Soldering rail joiners

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Dashdriver, Jan 5, 2007.

  1. Dashdriver

    Dashdriver Member

    Anyone have close up pics of where they soldered their rail joiners and if feeder wires were soldered there as well? I really don't have much experience soldering and I learn very well by seeing pictures along with reading explainations of how to solder rail joiners along with feeder wires so they don't show. Thanks! :oops:
  2. JR&Son

    JR&Son Member

    I dont know if this helps but
    I always solder a fairly small wire gauge to the bottom of the joiner.
    Punch through to the bottom of the layout and then wire from there with a larger gauge.
    Typically 22 gauge from the track to the underside then at least 16 gauge to the power supply.
    I tend to tap into the rails every 6 to 8 feet though
    So im not that penalized by a very short run of small gauge.
    The smaller wire "hides" much better.

    The only other advise I have is a fairly high wattage iron,
    Small tip used VERY quickly.
    I wrap my rails with a wet paper towel, so that once Im done I can fold it over,
    Or slid it down the rails to cool them off befor the plastic melts.

  3. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Member

    Check out this thread.

    Like Ron, I solder a 20 or 22 gauge feeder wire to the underside of a rail joiner. You can also buy them ready made but at $2.00 each I make my own. Drill a hole through your roadbed and benchwork for the wire to fit through when you install the joiner. You may need to scrape away a little roadbed to make sure th ejoiner lies flat. Place alligator clips on either side as heat sinks and then apply your soldering iron (I use a flat tip) while pressing down. You'll get the hang after one or two.

    Good Luck!
  4. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    REAL easy. Just follow these steps:

    1 - clean the surfaces to be soldered, make sure they are nice and dry.

    2 - Put a small dab of rosin flux on the surfaces to be soldered.

    3 - Melt a tiny BB-sized amount of solder on the tip of the soldering iron.

    4 - Tin the joiner by touching the melted solder to the fluxed surface. The small amount of solder should spread right onto it because of the flux.

    5 - Tin the wire end to be soldered the same way. Flux it and flow a bit of solder onto it.

    6 - Hold the tinned wire end to the tinned bottom surface of the joiner, touch the soldering iron there, and the solder on the tinned surfaces will flow together. Voila, solder complete.

    VERY easy to do. :thumb:
  5. Dashdriver

    Dashdriver Member

    Not sure what "tin the wire" and tin the joiner" means.........:oops: :oops: :oops:
  6. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Member

    To "tin" something is to apply a thin coat of solder to it prior to soldering it to something. Kinda like putting contact cement on the pieces first and then sticking them together.
  7. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Tinning something means covering a surface with a thin film of solder.

    The steps I listed above describes how to tin the surfaces. Put a little flux on the surface to be soldered so the solder will flow onto it. Then, melt a BB-sized bit of solder onto the soldering iron tip, and touch it to the fluxed surface. Voila, the surface is tinned and ready to be soldered to something else.

    EDIT: Whoops, beat me to it. :D
  8. Dashdriver

    Dashdriver Member

    AHHHHHHH, ok. Pardon my ignorance :thumb:
  9. Dashdriver

    Dashdriver Member

    So I see some guys speak of using heat sinks to avoid melting plastic ties....what does this mean?
  10. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Member

    It means to provide some means of draining the excess heat from the rail away before it melts the ties. Typically this is best accomplished by providing a large mass of metal that can easily absorb the heat. SOme people use wet rags. See the alligator clips in my pic from the thread I referenced above.
  11. Dashdriver

    Dashdriver Member

    Oh ok , thanks Doc. Thats what I was figuring.
  12. Dashdriver

    Dashdriver Member

    You guys recommend a cold heat iron and what wattage works best?
  13. hooknlad

    hooknlad Member

    Hello Dash - As far as my experience with the COLD HEAT iron, its garbage. The tip does in fact get hot and the tip does not last very long - it broke on me after only a few solder joints ( not on rails) .. I like using a portable butane iron personally, but that would be reserved for experienced solderers, they could be dangerous, multitasking a must..
    A 25 watt pencil iron works well too. The key, Clean, Clean, Clean the items to be joined.

    My $ 0.02 .
  14. Dashdriver

    Dashdriver Member

    Thanks hook, helps alot. What do you recommend cleaning the surface to be soldered with?
  15. Thoroughbreed

    Thoroughbreed Member

    clean the surfaces with a lil sandpaper or a file, so you break thru any protective coating or build up.:thumb:
  16. hooknlad

    hooknlad Member

    I usually use a Q-tip with some alcohol on it or a simple pink pencil eraser . Just blow the joint to be done first to rid the area of rubber of any wet alcohol.. Heat sink the area by using tha alligator clips as mentioned in an earlier post, this will control any excessive heat from melting your ties....
    Take a scrap section of track that you have laying around, cut it a few times into several pieces, file the edges square, use the track clip connectors, and practice a few times on the scraps. Practice makes perfect.. If your Layout is huge, you will be able to get your frustrations out on your scrap pieces, rather than your entire layout. If you are a novice or a pro at soldering, this undertaking will be a very good learning experience, and time consuming..... If you find that your joints aren't working to your expectations on your sample pieces, you wont get upset. Use only a little solder - a little goes a long way.
    A " cold" solder joint, meaning that you have not fully heated and cleaned your joint and will result in a very poor electrical connection and possible a dead spot on your layout. You will know a "cold" solder joint when the solder cools and appears whitish instead of a silvery splice.. You may want to invest in a desoldering bulb as well, Merely a small turkey baster designed to suck solder off of the joint.
    Soldering is a practice within itself, which if done right, will result in a great feeling of satisfaction.
    Also, please don't inhale the smoke...

    I hope this helps -this is only the tip of the soldering area.. Research the other posts on The Gauge for other opinions on this subject to get an objective view for yourself.
  17. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    I soldered my joints, and I am not terribly pleased with the looks. They are sort of ugly. unsoldered rail joiners are terrible conductors of electricity, so dropping a 24 gauge feeder to every rail off of an 18 guage bus is the way to go, for smaller layouts. Larger layouts will need 14 or 12 guage busses. I find that using a low wattage soldering iron melts fewer ties. I use a 15 watt with 24 guage wire, and just touching the iron and solder for a second makes a nice, small joint. I solder to the outside of the rail, you could try soldering to the bottom, or even the inside if you want to really hide the joint.
  18. CAS

    CAS Member

    Will this prevent me from melting the ties?

    I tried soldering my feeder wires last night, melted like 5 ties in a row. Then got a peice of older track tried on there. First thing, was to burn my finger nail :cry: , then to melt some more ties.:curse:

  19. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Member

    Using alligator clips or another type of hat sinks will help keep ties from melting. but won't prevent them outright. You also need a soldering iron powerful enough to get the rail hot real quick like and then you're done. In my experience, to little heat leads to melted ties.
    Using rosin core solder or liquid flux also helps joints to solder faster and require less heat.
  20. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I use a track gauge as my first heat sink. This keeps the rails in gauge as the melted ties solidify again. The I put on some large bits of iron or brass. Remember that once the heat gets that far away from your joint, it isn't doing any more good.
    My first feeder solding was horrible. I took an inch of wire, spiked it to the side of the rail, in the groove, and then soldered it up solid. usually with a bit of flux still showing. And then a lot of the joints could be taken apart by pulling, if the spikes weren't soldered into the mess.

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