“I’ve been using the various Aztec cleaners for a couple years now…and can tell you they certainly beat the good old bright boys and masonite sliders hands down.”
Aztec’s DCC Annihilator Track Cleaner
by Larry Puckett
The following is an excerpt from the article “Model Railroading Takes a Look at DCC” which appeared in the December issue of Model Railroading. It appears here with the permission of Chris Lane, National Sales Manager of Model Railroading.
Aztec has been making and designing track cleaners for both N- and HO-scale applications for several years now, and the Annihilator is the ultimate (for now) in their lineup. With a name like Annihilator you might expect a pretty aggressive track cleaner, and you’d be right. The Annihilator has two cleaning rollers with canvas liners and a cleaning-fluid reservoir. In addition to the cleaning rollers there is a small magnet attached to the undercarriage that picks up metallic debris. In the non-DCC version of this cleaner there is a spring-loaded adjustable plunger that can be opened manually to allow fluid to trickle down onto one of the rollers. As the cleaner rolls down the track the wet roller scrubs it and the second dry roller removes any fluid and remaining grunge from the track surface. Part of the secret to how it works is the fact that the rollers are canted a degree off a perfect 90° angle so they drag a little as they roll. Recently Aztec added their Cobra series rollers, covered with Handi Wipes® material, which can be substituted for the canvas covered rollers.
For about a year now, John Claudino at Aztec has been working on a way to utilize the functions in a DCC decoder to control the fluid flow of the Annihilator [the Annihilator Kit for DCC]. This revised version utilizes a 12V solenoid with a spring-loaded plunger to replace the manually operated one. The solenoid has an operation current of about 250 milliamps which is within the operation range of some decoders, including the recently released Digitrax TL1 transponding decoder. The TL1 provides no motor drive circuit but does have a single function that can be remapped to provide a non-latching function on the F2 with a maximum operation current of 250 milliamps. What this all means is that you can use the F2 button on your throttle to briefly activate the solenoid and give the wet roller a shot of cleaning fluid while the car is rolling down the track.
Power for the decoder is provided by a set of metal wheels that transfer current through stainless-steel wipers that rub against the axles. The steel screws that hold the trucks in place then feed the current through the car body where the decoder wires are attached to them. This arrangement means that electrical pickup is from the left rail on one truck and the right rail on the other truck, so it is important that all these connections are tight and the wheels be kept clean in order to be trouble free. Finally, it is important to install a diode in the circuit between the blue and white wires as shown in the wiring diagram; this diode is an anti-chatter safeguard.
I’ve been using the various Aztec cleaners for a couple years now with Goo Gone® in the reservoir and can tell you they certainly beat the good old bright boys and masonite sliders hands down.