Track Cleaner and Conditioner
from Label Lubes, a division of Con-Cor International, Ltd.
Review by Doug Teggin
From the manufacturer's website:
New Labelle #105 DCC Track Conditioner (Works Great on DC Analogue Layouts also!)
Using DCC controls on your layout really enhances the operation of your trains, but there is still one weak point in the system, and that is the locomotive still has to pick up not only the power from the rails, but also the digitized micro-signals being sent to the on board decoder from your DCC controller.
If your track is dirty, this can cause some stuttering in your loco operation and maybe even a break in these micro-signals which can cause your decoder to just shut down, or worse, refuse to accept any new commands you try to send to it. A sure sign of dirty track is flickering locomotive headlights.
LaBelle has studied this problem, and now is introducing LaBelle #105 "DCC Track Conditioner". Just clean your track with this product, and leave a micro-coating on the rails of LaBelle #105 and it will dramatically improve your DCC reliability. (We have done testing on private layouts with this new product and everyone who has used it, has been impressed by the improvement in Locomotive control.
A generous size bottle of the new LaBelle Track Conditioner will only cost $9.98 and insure improved operation on an average layout for many months.
#LAB0430-000105 LaBelle Track Conditioner - UK price: £8.99
#LAB0430-000951 LaBelle How To DVD instruction manual - UK price: £13.99
I have tried out a few track cleaners over the years. I've used track rubbers and cleaners. Rubbers scratch your rails and apparently thus increase the amount of dirt that can adhere to the rails - most pundits will say that cleaners are the best way to go.
This cleaner, Labelle 105 from Label Lubes, a division of Con-Cor International, is a thick fluid that is designed to clean the dirt and increase connectivity thus helping and improving DCC conectivity.
The instructions say that you should run your finger over your rails, if it comes up with a mark, they are dirty. OK, I did this (see below) and my rails are dirty. I haven't run any trains on them for about 3 months. Prior to that I used a Peco track rubber to clean the rails.
A drop or two of the Labelle 105 track cleaner fluid on one of their cloth pieces and it picks up the dirt straight away from the track.
I have some bare track and some ballasted track. Obviously the bare track is easier to clean than the ballasted track (see below). Cleaning the track is easy and painless as you would expect.
Working on ballasted track is another matter. The glued-down ballast shreds the cloth cleaners and bits of fluffy cleaner get spread all over the place. Even if you wrap the cloth around you finger, it tends to disintegrate. You have to then go over the area with a vacuum cleaner picking up the fluff. It gets stuck in point blades, between track pieces and onto solder joints that may have little sharp pieces exposed.
Is this a really bad issue? Perhaps not, the cleaner does clean, it is just how you go about applying it that needs attention. Perhaps a cotton cloth would be better.
I tried the supplied cloth pieces, the round pads and the 'ear bud' applicators, they all shredded on the ballast. The black stick applicators work quite well in tight areas, but as they are black, you can't see the grime come off. Not sure why they are black...
My final opinion. It is an excellent cleaner. I really didn't think my track was that dirty, but quite a bit of oxidised muck and dirt came off the areas I worked on.
I tested a couple of locos on the cleaned track and they ran well. I should clean the wheel-sets too whilst I'm at it.
This is perhaps a little expensive to fill up a track cleaner, but it would work well. I'll use it with some old cotton cloth in future to prevent the fluff from getting all over the place. See the video below, an An extract from the Instructional DVD that shows how to use the Labelle products.
An extract from the Instructional DVD
(The full DVD is approximately 45 minutes Long showing you "How To" use LaBelle Lubricants to properly clean and Lubricate your favourite model train, RC model cars, RC Model Airplanes, Helicopters, and many household uses.)
Review sample supplied by OnTracks. OnTracks is the UK distributor for Labelle Lubes. Speak to them if you would like more info on the Labelle range.