needing to be cleaned.
Track from the old layout needing to be cleaned.
The track soaking in warm water.
The track soaking in warm water.

Then I spent the next 3 hours with a small brush scrubbing ballast off the track. At first I had doubts that I would be able to finish it in one day as the pile of track in the storage container never seemed to dwindle. But you tend to find a rhythm and the work went pretty fast.

Scrubbed clean of ballast and drying.
Scrubbed clean of ballast and drying.
Clean and dry, ready for installation when I get to that point.
Clean and dry, ready for installation when I get to that point.

My question is this: How come you never hear about anybody having to do this? There have been plenty of people who have torn down major layouts in the railroad publications so that they can build a new major layout. But they never talk about saving the  old track and prepping it for the new layout. Do they not save it? I can’t imagine scrapping it all and buying new. I will admit that the thought of starting over again with all new track is extremely appealing, I just can’t even wrap my head around the cost of replacing it all.

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