Damaged paintwork due to railway - Dom F {P}
I recently moved to a house just yards from a busy rail line. Six weeks later, I've noticed dull brown patches over my car, which was white. My garage said "it's chippings off a railway line", and did I live near one? Nothing gets this stuff off apart from T-Cut. Is there anything else anyone knows of that's less damaging to use, and which isn't gonna involve 3 weeks of elbow grease per month? I've already invested in a car cover.
I have looked at the house's windowsills (which were white) and they are deep brown on the horizontal surfaces thanks to this stuff. I'm concerned my white Citroen ZX will resemble an old British Leyland colour before too long.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - BMDUBYA
Dom - As stupid or funny as this sounds, I am being serious. It could be human excrement, when someone uses the toilet, the contents simply get dumped, to coin a phrase, onto the track. I catch the train at Reading and was shocked to see this laying on the track.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Dom F {P}
No this is actually a very fine sheen. At first I thought it was sand from a sandworks three miles across town, but my garage is next door and they said they come across this continually.

The house windowsills are much worse, obviously as they've been there longer than 6weeks, they've almost been powdercoated in the stuff.

Appreciate the thought, but honestly it's not what you thought!
Dom F
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Dave_TD
Appreciate the thought, but honestly it\'s not what you thought!

No pink fluffy dice! (snigger!)


Oh dear, your wisecrack doesn\'t have the same appeal anymore DD.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - M.M

If you look at the area around the tracks you'll see everything is brown...and it ain't spilt creosote!

Whatever the exact makeup of the deposit it is an accepted problem of living close the the tracks.

You need to get it off with colour cut and then apply a quality resin polish, there is little more you can do as I assume there is no garage?

Damaged paintwork due to railway - Dom F {P}
No, no garage or anywhere under cover. Even cars two streets away have same problem. Only solution is a plastic car cover, but I was worried about effect of T/Cut etc, as even when car left out for minutes the problem will accumulate so I can see doing T/cut rather more than just the once.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Dynamic Dave
T-Cut is a cutting agent. Use it too much and you'll be down to the primer.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Dom F {P}
That's what I'm worried about, and why I'm trying to find out if there's a less-destructive way of doing it!!
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Another John H
Do you think it might be steel from the track?
I presume it does wear a bit, and have to go somwhere.

If so, any chemists out there?
What would you use to shift it without dissolving the car or damaging the paint?
Damaged paintwork due to railway - SjB {P}
I used to park my car in a work car park next to a railway line, in the zone for trains to be braking for the local station.

I too had a problem with the car being covered in small brown flecks, which I learned to be train brake dust.

I then had a problem, because when left, they caused rust, but they were so well 'welded' to the paint, that to remove them was difficult, and having done so, they then caused scratches if allowed to contaminate the polishing cloth.

The result was that I ended up spending many hours carefully cleaning the car, frequently replacing the polishing cloth, and when done, walked another 300 yards to work each day so I could use another car park!
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Armitage Shanks{P}
SjB is on the money here; your problem is amlmost certainly partcles of brake pads and/or discs from the trains. The report I read said the particles, if left on the paint, could 'pit' it seriously and set up corrosive effects in the presence of moisture, dew, rain etc. If there aren't posted warning notices around you might be able to sue for the damage.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - John S

You're right - This stuff is debris from the train brakes. Very adhesive and damaging it is too. Perhaps it's still hot when it hits the car.

Their is no sucessful way to prevent the damage or remove it once it's there. As you have found, the only answer is to avoid it landing on the car in the first place!


John S
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Ian (Cape Town)
Rail Brake dust - this is why you seldom see vehicles transported by train any more.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Andrew-T
It may well be dust from train brakes (which I believe use phosphor-bronze pads, presumably on steel disks - that's the nasty smell one gets when a train slows) but may also be steel dust from the rails, if there is significant curvature on the line causing friction on the flanges. You can guess from the curvature or whether trains regularly slow for signals etc. nearby. Either way I don't suppose it's good for paintwork.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Flat in Fifth

Bit of a long shot but worth a try. This works for industrial fallout from certain metal processing plants.

