Rail Material Question

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  • Member since
    April, 2003
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Rail Material Question
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, June 29, 2001 11:56 PM

I'm new to outdoor garden railroading. Currently I'm in the planning stages my future railroad and have a question regarding track.

I initially will be starting out with track powered locomotives, but eventually will switch to RC when funds permit. Taking this into account and the probability that I will likely have visiting modelers that aren't RC equiped, which type of track material is a good choice for both types of power? I see that aluminum is inexpensive and used by many of the live steamers, but how does it do with track power? Brass is a bit more expensive, but I like the idea that it weathers to a realistic appearance, whereas I don't see that being the case with aluminum. NS seems a bit more expensive than I wi***o go with, so the main thrust of my questions revolve around the choice of using aluminum or brass. I would also like to know how much trouble each is as far as cleaning goes.

To those that reply, your help is greatly appreciated.

Lonegpr
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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, July 01, 2001 11:13 PM
I hope this helps. I still model in HO and have for years. Last year I was inspired by the "Colorado & Pacific" series in "Garden Railways" magazine, and decided to build a variation of it. I joined a group on garden railways (Yahoo groups) and asked a similar question. With my HO background, I was VERY skeptical about using brass outdoors, due to brass's poor reputation for conductivity and oxidation in the smaller scales. Based on the inputs I recieved from the group, I somewhat reluctantly ordered LGB brass rail, tie strips, switches, and a rail bender. Since I started late last year, the railroad was basically complete, but not running when I ran out of good weather for the season. This Spring as the snow melted, portions of the railroad (Including whole LGB power turnouts)were completely submerged in water due to poor drainage (Hopefully, since corrected by the addition of several culverts)for a couple weeks. I figured I had a MAJOR track cleaning & repair project on my hands. Yesterday, I cleaned a portion of the track to a nice shine, and proceded to systematically check out the electrical connections. The first locomotive ran fine on the cleaned portion of the track. Feeling gutsy, I continued running the engine onto the dirty portion of the track and it ran great even on track that had tree sap on it from an overhanging pine tree. I can wholeheartedly recommend brass for outdoor use!! The LGB switches worked flawlessly electrically, and only needed removal of debris around the moving parts. BTY, I live in Great Falls, Montana, so this is not some fairweather line. Ron Hanson
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, July 02, 2001 11:35 PM
Thanks Ron. I have done a bit of research since my original post and have come down to the conclusion that going with brass rail will probably be my best bet. I am thinking of going with Sunset Valley rail as they offer smaller code rail than LGB since I'm modeling a dimunitive fictional line. Nothing more than an eventual loop of about 250' around the perimeter of my yard with a turnout here and there. I will also install conduit with feeder wire to ensure a good supply of power to the rails. Eventually though my engines will go RC, but I was still wanting the electrical capability for friends or any new engines I might add before they get converted. I'm down here in OKC, so we have temps ranging from 0*F on up to 120*F and I was afraid that aluminum would present to many problems down the road.

Again, thanks for your reply.

Dwayne
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03, 2001 4:43 PM
Dwayne; You may get differing opinions as to whether conduit is needed, but this may save you some work and some bucks. As mentioned above, my railroad is based on the "Colorado & Pacific" series and has a total of about 100 ft of track in an area roughly 12 x 20 feet, so I do not have any real long electrical runs. I used #14 wire intended for low voltage lighting for track power and #16 for lighting and accessories. This cable is relatively inexpensive, intended for burial in the ground, and generally available in hardware stores and home centers in 50 and 100 foot packages. One downside to this cable is that it is not color coded, but has "Ribs" on one side so you can still tell them apart. I used crimp type connectors at all connections and used "Silicone Dielectric Grease" on all crimp and screw connections. I also suggest the use of "Rail clamps" instead of regular rail joiners at all track connections and again coat them with the silicone grease before assembly. I used "Hillman's" but there are several brands and sizes available. Do NOT confuse silicone dielectric grease with silicone caulk/sealant. Silicone dielectric grease is commonly used in automotive electrical applications to waterproof and seal connectors from dirt and corrosion, and should be available in small tubes from any well stocked automotive parts store. I also used "Liquid electrical tape" on all soldered connections. Good luck on the Railroad. Ron

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