Too soft insulating track joiners

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by RailRon, Oct 25, 2004.

  1. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    In his beautiful thread Just some piccies Woodie mentioned a problem which is concerning me, too. One of his locos kept derailing in certain spots and after some discussion about that loco Woodie brought up this topic:

    I'm starting this new thread in the 'Technical Q&A' section, because I think it gets more attention here. :)

    I noted, that all the spots with insulating track joiners in a curve developped a notable kink in the rail after only about six months laying. So far I didn't have derailments, but I fear that it could get worse in time. This is PECO code 75 track with PECO plastic joiners, curve radius about 20" (50 cm). It looks like they are too weak to hold the rails really in line. :(
    The track isn't ballasted, because this is a underground staging yard. (Perhaps ballasting could have helped, but I dont want to do it, if possible.)

    Now my question: Has anybody else had this problem, and what did you do about it? Are there harder insulating joiners around, or is there a completely different solution?

  2. farmer ron

    farmer ron Member

    Ron, It appears as though you have already identifyed the problem, I agree that the plastic rail joiners do not have sufficient strength to hold the radius of the track.. I had that occur several years ago. Gluing,& ballasting and using the hardest joiners I could locate and even gluing them did not work. The solution that I found worked was not to have the insulated joiners in a curve, there was always a way to work it out so as not to have the insulated joiners on a curve. All my curves, I have some from 18" to 24", are all sodered. I place the insulated joiners about six inches back on either end of the curve. I soder all the joints of any curve and as mentioned and add a set of insulated joiners about six inches back on one end, or both if required, for an electrical block or even if it is for an expantion joint and use jumper wires. the other Ron..
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Unfortunately, plastic rail joiners are designed to keep rails apart, not to keep them in line.They were developed about the time that snap track came out and that was all pre-curved.
    There are two solutions. One is a lot of heavy spikes at the joint. The other is to put brass screws under the rail ends and solder the rails to them. You still need something to keep the rail ends apart.
  4. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    I have two large "balloon" track structures at either end of the layout (dog-bone) and hence, can't really place the insulated joiners on any straight portion of track because there isn't any!! What I have done, as a temp measure, is use very small nails (brads) hammered into the baseboard right beside the middle of the plastic joiner, then give a little "wack" to bend it inwards to straigthen the kink. I wanted the insualted joiners half way round the "balloon" bit, so as to have two blocks on that section. If it proves impossible to maintain it like that (with the kink and plastic joiner), then I'll just have to go with one large block. I haven't ballasted that section yet.

    In addition to that, whenever I join flextrack, you have to, of course, remove a few of the ties at each end to put the joiners on. I then snip the underlying tie connectors about 4 - 6 ties further along the track, and once joined, slide them along right up to the joiner. I then shave off the track-clips of the cutoff/spare ties, and slide one or two under the join and superglue in place.
  5. billk

    billk Active Member

    Why not just do the whole thing without insulated joiners, then cut gaps where you need them?
  6. farmer ron

    farmer ron Member

    One other method to try...Dave just gave me and idea..I imagine you can get "snap track" here it comes in 18 & 22 inch radius in code 100 and 18 inch in code 83.. where your tracks join on the curve, and you require the about taking a piece of snap track, cutting a piece that is lets say two or three inches long, soder a piece of the two or three inch pieces to the ends of each of your flex track and join the two pieces of snap track, non flexable track, together with an insulated joiner ????? This way the joiner would be on the snap track that will not flex, staying ridgid where the insulated joiner is thus eliminating the bend in the track at the insulated joiner. Ron..
  7. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    In my opinion, bill, even worse. At least the plastic joiner give some sort of capability of keeping the track aligned on curves. On straight sections, yeah, but not on curves.
  8. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member


    I second Woodie's opinion - I know! That's what I did first : I laid track (curved!), then I took the Proxxon (same as a Dremel) cutting disk and cut my gaps. Voila: Instant rail kinks - and I mean KINKS! :( :( :(

    This is why I resorted to insulated rail joiners. At first it looked ok - but after months the kinks reappeared.

    I'll try to follow David's idea with the brass screws (perhaps nails?) and soldering the track ends to it. In my situation (underground track) it will be difficult to follow Ron's idea to replace flex track with snap track - although the idea seems very convincing.

