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Rail joiners

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Rail joiners
Posted by ollevon on Monday, April 26, 2010 1:01 PM

 Hello, to all.    I  was looking for code 83 rail joiners, to join code 83 track to code 83, but all I could find was code 83 to code 100 rail joiners. are there 83 to 83 joiners? My HS didn't have any, and the last train show I went to only had 83 to 100's   Thanks for any help on this.             Sam

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, April 26, 2010 1:08 PM

Yep, I use them all of the time.  Model Train Stuff (MB Klein) has them listed under Atlas HO 170 Universal Rail Joiners:

http://www.modeltrainstuff.com/product_p/atl-170.htm

 

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, April 26, 2010 1:22 PM

The ones I've been using are marked for both Code 83 and Code 100.  So, they could be used to join a section of 83 to a section of 100, but they'll work for either.  I've been putting together a whole bunch of Code 83 lately, and these seem to work well.

Are the ones you've got specifically marked as "transition" joiners?  Are they grossly overpriced?  If not, they're just regular joiners, and they seem to work fine on both rail codes.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by fwright on Monday, April 26, 2010 2:48 PM

Actually, if you are not using Atlas flex track (or a similar "springy" flex track), rail joiners are not critical to your success in HO and smaller.  Rail joiners are poor at maintaining electrical conductivity between track sections over time, and not all that great at maintaining mechanical alignment over time, either (unless the joints are soldered).  Of course, not using rail joiners means maintaining track alignment by some other means - spikes, glue, and bonded ballast all have been used successfully.  The other implication of not using rail joiners is that each and every rail section must have its own feeder or jumper at the rail joint.

Just an option I have used.

Fred W  

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Posted by Medina1128 on Monday, April 26, 2010 3:24 PM

I used Micro Engineering's code 83 rail joiners. They're a LOT smaller than the Atlas joiners, but they are reaaaaaal tight. So tight, as a matter of fact, that I had to make a special tool to gently spread them so as not to jam then under your fingernail.

Micro Engineering Products

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Posted by maxman on Monday, April 26, 2010 3:34 PM

Walthers supplies code 83 rail joiners for their line of track.

Atlas also sells a code 83 rail joiner, but I did not have any luck with them.  They did not seem to want to fit on Atlas code 83 flextrack, nor on Walthers code 83 turnouts.  At least not without a lot of struggling and some opening up of the end where the rail is supposed to slip into.  I don't know if these joiners were supposed to fit on N scale code 83 (if there is such a thing), or if there was an issue with the configuration of the web of the track I was using.  The rail joiner package was not marked as to scale.

I have used the Atlas "universal" rail joiners mentioned above.  They tend to fit loosely on some other brands of code 83, but they do work.  But since they also fit on code 100, they tend toward the bulky side, if such visual things bother you.

Regards

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, April 26, 2010 4:41 PM

Medina1128

I used Micro Engineering's code 83 rail joiners. They're a LOT smaller than the Atlas joiners, but they are reaaaaaal tight. So tight, as a matter of fact, that I had to make a special tool to gently spread them so as not to jam then under your fingernail.

Micro Engineering Products

Ouch !

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Posted by BigG on Monday, April 26, 2010 10:39 PM

 Hi, I use Atlas railjoiners for N scale. I usually have to open the ends of the joiners a tiny bit to get the rail in. Slightly rounding the rail ends also helps, but they fit beautifully and hold well.

  Have fun,    George

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Posted by pastorbob on Monday, April 26, 2010 10:58 PM

Not to put down or argue against the gentleman who doesn't use rail joiners, but in the many years I have been an HO modeler (1960-2010), I would not lay track without them.  Much of my track is handlaid, but I use joiners, the rest is flex and I use joiners.  Not hard to find, not hard to install.  Someone with a simple single level that is not large might get away without them, but I have three decks, and quite a bit of hidden track, no way will I trust track without rail joiners.

Bob

Bob Miller http://www.atsfmodelrailroads.com/
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Posted by fwright on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 3:21 AM

pastorbob

Not to put down or argue against the gentleman who doesn't use rail joiners, but in the many years I have been an HO modeler (1960-2010), I would not lay track without them.  Much of my track is handlaid, but I use joiners, the rest is flex and I use joiners.  Not hard to find, not hard to install.  Someone with a simple single level that is not large might get away without them, but I have three decks, and quite a bit of hidden track, no way will I trust track without rail joiners.

Bob

 

Bob

I don't expect to convince you.  You will never know until you try it.  Jack Work gave me the idea - he didn't believe rail joiners were necessary, either.  I've been laying track that way since 1975, both handlaid and prefab.  Currently, I am using a combination of Atlas sectional, ME flex track, and handlaid without rail joiners.

