Tech talk: The vital importance of wheel-cleaning

RMM brings some handy tips and techniques for cleaning the wheels of locomotives and rolling stock in order to get the best performance from your models. Part 2 will appear next month. 

One feature of modelling that we take for granted is the use of the two running rails to conduct power to our model locomotives. This connection is technically wireless, with power being conducted through the wheel-to-rail interface. Unlike slot cars, it allows scale modelling without any compromise in the appearance of the track, but on the flip side, the same contact between rail and wheels, together with a similar contact between the wheels and electrical circuits within the model, is a potential weakness. 

For fine control and good running characteristics, both of these points of contact have to be very good, yet they are prone to a number of difficulties, the primary one being the build-up of dirt. 

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This range of models from different manufacturers and in different scales each has its own preferred method for wheel cleaning, particularly the Heljan rail bus and N-gauge models.   

This article focuses on maintaining the contact between rail and wheel for the best electrical conductivity, and that means keeping wheels as clean as the track, a subject that was also covered in the last issue of RMM because the two are linked. 

Wheel-cleaning can be as much of a chore as cleaning track, but with models being equipped with a good amount of weight, together with the increasing use of pick-ups on all available wheels, continuity of power from rail to the model is not as great a problem as in the past, even with smaller scales such as OO9 and N gauge, where models rarely tip the scales at more than 100g. Nonetheless, the need to clean wheels soon crops up when locomotive performance loses its edge.

For the full article and to view more images, see the April 2019 edition of Modelling – available now!

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For a complete list of stockists and how to get your copy, visit: www.railwaymagazinemodelling.co.uk/distributors

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About the Author

Sam Hewitt