Tomix’s Track & Wheel Cleaning Systems (updated again)
I have decided to document the history of Tomix’s various products used for cleaning track & wheels …
The first attempt was the 92007 193 series EC 2 car set. This unit has been in Tomix catalogs since before I can remember, so I don’t know the exact release date. One car had a motor that drove the grinding wheels, and the second car had the motor that pushed the set along the track. The front bogie on the first car had two axles with an abrasive ribbed metal surface that rotated in opposite directions, scraping any gunk off the rails very effectively. It was so effective that if you left it in one place for too long, it could start to grind the rail away! This set is now obsolete and was replaced in 2000 by the more effective and versatile Multi Rail Cleaning Car. The 193 EC set was re-released on the 14th February 2003 as a ‘normal’ train 92139, just after a limited edition 443 series EC 92922 (the AC version of the 193, which was not prototypically correct – just a repaint of the 193 in dark red with the yellow ends) was released on the 28th December 2002.
On the 26th July 2000, the Multi Rail Cleaning Car (マルチレールクリーニングカー) was first released, and this versatile item can perform the following functions …
- vacuum – a rotating disc sucks up dirt, loose ballast & scenery material, hairs etc and deposits them in the hopper above, which then can be emptied by opening the top hatch.
- ‘wet’ cleaning – cleaning fluid is placed in a chamber at the top of the car, and this is distributed onto the track by a sponge that rubs along the top of the rail, and a soft white rotating cleaning pad wipes the fluid over the track and cleans it. Tomix of course recommends that you use THEIR cleaning fluid. If can’t get it or want to try something else first, be very careful – I read about someone who used rubbing alcohol and stripped all dirt off the track OK, but also took the paint off the car ! Then there was the clown that tried to use soapy water – of course it didn’t do any cleaning and it also made the track so slippery that the train wouldn’t run
- ‘dry’ cleaning – the rotating disc has an abrasive surface that can be used to clean more stubborn dirty track that the ‘wet’ cleaner cannot remove.
- sweeping – a brush can be attached to the bottom of the car which will sweep away loose ballast etc from over the tops of the sleepers. Not effective however over points, track sensors, level crossings etc.
A switch on the top of the unit can be used to select the following power modes …
- ON – vacuum /cleaning disc motor runs at the same speed as the train / track power
- CL – vacuum /cleaning disc motor runs uses Tomix’s exclusive CL (Constant Lighting) feature to run the motor fast, even if the train / track power is slow. This is the most effective method of cleaning.
Another useful feature is that there is a slot in the top of the car that accepts Tomix’s track feeder. This means you can power the car without a loco, if you are willing to push it around by hand, or maybe your track is so dirty that a loco will not run
• The first Multi Rail Cleaning Cars were released in 3 different versions at the same time …
6421 in the standard dark blue with yellow stripe colour scheme. Depending on availability, this item is still available today.
6491 was the ‘Millenium 2000′ limited edition, which had a white top half and dark blue bottom half, with gold ’2000′ lettering.
• On the 7th February 2003, the ‘Dr Yellow’ limited edition 6493 was released, and was a bright yellow with twin dark blue stripes to match the limited edition 923 series ‘Dr Yellow’ 7 car shinkansen set 92918 just released the previous December. This car also was the only one not equipped with Rapido couplers – it had the hook & loop couplers to match Tomix’s shinkansen cars.
• In early 2003, the ‘Hikari Railstar’ very limited edition (6494 ?) was made available as a prize in a competition run at the same time as the release of their new limited edition 700-7000 series ‘Hikari Railstar’ 8 car shinkansen set 92751. I believe only 50 of these were ever made, and as I entered the competition but didn’t win anything, I would pay handsomely to get my hands on one of them
• In October 2006, the ‘Tomix 30th Anniversary’ limited edition 6496 was released, and this one was a pale blue with white/orange/yellow flower patterns and dark blue ’Since 1976′ & ’30th Anniversary’ lettering. This unit (and other versions made around 2005-2006) were later subject to a recall in April 2007 due to faults relating to a cleaner fluid leakage.
• In May 2011, Tomix announced the release of a 35th anniversary version 6497 to come out later in the year. See a pre-release picture here.
Other cleaning cars have been released as part of the following sets …
• On the 31st March 2001, a Multi Cleaning System Set (マルチクリーニングシステムセット) 6441 was released, which contained the old style gray track Multi Wheel Cleaning Rail 6412 + a clear gray Multi Rail Cleaning Car that was covered in white instruction lettering. It also contained a 140mm straight track 1031 and a selection of cleaning pads for the car and the rail, as well as a bottle of Tomix’s cleaning fluid. Although not listed as limited, this item has not been made available again since the gray track line was discontinued.
• Also on the 31st March 2001, a Multi Rail Cleaning Car Set (マルチレールクリーニングカーセット) 6431 was released, which contained special Blue & Yellow DD54 diesel loco (which is an approximation of the 911 series diesel loco that is used on the shinkansen system) + a Multi Rail Cleaning Car which was dark yellow with a blue stripe. This colour scheme matches the old ‘Dr Yellow’ trains, but as only MicroAce have made models of these, I have not been able to work out how to fit couplers to match. This item is normally listed in the catalog, but is not always available.