My experience with depending on rail joiners to hold the rails in mechanical alignment is that eventually they fail to do so unless soldered.  Just like for long term success with rail joiners, success without rail joiners requires eliminating any rail "spring" angular or side forces at the rail joint prior to fastening.  Without rail spring causing these side or angular forces, any of the conventional means of securing rail or track is plenty strong enough in HO or smaller.  I've not tried it in bigger scales. 

In simple terms, the rail has to be pre-bent to the curve - and then the rail joiner serves no real purpose.

I do not advocate going joinerless with track that never seems to lose it's spring - Atlas flex track being the primary example of perpetual "springy" flex track.  Soldered rail joiners seem to be the right answer to joints with Atlas flex track on curves.

yours in track

Fred W

 

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Posted by HHPATH56 on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 3:24 AM
One can join code 83 tracks with N scale joiners. They have to be opened a little, but my LHS dealer suggested using them. Normally, I use code 83 joiners. Use transition joiners to join code 100 track to code 83 track. Bob Hahn
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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 6:39 AM

fwright

pastorbob

Not to put down or argue against the gentleman who doesn't use rail joiners, but in the many years I have been an HO modeler (1960-2010), I would not lay track without them.  Much of my track is handlaid, but I use joiners, the rest is flex and I use joiners.  Not hard to find, not hard to install.  Someone with a simple single level that is not large might get away without them, but I have three decks, and quite a bit of hidden track, no way will I trust track without rail joiners.

Bob

 

Bob

I don't expect to convince you.  You will never know until you try it.  Jack Work gave me the idea - he didn't believe rail joiners were necessary, either.  I've been laying track that way since 1975, both handlaid and prefab.  Currently, I am using a combination of Atlas sectional, ME flex track, and handlaid without rail joiners.

My experience with depending on rail joiners to hold the rails in mechanical alignment is that eventually they fail to do so unless soldered.  Just like for long term success with rail joiners, success without rail joiners requires eliminating any rail "spring" angular or side forces at the rail joint prior to fastening.  Without rail spring causing these side or angular forces, any of the conventional means of securing rail or track is plenty strong enough in HO or smaller.  I've not tried it in bigger scales. 

In simple terms, the rail has to be pre-bent to the curve - and then the rail joiner serves no real purpose.

I do not advocate going joinerless with track that never seems to lose it's spring - Atlas flex track being the primary example of perpetual "springy" flex track.  Soldered rail joiners seem to be the right answer to joints with Atlas flex track on curves.

yours in track

Fred W

 

Fred,

Your approach would be worthy of a separate post. I, like, pastorbob, would never consider consider laying track without rail joiners.  But, as you say, they are prone to failure.  If they are not soldered, they will surely fail after ballasting when the glue gets between the rail joiner and the rail.   And, they do come loose over time from expansion and contraction.

When you think about it, there is no reason to use rail joiners from a track alignment viewpoint. If you lay your track carefully, and align it correctly, you should have no problems.  The one remaining issue with rail joinerless track is the need to place feeder wires on each and every separate piece of track.

My brother-in-law, now deceased, got me into HO about 7 years ago.  He had been building layouts for 40 years or more.  He never used rail joiners, and his solution to the feeder wire issue was a very time consuming and labor intensive technique that worked quite nicely.  He drilled a small hole through the side of every rail (about 1/8" in from the end of the rail) and inserted a piece of steel wire shaped like a staple to connect one track to another, then soldered those connections.  

Rich

 

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Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 8:56 AM

 I have to chime in and agree with those who say laying track without the use of rail joiners is an exercise in futility a mission deemed to fail from the onset. I have found that Atlas rail joiners are some what hit or miss at best. Some times they are so tight they will fall off the rail if not careful and other times they need to be opened just enough to slip on the rail.  personally do not rely on rail joiners for electrical conductivity.  I rather solder feeder drops on every other section there about and if any soldering needs to be done say when connecting several pieces of flex track to make a large curve section I solder one end of the rail joiner to the rail leaving the other side unsoldered so it can float if you will to allow for expansion and contraction. I have also found it necessary to keep a small flat blade screw driver in my shirt pocket while installing track. This is to push down on the sides of the rail joiner after the connections have been made and the adhesive (silicone caulking) has set up holding the track in place. Think of it as fine tuning. The only valid reason I can give for saying that Walthers or Micro engineering rail joiners are better is that they are physically smaller in size therefore less apt to be seen, that being said after painting and weathering my track and ballasting etc. the rail joiners no matter whose I've used are less noticeable. Lets face it we as model railroaders know they are there so we'll see them every time we do things like this lets say for the visitors and the cameras  of the rail fans who visit our layouts.

