Cleaning the Stafford I have to admit is not my favourite task.  Back in the 70's when I used to build scale model boats, I and many other builders would spend hours adding rust and dirt to the finished model in an attempt to make it look as much like the well worn original as possible.  If you look at old photographs of working industrial steam engines of the type that the Stafford represents, in almost every case they were battered and dirty.  The owners and drivers, especially in the latter years of their use, often didn't have time to keep the loco looking factory fresh.  So should we clean the Stafford after each run to make it look as good as new ?
Unfortunately with the current trend of "preservation" the public seem to expect every steam engine they see to look immaculate, and so as to not disappoint them the Stafford always gets its major tidy up after a run.  But deep inside I really like the old locos with their battle scars, where every dent, scrape and scratch tells a story about their working lives.  Providing that the working parts are kept in good condition who can say how Gentoo will be turned out as the years pass and it becomes more difficult to maintain the showroom condition, until eventually a major workshop refit occurs to restore it to "as good as new".

So for now, after every run a day is spent cleaning and polishing.  You may well have your own way, and it may be better than mine, but this is how I set about keeping the Stafford looking pristine.

Cleaning out the boiler.
Ash clearing tray for a Station Road Steam Stafford class model steam locoI always start cleaning with the dirtiest task first which means getting rid of the remaining embers, ash, and general dirt in the fire and smoke boxes.  When I first purchased the Stafford I envisaged removing the grate assembly to get rid of the fire, so to avoid dropping glowing coals on the footplate I made up this aluminium guard from some scrap and a pair of "tongs" to grip the grate assembly.  However even though I now simply shovel out the hot coals while still at the track the guard is still used every time I clean the loco as it protects the paint on the footplate and makes it easy to sweep the ash from the boiler into a dust bin.  The metal plug lying in the bottom fits into the finger hole in the removable footplate panel to hold the plate in place.

So undo the two grate assembly thumbscrews, fit the aluminium plate, and then pull out the grate assembly and get rid of the remaining embers and clinker on it.  Then use the flue brushes to clean all the fire tubes.  You will need both a 1 inch and a 3/4 inch flue brush to clean the 7/8 and 5/8 inch tubes respectively.
 Carefully feed the flue brush into the fire tube from the firebox end until you feel it exit at the smokebox end, then pull it back out of the firebox end.  Repeat this a couple of times on each tube until no more dust comes out, then using the scraper (see the start of the "firing up" webpage) and a brush thoroughly clean out the firebox.  The aluminium plate can now be put away.

Normally at this point I digress to clean the two injector clack valves.  If you read the "problems" page of the website you will see why I do this, but the bottom line is that the injector clack that I used all day is invariably nice and clean while the other one is normally quite mucky.  If the muck builds up in the injector clack it can prevent the ball seating properly and the contents of the boiler will be blown out onto the track.  So for the sake of five minutes work I normally undo the clack top caps, use a drinking straw to "suck" out the balls, and then clean the balls and seating faces with a twist of cloth.  Before the clack caps are replaced I always apply a smear of "Copper Ease" anti-seize compound to the threads to make sure that they will not become stuck.

Back with the boiler, if you look at the photo above you will see that the firebox cover plate looks quite dull as a result of having a hot fire behind it for nearly six hours.  The simple way to get it looking shiny again is to wipe it thoroughly with a rag soaked in 3 in 1 oil.  While you have the oily rag in your hands make sure that you wipe it round the end of the boiler where the cover plate seats as any rust that develops here will stop the cover plate fitting flat and may allow air to leak into the firebox above the grate which will reduce the boilers efficiency.  I normally give the inside of the firebox a wipe with the oily rag as well to keep rust at bay.

The Station Road Steam Stafford steam engines smokebox.Next for attention is the the smokebox.  With the smokebox door closed use a length of wooden quadrant beading (19mm x 19mm by about 600mm long) to scrape the oily smuts and grit off the inside of the funnel.  The sharp edges of the wooden quadrant are ideal to scrape both around and up / down the inside of the funnel without damaging anything.  This is one job that doesn't have to be done after every run, but it's not a task you can ignore forever, and the more oil your mechancical lubricator is pumping into the cylinder steam the quicker the mess will build up in the funnel.

