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Soldering flex track to switches

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  • Member since
    May, 2019
  • From: Pacific Northwest
  • 49 posts
Soldering flex track to switches
Posted by corsiar on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 8:37 PM

I want to be able to reuse all of my switches and as much track as possible in the future when the time comes to tear the layout apart. Was going to solder all joints except between blocks but that would make salvage a little more difficult. Would non soldered rail joiners be good enough at switches or is it just asking for trouble?

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Posted by Srwill2 on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 9:32 PM

I don’t solder rail joiners, I do use a lot of feeders though. 

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Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 9:59 PM

Every joint on my small layout is soldered, any changes means I just "unsolder" a joint.  Hasn't been a problem.

You can also use a rotary tool like a Dremel to cut the joiner, "unsolder" whats left, and make what changes you want, and solder it back together.

This winter, I'll be doing some major unsolder and soldering, as I replace many unfriendly turnouts in my yard areas.

Mike.

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Posted by wvg_ca on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 10:34 PM

i soldered all joints except switches .... seems good so far ..joiners on all ..

a feeder every 3-4 feet or so ...

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Posted by peahrens on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 11:03 PM

I soldered joiners except those at turnouts.  I put feeders every 6' or less (voltage loss in rails limited to 3'), plus to each turnout rail so as not to rely on unsoldered joiner.  With DCC sound, I wanted a robust approach.

Some folks use joiners that have a feeder wire, which can also be incorporated.

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by hon30critter on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 11:19 PM

You don't need to solder any track sections together at all in order to maintain electrical continuity. You simply have to drop feeders from every piece of track including the turnouts.

What you might want to do with your turnouts is install jumpers between the stock rails and the closure rails, and between the point rails and the closure rails. It sounds complicated but it really isn't. If you do that, you only need to drop two feeders (three if the frog is to be powered) from the turnout.

Here is some good advice on how to wire your turnouts:

http://wiringfordcc.com/switches.htm

Note that you may want to solder certain track sections together to help maintain proper track alignment, but that has nothing to do with electrical continuity.

Dave

 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 6:39 AM

I don't solder my turnouts. Not because I plan to reuse them, but they might need to be replaced at some point.

.

I am also a bug fan of dropping as many feeders as you can.

.

-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 doctorwayne on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 7:22 AM

I solder all rail joints, including turnouts, and, as a result, this is all that's needed in the way of feeders...

Unsoldering rail joiners is as easy as soldering them - just heat until the solder melts, then use the tip of an X-Acto blade to push the joiner onto the rail on either side of the joint.  I've moved turnouts to revise track layout and removed turnouts where they were no longer needed, then re-used them elsewhere.

Wayne

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 8:23 AM

 I never soldered my turnouts on the last two layouts - however all three legs (using Atlas turnouts) had joiners with feeders. Even after painting the rails, I never had an issue with anythign stallign or even blinking headlights over turnouts. ANd I really swabbed the paint in and around the joiners, to keep any bright shiny metal from showing.

                                       --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 9:25 AM

I find it easier to solder all rail joints than to install a bunch of feeders.  On my previous layout, I installed feeders every 10 feet or so is all that is needed, and that's probably overkill for purely signal carry.  (I gap the mainline to allow for any expansion of subroadbed so I do need to install feeders for every section).

I used to solder feeders to all three sides of turnouts, but I won't do that when I build my next layout here shortly, and will instead solder the turnout joints. (possibly adding a feeder to the stub ended spurs)

If you have to remove a turnout later, you can simply melt the solder and slide the rail joiners onto the adjacent tracks and lift the turnout straight up to avoid possibly bending it.  It can be reinstalled by performing the steps in revers.  Leave enough space on the adjacent tracks (removing one extra tie) to be able to slide the joiner completely off of the turnout.   I've used neednosed pliers to slide the joiners.

- Douglas

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 9:51 AM

 I also solder every joint. To remove ;with motor tool and disc, cut thru joint between rail ends. Note, this is one time you need eye protection. With hot iron tip just flick the half joiner off. Some may need to be cleaned up a little. But most times just slip on new joiner and go again.

 This is my 4th layou useing the same track and turnouts.

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Posted by York1 on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 9:55 AM

I have only one year's experience with this.

When I began laying N Scale Atlas flex track, I noticed that on curves, the connections did not look good.  They were not a smooth rounded curve.

That's when I began soldering every connection.  I did overkill and still have feeder wires every few few feet.

If and when I ever start a different layout, I will still solder the joints, but use far fewer feeder wires.

Saints Fan John

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 12:26 PM

Srwill2

I don’t solder rail joiners, I do use a lot of feeders though. 

This ^

And because I did that and hadn't ballasted the track yet, it was a simple job to recover all track for re-use.

 

York1

When I began laying N Scale Atlas flex track, I noticed that on curves, the connections did not look good.  They were not a smooth rounded curve.

That's when I began soldering every connection.  I did overkill and still have feeder wires every few few feet. 

 

It partly depends on how tight your rail joiners are.  If they are tight, they should hold the flex track in a smooth flowing curve.  I started out soldering my curves to keep them smooth flowing, but found that a good tight railjoint would hold the curve smooth.

Even if it didn't, you could use some spikes to hold things in line, and still avoid soldering the curves.

Worst case scenario, if you can solder just the curved parts and leave the rest unsoldered and have plenty of feeds to make sure there are no dead spots.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by doctorwayne on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 12:43 PM

riogrande5761

Srwill2

I don’t solder rail joiners, I do use a lot of feeders though. 

This ^

And because I did that and hadn't ballasted the track yet, it was a simple job to recover all track for re-use.

