Speaking of Relco!
- Hi Gang,
The VECRR has always been equiped with Relcos and VEW
has been running for almost 9 years with one.
At the last National Train Show I was asked by someone
whether there was a big difference in locomotive
performance with Relco versus non Relco equiped
trackage. I couldn't really answer the question...at
least not from personal experience. I had simply
installed the Relco on faith. Time to experiment.
Last night I decided to finally install a Relco cutoff
switch on one of the VECRR sections. I have 2 Relcos,
one operating in VEE and the other in VEW so basically
I would need to install cutoffs in both modules if I
ever wanted to shut them off. Since I wanted to be
able to turn them on as well without having to take
the layout apart (one of the disadvantages of a layout
in suitcases is that access to components beneath the
baseboard means lifting the base out of the suitcase)
I decided to place a DPDT slide switch along side the
power and control cables that are hidden inside the
It took me a few tries to get the wiring worked out,
simple as it was. I really need to exercise the old
noodle more vigorously! I cleaned the track and loco
wheels thoroughly and threw the switch into the
cut-off or Relco bypass setting. The 0-6-0 purred
along nicely around the layout, over switches and back
into the service lead and stopped...nudge...and on it
went. Back and forth. Nice but not very encouraging
for shows and operations. Too many stalls.
Then I tried the other 4 wheel loco in my roster, the
railbus. It made its noisy way around and at first I
thought that it ran slower than what I was used to.
Probably just my imagination! And then a couple of
Time to flip the switch and inject some Relco buzz
into the DC circuit. I must point out that I use
common return wiring on the VECRR and the Relco is
only used on 1/2 of the circuit, the common side.
This allows me to use MRC sound systems to add diesel
and steam sound effects synchronized to the track
voltage. The Relco would render the sound system
unusable if it was installed across both DC leads.
The Relco enhanced operation was just as quiet as the
non Relco test and the locos ran around the layout
with no stalling even over my notorious curved
Next it was time to test a MTL F7. The loco having
8-wheel contact with the rails versus 4 for the
previous 2 tests made the test more interesting in
fact. With the Relco off, the loco ran well. In fact
it only stalled once, at a slight dip at a joint,
which I did NOT immediately fix. Adding the Relco did
not affect performance in the least, still smooth and
steady but this time the F7 ran through the trouble
spot at the rail joint.
Then it dawned on me! Running with the Relco has
actually had a perverse effect...it has hidden from
observation questionable spots in the trackage. With
the Relco OFF the F7 would hesitate at spots that
needed adjustment because of dirt and uneven joints.
With the Relco ON these trouble spots could go largely
I'm very happy with the initial results of my tests.
I will still install a cutoff switch in the other
module so that I can trouble shoot my trackage
everywhere on the layout.
My recommendations: keep your track level and free
from dips and kinks, especially at joints!
Oh, regarding the Relco...definitely install a cutoff
switch if you have a Relco (or the Gaugemaster
equivalent). The straight DC operation will help to
diagnose problems with the track and force you to keep
it clean. Adding a Relco or Gaugemaster is highly
recommended for anyone running trains in a dusty
environment (like train shows) and I plan to continue
As for recommending a Relco for most home layouts, I'm
still wrestling with that one...but I don't think that
the extra expense is really necessary. I'll leave the
final decision up to you!
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- --- In z_scale@y..., Jeffrey MacHan <jmac_han@y...> wrote:
> At the last National Train Show I was asked by someoneA very embarrassed Jeremy writes ...
> whether there was a big difference in locomotive
> performance with Relco versus non Relco equiped
> trackage. I couldn't really answer the question...at
> least not from personal experience. I had simply
> installed the Relco on faith. Time to experiment.
Prompted by Jeffrey's experiments, I have measured some parameters of
the Relco. I am sorry to say that I gave misleading information
previously and I would like to put it right. My humble apologies. (Do
not believe everything you read in books!!)
For 15 V AC input, the Relco produces 250 V (RMS) AC output. For 10 V
AC input (from the Märklin Z controller) its output is 167 V (RMS)
AC. The output has a frequency of 200 kHz and comes in bursts 50
times per second. The step-up transformer between the oscillator and
the output is 1:16. The wire used on the track side of the
transformer is 0.5 mm (0.02") diameter (24 AWG?).
Air changes from an insulator to a conductor in an electric field of
3000 V per mm. The peak output is 1.4 times the RMS output: 350 V and
234 V respectively for 15 V and 10 V input. So the maximum gap
between the wheel of a loco and the track at which the Relco is still
effective is 0.12 mm and 0.08 mm respectively (0.005" and 0.003"). If
the input is below 5 V the oscillator does not function, otherwise
the Relco seems to be effective at any higher voltage, although the
maximum gap is affected proportionally.
Because the Relco is always active when it is switched on,
the "cleaning" effect is continuous and seems to improve the contact
between the pick-up wheels and the track even when the neon light
does not appear to be lit. The improved contact leads to a reduced
contact resistance, which means that more current "gets through", so
the loco goes slightly faster with the Relco than without it. This
effect is in addition to its cleaning action. A Relcoed loco can ride
over slight undulations in the track so long as the gap between its
wheels and the track does not exceed the maximum value described
I think that explains the effects Jeffrey has reported.
The downside of the Relco is that the track needs cleaning much more
frequently to remove the black deposit that forms (is it burnt oil?),
but a Jörger track cleaning car takes care of that!
I apologise again for having previously posted misinformation. Jeremy
- I am not an expert on electronics but I have the following observation
regarding my long term usage of the Relcos (2 + years):
1) Most of my engines will consistently run smoother with much less stalling.