• On the 26th September 2003, 6441 was replaced by 6442, which contained the new ‘Finetrack’ system Multi Wheel Cleaning Rail 6414 + a Multi Rail Cleaning Car which had a red top half and a dark silver bottom half, with white lettering. Contents are as listed for 6441 except the straight track was replaced by the Rerailer Track 1523 – this item is normally listed in the catalog, but is not always available.
• In September 2005, a ‘Tomix 30th Anniversary’ limited edition 6495 was released, which contained a special silver/red EF30 electric loco + a Multi Rail Cleaning Car which was silver with a red stripe and red ’30th Anniversary’ lettering.
• In May 2011, Tomix announced set 6432 to be released in September, containing a special dark brown ED61 electric loco + a Multi Rail Cleaning Car which will be dark brown with a red stripe. See a pre-release picture here.
The Multi Wheel Cleaning Rail (マルチ車輪クリーニングレール) mentioned in sets 6441 & 6442 is a 140mm length of Tomix track, which contains a pair of pads in place of a short section of the rail that vibrate sideways as the train passes over them. There are 2 types of pads available - a soft white one that can be soaked with a cleaning fluid, and a hard gray abrasive one. This device can be powered from the track itself, or independently controlled by a separate power pack.
The original brown 6411 & gray 6412 versions of the Multi Wheel Cleaning Rail was released virtually at the same time on the 16th & 23rd March 2000 respectively; the Finetrack version 6414 was released on the 21st December 2002.
Accessories released to go with these items are as follows …
- 6401 – bottle of Cleaning Fluid (50ml)
- 6413 – Replacement cleaning pads for Multi Wheel Cleaning Rail (4 hard & 12 soft)
- 6423 – Cleaning disc set for Multi Rail Cleaning Car (3 soft, 3 hard, 1 sponge, 1 brush)
- 6424 – Cleaning pad set for Multi Rail Cleaning Car (10 soft & 10 hard)
The Multi Rail Cleaning Car has also been licensed by Tomix to be sold in the USA by Atlas, who have repainted it into a number of different colour schemes (and sold it at a much higher price).
- 32550 – ‘Atlas’ yellow with black hazard stripes
- 32551 – ‘MOW Track Maintenance’ light gray with yellow/black end hazard stripes
- 32554 – ‘MOW Track Maintenance’ orange with black hazard stripes
- 32555 - ‘MOW Track Maintenance’ yellow with black hazard stripes
Internally the car performs the same functions, but of course you cannot take advantage of the CL power function if you don’t have a Tomix power pack. It has also been magically transformed into an HO version (which still has the CL function switch which they claim gives ‘EXTRA’ power !!!), however I believe that the source of the HO version is Dapol in the UK.
As you can see from the photos, I have all of the Tomix regular releases, and use these regularly on my layout. It is handy to have available each type of function ready to run immediately without changing components. To this end I have several cars with different couplers installed as well – you may be able to see in the photos that I have cars with both types of Tomix’s TN couplers installed (there is a mounting on the body for these), as well as the Kato coupler. I also find it handy to run 2 or more cars in the same train e.g. vacuuming & cleaning at the same time.
I have also ‘customised’ a couple of cars to match the trains they run in …
This one runs with the MicroAce A3286 Kumoya143-50 set, in which both cars are powered.
This one runs in the MicroAce A3391 Kiya193 ‘Easti-D’ set.
The cleaning car is quite heavy and needs a fair bit of power to move it around, particularly on gradients – I find it best to have at least TWO powered cars or locos in the propelling train. It is also a little larger in profile than a ‘normal’ car, so be careful of lineside obstructions when running it – I normally run one of these around when I am laying track and planning what buildings or scenery items will be close to the track.
The only other Japanese rail cleaning cars were made by MicroAce and I don’t think they are very effective (they were also markedly more expensive then the Tomix cars as well) – however they are very good models of several of JR’s departmental inspection vehicles. The rail cleaning function was performed by the centre bogie of these 3-bogie vehicles, and consisted of a pair of large heavy metal wheels that ran on the track and by gearing spun a large white abrasive stone wheel between them in reverse. There was also a ‘normal’ center bogie provided so you could run the car without the cleaning function. Each of the cars has a slightly different arrangement of windows and roof-top equipment.
In June 2003 the first items were released, and they were …
- A0300 – Maya34-2002 inspection car. This was a (2002?) updated version with a white body and light blue stripes and ends. On the side were black ‘JR’ & ‘TRACK INSPECTOR’ lettering.
- A0303 – Maya34-2007 inspection car. This is in the old dark blue with yellow stripe colour scheme and had the Rail Cleaner function included.
- A0306 – Maya34-2010 inspection car & DE10-1524 diesel loco set. This is in the old dark blue with yellow stripe colour scheme and had the Rail Cleaner function included. The loco is in the standard red/gray colour scheme.
- A0300 – Maya34-2002 re-released and identical to the original release.
- A0304 – Maya34-2004 inspection car. This is in the old dark blue with yellow stripe colour scheme.