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Dapol Rail Cleaner

Review by David Parker 

First impressions out of the box and on track.

Placed the carriage on a small section of track I use for programming in front of my computer. Gave it a gentle push and it runs very easily with only the vacuum head fitted.

Mesh covered lid for the vacuum storage area is very easily removed. Comes off if the carriage if tilted past 45 degrees.

Not to sure about the colour. I noticed that on the Dapol website that more colours are a available in US HO scale. I wonder if these choices will be made available for UK buyers, however nothing the air brush cant rectify in the future.

On to fitting the DCC Decoder. I have chosen to use a TCS DP2X primarily because its the only one I have that has an 8 pin connector. It obviously has the advantage of no lead harness.

Following the pictorial instructions.

I firstly removed the rear axel and then the cross head screw securing the bogie. As I had a dial calliper to hand I took the opportunity of measuring the wheel diameters. One wheel on the removed axel is 12.0mm and the other 12.12mm (1%) different. Not sure if this is a normal for axels at this scale?

After removing the two cross head screws as shown in operation two of the guide it took only a gentle pull on the cover to remove.

Next I removed the DC Blanking chip, again only required a gentle pull.

Pins 1,8,4 & 5 are all marked.

I then removed the four screws of the circuit board top have a look at the reverse side to see how easy connecting running lights might be.

You can take your choice but I would predict that using a decoder with an a pin harness and splicing onto the relevant cables will be easier than connecting to the circuit board.

After replacing the circuit board screws I installed the decoder chip. Although this particular chip has no wire harness there is certainly sufficient room for a wired decoder. Though the chip may need to be fixed to the removable cover.

Putting it all back together took no time with all screws locating and tightening fine.

I then took a look at the bag of extras cello-taped within the clear plastic packaging. This contains a tool for removing the vacuum head and a track brush with fixing screw. Why this not installed by the factory is not apparent to me. There is also a rubber O ring that I presume is a replacement for the O ring in the cleaning fluid cap. It is not mentioned in the instructions.

Above is the removed vacuum head and the reverse side of a polishing head. The polishing and abrasive heads push on and pull off with a little force. The picture below shows the vacuum head refitted.

I then put it back on to my desk track and connected the track to the programming out output of my Ecos.

Having read the CVs and programmed the name into the Ecos I gave it some power. The motor gets progressively louder as the rpm is increased but not what I would call excessive. I then swapped the vacuum head for a abrasive wheel as I guess this will provide the greatest resistance and draw the maximum amps. At around 50% power the spinning disk moves the carriage along the track. Much above this and the disk which is held down by a spring has sufficient momentum to push the spring upwards so releasing its contact with the rails (2nd photo).

Next I placed a Bachmann 08 shunter on the track and compared the NEM coupling heights. You can see for yourself that they are at the same level.

I have include a couple of pictures of the Ecos screens when using the abrasive wheel. The 2nd photo shows the corresponding Booster Amps. It would indicate any DCC chip is suitable for installation.

As a final test and the reason I bought it in the first place I dislodged some of the ballast from the small section of test track and placed it on the sleepers as a test of its vacuuming power. I then shunted the carriage over the sleepers with the vacuum head operating at about power. It removed all but a clump of 7 grains which were ejected sideways from under the carriage but definitively away from the track.

In summary I am impressed with the easy installation of the DCC chip. I am sure it can be done in under 10 minutes even if you have to attach the chip unlike my installation. The vacuum facility appears to work well and with the polishing wheel I am sure will be valuable tool in maintaining a clean and fully functioning layout. As I am still constructing my layout and all the track is brand new I hope I will never require the services of the abrasive wheel. The short run I did give it left a golden nickel shine on the disk so it will definitely clean dirty track although at the risk of some scuffing of the running surface. I guess this is a small price to pay on a particularly dirty rails. Only point against it is the colour and I guess this is personal preference.

I hope this review is helpful for to anybody pondering a future purchase.

- December 2008

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