Building a track cleaning wagon for a garden railway
All kinds of grit and grubbiness end up on the rails in your garden. If you don't want your trains slipping and stumbling along the line, a rail cleaner is essential. While there are several ready-made versions available, here we look at a budget version.
Based around a supermarket pan scourer and largely made from scrap materials, the only bought-in parts are the wheels from Binnie Engineering, which are readily available from many traders.
Once built, the wagon can be pushed around by a two-wheel-drive locomotive running at just under 6v and can even be marshalled into a normal goods train. While this won't polish the track for electric power, for anyone running live steam or battery electric locomotives, it's invaluable and easier than clearing the track by hand.
A standard pan supermarket scourer will fit neatly under a Welsh Highland truck and a weight of 1.5lb (720gm) should lightly compress the foam backing and retain contact of the abrasive with the track.
This rough plan gives an idea of the basic dimensions for the wagon. It's not a scale model, you can alter it to suit your railway and the materials available.
The basic structure is made from scrap 1/8in ply reinforced with cardboard cut from a cereal packet. The width needs to be just slightly wider than scale for the WHR wagon to provide a pocket that would retain the scourer.
A concrete block is cast weighing 1.5lb (720g) but doesn't look very prototypical, so it is hidden inside a packing crate. You can also use lead or scrap metal rather than mixing aggregates if you prefer.
The compression of the pan sourer is just enough to brush the top of the rails.
To hold the crate on the back of the wagon, we've used straps made from glass fibre tape, stabilised with masking tape and PVA glue.
Don't look too closely and you won't spot that this wagon is anything more than an attractive item of rolling stock. The crate is made from coffee stirrers glued untidily to the block with PVA, which in turn is stuck to the truck with exterior glue from a DIY store.
Battery-powered locomotive “Penelope” the Peckett easily shunts the track cleaner around this layout.
A few months later and a simple modification was required - four lines were scored through the scourer into the foam, representing the position of the tracks allowing for curves. The scourer was peeled off revealing two tracks of scouring pad neatly in line with the heads of the rails.
This is what we were aiming for, nice clean tracks on a wet winter’s afternoon on the bridge over the pond.
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