How often should you apply power to the track?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by gregbva123, Mar 19, 2003.

  1. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    How often or how long should you apply a power feed wire to the HO Code 83 track? (Every 5 feet or 10 feet).

    And how long between the main line spacers? Some of my spacers are about 8 to 10 feet apart, from spacer to spacer.

  2. Lighthorseman

    Lighthorseman Active Member

    Powering track...

    I'm not sure what the answer is for sectional track, but I solder power leads to my flextrack at a rate of one power lead per 3 foot length of flextrack.:)
  3. billk

    billk Active Member

    I agree with Steve - the philosphy being to have rail joiners do only the task of providing mechanical alignment, not to provide a reliable electrical path.
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I agree with both of the above. If you relie on rail joiners to provide power, you will eventually get bad connections.
  5. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I'm feeling a little smart a** right now, and just can't resist....
    "How often should you apply power to the track???"
    Every time you want to run trains, of course!!:D :D :D :D

    OK. Wire has resistance. Nickle silver rail has resistance. Plug/receptacle connections have resistance (this includes rails joined by rail joiners). Resistance limits current flow, for a given applied voltage. DC motors are current driven devices. SO, anything that limits current to the motor, causes the motor to run slower.
    In a 4' X8' layout, one point of attachment for power is no problem!
    In a 160' X 70' layout, multilpe power sources, and multiple connections of each are required.
    For the average sized, basement layout, power should be routed on bus wires, 14 gauge zip wire (lamp cord, definitely stranded) would probably work well, with feeders, 20 gauge, stranded,or solid, soldered to bus and rail every five feet, with all the rail joiners soldered.
    Where isolated blocks are used, one feeder for each 5' of track, ie. in a block 14' long, put one feeder at the center of the block, and one at each end 5' from the center one.
    Why stranded wire for the bus??? Current flows on the outter surface of the wire, resistance is determined by the cross sectional area of the wire, stranded wire has more "surface", for its"cross sectional area", therefore less resistance.
  6. Interesting.. as someone about to lay rail next month on a 4x8, this post struck a chord, and I see some varying opinions?

    We're using about 15-20 pieces of flex code 83 and was only planning on 3-4 power points. I was going to use the atlas wire rail joiners as power leeds since I don't know how to sodder very well.

    Doesn't using a pair of needle nose pliers and "crimping" or tightening rail joiners ensure electrical continuity? 1 electrical per piece of flex seems excessive! Yet, 1 for an entire 4x8 table seems a bit modest.

    More opinions/logic/arguements from the experts pls!
  7. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Any purely mechanical connection, even crimped, can fail in time. Note I said can, not will. I myself solder a drop from every piece of rail, or to every other joiner, but in that case I solder the joiner to both rails. This leaves every other joiner not soldered for expansion. Advise to install drops every 6' in effect is advise to do as I just mentioned. For a railroad you expect to be "permanent" I would strongly suggest you do this. Now I have to admit there is about 200' of "temporary" track on my layout, track which I planned to replace right from the time I laid it. Why? I wanted to get in operation right away, so I laid the main with Atlas code 100. Sections would be replaced with handlaid in a way that allowed continued operation. After the second level was completed. I'm talking perhaps 7 or 8 years worth of temporary. Since it's temporary, I did not install drops. I mean none. Well, one of course. I had to add another(I did have my buss in place) after a year. Three years later I have added one more. So, my point is if you figure you're going to rebuild in a few years you can probobly get by with just a few drops, dictated by your blocks (my main is all one block, I use DCC). If you encounter problems, add more drops.
    BTW, when you use the joiners with the wires soldered to them and do not solder the joiner to the rails, at some point in time the electrical connection will cause a problem, and at that point simply soldering the rails to the joiner may not work real well due to oxidation and dirt, and glue if ballasted. Have fun cleaning it without removing it. I suggest you learn to solder, I don't care for it either but I do it.

    Good luck, Gary
  8. This may seem like a stupid question, but if you're soldering your rails together, why use rail joiners at all? Do people who use hand-layed track use rail joiners?

    We're planning on using DCC too, but wanted to have more then one power point just for, like you said, degredation of signal/current from a single source. Calling 10 year old track "temporary" *grin* struck me as pretty funny : )
  9. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member

    Soldering rails together with rail-joiners makes it much easier. Ever try to solder two rails together without a joiner?

    Learning to solder is essential to model railroading and it is not difficult. Just practice a little.

    All joints should not be soldered. Rails need gaps for expansion. The main thing is to drop enough feeders so that all the rail has good power. Sections can be connected electrically with short jumpers across the joints.

    I've never hand-laid track but I expect that they do not use joiners but plenty of spikes. And I think some actually use connectors similar to the prototype at every joint (or simulated joint). :)
  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you go into a welding supply store, you can find tins of heat sink putty. I'm not sure of the brand names, but most counter people at welding supply stores are knowledgeable about the products they sell. If you remove the last two or three ties from each end of your flex track where you are going to solder joiners, and two or three ties from where you intend to solder drops, then put a lump of heat sink putty on either side of where you intend to solder, you won't melt plastic ties. I stained a bunch of wood ties with Min Wax teak, and they came out a good match for plastic ties on flextrack. When i finish soldering, I slip the wooden ties under the track where I've removed the plastic ties.
    I know the "old pros" on the board can solder without melting plastic ties, but anyone who hasn't had much experience soldering should try the "heat sink" material. This putty is designed to control heat to protect adjacent parts from heat when welding, so it will definately help when soldering. The other thing to remember is use flux with your solder. For flux I think one of the neatest products out there now is the water soluable flux for plumbing. Sears carries it in their tool dept. with soldering tools and torches. It is easy to clean up with water, so you don't have to worry about leaving an acid residue.
  11. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Discaimer: I try never to say something can't be done, because someone with superior skills will show me it can. With that out of the way, I think that even with perfectly squared rail ends soldering two pieces of rail together without a rail joiner will not yield a strong enough joint to gurantee a good bond when that joint is located in the middle of a curve. Soldering isn't welding afterall. For my handlaid track, I drill a clearance hole for 20 or 22 gauge wire in the bottom of each piece of rail, solder the wire in then feed it thru a hole drilled in the roadbed, then spike. I do not use rail joiners on straight track but I do on curves. None of these are soldered. With flex track I like to solder the feed to a joiner then solder the rails to it, every other joint. As stated by Russ, you run the risk of melting some ties as you learn to solder. If so, simply remove them and replace with either wood ties or plastic ones saved from other pieces. Use a chisel blade in an exacto knife to remove the spike detail from a plastic tie and just slip it under the rails, glue in place. None of the plastic ties on any brand of track look correct to me without painting, so matching wood ties to plastic ones presents no problem, I paint them all anyway.

  12. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    For those who would like to retain most of the plastic ties at flextrack joints, just cut through the 'webs' from below, for 3 or 4 ties, and slide them back in a bunch...then solder using a heatsink if you like.
    When the joint cools, you can slide the ties back to their original spots, and may need only one or two filler ties, under the joiner itself.
    Don't be shy about cutting the joiners down in length, to 1/2 to 2/3 of their original length either. :eek:
    regards / Mike:)

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