Track Laying Tip #1 from Andy

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by kf4jqd, Oct 4, 2004.

  1. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    Hi All:

    Here is a track laying tip from me. I believe that it may be in some modelling books, but I'll share it you, the forum.

    Solder the Track:

    1.Improved Electrical Connection
    2.Better Joints Between the Rails

    1. 100 watt soldering gun
    2. Solder

    Some soldering skills will be needed.

    Alot of heat equals quick solder joints. Which also doesn't melt the plastic ties.

    I hope this information is usefull to my fellow model railroaders,
    Andy :thumb: :wave:
  2. 2slim

    2slim Member

    Hi Andy,
    The information about soldering is a good tip, but I learned the hard way that soldering the rail joints leaves no room for track expansion. By that I mean that the nickel silver rails in the track we use will expand and contract with temperature changes and if you don't allow for that you will end up with one melluva hess!!! It's been my experience that a track feeder wire should be soldered to each section of track and switches too. The metal rail joiners should only be used for alignment and not for electrical contact. The rails then are free to expand and contract as needed without power loss. I have built several modules and have stored them in some pretty odd places (even outside!) but yet when set up they still operate well.

  3. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    A lot of people will solder all the gaps, then cut their own gaps later for expansion and electrical isolation (blocks).

    Gaps are less important if the subroadbed is not wood. Track, foam and cork are all pretty temperature and humidity stable in my experiance. On a large outdoor layout, I think I'd gap it anywho.
  4. docsnavely

    docsnavely Member

    Would you solder unitrack, or is this primarily for standard non-roadbeded track?

  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Welcome, Doc. :wave: The only reason I'd solder uni-track, once I've decided on my layout, is to smooth out the numerous rail joints that you would have, leaving every 6th-8th piece undone for expansion purposes.
  6. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I have to agree with 2slim, gaps help with expansion of the rails, and feeders provide the electrical contacts to all the gapped sections.
    The N scale layout in the hobby shop where I work, has the track glued and balasted directly to foam board. Track expansion ripped a section of track up from the foam, right in the middle of a long curve. I had to cut out the damaged area, and replaced it with a section of precurved track.
    For every rule, there's almost always an exception.
    The only pace I solder all the rail joints, is in the curves, to keep the curve stable. I try to keep all the gaps in the straight sections.
  7. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Whenever this subject arises and someone mentions problems they attribute to track expansion, given the small temperature swings most layouts are subjected to, I always wonder how much is due to the expansion of the rails and how much is actually related to the roadbed and benchwork material. I have no relevant scientific data concerning expansion rates handy so I can only speculate.

    I'm thinking of the expansion joists in long bridges over the Hudson River where temps range from perhaps 20 F. below to over 100 F. above and over a span of hundreds of feet there may be a 1" joint to accomodate the wide range of expansion.

    I suppose it makes no difference as regards the necessity of expansion joints, but I'm wondering if they are required because of the expansion of other materials due to temperature or, more likely in my uninformed opinion, humidity changes.

    For my new layout which is almost all track laid on foam, I'm soldering all rail except at turnouts.

  8. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I'm with you Wayne, my layout doesn't see temp swings more than 10 maybe 15 degrees, but humidity levels swing greatly, and they have caused problems with trackwork I often think others attribute to temp. Of course some layouts are in unheated, unairconditioned garages and such, so expansion of the rail may be an issue there. But more often I think it is the swelling of roadbed that is an issue. With more and more folks using foam rather than wood I expect to hear less about this problem. Since I have problems with humidity, I do as Pete mentioned and only solder railjoints on curves. I often do not use joiners at all on straight track. I solder feeds to every rail.

