Rail clamps

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  • Member since
    March 2006
  • From: Southern MB
  • 51 posts
Rail clamps
Posted by JITO on Saturday, July 23, 2011 8:05 PM

I'm working on research regarding rail clamps and need some help.

We have various lengths of LGB sectional track (for a total of about 80 feet) that has been outside for several years now. The layout is being slightly reconfigured this summer and I'm wondering about an upgrade to improve performance. The track is currently just pieced together and occasionally pulls apart. We run track power currently (maybe battery in the future but that's another long list of questions) and I'm concerned about a possible loss of conductivity as well over time. I've come across at least 3 brands of rail clamps and wonder what might be more suitable for a train layout in Southern Manitoba. I'm aware of Split Jaw, Hillman and something called American Mainline. Also, is over the rail joiner better or should I remove the joiner first? So between making stronger connections and trying to improve power, what would be my best route? 

I wonder also who might have the best price for purchasing some quantity of clamps once the decision to purchase takes place.



  • Member since
    December 2006
  • From: Chatham, Ont
  • 116 posts
Posted by DennisB on Sunday, July 24, 2011 8:11 PM

Over the rail joiner are cheaper as there is no demand for over the rail type. Splitjaw clamps are faster to install. Hillman and AML have the same design and appearance. They take longer to install but also hold tighter than Splitjaw. I have all 3 on my layout and prefer Splitjaw. Regards, Dennis.

  • Member since
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Posted by Mt Beenak on Monday, July 25, 2011 2:30 AM

G'day.  I have managed to use the standard split jaw clamps as over the joiner clamps, but it is a near thing.  It would be easier to buy the proper over the joiner types.

You will strike problems removing the joiners from LGB sectional track.  It can be done but usually you will need to fit the rail in a bench mounted vice and pull the joiner with vise-grip pliers.  They are put on and punched from underneath with a machine and are almost spot welded in place.  Better to clean the inside and crimp them slightly, use a little 'conductive' grease and slide the joining section back in.  Use an over the joiner clamp if you notice loss of conductivity.  

I have been operating using track powered locos on LGB sectional and flex track outdoors for about 25 years, and only have split jaw joiners on about 10% of the joints.

Good luck.



Chief Operating Officer

Northern Timber Company - Mt Beenak

  • Member since
    July 2003
  • From: S.Easton , Mass.
  • 591 posts
Posted by smcgill on Monday, July 25, 2011 3:11 AM

A while back I did mention Train-lee's clamps.


I"ve been using them ever since.

Hope this helps.



  • Member since
    June 2008
  • From: N. California & Nevada
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Posted by g. gage on Thursday, July 28, 2011 11:13 PM

Howdy Michael; I started in “G” gauge in the early 90’s using track power and LGB sectional track. Dissatisfied with their limited curve selection and sharp switches I switched to Aristo and USA Trains track components. Also Aristo and USAT track components screw together. I use Hillman clamps for switches and high maintenance locations to ease installation and removal. I always use a Hillman Clamp opposite a plastic insulator to hold things together.


Good luck, Rob    

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 627 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Saturday, July 30, 2011 1:30 AM

I'm battery power now but before I used soldered wire joints for conductivity and slip connectors to keep things lined up.  Now I use a 50% mix (cost reasons) of split jaw and slip joiners to keep the track in place and 100% split jaw on all points/switches and anything like bridges that I bring in for the winter.  It's much easier for assembly/disassembly next season.


  • Member since
    March 2006
  • From: Southern MB
  • 51 posts
Posted by JITO on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 9:54 PM

Thanks for all of your help. The family just returned from a weekend road trip to the Minneapolis-area where we had opportunity to view 4 train layouts. We also had opportunity to stop by Only Trains to pick up a few supplies! We decided to go with the AML over the joiner clamps and picked up enough to get us started on the southern half of our layout. A fresh gravel-bed will be finished up and the track laid and ballasted as the town area is worked on.



  • Member since
    February 2004
  • From: North, San Diego Co., CA
  • 3,092 posts
Posted by ttrigg on Friday, August 12, 2011 2:42 AM


I've been using Split Jaw for over a dozen years now. I have never had rail power failure problems during the life of the RbFSRWy.

LGB "slip on" rail connectors were very hard to remove until I got a bright idea. Take largest flat tip screwdriver in the tool box. Jam it into the rail connector, twist and spread the "clamping sides" apart. Use needle nose pliers to completely bend the sides down. Then with finger tips rotate the (destroyed) connector down and that tab that pins the connector to the tie will slide out with ease. Thus preventing any damage to the tie.

To reduce the cost of connectors, when ever possible I solder 5 ft rail sections into 10 ft sections.

Tom Trigg

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