The ones that don't are just plain dirty (very dirty) and need a good
2) Great running engines will become perfect runners with the Relco.
3) Good running engines will become great runners with the Relco.
4) Poor running engines will sometimes run good with the Relco.
5) All engines should still be cleaned on a regular basis in order to keep
them running the way they were meant to.
6) Track work should always be kept clean in order to provide the best
performance because a dirty track means dust and debris will get into the
engine and a dirty engine never runs like a clean one!
I am impressed by the in depth analysis that both Jeffery and Jeremy detailed
in their postings! We have a very smart group of people in this list! I
should have stufied more when I took science classes!
As far as Jeremy's comment about Relcos requiring the track to be clean more
often-I think track needs to be cleaned on a regular basis with or without a
Relco (but with a Relco-you can go longer without noticing a decrease in
performance). I never noticed that it made any more black deposits than
without. Mine are constantly on and since I don't have any fancy electronics
(like Jeffery) I find no reason to turn them off. They have been
consistently reliable in their effectiveness since the day I bought them
(over two years ago). So it is my un-scientific opinion that the electronic
track cleaners are a "must buy" purchase for anyone who wants better
In a message dated 10/27/02 1:05:58 PM Eastern Standard Time,
> I think that explains the effects Jeffrey has reported.[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> The downside of the Relco is that the track needs cleaning much more
> frequently to remove the black deposit that forms (is it burnt oil?),
> but a Jörger track cleaning car takes care of that!
> I apologise again for having previously posted misinformation. Jeremy
- Hi Ole,
Loco wheels on a Relco equiped layout are spotless after
cleaning. There is no pitting in case you might be wondering. Of
course when they are dirty, they are quite dirty.
I use a Micro-Trains Speedi-driver to clean the loco wheels
before and after and usually during train shows. Also, contrary to
some opinions expressed elsewhere, the Speedi-driver does
not scratch the nickel plated wheels on our locos. I have been
using the Speedi-driver just as long as the Relcos (9 years) and
have enjoyed excellent results. I highly recommend both to
I presume that track gunk will collect on loco wheels with or
without the Relco. If a loco starts to hesitate during a train show,
it is because there is a layer of crud on the drivers so thick that
the Relco can't operate through it.
Jeremy mentioned the Joerger track cleaning "car". I don't run
one since Manfred has not yet made a chassis that I can drop a
Micro-Trains box car shell over (Hint, Hint!). I do use his cleaning
tool with the same pad on the end. I can give it a ringing
endorsement. It is a great cleaning accessory. It is amazing the
stuff it picks up from my trackwork.
--- In z_scale@y..., Ole Rosted <Ole.Rosted@g...> wrote:
> How do "relco treated" loco wheels look?
> regards Ole Rosted
- On Sun, 27 Oct 2002 18:05:01 -0000, "Jeremy Brandon"
>The downside of the Relco is that the track needs cleaning much moreWHAT? - Are you saying that using a RELCO will cause black deposits?
>frequently to remove the black deposit that forms (is it burnt oil?),
In case it really *is* burnt oil - was that not the kind of deposit a
RELCO was supposed to remove?
How do "relco treated" loco wheels look?
regards Ole Rosted
- Dear Jeffrey,
> Jeremy mentioned the Joerger track cleaning "car". I don't runOn my special request Manfred Joerger was so kind to manufacture for me a
> one since Manfred has not yet made a chassis that I can drop a
> Micro-Trains box car shell over (Hint, Hint!).
cleaning car, using as a base an American Gondola from Maerklin. It works great.
However this car causes additional drag to work satisfactory. I use it at
the beginning of shows or exhibitions for cleaning of my tracks, not as a
regular car in a 'normal' train for continous cleaning.
So far, I have not tried so moisture the 'Cleaning filt' of the car with a
cleaning fluid. But I think this may work, especially in track lengths difficult
to be reached.
So, in principle at least American gondolas of Maerklin may be converted into
'Cleaning Cars' by Manfred Joerger.
Dieter W. Nolte
- About track cleaning, I have a question to all of you
guys: I intend to purchase an Aztectrains track
cleaning car, what do you think of this device?
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- --- In z_scale@y..., de Champeaux Dominique <ddechamp71@y...> wrote:
> About track cleaning, I have a question to all of youHere are my comments borrowed back from David Karp's Zscale.org site.
> guys: I intend to purchase an Aztectrains track
> cleaning car, what do you think of this device?
Comments on the Aztec Track Cleaner
Concerning the Aztec car...every Z scale layout should have one.
During train shows, I run 3 trains continuously on the Val Ease
Central. Each train has an Aztec car behind the motive power to
polish the track and to improve the performance of the trains.
They work well on the home layout to condition the track after
cleaning with another agent. The Aztec car will remove residue and
particles left behind from the major cleaning operation. I usually
run a locomotive with just the cleaning car for about 5 minutes
around each circuit of the layout. You can see the grime and oil that
is collected on the abrasive roller which is skewed 2 degrees from
perpendicular to the track direction. As a result, the roller rolls
while skidding along the rail head. This keeps drag to a reasonable
level and provides the scrubbing effect that cleans the rails. Very
ingenious on the part of John Claudino of Aztec. Putting the car
further back in a train consist may cause derailments due or
uncoupling because of the drag from this car.
They are a little pricey but one per layout is a good investment.
Other opinions can also be found here:
http://www.zscale.org/articles/cleaning.html including David's