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THE CMX TRACK CLEANER


COST (as at September 2010).

Purchased from DCC Supplies, Worcestershire, UK.
£94:40 including 250ml Isopropanol track cleaning fluid.
£9:40 Carriage
including £14:40 VAT
Making the total purchase and delivery cost including fluid £103:80


WHAT COMES IN THE BOX:

Somehow the Postman managed to squeeze the pack through my letterbox but I needn't have worried as it was extremely well packed with plenty of bubble wrap and the quality of the product certainly helped.

So what do you get?
Obviously the Track Cleaner, plus a spare set of tension lock couplings to replace the 'Kadees' which are fitted as standard, and although it wasn't in the purchase price, a bottle of isopropanol. A little packet of bits containing the spare couplings and some spare washers for the filler cap, the bag also contained a syringe, a length of clear tubing for the filling process, and a roll of corduroy cloth to put on the cleaning pads.

Comprehensive 10 page instruction sheet with separate sheet for alternative coupler fitting is included.

The unit complies with NMRA HO gauge dimensions.


Contents of the box

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

Are of a real quality piece of kit - solid brass, heavy and appeared to be well engineered. Weighing in at 300 grams (the G scale version must weigh half a ton) I found the cleaner itself was not as big physically as I'd imagined - don't know why but I thought it would be much larger although, having said that, it was heavier than expected so no doubt one outweighs the other.

The main barrel of the cleaner appears to have been manufactured or turned from a solid piece of brass and is obviously where the weight comes from. End caps are similarly made and on top are two solid brass knurled screw caps - one with a thick rubber washer for the filler cap with a vent for the unit to breathe, the other being for the 'drip' adjustment of the cleaning fluid. Both are well made and screw in/out easily with good chunky threads.

Underneath with have the business end of the unit and the first thing I noticed was the cleaning pad or pressure 'drag' plate which seemed a little sloppy, being mounted on two spring loaded retainers to keep the unit level and with two retaining clips or bars (bit like an orbital sander) for cleaning pad retention. However, once you load it with the cloth (supplied) and you set it to work, there is no problem with the 'sloppiness' which is seemingly designed in, in order it can do its job.

Both bogies and wheel sets are solid and of good quality - I think they're Athearn. The instructions state the bogies can be changed to those of your choice if you so wish.

At each end is fitted a Kadee style coupler and a set of alternative tension locks are supplied (nice touch) for you to fit should the need arise.


BECOMING OPERATIONAL - what you need to do:

Couplings: As I've already mentioned, the cleaner comes with a set of Kadee style couplers fitted to each end of the chassis. The instructions give clear and detailed instructions on a separate sheet of how to change these for a supplied set of tension locks, which surprisingly, have NEM prongs but no NEM socket for them to be pushed into. Instead you have to detach the bogie at its pivot point (simple screw) remove another screw securing the KaDee to the chassis and replace with the tension lock.

Simple enough, but in order to secure the tension lock you have to partially replace the coupling retaining screw making sure it just grips in its hole, prize apart the NEM prongs on the coupler without breaking them and fit these either side of the screw, somehow holding it all in place with one hand whilst tightening the screw with the other - not quite so easy if you haven't got nimble fingers as the prongs try to force the coupler off the screw and is something the provision of a NEM socket would have made far simpler. God knows how it's done on the N gauge version.


One of the bogies showing the central mounting screw to remove the bogie, the coupling mounting screw with a tension lock coupling fitted.

For some reason the Kadee's have a hole through which you mount the coupler screw onto the chassis, whereas the replacement tensions locks only have the usual 'V' typical for a NEM mounted coupling. The fact that a screw has to be inserted into the V in an effort to secure it to the chassis, is a bit 'Heath Robinson' really and I found they do pull off quite readily, bit of a no win /no win situation as the makers warn you not to over tighten the securing screws, which in itself would probably nullify the guarantee if you did. I'm unsure whether the couplings would be less prone to pulling off if the couplers were mounted on the bogies rather than the chassis, where they have no give or lateral movement.