I normally place a flat tin under the smokebox before I open the smokebox door and use the scraper and brush to get all the mess out of the smokebox.  Be careful how you clean around the blast pipe (the big pipe rising up from the bottom of the smokebox in the photo) as it is sealed with a silicone rubber compound that you don't want to remove.  Incidentally, the heap of smuts etc. in the photo isn't as big as it first seems; its apparent size is caused by the camera "close up" perspective.  The photo also gives you a chance to see the main exhaust blast pipe from the cylinders (centre) and the much smaller steam blower pipe (right) which are both positioned to draw hot fire gasses through the fire tubes and up the funnel as they blast upwards.  The larger tube enterring from the left is the exhaust from the vacuum ejector.

With the smokebox and the inside face of the smokebox door cleaned I normally apply a quick spray of WD40 to keep the rust at bay, and then make sure that the front face of the smokebox and the door sealing face are both given a thorough wipe with the 3 in 1 oil soaked rag.  As with the firebox, you don't want any rust to develop on the door sealing area which may later result in air leaking past the door seal.  Before you close the door remember to liberally oil the shatf of the "dart" that goes through the middle of the smokebox door to hold it closed and to put a drop of oil on the door hinges.  Note that the dart bar has been lifted out in the photo to give better access for cleaning and would be replaced before the smokebox door was closed.

Cleaning the Brass and Copper.

Next it's the turn of all the brass and copper which people like to see bright and shiny.  Brasso is the favoured polish, although Autosol Solvol metal polish cream (available from those few remaining high street car spares and accessories shops) is very useful for the more stubborn stains.  There is a surprising amount of brass and copper on a Stafford to clean and polish, and a lot of it is adjacent to painted surfaces that you don't want to rub with the abrasive polish as it would remove the shine from the paint.  The simple answer is to slide pieces of thick paper (newspaper is too thin) or card from a cereal box between the pipes and the painted surfaces.  You can then polish away for as long as it takes without damaging the paintwork.  Thankfully you will find that as the cleaning sessions go by the polishing will get easier.  Trying to get an initial shine on the "as delivered" parts is much harder than keeping the shine in the months to come.
Cleaning the paintwork.
Dirty paintwork on a model steam locomotiveThis photo shows the sort of problems that occur when running on a wet day, the underneath of the boiler cladding and the front faces of the cab quickly get covered with a mixture of very fine metal powder from the track and assorted mud and bits of leaves etc.  Unfortunately even if you only run on dry days you will still have to contend with the smuts and fine ash that cover all the top faces of the loco after they have been blown out of the funnel.  If you just wipe the surface with a rag you will almost certainly scratch the paintwork, which is something you want to avoid.

So far WD40 has never failed to loosen any dirt on my Stafford, even after it has become baked on by the heat of the boiler or left to stand for a couple of days between running and cleaning.  Just give the dirty areas a quick spray of WD40, wait a few seconds and then very gently wipe the dirt off with a clean soft rag.  If some dirt remains just repeat the process, using another piece of clean rag.  Once the dirt is removed use the cleanest rag and a bit more WD40 to wipe over all the painted surfaces.  Then follow up with a clean soft rag dampened with 3 in 1 oil.  The end result will be shiny looking paintwork covered with a very thin smear of the light 3 in 1 oil that will stop any chips in the paint from starting to rust.

The only areas of my Stafford that don't receive this treatment are the sections of chassis by the wheels and motion, which get cleaned at the same time as the bright steelwork as mentioned in the next paragraph.

Cleaning the bright steelwork.

I will admit to being almost paranoid about keeping rust away from the bright steel parts of my Stafford, so I spend a lot of time cleaning it.  The slightly oily rag that was used to finish the main paintwork is now used to wipe every bright steel part to remove any muck, with particular care being taken to get in between the wheels and the connecting rods.  To do so it is often necessary to roll the Stafford around on its storage trolley so that you can reach all of the bright steel.  The chassis and the various linkages for the brakes and draincocks also get cleaned at this time.  Then the whole lot is gone over again with a clean dry cloth to remove any dirty oil, before any rust spots that dare to appear are cleaned off with wire wool.  The final action is to apply a film of 3 in 1 oil to all the bright steel, and to make sure that nothing is missed (and to ensure that no rust will appear) this final wipe over actually involves going around the loco several times with it rolled to a new position between wipes to ensure total coverage with oil.
So that's it. The Stafford is clean and ready for storage until its next outing.  On a good day after a dry run all this cleaning and polishing takes close to 5 hours, and the record for an end of season clean after a wet running day was almost 9 hours.  However as a result of all this time the Stafford always starts the day looking bright and shiny as the public seem to expect it to.