"Rail Broom" / Sweeper Car

What is it?

Bill Wilcox ( ) makes a wonderful "sweeper" or "broom" car kit. It is basically a large brush spun by a DC motor. It works great.

Bill was inspired by a real sweeper car he saw on a trolley line in a Midwest city. He considered the 45 degree angle, but it lead to problems through tunnels or bridges

The Product:

Bill's first creation was made from brass parts. I have not seen one of these.

Later he changed to a heavy gauge aluminum for the main brush bracket, and more aluminum for the other parts.

The 2 pulleys are solid brass.

There is a large brush rotating in ball bearings in a "U" shaped bracket and a motor all mounted in an adjustable aluminum bracket.

The picture below shows my first unit, a clean design, but you had to pry the bracket apart to replace the drive belt, since it was all one piece.


Below, you you can see Bill's revised design, with the new style bracket, where you can unbolt the end of the bracket to get the belt off.

Much easier!


From the side view above, you can see that both the brush and the motor are on 2 rods that are adjustable up and down. (Note the piece of wood will be removed and the unit bolted to your rolling stock.

For optimum performance, Bill recommends that the brush should extend to just touch the top surface of the rail - the air turbulence will aid in moving the debris between the rails so direct contact with the rail ties is not needed. As mentioned before, this will avoid unnecessary drag on the brush and drive belt. This will allow you years of life, mine is way over 10 years old.

The unit is supplied as shown with the toggle switch, and the motor/brush assembly all mounted to a temporary wood base.

Upgrades for earlier models:

Bill offers an upgrade kit for the earlier versions to the newer "removable" bracket shown above. Contact bill for pricing and how to ship.
Again, contact  Bill by email: 

Drive Belt:

The drive belt is a 70 durometer, 1/16" diameter, and 1.75" I. They are not "O" rings, but drive belts for this purpose.

Initially I was losing belts often, but Bill upgraded the belts and they now last much longer than the original ones I received. (these are special belts, made of a special rubber, so be sure not to waste your time trying "O" rings like I did!).

Here's the brush in motion:


The motor is designed to run on 7.5-12 volts DC.

I run mine from the track voltage on my DCC layout.  I use a 5 ohm 20 watt resistor. With a track voltage of 21 volts DCC RMS I got about 18.5 volts to the motor and no load current was about 0.5 amps, and hooking up the belt and with some more resistance by putting my finger on the pulley gave me about 0.7 amps.

I changed my DCC system and have more like 23 volts now, so with the same resistor, it's about 20 volts to the motor.

So be sure if you are connecting electronics to control the motor speed, have at least 1 amp continuous capability.

My Tips:

Bill cautions you to unhook the belt from the pulleys after use, to extend it's life. He's right. The newer belts are tougher, but this is an easy to do thing.

At the expense of wearing the brush out more quickly, I have my brush about 1/4" BELOW the rail head. This will clean out frogs and guard rails on switches and also will clear errant ballast. I'm happy with the quicker wear in exchange for the improved function, reballasting my layout is now not a chore, and I have to admit it's fun watching the ballast go "zing"!

Examples of different cars:

The picture below shows the basic system on an ore car:


Here's a unit on a USAT 20 Tonner that Bill made up:


And here is one on an Aristo slope back tender Bill likewise made up:

My observations:

I run DCC, so I decided to use track power. Battery power is fine, but figure on 1/2 amp draw.

I have had problems with the bristles bending over near the pulley, and then getting "run over" by the belt, and staying bent over, obstructing the belt and usually throwing the belt off. Bill informs me that spinning the brush and using a hair dryer about 1/2" away will straighten them back out... let them cool before stopping the brush.

I have made a small shield out of thin plastic, just slightly larger in diameter than the pulley. This has worked great, and only took about 5 minutes to make. (need picture here). 

My car has worked flawlessly, and the motor seems very robust. Bill indicates that he has had no motor failures in all the units he has sold. I believe him. (especially since I am running it way over 12 volts!)

I highly recommend this product for it's utility, and the "fun factor".

More examples:

You can add some "extras" to the sweeper car, see the following pictures:

The sweeper below was done by Thom Filbert:

Thom added a 12 volt blower to the car too, the fan is a "Tracker Turbo Fan". Several people have used these too. Here's a link: Victor Tracker the part number is 023-550 and the UPC#: 020126223053.


Another implementation using a Rule in-line blower (marine type) by Sean Migillicuddy:

Here's R.J. DeBerg's sweeper car. I like the Aristo searchlight car, and will build mine in a similar fashion:


R.J. relocated the equipment box from the end to the side, and put in the on off switch:

Here's the unit disassembled. You can see the piece of wood that holds the brush bracket and the motor bracket, as the kit comes from the manufacturer:


More ideas:

I want to put some fans in the car and blow air under it. Stay tuned for this.


Weather Underground PWS KCACARLS78