Atlas Code 83 Flex Track Questions

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Gary S., Jan 14, 2006.

  1. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Was playing with some Atlas flex track last night, practicing soldering. This is new nickel silver stuff.

    1. What kind of preparation should be done to the rail before soldering? On some of my practice joints, I filed the side and the bottom just a touch, on other practice joints, I didn't do any prep of the metal. Both held equally well as far as I could tell.

    2. When making curves, which side of the flex track should be on the inside of the curve? One of the rails is pretty well attached to the ties, the other side is relatively free to slide along the ties. The side that slides freely also doesn't have as many plastic connections between ties as the other side does. I am assuming that the side that slides freely would be the inside of the curve? Or does it matter?
  2. caellis

    caellis Member


    1. As long as the rail you are trying to solder is CLEAN there is nothing you have to do prior to soldering. By 'clean' I mean not tarnished, no paint, etc. If it is new it will probably be ready for soldering. But touching-up the ends of the rail with a file does make it easier to slide the jointers on.

    2. The sliding rail should be on the inside of the curve. This makes it easier to cut as you only cut the excess rail off of the inside rail. If you placed the sliding rail on the outside there would be ties with no rail on the outside of the curve. This would require you to cut both rails or do some fancy rail replacement on the outside of the curve. However you would end up with staggard rail joints. But most everyone I know places the sliding rail on the inside of the curve.
  3. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Thank you kindly! I have the book "Basic Track Laying" but it doesn't go into a whole lot of depth.... tells you "what" to do but not so much "how" to do it.

    There is a certain amount of fear and trepidation when trying to do new things. Getting answers to questions here at The Gauge certainly helps to calm the fears.

    I am also finding that it is good to just experiment, and don't worry about breaking something or messing something up. I pretty much mutilated a piece of flex track last night, cutting it, filing it, cutting out ties, soldering, bending, just to figure out how the stuff reacts, and learning the techniques of working with it.

    Now, 3 more questions (I will be using DCC control):

    1. Track bus wiring and feeders: Let's say I am going to attach feeder wires up to every piece of flex track. Should the feeders be soldered to the bottom of the rail in the middle of each length of flex track, or would the feeders be soldered onto the rail joiners? I'm thinking it doesn't really matter, and that it might be easier to keep them seperate from the joints.

    2. Would each turn-out also need a feeder soldered to it? Or just solder the rail joiner and let the flex track feed the turn-out? These would be insulated frog turn-outs.

    3. Are there any concerns of short circuits with common scenery materials such as ground foam, ballast, and glue? I assume these items are non-conductive. Will it be necessary to re-insulate the feeder wires up to the point where they join the track? Or would it be okay to have a bit of uninsulated wire going down through the cork and pink foam?
  4. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    To try to answer parts of both of your posts:

    Regarding soldering. I just finish soldering a bunch of connections and attaching wires to the rails. A clean joint is necessary, but one thing I do is to use a touch of liquid flux on the joint to get a better connection and to allow the solder to flow easier. I "tinned" pre-soldered) both the ends of the wires and the rails. Use rosin or water-soluable flux made for electronics, not plumber's or acid flux. If you solder your wires under the joiner, you will have difficulty putting ties underneath the joint. I soldered the wires to the outside of the rails, either at a railjoiner or in the middle of a run of flex track. If you solder right, the wire will kinda lay inside and when you weather and balast the track it should disappear.

    You need at least one set of feeders between each insulated joiner. If you are not working with blocks, then you should still run feeders around every 18 inches or so.

    Most common scenery won't be conductive and won't cause shorts. You could run unisulated wire down through foam, but I would rather use insulated just to avoid any passiblility of a short. I had a reel of jacketed two-conductor security wire, and only drilled one hole for each feeder. I ran one wire under the tracks rather than running one wire on each side. The balast should hide the wire. Where I came up at a joiner, I made sure the wire was where I could still add in the missing ties.

    Hope this answers some of your questions.
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Gary: I avoid soldering feeders to turnouts unless totally unavoidable; they're expensive. I don't have quite the hangup about rail joiners carrying current that some others have -- I go several sections without a feeder sometimes.
    Sometimes you have to solder to a turnout -- a station throat with a lot of switches packed together. Also if you are using a switched frog; Peco now make a little feeder that's already attached. If you have to, solder to the side of the frog you can't see (it's awkward, but better appearing). (Just checked: you're not using metal frogs.)
  6. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Thanks for the answers. I can't wait until the benchwork is finished so I can lay some track!

    If anyone has any other comments or suggestions, I'd love to hear them.
  7. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    A couple thoughts: When I use flex track I don't care which side I put the sliding rail on, I just make sure it is on the same side as the previous piece. I do not trim the rail ends as mentioned above. Here is what I do on curves, I leave the last 6 inches or so of the flex track unfastened, noting which tie the sliding rail ends at when held in its final position. I then carve off the "spike detail" which holds the rail in gauge on a couple ties which will be where the rail joiner will go. Then I slide the next piece of flex tracks sliding rail thru the spikes of the ties on the previous piece. This while the last 6 inches are straight. Put the joiner in place and solder both rails to it, and continue. Actually much simpler to do than explain! This staggers rail joints, a good thing, and by soldering while pretty much straight, avoids a kink in the curve at the rail joiner.

    Regarding soldering feeds, practice soldering them on the inside of the rail, just to the top of the base of the rail. You can flatten the wire first. Properly done, it will not interfere with the wheel flange. (At least in HO) The reason it is nice to be able to do this is that I like to always solder to the side away from the viewer. Another approach I use, which is probably a bit anal on my part, is to drill a hole to clear a 22 gauge wire in the bottom of the rail, and solder the feed in on my workbench. Then I drill a hole in the roadbed to push the feed thru to the bus beneath. This yields an invisable connection and it is easy to solder on the bench. I use my dremel in a drill press stand to drill the holes.

Share This Page