Go to a chemist and buy some oxalic acid. About a teaspoon full of crystals in a pint of warm water is the right concentration.

If the car is really dirty wash it as normal first. Then wash it again with the mixture, just a wipe over the surface will do, enough to give 100% cover. Leave it for 10 minutes or so then rinse off really well.

Hopefully you will have turned the rough "gritty" finish into a smooth finish, have got rid of all the grime etc and then hopefully the T-cut can be minimised. Then polish, extra protection gloss etc etc to build some layers up.

Let us know how you get on. As I say might work, might not but won't do any harm.

Damaged paintwork due to railway - Altea Ego
Its brake dust. My old man was a train driver, and I lived near railway tracks. It happens worse near railway stations, but also gets dragged along the tracks and permanent way in the wake of trains. Nice lightish brown powder that goes hard if left and sticks like merde to a blanket. There is only one cure. Cover things.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - John S

Given how the people here like to save money, it's only a matter of time before they ask how many rhubarb leaves to a pint you need to boil up to get the right strength material.......

Seriously, though, what's the thinking behind this one? The railway dust is a particulate. Will the oxalic acid dissolve the particles?


John S
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Flat in Fifth
John, sort of, but I'm sure it totally depends on what the particles are. Hence the "may not work but...."

What I can say is that I tried this on my own car sufferng from fallout, well back in the days before factory emissions regs were what that are today. The beneficial effect was out of all proportion to the amount of effort involved.

Someone did explain how it worked, but its 30 years ago and sorry I just forget the details. I think its more of an unsticking agent than actually dissolving the complete particle but how ..? Anyway it also worked on the outlaws car some years later.

As for the "Given how the people here like to save money, it's only a matter of time before they ask how many rhubarb leaves to a pint you need to boil up to get the right strength material......." maybe an idea for someone's crop rotation.

year 1 hay
year 2 rhubarb
year 3 liquorice (sp?)


Damaged paintwork due to railway - eMBe {P}
John, sort of, but I'm sure it totally depends on what
the particles are. Hence the "may not work but...."
What I can say is that I tried this on my
own car sufferng from fallout, well back in the days before
factory emissions regs were what that are today.

Someone did explain how it worked, but its 30 years ago
and sorry I just forget the details. >>

Will oxalic-acid work safely on today's water-based car paints?
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Flat in Fifth
"Will oxalic-acid work safely on today's water-based car paints?"

good question; dunno, hadn't thought of that, but seeing as the paintwork is stuffed anyway why not try on an out of the way part.

any evidence that it won't by the way?
Damaged paintwork due to railway - eMBe {P}
>>>> any evidence that it won't by the way? >>

Don't know myself, but there are some chemists on here who might know.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Robin
Good Grief: This site. I never thought I would get to write about this!

Some years ago, when I was fresh faced young graduate with a shiny new PhD in Chemistry I worked for a very short while for British Rail R&D. One of the jobs I got involved with was protecting imported cars from damage during rail transport from Harwich. The new cars would invariably have a film of bronw muck from the train brakes. This was particularly true of the cars on the transprter behind the engine. This brown stuff was Iron Oxide from the brakes. At the time Oxalic acid was used in the train washes in order to remove the iron oxide particles. I think Oxalic acid was used because it is a weak acid, was fairly cheap and not as damaging to the environment or workers as someting like hydrochloric acid. However, it is still harmful to humans by skin absorption so be v. careful if you decide to use it. Oxalic acid works by forming a water soluble compound, a chelate, with the iron oxide and this can be washed away. (and this is why it is harmful to humans: it chelates the iron in blood). This link, from a supplier of descaling acid, tells you how to and how not to remove iron oxide from your car:


(I am not suggesting you use this stuff by the way: the link provides useful info only)

Lifted from the link:

N.B. Acids and acidic materials can damage decorative trim, polished aluminium and anodised surfaces, care should be exercised to ensure that Descaling Acid is not brought into contact with these surfaces.

