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Rolling Stock Maintenance – The Wheel Doctor

Rolling Stock Maintenance – The Wheel Doctor

Rolling Stock Maintenance – Wheel Doctor

Keeping track & loco wheels clean is an essential part of running a model railway. There is various tools for cleaning powered driven wheels on locos but what about the non powered wheels  on locos & rolling stock? These can be cleaned by hand using any thing from a track rubber, cleaning fluid / solution, to using a rotary tool with a soft brass brush wheel attachment.

We’re going to look at one device called ‘The Wheel Doctor’, this has been on the market for many years now. Produced by a company called Bachrus this device has two functions, these being to clean any non-powered wheels & also as a diagnostic tool.

The Wheel Doctor comes in a self contained hard plastic shell case complete with a double sided instruction sheet. In the case is two removable sponge pads, motor driving roller bar via continuous belt drive, two wires connected to the motor & a button to operate roller. The roller is covered in rubber type material to aid grip on the wheels being cleaned.

You’ll need to connect the two wires to a suitable 12V power supply to power the motor. Bachrus say you can use up to 20V (AC or DC) to power the motor with out doing any harm to it.

The Wheel Doctor will work a variety of scales so ideal for if you run various gauge / scale model railways.

The Wheel Doctor comes as self contained unit as you see in the photos on the right. The wires neatly stow away in a compartment to the side of the motor.



To set up pull the two wires out as shown on the right. To connect up either connect up to a to 12V transformer or connect to a traditionally powered 12v model railway track. I’ve soldered to Hornby style wire end connectors on to the wire ends. These then can be simply inserted into a Hornby (or similar) track power clip, which in turn just slots into a section of track.




To operate simply turn on the transformer / railway controller (If using a railway controller turn the speed control to full) & press & hold the red button on the wheel doctor.




The sponge cleaning pads are removable which allow for them to be rotated & turned over. Thus giving maximum use before needing replacing for when they eventually become worn out.

The sponge pads sit in two tubs which help contain any cleaning fluid, as well as prevent them from moving whilst in use. One sponge pad is use for cleaning the dirt whilst the other helps remove any cleaning fluid.




Having connected up the Wheel Doctor to the power supply it’s time add some cleaning fluid. Saturate the sponge pad (furthest away from the motor) along it’s leading edge which faces the roller bar as shown on the right. furthest away from the motor. This is known as the cleaning pad.

Use a cleaning fluid / solution of your choice such as those shown on the right.


Bachrus advise to avoid using cleaners that are designed to remove petroleum based residue such as Goo Gone!! In their words they say it’ll give the drive shaft a bad case of Reflux.




As you can see on the instruction sheet on the right it shows how to clean the wheels on double axle bogie. But in our case i’m cleaning the wheels on a Hornby MGR hopper wagon. As you can see on the right just how much dirt has built up on the wheel tread on the right hand side.




Place the wheels that are to be cleaned on the drive roller bar & the cleaning pad. Holding the wagon at an angle as shown on the right works best. Now press & hold the red button down to operate the roller bar for a minute or so. If some dirt remains then replace wheels back on the roller bar & cleaning pad for another minute or so.




You should now have a nice clean set of wheels. (Note in the photo on the right there is a slight brown mark on the outer edge of the wheels. This is slight over spray of weathering paint by the Hornby factory).

Now repeat for the other axle on this wagon.




Now turn the wagon around & place the wheel set you’ve just cleaned back on to the roller bar, but this time on the dry sponge pad nearest the motor (as shown on the right). Press the & hold the red button for a minute or so to operate the roller bar. A tip here is to move the wheels back & forth a little to allow the dry pad to wipe clean any cleaning fluid off the wheels.

Any excess cleaning fluid wipe off the model.




Wheel Diagnostic Tool

The Wheel Doctor can also be used as a wheel diagnostic tool. First clean the wheels as dirt build up can cause wheels to shimmy.

  • For a wheels on a bogie Bachrus suggest first removing the bogie with wheels still in place.
  • Place wheel set directly onto the top of the drive shaft but not into the cleaning pads.
  • Start the the drive shaft & look for any deflection from the wheels or axles.
  • A deflection in the axle could be a cause of a wheel wobble.
  • If the wheels jump up or down this could be caused by an imperfection on the bearing surface on the axle ends.
  • Check the wheel tread manually for any cracks or other imperfections

If any issues are found then corrective action can be taken to fix or replace any problem issues. Having used this Wheel Doctor Tool for many years I highly recommend well adding to your loco tool box.

(At the time of writing the company Bachrus is up for sale. More details to be found at




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