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
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Posted by fwright on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:14 AM

richhotrain

Fred,

Your approach would be worthy of a separate post. I, like, pastorbob, would never consider consider laying track without rail joiners.  But, as you say, they are prone to failure.  If they are not soldered, they will surely fail after ballasting when the glue gets between the rail joiner and the rail.   And, they do come loose over time from expansion and contraction.

When you think about it, there is no reason to use rail joiners from a track alignment viewpoint. If you lay your track carefully, and align it correctly, you should have no problems.  The one remaining issue with rail joinerless track is the need to place feeder wires on each and every separate piece of track.

My brother-in-law, now deceased, got me into HO about 7 years ago.  He had been building layouts for 40 years or more.  He never used rail joiners, and his solution to the feeder wire issue was a very time consuming and labor intensive technique that worked quite nicely.  He drilled a small hole through the side of every rail (about 1/8" in from the end of the rail) and inserted a piece of steel wire shaped like a staple to connect one track to another, then soldered those connections.  

Rich

The only point to my 1st post was that not using rail joiners is a workable alternative in some situations.  Those like the OP who have may not been around for a while, or have never ventured into handlaid track may not even know the possibility existed.

I'd rather solder the extra feeders than have to remove ties and then add them back with some provision for space for the extra thickness of the rail joiners.  Most makes of sectional track make space for the rail joiners, so they are easy to use there.  It is flex and handlaid track that make using rail joiners somewhat awkward.  Visually, fitting the ties to the rail joiners is seldom done well enough to keep the  flex track joints from being obvious. 

As for adding feeders to every piece of rail, on my handlaid track I solder a piece of 26 gauge magnet wire to the bottom of the rail at the bench.  A very small hole (usually 1/16") is drilled in the ballast between ties and the wire inserted in the hole as I get ready to spike the rail.  In turnout frogs, I add the magnet wire into the frog before I solder the rails together.  The magnet wire is soldered to the bus underneath (I use bare braided 16 gauge antenna wire for my bus) or attached to heavier block or section feeds.  For flex track, I solder the magnet wire to the outside of the rail web (I use code 70 and smaller rail, so flange clearance is a problem on the inside).  When painted, the wire is pretty close to invisible.

Some HOn3 friends have suggested cutting rail joiners in half length-wise, and then soldering the joint to provide a long term solution without nearly the visual distraction of full length joiners.  I have not tried this yet, althouth I will experiment with it on my test layout.

I did not mean to stir everyone up.  My ways are not for everyone.  I'm just suggesting that there are workable alternatives.

Fred W

 

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Posted by fwright on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:44 AM

Allegheny2-6-6-6

 I have to chime in and agree with those who say laying track without the use of rail joiners is an exercise in futility a mission deemed to fail from the onset....

You know this because....?

There are successful layouts built without using rail joiners - and it wasn't just me.  My first lasted 7 years and 4 moves without suffering track alignment problems.  I did struggle with joints on curves when I first handlaid the track until I learned 1) pre-bend the rail to the curve; and 2) cut off the last inch or so of the rail that is not easily and smoothly pre-bent.

The same issues occur with flex track and with rail joiners.  If you don't pre-bend the rail or solder the rail joiner, you will eventually get a kink on a curved joint as the rail joiner yields over time to the spring of the rail.

Fred W

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:51 AM

I always use rail joiners, on Atlas flex, on Shinohara flex, on hand-laid raw rail spiked to wood ties...

Rail joiners are, IMHO, a use-once item.  When rail is lifted, the joiners go into the round receptacle.  Also, joiners will fail if kept under stress.  I pre-bend Atlas flex that is to be laid on a curve, including judicious use of pliers on the last 100mm or so of rail.  Once massaged, it will hold the desired curve.  I have one length of Atlas code 100 flex that I pre-bent to 350mm radius (just under 14 inches) over a year ago.  It has been sitting in the steel stud donut that will eventually become a helix, completely devoid of fastenings, for over a year, and has shown no sign of any desire to reconfigure itself in spite of 100 degrees of temperature swing over a year's time (and as much as 50 degrees in 12 hours.)

I have successfully used Atlas universal joiners everywhere on my current layout.  Where I transition from Code 100 (hidden track) to Code 83, a sliver of styrene in the bottom of the joiner on the Code 83 side helps to keep the joiner from assuming a cockeyed angle.

One other thing.  I do not depend on rail joiners to conduct track power.  There is a little wire jumper around every uninsulated rail joiner, hidden for the most part but right on top where the track is under (virtual) catenary.  As for insulated joiners, I use them.  I'm saving my small stock of ugly old orange joiners for use right up front in the main station area.  I found their prototype, bulk, orange plastic and all, in an industrial area not far from my home.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

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Posted by selector on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 12:54 PM

Something else to remember...many of us go back and cut gaps in our nicely laid rails for power district or other reasons, even in my case so that the four frames can be unbolted, goop scenery sawed through, and the wires taken apart judiciously, leaving the layout transportable.  Where we cut any gaps, on tangent or curved tracks, we don't get alignment creep unless we have not secured our track elements to the roadbed properly.  If you have ballasted, with glued ballast, you will not see the rails budge, not even over time.