    Oh, I agree with Andy about using high heat. The faster you heat the joint the faster you can get out of Dodge. That is, remove the heat source. You want to melt solder fast. So don't use heat sinks which drain the heat from the joint! Make sure your tip is hot! Dirty tips are what make you melt ties, as the rail won't heat quickly enough. Using a Weller gun I typically can get solder to flow almost immedietly when the tip is clean. I rest the tip on the rail top and apply solder to the side. If it doesn't melt the solder right away, remove the tip before you melt ties and clean the tip.
  9. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    You've got that right. I built one of mine during the winter months in my garage in Phoenix. Come summertime, my garage hits 125F-130F+. My poor layout. While nothing ripped up, it looked like a drunk laid the track due to expansion. Luckily, I used flex track wherever possible and once it cooled back off again, things returned to normal. Lesson learned.
  10. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    Hi All Again:

    I had some changes to make. I did have some problems. I am glad that I only soldered some areas. Basicilly I made my own "flex track". I DID NOT solder my turn outs. Smooth runs. After some track cleaning, I checked voltage. It only changes at 100th of a volt! No big deal. :)

  11. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Humidity doesn't change too much, but in my garage temperatures vary by about 60-70 degrees--40-50 degrees in winter to 100-110 degrees in summer--so I do get a noticeable amount of creep in my track, due to the metal or benchwork expanding and contracting. Some joints I soldered in summer had popped straight apart in winter!
  12. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    I've been soldering at the joins. (Peco code 75 Flextrack), but left every 3rd join with a slight gap, and no solder, to allow for expansion. I also solder power feeds to each of these sections. I also use the Peco "insulated joiners" where I need to insulate, rather than just "gap" the rails.
  13. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I read somewhere that you should put a coat of primer on your plywood and homasote (including all edges) to help prevent moisture absorption. Obviously you would paint both sides as well. I did this and have had no problems with my track, although I have only done a small 8 ft section so far.

    Another suggestion I read about was to lay your track during the "heating season" when things are at their dryest. Expansion due to humidity happens during the summer, so you may have a few gaps at that time. IMO much better than having track buckle when the roadbed shrinks.

  14. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    My experience has been mostly with modular railroad setups in shopping malls, GAT Shows, etc. We had one club member who was always preaching that rails should be butted tight. He was in charge of setting up a show at a local mall, so he proceeded to show us how to do it. He cut each joiner track to just fit tightly to the tracks at both ends at the Friday night set up. He didn't think about the skylights in the mall directly above our set up. The next morning as the sun warmed various parts of the layout, we started getting "kinks" in the track. We had to pul every joiner track and trim them to allow for heat expansion and contraction. In Ca. the humidity doesn't change much year round. Pretty dry except when it rains (average rainfall-13 inches per year). I don't think bench work is a big problem here, but I can see where it might be in a wetter area.
  15. CalFlash

    CalFlash Member

    Rail expansion

    Result of too many soldered joints and not enough gaps for expansion...

  16. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    :eek: :eek: :eek: That musta hurt....
  17. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    I actually use a microtorch for soldering rails! About 2 seconds of flame and you're good to solder.

    Granted, I use flex track and have to cut away a tie or two to make the join anyhow, so this might not work with sectional - but with a teeny-tiny flame, I've got right up next to some ties without meltage.

    It does scorch the cork just a hair, generally, but this isn't a concern to me as it will be covered with ballast later.
  18. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Re: expansion and such - I use those little plastic joiners to segregate my power districts. This probably means one 'plastic' connection every 10' of track or so. I solder all other connections. Haven't had any warping problems, and attribute that to the joiners providing enough "soft" room for expansion... But the layout is in an inside room with relatively stable temp & humidity... So might not be enough for basement/garage/attic pikes...
  19. Lemur

    Lemur New Member

    I have soldered each joint with the exception of the breaks needed for separate power blocks. The remaining joints use the cheep plastic insulating connectors. The room the layout is in fluctuates tremendously in humidity (from very dry to flooded), and the temperature fluctuates maybe by 10 to 20 degrees. The layout is on a foam base that is not directly attached to the wood framework. This allows it to float on the frame. I have noticed the frame being affected by the horrendous humidity fluctuations, but the only problem with the layout is that it may no longer be level until things dry out. With the exception of occasional periods of flooding (when electricity gets shut off for safety) I have never had a problem with running trains in this room as a result of any environmental changes.

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