 
It's pretty much the same for rail that's been soldered together, and for track that's been ballasted, although, of course, a little more work is involved.   I've moved and/or removed ballasted track and turnouts, and then used them elsewhere on the layout.  I know where this was done, but would have to look very closely for the rail joints to identify the precise spots.

If you used flex track, it's not always necessary to separate it back into 3' lengths, especially if you're planning on re-using it and have a track plan with which to work.  In some cases, turnouts could be left attached to the flex track, too.
 
If you're planning on selling the track and turnouts, though, it's probably best to offer them as individual items.
 
Wayne
 
 
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Posted by Pruitt on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 1:29 PM

I generally only solder rail joints on curv es, to avoid kinks. I've never had conduction issues between unsoldered rail joints, but I take extra care to clean rail ends and make sure I never reuse a rail joiner anywhere else. I even discard loose joiners right out of the pack.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 1:39 PM

doctorwayne
If you used flex track, it's not always necessary to separate it back into 3' lengths, especially if you're planning on re-using it and have a track plan with which to work.  In some cases, turnouts could be left attached to the flex track, too.   If you're planning on selling the track and turnouts, though, it's probably best to offer them as individual items.   Wayne

If you are moving house, it sure helps to separate track to individual pieces.  I was able to stack all of my flex track in bundles and box it in a long narrow box for moving.  Really 3 feet is about as long as I prefer to handle and to move.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by Mister Mikado on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 6:16 PM

If one uses those Atlas joiners with the feeder leads coming off them connected to the 14 gauge bus, is it ok to depend on those joiner connections?  (DC operation)

Also what is the footage rule of thumb for bus connections?  -Thanks, Rob

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Posted by BATMAN on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 7:15 PM

The rule I like to follow is everything should be soldered to something. Either a feeder or the next piece of track or both. I don't solder to turnouts.

As far as dismantling a layout, if the joiners are soldered I just snip them out, it makes for quick work. Sure your flex is 3/8 of an inch shorter next time you use it but I can handle that.Laugh

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 7:16 PM

 I wouldn;t use the Atlas terminal joiners - they are way overpriced. You can buy a pack of regualr joiners and solder wires on yourself for a fraction of the cost. And since you do such soldering at the workbench, there's no danger of melting ties or anything, just prepare as many as you need and then start laying track. I've done two layouts this way, never had a problem, and the rails got painted on both of them, so the idea of paint getting in the joint and insulating it and cutting off my power - it just didn't happen.

 Granted I went for overkill - EVERY rail joiner had a feeder wire, except of course insulated ones where I wanted a break in the power. But because I despise suitcase connectors and soldered the feeders to the bus, there was no real extra cost for having lots of feeders. And it turned out about as bulletproof as you can get, no problems with power dropouts, no blinking headlights, and I pretty much never cleaned the track after cleaning up from painting it. 

                                 --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by wp8thsub on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 8:08 PM

I solder nearly all my rail joints, especially around turnouts to maintain alignment.  I have plenty of turnouts that have been recycled through several layouts too.

When I remove track, I will typically cut the rail away from the turnout, sacrificing a short piece of the adjacent flex tack in the process.  If several turnouts are soldered together, I'll pull them all up in a group. Once a turnout has been salvaged, I'll heat each joiner and pull it off with pliers.  Good to go for the next layout.  

Rob Spangler

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, August 22, 2019 6:43 AM

rrinker
 I wouldn;t use the Atlas terminal joiners - they are way overpriced.

.

I also had problems with thr solder joints on Atlas terminal joiners coming loose and causing operational problems.

.

Granted, this was on my first N scale layout built in 1982-1985, and they probably improved since then. However, I have found better solutions since then like the one Randy suggested.

.

-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 snjroy on Thursday, August 22, 2019 12:06 PM

I also solder all the joints, except for a few gaps I left to compensate for any expansion due to weather variations. I can control the humidity fairly well, but we don't have air conditioning - yet. 

Simon 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, August 23, 2019 10:59 AM

I used to solder all joints but had expansion/contraction issues causing the joints to break apart or rail to kink.  Granted that was in a garage that experienced humidity and temperature extremes, but as insurance, I like to keep soldering to a minimum now and provide plenty of drops and let the rail breath a bit.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, August 23, 2019 11:07 AM

I have always soldered all rail joints, going all the way back to what my father taught me at age 12 or so with TruScale wood roadbed track.

If I set out building a model railroad concerned about the future salvage of materials, I think I would simply not build it in the first place, but that's me.....

I just disassembled a layout and am planning my new one at a new home. I saved a lot of stuff, but what was not easily saved, I did not even give a second thought to.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by Doughless on Friday, August 23, 2019 12:01 PM

As far as the issue of expansion joints to accomodate humidity changes affecting the subroadbed, I have and will use unsoldered railjoiners with a 1/16th or so inch gap every 12 linear feet.  Solder all track, flex and turnouts, within that 12 ft section but use the unsoldered railjoiners as simple track holders and not for electrical conductivity.  Each 12ft seciton has its own feeder so the unsoldered joints have power coming from both ends.  So most all joints will be soldered except for maybe 3 or 4 joints in my single garage sized layout.

4 or 5 feeders for the mainline and undecided yet as to feeders for each stub spur.

- Douglas

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, August 24, 2019 1:46 PM

It may help to solder flex track joints, because springy flex track like Atlas might kink if the curvature is tight enough.  I like to first solder the flex track loose, so I can solder the joint straight, avoiding kinks and ensuring a nice, tangential transition into the curve.  Then I bend the track to shape and fasten it down.

I also make my own wired rail joiners, using 22 or 24 gauge wire colored red or black to match the bus wires below the layout.  It's much easier to match up that way.

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

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