So, maybe oxalic acid is not the stuff to use.

This link is to a company who provide a different method of cleaning iron oxide from trains:


If you contact them, and the stuff they sell is harmless to humans, they may let you have some. Worth a punt.

BTW: I left before the imported car p[roblem got sorted.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - eMBe {P}
John S: Tell them about the soot particles from Richborough PS and the damage they used to cause to the imported cars coming off Ramsgate stored in the fields next to RichPS.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - martint123
What you want is a claybar.

Halfords used to sell them 'Surface cleaning bar' code 635797
I don't think they sold many and you can sometimes find them for a couple of quid in the 'clearance' section. Once they are there they often get snapped up by people who know what they are.

Mequires does one as well (pricey though)

Its a bit like plastercene (sp) and is very very slightly abrasive. (hint - break bits off to use - if you drop a bit, chuck it away or you'll be rubbing grit into your paint).

The paintwork is kept wet and the bar wiped over it. Crud sticks to the bar and every so often you mould it in your hands to shift to a cleaner bit. I've seen that it is specifically mentioned in quite a few places for 'fallout' from railway lines.

Works a treat for restoring a deep gloss to black cars.

from the web:=

Our clay bar is designed to remove deposits from the surface of the paint, deposits such as industrial fall out from some factories, traffic film, tar etc. Did you know that parking a car near to a railway line (including station car parks) may result in the car being covered in minute deposits of metal from a trains wheels and braking system!

Tree sap mist, overspray and industrial fallout are just a few of the contaminants that bond to yor paint's finish, making it rough and lackluster. Lubricated with Quik Detailer (included), this amazing non-abrasive clay bar quickly restores a smoot-as-glass finish on your car. Then polishes and waxes will apply and wipe off in half the time with dramatically improved results.

Taking the Paint Rubber (clay bar) allow to stand in some hot water to soften for a few minutes. Then place the clay in the palm of your hand and starting with the roof, move the clay over the painted surface in a back and forth motion. Using wet finger tips gently feel the paint surface before and after using the clay and not the pimply feel to the paint before starting and the super smooth after claying it. Always keep the surface of the paint well lubricated with water otherwise the clay will stick to the paint.

Proceed from the roof to the bonnet and boot and then on down to the doors and lower extremities. Pay particular attention to tar spotting on the lower halves of the doors. If you have a stubborn tar spot just press the edge of the clay and rub somewhat harder and the tar will disappear. When you have finished there is no need to wash the car again unless you really want too, as any clay smudges will disappear using cleaner fluid.

Damaged paintwork due to railway - John S

Just seen this. Slightly different problem. When an oil fired power station doesn't have flue gas desulphurisation, the sulphur contained in fuel oil produces sulphuric acid, which collects on the smuts in the chimney. Change of wind direction, and these can be released. Very damaaging to paintwork - iridescent bloom at best, burned to the metal at worst. The particular Richborough problem occured when they were using orimulsion, which made it headline news. Disclaimer - I wasn't working for P****G** when this happened!


John S
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Robin the Technician
Try speaking to your local 'Brown Brothers' as they specialise in everything for the auto paint industry. They have specialists who can give you advice and guidance- and the cheapest method of repair. Oxalic wash is widely used in the auto industry and you can use it on your car- but i suggest you follow the above advice for best results.

These are the views of Robin the Technician with 35 years in the trade. I fix, therefore I am...
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Blue {P}
I can second the comments about the cleaning bar, I have used the Meguiars Clay bar to remove paint overspray after my accident repair.

It worked a treat and even made areas of paint that had been rough since the day I got the car fo smooth again. I had alreday tried Super Resin polish and Metallic T-cut on them and they had no effect.

www.meguiars.co.uk - it's the quick clay detailing system that you want a look at.

It's pricey, but works very well, and fixed my paint up a treat, I can't recommend one strongly enough.

