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Author Topic: soldering track joints  (Read 6612 times)
arthur0109

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« on: January 07, 2012, 03:03:17 PM »

i'm looking for opinions on soldering rail joints. at first glance it seems like a good idea for stability and permanence.

         thanks for the help
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cwmeeks

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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2012, 04:04:16 PM »

My limited experience, tells me that it would be great, IF your layout is never going to change! Mine tends to change at least weekly. Soldering is pretty permanent, un-soldering is NOT always an option and still have useable track left. Wink My uncle (SAM) taught me to solder many moons ago and I have been doing it every since, I have taken perfectly good track and rendered it useless! Sad

chuck
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Ken G Price


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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2012, 06:40:56 PM »

I used to solder all rail joints. Now i only do it if they absolutely need it.
Otherwise I will run feeder wires off of the power buss to sections that need to be powered.
That way there will be gaps for the track to expand in hot weather. Or to contract in colder weather.

I learned my lesson two years ago when I had track expand as much as 1/4" during a summer were the temperature in the train room go up to over 100 degrees.
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Ken G Price N-Scale out west. 1995-1996 or so! UP, SP, MoPac.
Pictures Of My Layout, http://s567.photobucket.com/albums/ss115/kengprice/
Jerrys HO
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2012, 07:54:31 PM »

I always wondered about soldering my rails until a friend of mine who is an electrical genius told me about a product called penetrox. It is an electrical paste that is highly conductive and prevents corrosion and oxidation. I put a little on the rail joiners and put them together and wipe off the excess. I used it when I was doing O scale with no problems and have had no problems using on EZ track.

Jerry
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K487

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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2012, 10:46:13 PM »

Arthur0109:

I'll add my 2 cents.

I've been model railroading for 45 years, the last 30 years in HO.  For electrical continuity, stability, and proper alignment at rail joints I solder EVERY joint, no exceptions (even little filler pieces of rail 1" long).  Every few years I manage to change about 3% of the layout, and I just cut out track sections with rail nippers or a cut-off disc on a Dremel motor tool, then solder the new track that I put in.

Soldering:  Be sure to use non-corrosive solder flux at all joints.  And if you use 3' sections of flex track like I do, when soldering curves use rail joiners and connect the two rails on each side, then before you solder them, temporarily at the joiners push the track in so the track is straight at the joiners, be sure the rails in each joiner are butting against each other, temporarily pin these down, solder both joints, let them cool, then release the pins.  The track will spring back to its curved position and the rail joints will look good - no kinks and the curve will look very nice.  Also be sure to use a small file to smooth the rail joints for smooth running trains.

K487
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NarrowMinded


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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2012, 11:25:17 PM »

I solder all my rail joints, never had a problem with any expansion/contraction.
 The amount of time NOT spent finding issues with rail connections is well worth any extra time soldering and or unsoldering.

I use a minimum 40watt iron/pencil to do all my soldering. I find quick HOT solder joints are better then slow solder joints which transfer more heat down the rail and may melt the plastic ties, I Also use alligator clips as heatsinks on each side of the joiner to help wick off the heat.

When desolding rails I simply apply pressure to one side of the joiner with the tip of the soldering pencil, as soon as the solder melts the rail joiner slides all the way onto the rail I intend to remove, and usually takes most of the solder with it leaving the rail I intend to keep nicely tinned for the next solder joint.

NM-Jeff
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Doneldon

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« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2012, 03:01:12 AM »

art-

As you have no doubt noticed, if you ask 20 model railroaders about soldering track you'll get at least 21 opinions. So I'll toss my system into the mix, just to add to the confusion..

