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Author Topic: soldering track joints  (Read 7357 times)

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« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2012, 11:14:38 PM »

In my previous post in this thread I mentioned how I solder every rail joint, no exceptions. 

Now during the 18 years I've had this layout I've changed the track configuration 4 times at about 3% change each time.  In doing so I've removed track turnouts (all 20-year old Model Power NS #4s) and have reused some of them 3 times.  So how do I do this without making the ends of the rails on the turnouts shorter and shorter?  Here's the fairly easy way I do it.

First, when removing turnouts that are soldered to their connecting tracks, I cut the rails with a Dremel Tool cut-off disc (and sometimes with a rail nipper – it depends) on the track (not on the rails of the turnout) right up against the end of the rail joiner that connects to the turnout rail.  When I finish cutting all six rails the turnout has all of its rail joiners still attached with about 1/4” of connecting rail in each joiner.

Here are the “tricks” I use to easily unsolder the joiners and their short pieces of rail from the turnout rails.   

First, I get a 20” long piece of clear packing tape that's about 2” wide, and stick one end to the other so it forms a loop – WITH THE STICKY PART ON THE OUTSIDE.  I then take this loop and stick it (left to right) on my work bench top in front of me. 

Second, I take the turnout and push it onto the tape (the tape will hold the turnout while I work on it; the tape functions as a “third hand”.) 

Third, I take a pair of hemostats (a medical tool that is basically a locking pair of pliers) with my left hand (I'm right-handed) and with the hemostat grab onto the left end of a rail joiner (with the 1/4” piece of rail still in it) and lock it (this way I don't have to worry about squeezing the hemostat, just pulling pressure.) 

Then Fourth with my right hand I take my trusty 100W 20+ year old Weller instant-heat soldering gun and heat the rail joiner and lower rail web ON ONE OR BOTH SIDES OF THE TURNOUT RAIL ONLY.  At the same time I'm gently pulling left (and twisting a little) with my left hand on the hemostat that's clamped on the rail joiner, and usually in about ten seconds the rail joiner slides/pops right out of the turnout rail.  No damage to the turnout.

Fifth, when one end of the turnout is done, pull the turnout off of the sticky tape, reverse the turnout, push it back down on the tape, and repeat the above steps on the new left end.

When finished I usually use the Dremel disc, on slow speed, to clean the end quarter inch or so of the turnout rails on their bottoms and in/on the rail web and base where the old solder was.  It will now be easy to put the next, new rail joiners on.

When finished with the tape it's easy just to pull it up and throw it away.

Hope this is helpful.



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« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2012, 12:02:19 AM »

Just a quick Desoldering trick here, if you wrap a piece of stripped stranded wire around the tip of your soldering pencil and hold it agaist the solder it will wick most of it away into the stranded wire.

CNE Runner

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« Reply #17 on: January 16, 2012, 11:38:40 AM »

Guys, these little tips are a Godsend. I have to remove a crossing smack dab in the middle of the Monks' Island yard. I am trepidatious about using a cutoff wheel ('something about a thin disk spinning a million miles/hour near my face). I will definitely try K487's procedure as well as NM's clever solder wicking trick. Once again valuable information is imparted via this forum.


PS: Regarding that comment about cut off wheels...I always wear face and eye protection when using power tools. I guess I'm kinda' attached to my mug and orbs as they compliment this 67-year old body.

"Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on the rail"

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« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2012, 04:19:25 PM »

Ray:  You're welcome.  And by the way, you're older than I am - by 3 years.

NM:  Thanks for your tip about drawing the solder away.  I learn a lot reading the 3 model railroad forums that I frequent.

As info my layout has been in an air conditioned enviroment for its whole life, albeit in three different houses (yup, I moved it twice.)  That helps a lot on keeping the layout under-structure stable (no expansion) but I do know that sometimes you just don't have choice where to put your railroad - most of my layouts in my 20s were............on the floor!

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