Of course once restored, you really want to get a layer of Super Resin and Extra Gloss on there, or maybe the Meguiars Gold Class Wax, but I haven't tried that yet so I can't vouch for it...
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Dom F {P}
Thanks guys. I\'m gonna look into this in more detail now, but what you\'ve all said makes sense. I\'ll read the links and see which to try first. As one of you said, my paintjob\'s pink fluffy diced like it is anyway, so nothing gained etc...

Kind regards and thanks to all
Dom F
Damaged paintwork due to railway - THe Growler
Definitely brake dust. I owned a house 100 yards behind Hassocks Station some long time ago and complained about exactly the same thing to the then Southern Railways. Eventually I moved, having got sick of repainting the rear of the house every year and, as the poster says, having it all over my car. The railway authority didn't want to know.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - OldOiler
Well having worked on the Railway it is probably the metalic particals from track to tyre and metalic brake blocks used on the older rolling stock which can build up to quite a thickness on a railway coach underframe.

Im supprised that you are suffering such a distance away.
How to get rid of it is another thing - we just "chip it off" which is not acceptable in this instance.

There must be a Chemist out there who can suggest a relative safe mixture.

Could try wheel brake dust cleaner - similar problem, but try a local area first (do not leave it on for too long)
Using the last method will give a very limited paint finish
Damaged paintwork due to railway - SpamCan61 {P}
Might be worth phoning / e-mailing a few of the various railway preservation societies on the net; after all they have to clean the stuff off their carriages regularly.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - madf
Where are Transport 2000?

Emitting very fine iron oxide/brake particles into the air cannot be good for human lungs.

Trains should meet same emission standards as cars as far as emitting fine particles is concerned (see particulate filters in exhausts)

Damaged paintwork due to railway - OldOiler
Still 1/2 cocked I'm affraid ,our new trains are designed to run sulpher reduced but the oil companies are not interested because our fuel is "red" and even our consumption is too small.

Least raw sewage does not go on the track with the new trains!!
Damaged paintwork due to railway - none
Having worked for BR back in the 70's I agree with the brake dust theory. The shower of sparks from a cast iron brake block on a steel wheel speaks for itself. (fascinating sight at night though). The human excrement theory sounds pretty repulsive but does have a positive side.
At the marshalling yard I worked at, all of the passenger rolling stock was parked overnight on a couple of sidings in the 'sticks'. Toilets were flushed and cleaned every night. Tomato plants used to sprout up close to where the toilet compartments were parked, and were closely watched by 'scrumpers'. There were all sorts of other shrubs and trees nearby, such as apple, pear, plum and so on - all planted by the obvious.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Dom F {P}
Thanks All for your help and advice regarding the paint problems. It appears that it is indeed Iron Oxide fallout, and I have bought a Claybar, and what a difference! Immediate improvement - I can finally see white paint under the brown stuff.

Oxalic Acid - thanks for the suggestions, but Oxalic Acid is unsuitable for use, as no way of getting rid of it safely. I only need next door's cat to lick it from the gutter to be a reason to exempt it.

Robin's link to Neilson's Chemicals was great - they put me in touch with a supplier near me who can supply claybars (at £30) and other suitable cleaners for Iron Oxide. I've invested in a car cover and, much as I don't like the idea of covering up each time I park the car, it's the only option.

Thanks for all your help and advice.
Dom F
Damaged paintwork due to railway - mal
Well, that's another good result from this excellent site for motorists.
Just one bit of advice though regarding the cover. Make sure it is securely fitted because if it is allowed to flap about in the wind this also can damage your paintwork!.
Damaged paintwork due to railway - Blue {P}
Pleased that it's worked well, I thought it would.

Did you get the Meguiars one? £30 seems awfully expensive for a clay bar, even Meguiars only charge £12 and that's with the bottle of detailing spray to go with it.

Unless the £30 bar is bigger of course, the Meguiars one is about the size of a bar of soap...

Either way it's still worth it not to have all that rubbish on the paint...

Damaged paintwork due to railway - martint123
Thanks for the feedback.

Ouch - the 300g Halfords 'brick' clay bar - big enought to last a lifetime was 2 quid in their "we don't knwo what this is" box.

But, if it does the job - cheaper than a respray.


Value my car