I don't think that heat and cold affect model rails very much, at least for layouts in habitable parts of a home. That certainly doesn't include most garages, attics and some basements. More important is the effect of humidity changes on roadbed and subroadbed. Homasote, a popular model railroading material, reacts a good deal to humidity and wood swells and contracts, too. There are few layouts without at least the wood. (Plywood presents less of a problem than dimensional lumber.) Having the rails all in one ... well, two ... pieces is asking for kinks, separations and out of gauge tracks. So I think it's best if there are small gaps scattered throughout a layout. And those gaps don't have to amount to much. In my scheme, I have a feeder about every four to six feet (nine feet if I have three full pieces of flex track), with the sections soldered internally but connected only by rail joiners between soldered sections. This seems to provide enough movement for my railroad which is in a finished part of my basement.
                                                                                                        -- D
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jward


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« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2012, 08:22:30 AM »

like many orhers i have been in the hobby many years, and have been soldering rail joints almost as long. my experience has been in the rare instances where i had expansion problems with soldered track it was due to the use of homasote as roadbed. i never had expansion problems with any track i laid on plywood or white pine (my preferred subroadbed material.) i've had railroads subject to wide temperature and humidity variations without problems, except when homasote was used.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
NarrowMinded


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« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2012, 03:54:36 PM »

Just another 2 cents here...

Whether you solder or not, if your layout is expanding and contracting so much that it causes kinks in the rail or out of gauge track you would have track problems soldered or not, not to mention the cracks and other damage to scenery, But I suppose those are prototypical in if your in an earthquake prone area of the country.

NM-Jeff
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Desertdweller

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« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2012, 05:35:19 PM »

I don't always follow my own advice.  But generally, I favor soldering track joints IF you are sure you want the configuration.

The advice given on how to unsolder joints is good.  Also, remember to use a minimum of solder.

The best way is to use a very hot iron, to minimize the amount of time heat has to be applied.  Remember it is easy to melt plastic ties and roadbed.  Any metal device that can clip on the rail can act as a heat sink to drw heat away from plastic parts.  You might try using bobby pins, if these things have not gone extinct.

I would caution anyone not to solder the track switches in place.  These need to be left removable in case they need work sometime.

Les
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Doneldon

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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2012, 05:55:49 PM »

Opinion:  Some folks would solder the cherry onto an ice cream sundae if they could.

flory-

OK, smart guy, how do you keep the cherry from falling off???
                                                                                              -- D
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Steve Magee

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« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2012, 09:03:06 PM »

Opinion number 2,643. :-)

I solder on curves to maintain alignment (flex track), but do not solder on straights to allow expansion. However I do solder feeders from the track bus to each and every rail. And I hate soldering, too.

Steve Magee
Newcastle NSW Aust

PS - I thought everybody superglued the cherry to the sundae
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CNE Runner


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« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2012, 11:05:16 AM »

I rarely solder sections of track together (and definitely not turnouts). To provide reliable electrical conductivity, every section of track on the Monks' Island Railway has a power feed. My 'weapon' of choice for soldering is an induction soldering station - although I have been known to occasionally use a pencil-type soldering iron running off a variable outlet source. My last layout was in our garage, was connected the same as above, and never had a problem with expansion due to temperature or humidity...the sub roadbed was homasote and the benchwork was sealed, painted pine.

Ray
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"Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on the rail"
richg
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« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2012, 03:20:06 PM »

I hand laid HO scale track on Homasote and expansion problems that caused me to redo the layout. No way could I run any trains.
I live in Western Mass and many homes have a basement where people build a layout. The humidity change is enough to ruin a layout on Homasote unless you maintain heat and humidity at a constant level.
Some I know in my area buld right onto cork roadbed and plywood that is sealed with paint

Rich
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James in FL

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« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2012, 04:28:50 PM »

I have found that relying strictly on the rail joiners to maintain electrical continuity of the layout is not good practice.
If youíre building a permanent layout I would recommend the use of flex track wherever possible.
I like to solder 3 sections of flex together and solder my feeder in the middle of the center section.
If youíre using any of the plastic roadbed attached track types in a permanent layout, soldering rail may be the exception rather than the rule.
If it isnít broke it doesnít need fixed.

A foam base goes a long way to eliminate expansion/contraction issues as does sealed lumber.

Good luck

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