Test Track-Logo

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 connector.

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 value. 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 affected.

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:

Engine Starting Voltage Voltage Treated
Oriental 2-4-4-2 (can motor) 2.18 1.78
Jonan 2-8-2T (can motor) 1.37 1.17
NWSL 2-6-2T (open-frame motor) 4.95 4.6

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 motor.

15 mL-Stabilant 22A bottle

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

Stabilant 22A may be ordered from the manufacturer, D.W. Electrochemicals Ltd., 97 Newkirk Road North, Richmond Hill, Ontario L4C 3G4, Canada - Phone : (905) 508-7500



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.

15 mL Bottle-of Stabilant 22A


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 dirt.

In most cases, it's still functioning when the equipment is retired as obsolete.

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.

AVAILABLE FROM...Hobby shops and model RR shops in the US and Canada

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. - D.W.E.