Aztec HO Track Star Cleans Up
by John Sipple
Excerpts from Model Railroad News’ HO Review, September 2002 issue
…The MW may just be the shell you want. It doesn’t have any particular roadname on it, but it does bear the common MOW letters “MW” on the side, along with the other railroad numbers. You can leave it this way or add decals for your favorite roadname. This concept gives the buyer a lot of choices an the time of sale and afterward…
…The core of the system is the car frame. It takes the place of a frame under standard 40 foot MDC “Roundhouse” boxcar. The specially-designed frame holds a roller so that the car applies no up or down effort to the roller which has its own weight. The roller is canted 1-1/2 degrees such that it polishes the rail without scrubbing or abrasion. Three rollers are available: the car is sold with one [of your choice], and you may [also] purchase either or both of the other two. Each roller is designed for a specific purpose. The Cratex roller is the most often used, because it is very good at keeping your track clean. Many operators run the car with this roller in virtually every train they roll.
If you haven’t cleaned your track for a while and it is especially dirty, you might wish to start with the Handi Wipes roller. As the name implies, it has a strip of HandiWipe cleaning pad wrapped around it. Ideally, you can drip a small amount of cleaning [fluid] and polish off the grime. The newest wrinkle in the cleaning car is a neatly machined hole in the top of the roller housing, aligned with the car's door. With the door open and a needle dropper, you can add oil to the pad without having to lift the car from the tracks.
The third roller has a canvas cover, the perfect roller for lightweight cleaning and dust removal. Our sample came with all three rollers, and I tried them all. My layout isn’t bad, but I’ve got some places where I have trouble getting trains to run well at slow speeds. After a few passes with the track cleaning car, all of that settled down.
All three roller types may be cleaned with soap and water* (an old toothbrush might help, too). Allow the rollers to dry and then reinstall. You should also periodically remove the ferrous objects picked up by the magnet built into the bottom of the roller frame. These small objects, if left on the layout, may attach themselves to locomotive motor magnets, causing some expensive damage. This is another job which can be done by hand but is easier with the Aztec.
The car, with the Cratex roller installed and the MOW shell, weighs in at 5.8 ounces. This is a bit heavier that NMRA weight for a 40 footer--about 4 ounces--but not enough to cause operational problems. It comes with MDC trucks featuring metal axles and plastic wheels. Aztec includes a set of Kadee #5 couplers. The car joins a line of other track cleaning tools in virtually all scales…
…Aztec offers several variations on the theme, including dual roller cars and track cleaners built into gondolas; they also produce a version with a fluid reservoir and another with a blower…
…The unit we tested is the “Track Star.” For most recreational layouts, this track cleaner should be sufficient. For best effect, it should be located as close to the locomotive in the train as possible, and allowed to make 8 to 10 laps. Some operators may choose to leave theirs in the train most of the time. For passenger equipment, the Track Star can be housed in an REA or roadnamed express box on the head end…
…Narrow gaugers will be pleased to note that Aztec produces an n3 version in S, HO and N scales and an On30 as well. As you can see, this is a very mature and effective product line designed to meet a wide range of needs. Only you can assess how much of a problem track cleaning has been for you, but my advice is not to underbuy. If you have a lot of dust which needs to be blown out, by all means get the Cyclone. If you are cleaning a very large layout and need to stop frequently to add fluid, order the Annihilator with its fluid reservoir. If you want a combination of cleaning and polishing, purchase the two-roller Commander. The bottom line is that you can control the level of cleaning and have it done either continuously or at whatever interval you desire. Aztec’s track cleaning products give you that power.
* [To clean the Handi WipesŪ roller, simply swish it is soapy water, then rinse. Do not use a toothbrush. ]
“The Cratex roller is the most often used, because it is very good at keeping your track clean. Many operators run the car with this roller in virtually every train they roll.”