If it suits your layout you could of course have a Kadee one end and a tension lock on the other

Cleaning Pads: A roll of 'cut to width' upholstery quality corduroy material (about 24” in length) is supplied for you to cut into pieces and attach to the operating pad but the instructions don't give any idea how long each piece should be. The material is held in place on the pad by two adjustable retaining clips, one at each end and the whole process is identical to loading pre cut sanding sheets onto an orbital sander. I clipped one end of the cloth under one of the clips and then fed the other under the opposing clip and trimmed it there - I will use this piece as a template for replacements. Once loaded, the cloth is held securely in place, even when dampened by the cleaning fluid with the maker's claiming it will not catch on point blades, ill matched rail joints, frogs or other pieces of track work (we'll see later).


The 'drag pad' showing retaining clips and the spring loaded mounts carrying the unit.

Fluid. The cleaner as supplied does not include any cleaning fluid - I obtained some isopropanol with my initial order. The instructions do list a number of choices of cleaning fluid which can be used. Aggressive types include;- nail polish remover, laquer thinner, acetone etc, and less aggressive such as alcohols, paint thinner and water based solvents with further suggestions on pad cleaning material - even 600+ emery paper.


FILLING THE TANK:

With the supplied syringe and clear poly tube it is a simple matter of drawing fluid into the syringe and pumping this straight into the reservoir via the nicely fitting filler cap supplied with a substantial rubber washer (and a spare) designed to prevent leaks. Be careful not to over fill as the liquid in the tank is difficult to see with the poly tube in the filler hole. Also under the filler cap is a very small diameter breathing vent which must be kept clear.


Filling the tank is simplicity itself


ADJUSTING THE FLOW:

Instructions indicate you should adjust the flow using the second (or centrally mounted) screw cap to allow the fluid to drip onto the cleaning pad at the rate of 10 drops per minute, or in my book 1 drop every six seconds. Initially, I found this drip rate to be quite difficult to achieve - I was getting 1 per 10 seconds or 1 every three seconds, but found once the threads on the screw cap had eased a little, control of the rate became a simple matter.


IN USE:

So we've changed the couplers, put a new cleaning pad on the drag pad, filled her up and adjusted the drip rate, and we're ready to rumble and I decided to use my class 24 diesel for the job as she could pull a wall down - or so I thought. The instructions tell me if I have particularly dirty track I should push rather than pull, so this is what I did, which worked well at a recommended speed of 1-2 feet per second until I hit the gradient - most of my track work is 1:62 gradients, and the diesel started to struggle a little so I used a class 5MT banker to help push, no problem and away we went cleaning all the track in no time at all really - I just left them to it whilst I had a second read of the instructions and some promotional blurb from a chemist telling me what rail dirt consists of - it's just muck!!


D5211 on a cleaning run

Eventually the tank ran out of juice after completing eight passes of my entire layout which is a convoluted dog bone measuring 85 yards of track from start of one circuit to the next.

Did it pass the white glove test? Well yes in fact it did, although I used a white handkerchief as I didn't have any white gloves, there wasn't a mark on the hankie and all track was as clean as a whistle.

I have one section of track under a hillside which is particularly difficult, but not impossible, for me to clean manually (this was the reason for my investment in a CMX) where I noticed one or two of my locos stuttering a bit. Trying them out after cleaning, they just sailed through.

Three weeks on from my initial cleaning run and things are working like I cleaned the track this morning - wonderful, and only time will tell how soon they become soiled again, but the makers claim I should need to do it about twice a year, dependant on use obviously.


DOES IT WORK:

In a few words - YES, YES and YES, and it's a site easier than scrubbing with a track rubber.


The first cleaning cloth after eight circuits of my 85 yard trackwork.

OVERALL OPINION:

Other than future models being fitted with appropriate NEM pockets for easier changing of couplings, there is little I could suggest that would improve the efficiency of this wonderful bit of kit. It's very well engineered, easy to use and most importantly, it works - as they say, it does everything it says on the tin.
Very expensive but well worth the investment if you simply want clean track - if you don't, then don't buy one. Anyone want some well worn track rubbers?

PS. And no it didn't catch on any frogs or point blades, not even on those sticky up wires which protrude through tie bars when using point motors......

Review by  Mike (16A)


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