Joining rails

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by ezdays, Feb 19, 2003.

  1. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Again I did a search in the forum archives and could not find specific answers to my questions, so I am once again turning to you for some basic help.

    1. 1. When soldering rails together, do you still use rail joiners before soldering?

      2. What is the best way to join tracks that need to be insulated from one another?

      3. Is track expansion and contraction a problem in N scale?

      I plan on using flex track wherever I can. I also have good soldering equipment and have a lot of soldering experience so that's not a problem. It's just that I would think rail joiners would look non-prototypical, but on the other hand, butt joints are not the best way to solder two things together either.

      I am putting this in the N scale section because I can see where working with N scale track could be a little more difficult than HO.


  2. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Don the following is my way of doing things, you may or may not want to do things the same way.
    1: Yes, I use rail joiners when I don't need to isolate for electrical reasons. Once the track is painted and weathered the joiners shouldn't be very noticable at all (see picture).
    2: I use plastic rail joiners for isolating electrically. I don't use anything to affix them.
    3: If you have temperature swings of around 30 degrees or more (can also depend on what the humidity is at the same time), you can have expansion and contraction problems no matter what the scale is. Doesn't seem to be any worse or better in N-Scale from what I've seen.
    Hope this is of some help to you. Good luck and keep us posted! :)

    Attached Files:

  3. scoobyloven

    scoobyloven Member

    well as for me i always use rail joiners then solder them when it comes to flex track i solder it then lay it in to place where the track cerves it is a lot esier to do it then try to pice two flex tracks in the middle as for where i don't want power like on a sideing or yard i use one plastic rail joiner and run a differnt power line to that rail it is what is called a block.
  4. billk

    billk Active Member

    IMHO, problems due to temperature/humidity swings are as much if not more due to the contraction or expansion of the mounting surfaces and benchwork, especially if you don't have r-e-a-l long runs of continuous rails.

    I looked up the temperature coefficient (or whatever it's called - how much it expands with temperature change) of nickel-silver a while back and as I remember it was really small compared to wood. And changes in humidity shouldn't affect the rails at all.

    Having said that, I still would solder joints only on curves, and leave the rail joiners on straights and switches unsoldered. That's assuming that you run feeders to every appreciable length of flex, so you're not relying on the joiners alone to carry the juice.

    Insulating rail joiners are probably the easiest way to provide isolation. Another way, especially where you forgot to plan ahead, is to use a Dremel cutoff wheel or similar to cut the rail, and then maybe fill in the cut with a non-conductive material
  5. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    Thanks all for you usual prompt replies. I think I'm starting to catch on and I appreciate your patience with my questions.

    Humidity is rarely a problem here in Arizona, remember, "it's a dry heat".;)
    Temperature swings could be a problem if I were to leave a layout in a room that was not A/C'd. Our enclosed "Arizona Room" does not have A/C and probably can get well over 100 degrees in the summer since there is a lot of glass there. I guess I'm going to have to find another room to use during the summer:D.

    I have a lauan hollow-core door that should be stable, and I plan on using 2" of foam over that. Now I notice that some layouts add another plywood layer over the foam and some don't. Which way is better? I was thinking in terms of using hot melt glue for the roadbed and track. I also see in a discussion here that some do not glue or nail the tracks in place but just use the glue-hardened ballast to hold it in place. Uhh, far too many choices. It gives me a headach thinking about it.:rolleyes:

  6. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Hi Don, You are right...butt soldering rails is a poor way to join them Metal rail joiners will not detract from the appearance of the track. One the rail is weathered you won't even notice that they are there. Get some scrap track and practice on a few...the trick is to flow the solder into the joint not create a big old blob of solder on the joint.

    I don't like insulated rail me the are not mechanically strong enough. I prefer to cut gaps in the rail where insulation is needed with a thin blade razor saw. I usually spike three ties ahead of and behind such a joint to ensure that the track alignment is stable.
  7. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Hi Don!
    I cut "air-gaps" too when I was modeling in HO, but I prefer using plastic joiners in N scale...the gaps are a little too large in the smaller scale, IMO.
    I think by leaving a few of the joints on the straight sections unsoldered, you might alleviate any expansion problems.
    scooby makes a good point's real easy to get a kink in a rail joint that's on a curve. So go ahead & solder a couple of sections of flex together, & then lay your curve. This seems to work better for me anyway.
    In fact, if I'm laying track with an oval, or loop configuration, I always try to fit the curved elements in first, then I move to the turnouts, crossovers, etc., & then adjust everything to fit.

    btw...always use rail joiners...they ensure good alignment, which is critical to good operation.
  8. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Your suggestions make a lot of sense to me and probably have saved me untold hours of frustration and rework.

    Does anyone have any thoughts as to my question about gluing the roadbed and track to the foam? Or is it better to put a plywood layer on top of the foam first? it would seem to me to be easier to do scenery on the foam, but I've got a book that shows one layout with the plywood over the foam.

