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Stabilant 22 Contact Enhancer Review
Stabilant 22A: All scales
Manufactured by: D.W. Electrochemicals Ltd., 97 Newkirk Rd. N., Richmond
Hill, ON L4C 3G4 Canada
Railroad hobbyists have employed a wide variety of liquid rail cleaners
in the never-ending battle against dirt, corrosion, and tarnish, the prime
enemies of good electrical conductivity and smooth-running equipment. These
substances range from semi-caustic cleaners to sewing machine oil, and
they work with varying degrees of success
Stabilant 22A is a new product, described by its manufacturer as an
"electronic contact enhancer," a material said to go one step further than
a simple cleaner by chemically improving conductivity between two electrical
contact surfaces, such as a wheel and railhead, or the pins on a plug-in
Originally designed for use in the commercial electronics industry,
Stabilant 22A coats the opposing surfaces of electrical connections with
a liquid polymer carried by an alcohol base. According to the manufacturer,
the polymer becomes electrically conductive between charged contact surfaces.
If the surfaces have gaps, pits or small irregularities which lead to poor
connections, the polymer is said to fill these gaps and, by way of its
conductive properties, dramatically increase the contact area. The potential
for improving wheel-to-rail contact, for example, is impressive.
The literature in the package says that long-term durability is the
key to Stabilant's success and cell. The brochure claims the product,
"Does not break down, evaporate, varnish, or react with any other chemical
treatments previously used on the contacts."
In model railroad terms, Stabilant can be applied once to = the rails,
and it will continue working for a long time, up to a year or so, before
it's needed again. The Stabilant chemical coating is said to deter the
formation of rail-top tarnish, a feature which, in addition to its electrical
contact enhancement, could be a real plus for model railroaders. The potential
advantages for command-control or locomotive sound systems are obvious.
We started our Stabilant test by cleaning our nickel-silver rails with
rubbing alcohol, a process which a company spokesman said was unnecessary
unless the rails were heavily tarnished or physically clogged with dirt.
As per the instructions, Stabilant was added to a cotton swab and applied
to complete stretches of rail. It's possible to treat every few inches,
skipping sections in between to allow the equipment wheels to spread the
product, but it won't be as effective under these conditions.
Rails treated with Stabilant should be cleaned only by brushing or vacuuming,
because liquid or abrasive solid cleaners will remove the chemical treatment.
At the club where the material was used, we haven't been able to verify
any year-long performance results yet, but the trains continue to run smoothly
on treated maintenance line sections more than four months after application.
A hidden classification yard sees a lot of action, but engine stalls on
turnouts and the like have been minimal on the Stabilant treated ladder
section. Tractive effort on the grades does not seem to have been adversely
A well used Rivarossi 0-8-0 switcher with a bad reputation for cantankerousness
had Stabilant applied to its drivers, tender wheels, tender truck axle
and pickup wipers. During a run session at the St. Joe Valley model railroad
club in South Bend, Indiana, a group of on-lookers quit heckling and admitted
being impressed as the 0-8-0 switcher eased through the yard "smoother
than I've ever seen it run in years," according to one spectator.
We also conducted some starting-voltage tests with different types of
locomotives. After recording the stock results, Stabilant was applied to
the rails and the engines were run again.
The basic results are as follows:
|Oriental 2-4-4-2 (can motor)
|Jonan 2-8-2T (can motor)
|NWSL 2-6-2T (open-frame motor)
All of these engines displayed smoother, less hesitant starting and
running characteristics after the treatment was applied. It appeared that
lower voltage was required to start and run the engines because current
flow was improved, and less voltage was wasted punching through various
resistance points as the current found its way from the power pack to the
Railheads are just one area where Stabilant can be used. Power routing
turnout points, relay, and switch machine contacts, overhead catenary,
electrical plugs between modular layout sections, non-soldered rail joiners,
turntable contact wipers the list is limited only by your imagination and
ability to reach the contacts.
It can be reasonably argued that some of these improvements could be
achieved with frequent cleaning and less-expensive materials. If the long-term
effects of Stabilant 22A function as advertised, however, the savings in
time and effort would be well worth the expense.
Personally, I'd rather enjoy the railroad rather than spend any more
time cleaning rails than necessary, so Stabilant 22A may be one practical
solution to this situation.
Courtesy of & Copyright © 1991 Carstens Publications Inc.,
Phil Harden Road, Fredon Township,
P.O. Box 700, Newton New Jersey 07860, USA
MR Product Reviews is intended to help you evaluate products in terms
of usefulness and conformance to standards. We specify points of excellence
and of caution but we still believe that a realistic description is the
most helpful of all. Naturally we cannot guarantee that the merchandise
you purchase will be identical to those samples we have tested.
CONDUCTED BY JIM HEDIGER
Stabilant 22A in 15-ml. plastic bottle, D.W. Electrochemicals Ltd. -
97 Newkirk Road North, Richmond Hill, Ont. Can. L4C 3G4
MAINTAINING good electrical contact is critical to obtain optimum locomotive
performance on any layout. Depending upon the control system used, the
electrical path may run through all sorts of contact points. Stabilant
22A is made to enhance the performance of any electrical transfer point.
The manufacturer describes Stabilant 22A as a rather unusual liquid
block polymer. When used in a thin film, this product becomes conductive
under the effect of an electric field. This conductivity is limited to
the small contact area; as a result, it won't allow any electrical leakage
between adjacent contact points. In effect "It provides the connection
reliability of a soldered joint without bonding the contact points together."
The basic application kit comes with a 15-ml. flexible bottle of Stabilant
22A, five cotton swabs, and a sheet of instructions. Application involves
touching the bottle spout to the contact points and then pushing the connections
together. Very little Stabilant 22A is required, as the material penetrates
even tiny openings with ease.
I set up a small loop of HO scale track, wiped off the dust with a rag,
and applied a tiny dab on the rail and letting the wheels of the locomotive
carry it around. I also applied it to the contact points within the locomotive.
No further cleaning of the track was done, yet the contact enhancer did
make a noticeable improvement in the amount of arcing between the wheels
and the rails. In addition, the Athearn locomotive's low speed characteristics
dropped to about 75 percent of the previous slowest speed.
The manufacturer points out that Stabilant 22A works best if the track
is cleaned beforehand. Then the material will stay in place after its isopropyl
alcohol carrier evaporates. Stabilant 22 doesn't evaporate, so it will
remain in place for a long time (nine years in some electronic applications).
Once installed, the enhancer prevents oxidization of the contacts and repels
In most cases, it's still functioning when the equipment is retired
While the contact enhancer works well for almost any physical connections,
it isn't recommended for use on motor commutators. The sparking involved
between the armature and brushes can cause thermal breakdown of Stabilant
22, with a resulting loss of its conductive properties.
Overall, Stabilant 22A is a unique product, originally developed to
solve audio electronic problems and stabilize electronic navigation aids,
and a variety of instruments. Ten Industries (the original distributor)
made it available to modelers as a means of enhancing layout operation.
Even though it's relatively expensive, the product goes a long way and
will help solve a number of electrical contact problems.
Used courtesy of © 1991 Klambach Publishing Co.,
21027 Crossroads Circle, P.O. Box 1612,
Waukeshaw, WI 53187, USA
We made one correction in this review, inserting Stabilant 22A where the reviewer had used the designation Stabilant 22. It was the isopropyl-alcohol-diluted form, Stabilant 22A, that had been used, rather than Stabilant 22.
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