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Cleaning Model Trains With Foam Tipped Swabs

| March 13, 2018 More

Cleaning model trains with foam tipped swabsLots of model railroaders use Q-Tips cotton swabs for cleaning hard to reach areas on their trains, track and turnouts. Having worked extensively in the smaller scales, Z and N, the cotton fibers that can / will come loose from a Q-Tip and find their way in to gears, wheels, track joints and all other places tiny is something I try to avoid.

Although more expensive, I like to use foam tipped swabs for cleaning in tight areas. I’ve recently started buying pointed tipped foam swabs for cleaning the electrical contacts around loco wheels as well as the traction tires. You can really gently dig in to the trucks with these pointed foam swabs without applying much pressure and a couple of quick twirls of the foam swab does a nice job of removing oil and debris.

The pointed tip swabs don’t have a heck of a lot of foam on them, it’s actually a pretty thin coating, but it’s enough to do the job. I give all these swabs a spray from a bottle of 99% Isopropyl Alcohol. I like the 99% alcohol as it dries almost instantly, though it is a little more expensive than the more common 91%. I think in practice, either will get the job done.

There’s a lot of variety in foam swab sizes, many of them are sold as printer cleaners. Some brands I’ve used are basically one-time use, others can be cleaned in a little warm water and Dawn dish detergent, let to dry and be used several times.

Again having logged a lot of time in the smaller scales, every loose fiber is a potential operational hiccup. I think regardless of the size of your trains, the less loose fibers you have in there waiting to wrap themselves in your gears and around your axles, the better.

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