    Thank you guys for your input! :thumb:

  9. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    This is just an idea, I've never tried it, but would it work? Glue the rail to a tie with some sort of real tough glue, cut the gap right on that tie, the two ends are secured to the tie by the glue, then place some sort of filler in the gap and glue that in place.
  10. cobra

    cobra Member

    Mark's idea would work with 2 part epoxy I would think . You could simply use styrene to plug the gap .

  11. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Peco insulated "Plastic" joiners were not intended to be used on curves, all curved track should be soldered joints. If you need a rail break do it on a straight part of the track before or after the curve.

    Also before making a curved joint, solder up 2 lenghts of track on the straight first, let it cool, then curve it. Don't forget to clip off a couple of ties either end as well.
  12. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I did some gaps by soldering the rail to Printed Circuit Board (cut from tie material) and then using the cutoff disk to cut rail and the copper on the PCB.
    Also consider bending the rail before laying. You might be able to do it with 3 nails on a block of wood; there were commercial rail benders available.
  13. dhutch

    dhutch Member

    i dont know of a cure, except try to avoid it, and use more pins when you cant.

    - it is a real pain tho, i run a DCC system, so i have to use them on the frogs of every set of points, which can get to me a real pain in the arse i can tell you!!

    - i dont know why peco dont come up with a better insulated joiner!!

  14. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    I basically use the method Farmer Ron suggested with great success.

    What I do is solder a short piece of rigid track to end of one piece of flex track that's been spiked up to that point. Then use insulated joiners to attach another shorty piece of rigid to that. Then spike down BOTH rigid pieces. Then solder the next piece of flex to it and keep going. Works like a charm every time. Just make sure you spike down the rigid piece BEFORE you solder the flex to it.

    My layout is DCC with 3 reverse loops and several power districts... So I have to use insulated joints on BOTH rails many times - and in my case, most MUST be on a curve. I'm not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but this method absolutely works fine without having to try and rejigger your entire layout to only have "gaps" on straightaways (and on a 12' x 12' L-shaped layout like mine, it would be extremely limiting to do so anyhow).
  15. Hunkiedoo

    Hunkiedoo Member


    Here's another idea that has worked for me.
    Carefully slide the tie strip off the end of the flex track. This takes a while! I cut the 3' strip of flex track ties into 3 or 4 sections to make the removal job easier.

    Take one of the now loose rails and, holding it sideways, slide it over the corner of a bench or table in one smooth motion. (A tiny razor-saw slot cut in the corner of the bench will hold the base of the rail as you slide it and keep the rail from twisting). With each slide you will see a permanent curve in the rail.

    Don't try to get the desired curve radius all at once! Slide the rail many times, each time a little firmer.

    From time to time place the curved rail on your roadbed to see if it is curved enough. Put in a little more curvature than you need.

    Carefully re-insert each now-curved rail onto the tie strip. Riight! This is like slipping socks on a centipede!. Takes a LOT of patience. Filing a bevel on the end of the rail web & base helps.

    Spike your curved flex track in place. Place a few track spikes on the convex side of the rail at the site of the required gap.

    Dremel-cut a rail gap. Rail stays put, really. I have tried this with Shinohara code 70 and Peco code 75. Good luck!
  16. dhutch

    dhutch Member

    so your basicly saying, remove the rails from the sleeper, bend it, and then put it back again?

    - might work, not sure about for code 55 N tho?

  17. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    The laws of physics vary from state to state. :)
  18. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    It should work for any size of track--there are even "benders" out there to curve track specifically in that fashion (there is one for use with Richard Orr girder rail, and there was a bending tool that came with the old Eheim 50's trolley-bus kit to bend the wire used for trolley bus overhead) or you could easily build a jig out of wood and a few bolts to bend rail to specific dimensions.

    I used this technique over the past weekend to make a guardrail on a tight (12" in HO) curve--I just slipped the rail out of the ties (sleepers), ran it against the edge of a bolted-down block of wood to impart a mild curve, and repeated until I had an approximately 12" radius curved piece of rail. Some "Liquid Nails" glue along the base of the rail held it firmly in place.

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