    Learnin', ever learnin'
  9. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    I don't use any roadbed for industrail, yard and branchline trackage. I glue the track directly to the foam. For mainline trackage I do use roadbed (AMI), again glued directly to the foam.
  10. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    I was looking at two layouts that both did the plywood on top of foam thing. I thought that had to be a lot more work jigsawing the plywood. One even went so far as to cut away the foam so they could bend the plywood to form an underpass. I don't mind doing what's proper, I just don't want to create unnecessary work for myself.

    Can i ask why you don't use use roadbed in industrial or branch lines?

    Thanks for your help.

  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I can't see putting plywood on top. Half the reason for all the roadbed stuff is to get away from the plywood, which amplifies noise and is impossible to put little nails into.
    I would avoid any tracklaying methods that use a permanent glue. At some point, one of your switches is going to go and you want to be able to replace it without carving out too much roadbed.
    One reason for using less roadbed on side tracks is that the real railroads of were cheap on sidings, where the loads and speeds would be less. (Of course, I don't have any roadbed at all. All my track is laid directly on Homasote.)
    One other way to make insulated gaps after the track is laid: Put a small piece of printed circuit board under the rail and solder it on securely. Then use your motor tool to cut the rail and the copper on the PCB. This is useful where you're cutting a gap on a curve.
    I think it was Mike R who observed that if the layout doesn't expand and contract, then your room will. :D
  12. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Hi Don!
    You raise a good point about the foam vs. plywood...
    One reason I started using foam for my sub-roadbed was that I could stay up late at night cutting pieces of foam, whereas the jigsaws, & other power tools had to stop when my kids went to bed! :)
    You'll get a lot of opinions on foam, & plywood, here & else where...about the only advice I can give you is...they're both good methods...Maybe try a little bit of both, to see what you like better!
    Also, when it comes to trackwork, you can't go wrong following Tyson's advice...he is IMHO the undisputed master of N scale trackwork!:cool:
  13. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Awwwww Charlie you are making me blush :eek: :eek: :eek: ! Keep it up! :D :D :D Don the reason I don't use roadbed anywhere except on the mainline is to highlight the difference between the mainline and the other trackage. It just looks more realistic to me. :)
  14. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Railroads cheap? I guess I have a lot to learn about railroads. Gee, like the government, I didn't think they could do any wrong.:p Oh yeah, my keepers tell me that I'm almost cured and I can be released as soon as I get that notion out of my head.:D

    That sounds logical though, I mean about the roadbed, not the government. Is this true for switching yards as well?

    I was watching a DIY series on building a layout and they recommended using hot-melt glue for roadbed and tracks. They said a track could be easily removed using a thin razor saw. Now if one sees it on TV, it should be true.... Opps, here comes my keepers again:rolleyes:

    I agree that the foam has got to be easier. The only reason I questioned about the added layer of plywood over the foam was seeing them do it that way in a Kalmbach book. I thought it was a lot of extra work. I think I'll listen to you guys instead.

    Ahh, my keepers are telling me I'm starting to make sense again.:D

  15. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Don I use a 50/50 mix Elmer's white glue and water to bond the track and ballast to the roadbed or foam. If you ever need to change things just spray it with warm water and let sit for a few minutes and it will come right up! :)
  16. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    Yeah, I read somewhere in a thread here where some people use the glued ballast to hold the track in place rather than gluing the track and the ballast. That probably was you that said that.

    It's unbelievable how much information is here, but it's time I stopped looking and time I started doing. So... tomorrow I start on my benchwork and foam. I still haven't put together a layout but I've gotten a lot of good ideas for more than one here on The Gauge, but I'm oging to try to keep my first one as simple as I can. I will keep you all posted on my progress and probably ask another million or so questions along the way.:rolleyes:

  17. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Sounds like you're ready for some big fun, Don!:cool:

    You're right, there is a lot of info here at The Gauge, but there's really no better way to learn than rolling up your sleeves, & gettin' to it!
    Heck, in a couple of weeks, or so, you'll probably be logging on here, & teaching the rest of us a few new tricks!

    Good luck!
    Looking forward to following your progress! :)
  18. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Uh, dream on Charlie. :eek:

    I'll do my best, but I know I'll have all those questions along the way. Hmm, anyone here need a winter vaction in Arizona?:D

    D:cool: N
  19. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Careful there Don....posin' that particular question to quite a few of us back east here this winter, is kinda like walkin' into a Weight Watchers' meeting, & askin', "Hey, anybody want this hot fudge sundae?!" :D :D :D

    Don't twist my arm, man...let's see...if I get on the plane now...what time's breakfast? :D :D :D
  20. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    If you come you gotta stay at least through one summer. that'll take care of any thoughts about coming back on a regular basis.:cool: Besides, by then we should have this layout finished and running like a railroad.:D

    I said before that living in the desert is different, and I still am planning on posting a few of my articles to prove it.

    Breakfast? Right after we finish the benchwork.;)


Share This Page