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Soldering Rail Joints

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  • Member since
    February 2020
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Soldering Rail Joints
Posted by Steamielover on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 9:33 AM

When should and should not a rail joint be soldered? I asuume at a break in section it should not be but other than that should all rail joints be soldered or is simply using metal joiners sufficient? 

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Posted by carl425 on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 11:35 AM

Steamielover
is simply using metal joiners sufficient?

There is much debate over soldering rail joiners or not, however, the one detail most everyone agrees on is you should not rely on unsoldered rail joiners to pass power from one piece of track to the next.

Summing up the most popular ideas...

  • Solder them all
  • Solder only curves
  • Solder every other joint (flex track)

Regardless of what you do with the rail joiners, every piece of rail should be soldered to something - either a feeder or another piece of rail (which is soldered to a feeder).

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 11:36 AM

I soldered all, except at planned gapped control joints.  I never trusted just the rail joiners, as I have hidden track, and track that would be a major tear up to fix.

The metal joiners alone will fill with "stuff", come loose, and eventually loose connection.  Been there many times before.

If you want permanent, or as close to it as you can get, then I suggest soldering.

I used flex track, and each section has a feeder, and I even went extra and added "jumper wires"  along with the regular joiners, and soldered it all together.

I have a main line and passing siding total run of about 50', all soldered together, except at 4 block, or control joints.  I've never yet had an issue with power, or shrinkage and expansion.  My layout is in a basement, the temp. is pretty even, year around.

Mike.

PS. I might add that the turnouts are soldered as well, with shortened rail joiners, in case I need to replace one.  I desolder the joint, slide the rail joiner back, and remove the turnout.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 12:05 PM

There are a number of people here who solder all their joints and never have any problems.   I am not one of them. 

In the 80's, L-girder, 1/2 ply cookie cutter topped with homasote, I had major kinking of my track.  I may solder 2 pieces of flex for curves as I finish my layout, but otherwise I am content to add feeders everywhere.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 1:07 PM

BigDaddy

There are a number of people here who solder all their joints and never have any problems.   I am not one of them. 

In the 80's, L-girder, 1/2 ply cookie cutter topped with homasote, I had major kinking of my track.  I may solder 2 pieces of flex for curves as I finish my layout, but otherwise I am content to add feeders everywhere. 

In the 80's I soldered all my rail joints in my garage layout that was subject to temp and humidity extremes.  In the winter the solder joints pulled apart, and in the summer I got kinks.

I built a layout in a basement a few years ago and left most of the joints unsoldered, except curves, and left a small gap.  I provide feeders at least every other piece of flext track.  Didn't seem to have any issues there.  But the basement temps didn't vary a great deal, and I did run a dehumidifer to try to keep humidity changes to a minimum.

 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 2:24 PM

riogrande5761
I built a layout in a basement a few years ago and left most of the joints unsoldered, except curves, and left a small gap. I provide feeders at least every other piece of flext track. Didn't seem to have any issues there. But the basement temps didn't vary a great deal, and I did run a dehumidifer to try to keep humidity changes to a minimum.

Mine is a basement layout, too, but with all rail joints soldered, other than where gaps are needed for track control (DC operations).

The room's temperature varies little through the seasons, so no issues with kinking or joint separations, and there's also a dehumidifier in operation.

Wayne

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Posted by Doughless on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 3:45 PM

I solder all rail joints including turnouts, except for gaps every 12 feet or so to account for any benchwork expansion.  I run DCC/Sound, so to get the proper conductivity, something has to be soldered to the turnouts anyway, either feeders or rail joiners, IMO.

Try to go easy with the solder.  

When I ran DC I rarely soldered anything, but it was good practice anyway.

- Douglas

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 6:27 AM

doctorwayne
The room's temperature varies little through the seasons, so no issues with kinking or joint separations, and there's also a dehumidifier in operation. Wayne

My current layout is in a similar environment.  Perhaps belts and suspenders can't hurt.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by kasskaboose on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 9:50 AM

I do likewise on my current layout in having most joints unsoldered, except curves. 

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Posted by Onewolf on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 3:28 PM

I solder all joints on curves and I don't solder straight sections nor turnout connections.

Modeling an HO gauge freelance version of the Union Pacific Oregon Short Line and the Utah Railway around 1957 in a world where Pirates from the Great Salt Lake founded Ogden, UT.

- Photo album of layout construction -

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Posted by dknelson on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 4:06 PM

I soldered on curves - BEFORE laying the track.  That is, I soldered the joints on two lengths of flex track and then used that (somewhat awkward to manipulate) 6' piece for a curve.  My goal was to try to achieve a smooth seamless curve through the joint.  I used RibbonRail aluminum radius gauge templates while actually laying the track, starting with where the easement curve ended into the fixed radius curve, with special emphasis on running the template repeatedly through the now-soldered joint so that it would "take" the curve.  

I should add that I was not using Atlas flex track, which flexes too easily to "take" a curve, but PSC flex track which is more difficult to flex and thus holds a radius.  

Dave Nelson

  

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Posted by doctorwayne on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 7:49 PM

dknelson
I soldered on curves - BEFORE laying the track....

On the partial upper level of my layout, I used Central Valley tie strips, and soldered the rail together into 12' lengths before installing it on the ties.  Since the tie strips were already secured to the roadbed, the rail wasn't all that difficult to handle.

Cork roadbed, plastic tie strips and rail were all secured using gelled contact cement.

Wayne

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Posted by dante on Thursday, February 27, 2020 8:49 PM

I only soldered joints on curves, and fed rail sections as needed because of gapped sections (worked out to feeders about every 12’). Room has a controlled environment; joiners are W/S on W/S Code 83 rail and are very tight-fitting. I also treated every joint with No-ox (also rail heads). 8 years without problems.

Dante

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, February 27, 2020 9:30 PM

I drop feeders about every 36 inches maximum. All joints to the nearest feeder are soldered.

One joint between two feeders remains unsoldered.

All tracks can find a soldered path back to a supply feeder wire.

Generally, turnouts are not soldered, but have three feeder wires running to each. I use the old style Non-DCC-Friendly Walthers/Shinohara turnouts.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by joe323 on Friday, February 28, 2020 6:08 AM

I soldered most of the joints except turnout and not had issues but my layout is in a temperature-controlled bedroom not a basement

The biggest complaint I have is in summer when the wife leaves the A/C on.  There is much discussion in the train room about global cooling

Joe Staten Island West 

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