- There are a variety of products to clean the 60+ year old crud off plastic wheels. I have tried most of them and I have found two solvents to be the best: "Contractor's Solvent" is available at True Value, Ace and probably most other places. It is citrus-based. I spray some on a paper towel and use my fingers to rub the crud off plastic wheels. It still takes some effort, but it does work. The other is 90% alcohol. Same technique. Why bother to keep plastic wheels clean? I believe the crud we see on the plastic wheels is dirt, dust, oil and smoke fluid that finds it's way onto the tops of the rails and gets carbonized when the metal pick-up wheels spark. That carbonized crud then gets picked up by the wheels and evenly distributed over the rails where it causes loss of electrical pickup by the metal wheels.
- I clean the metal pickup wheels with a brass wire wheel in my Dremel. It spins fast enough that I don't believe it scratches the wheels. Rather, it cleans and polishes them.
- I have switched from sandpaper to a 1000 grit Emory cloth to polish the rails of the track.
- I use 90% alcohol to clean the rails of the track as needed.
- After the track is clean, I use a rag to oil the rails. I've seen guys swear by one oil or another. Whatever. I use machine oil. Trick is to get a light coat on but not make the grades too slick. I find the oil makes a world of difference on vintage track. It greatly helps with electrical conductivity. I wouldn't run vintage American Flyer trains on vintage track without a light coat of oil on the rails.
- Before I put a train with it's consist on the track to run, I do all of the above wheel-cleaning techniques. I also service the loco, to include lubrication, cleaning adding smoke fluid to the smoke box. I also adjust all whees on all pieces to make sure they are in gauge. I make sure all couplers are free-working and adjusted if necessary.
This is a post about cleaning American Flyer trains. American Flyer trains are finicky. They are just like me; old and they work when they want to. I never want to. lol So IMHO, keeping all critical components scrupulously clean is of paramount importance. Big words. Following are tips on keeping American Flyer trains clean and therefore working optimally.