22 October 2019
If your garden line uses track power, keeping the rails clean can be a challenge, does this new locomotive solve the problem?
Gardens are dirty places and if your locomotives pick up their power from the track, this needs to be kept clean. For many people, the hassle of crawling through the flowerbeds wielding a track rubber is enough to see them convert their electric locomotives to battery power.
Many clever devices have been tried to automate the task, the best known being the LGB track cleaning locomotive. It's an effective beast, but pricey and requires plenty of power to drive the twin motors.
Piko has launched an alternative based on their popular 0-4-0 GE 25-ton diesel locomotive.
While at first it appears identical to the track-powered models, apart from the appropriately gaudy colours, under the bonnet you find a battery box that holds 6 AAA cells. Access is by removing the radiator front (it pulls off) and then unclipping the box.
Looking under the model, we find all the wheels are fitted with traction tyres and between them are cleaning shoes wrapped in a mild abrasive mesh.
These shoes bear on the rail top surface in the same way LGB pickup pads do, but gently polish the metal. According to the makers, they are designed for brass rail but should not be used on softer aluminium or plastic are they will scratch the surface.
Operation is a single-speed controlled by a forward/off/reverse switch under one side of the cab. Aftermarket conversions to radio control are on sale from some traders.
In operation, the locomotive runs exceptionally smoothly and is capable of hauling a short train. LGB style couplings are fitted but adaptors are included for knuckle couplers. A headlight is fitted for night-time operation.
On the track, the model lightly polishes the rail surface very effectively. After around 20 passes, it was possible to see an improvement. Ideally, you let the Clean Machine run a few circuits before an operating session and perhaps between trains. Being battery powered, it is also perfect for those impromptu demands to run a train when you've not had the chance to clean the track. The model is robust and suitable for children to handle.
The pads will become dirty but can be cleaned with a dry toothbrush. A replacement pair is included and extras are available a part number 35416.
For really dirty track, say at the start of the operating season or after a long period where no trains have passed, modellers may well still need to use rubbers other cleaning products, but the need for these should be greatly reduced.
All in all, a very useful and attractive locomotive.
Piko GE 25-Ton Clean Machine
- Length (over buffer beams) 180mm
- Width 105mm
- Height 140mm
- Weight 986g