So, my point is, if you can gap rails and have the same thing as two rails aligned without joiners...........

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 1:16 PM

fwright

I did not mean to stir everyone up.  My ways are not for everyone.  I'm just suggesting that there are workable alternatives.

Fred W

Fred,

Quite the contrary, at least from my point of view.  I found your comments interesting and something to think quite seriously about in the event that I attempt another layout.  Thanks for posting.

Rich

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Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 10:56 PM

 Well Fred respectfully I don't know you or have ever seen nay of your work but I do know Tony Koester and have seen his present railroad, and the former Allegheny Midland stood for some 25 years he is without question one of the hobby's leading authorities on building model railroads with an expertise in laying track. Trust me when I say his rack work is without flaw and some of the best I have ever seen. So if Tony uses rail joiners thats a good enough testament for me. Not to mention I have had the privilege of knowing and visiting many worked class model railroads and their builders none of whom do not use rail joiners.

On a personal note I have tried it myself, I machined a fixture to hold the two rails in perfect alignment while I soldered them together with a resistance soldering tool, a far superior way then conventional soldering and this process not only proved to be too time consuming but also made lengths of track a night mare to handle. in short a very impractical way to do things with no clear reason why one would go through all that work that actually succeeded in taking away the one element that prevents track from kinking it's ability to slide through the ties for expansion and contraction. when the prototype actually uses a form of rail joiner, although it be a welded joint, so why not modeling.

As far as rail joiners eventually failing by the stress put on them by a curve, I find that claim totally without any merit and what so ever. It's a given that joints should never be placed on a curve if at all possible and no two joints should be directly across from each other. By staggering the joints you have virtually cut the "weak point" in half and if your track is properly glued down the the roadbed surface it is not going to move. The rails are held in place by the clips on simulated tie plates which seem to be pretty well designed as I have never had one fail  nor do I know of anyone who has under the circumstances you've mentioned. but hey if it works for you keep doing it but as a general rule it's my O/P that it's not a sound way to lay track.

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
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Posted by fwright on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 11:27 PM

Allegheny2-6-6-6

....By staggering the joints you have virtually cut the "weak point" in half and if your track is properly glued down the the roadbed surface it is not going to move....

 

Exactly my point.  Nobody depends solely on rail joiners to hold their rail ends in alignment on a curve for very long - because in and and of themselves, they won't.  Gluing or spiking the track, combined with the tie plates (or spikes or glue or solder) holding the rail to the ties, is what locates and fixes the track and rail ends in place.

Model rail joiners do serve 3 useful purposes: 

1) rail joiners are a quick and easy way to initially align the rail ends and conduct power. 

2) rail joiners provide an excellent base to solder two pieces of rail together in correct alignment.  I agree that butt soldering rails without rail joiners does not provide a strong joint.

3) For those who believe in using rail joiners, they provide a secondary backup (however failure-prone) to the primary track mounting system for maintaining rail end alignment.  Perhaps this provides some piece of mind. Smile

Decorative prototype-style joint bars are available to add to track and improve it's appearance at the cost of some tedium in installation.

Read selector's post, and realize that most of us already do without rail joiners in certain situations.  Obviously rail joiners are not critical to good, well-aligned track.

my thoughts, your choices

Fred W

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Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 9:20 AM

 Fred,

 I think only a I don't want to use the word (fool) so as not to offend anyone so we'll say misguided individual would only rely on rail joiners. Even with track such as Micro Engineering that holds it's shape when bent into the desired curve to hold the track in place. I know some feel spiking it all that is needed to keep track in place I personally am not one of them. I now use Latex adhesive caulk to hold my track in place and for strictly aesthetic reasons I do not spike the ties even temporarily but rather use long push pins to hold the track in place until the adhesive sets up.  The DAP brand caulk  sets up in 3 minutes.

For years I always soldered both sides of the rail joiners and soldered both sides. After having conversation with Tony K. regarding his methods of laying track which he contributed to Realistic, Reliable Track and now solder only one side of the joiner, allowing for expansion and contraction. What some of us fail to realize is that it's the rail that needs to move and not the ties of course. So if we solder everything how is it going to move?

The only place on my layout that I have no rail joiners is on my lift out bridge(s) to assure the rails stay in alignment I solder PC board ties to the end of the rails on both the bridge and the opposing tracks ties. I tend to over build the lift out bridges so I am not concerned with warping or gaps etc.

 A good healthy exchange of points of view are always welcome

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?

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