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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After speaking with Duncan and Marty last evening (scarey huh/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/whistling.gif. the three of our minds put together/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/blink.gif )........ I would like to pose a question.

If the opportunity presented itself, How many of you would go in on a mass purchase of aluminum rail lengths?

In all honesty it's something I've been throwing around here for a few months and since the hobby is out of our reach to expand the layout further or to the end result we are looking for...... I figure now is the time to gather some intell.

I am looking at several factors so the track could be used by battery/steam and track power users alike. I also would like to reduce the amount of expansion so folks in the SW could be comfortable using it as well. Especially since Duncan's layour seems to be suffering from disolving rail at the moment tells me there's more going on there than meets the eye./DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/whistling.gif

I don't wish to divulge too much detail for many reasons at the moment. Among them is the boards are always lurked on by those that might not want to see this happen or would like to take the idea. (Doubtful though since I'm not looking at any type of profit margine initially or in the near future. This is a "good of the hobby" effort.) another is I need to get more "ducks in a row before I Oh-fish-aly say that it's a go. Meaning there needs to be enough interest (50 or so folks) to cover the minimum that might be in place.

I would have put this in the Poll Booth but for some reason I couldn't get anything to post correctly there but this is the track forum and what better place to start.;)

Later,

Joe
 

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Joe, while some people have good experience with track power on aluminum rail, most do not. It corrodes easily, is sensitive to moisture and salts, and it oxidizes right away.

Since it is relatively soft, agressive track cleaning is not a good idea, the drywall sandpaper can remove significant amounts of metal.

You also mentioned reducing the amount of expansion, and aluminum's linear coefficient of expansion is worse than any other metal used for track,

SS 304 is 9.6 x 10-6 inches per degree F
Brass is 10.4
Aluminum is 12.3

You could not use a metal much worse for conductivity and minimal expansion.

Not saying it could not be used, but I doubt that track powered people, or people with large temperature swings would be enthused.

Just trying to be helpful and avoid any wasted effort on your part.

Regards, Greg
 

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6061-T6 is what I use.
And, no track power whatsoever.
Ecer.
No matter what.
 

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Getting our home built so maybe we can start playing with trains again!
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Greg, Dave. Please believe me when I say this.....I respect both ya'lls opinions, concerns and advice. But as I said I can't really go into specifics. Although I kinda wish that folks would just show some interest and not tell me it can't be done. I may not be a metalurgist but..... Believe me I am taking into consideration the points that both of you bring up. Maybe I might have jumped the gun before getting all my ducks in a row but There is a ceratin amount of information I have at my disposal from folks that know how to make this work.....and at a much lower price than that of brass or Stainless Steel.

Look at it this way. If I can get this to come together, I'm offering everyone that wants to get in on this a chance to buy the rail at pennies above manufacturing cost. But hey if ya'll want to have your "short-ones" held on to as tightly as they are by all the "big box manufacturers" then that works for me too.

I'm not angry at ya'll especially given your concerns and the track record of aluminum but these guys can make all the bucks they want by selling small amounts of stuff at huge prices. One thing for sure is their not getting a penny of mine anylonger. I've been throwing this around for almost a year now and it moght not even work out but I want to know if I can get something going to help make things better.

Later,

Joe
 

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What code rail and what would be the width of the rail base (ie, what tie strips will they fit) And will you make rail joiners?
-Ray
 

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Getting our home built so maybe we can start playing with trains again!
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Code 332 to start and rail only.
 

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Hi Joe,

I have posted information about my use of Aluminum rail and track power at least half dozen times on this forum in recent years, at best the information was politely ignored. But, I will try one last time.

Don't know what others, that have actually used aluminum rail with track power, have expierenced but my effort has held up well. I used code 250 aluminum rail from COCR, 6061-T6, it has now been in the ground for 9-10 years and I run track power with no problems at all.

Winters- average cold temp 35-40 can go as low as 20, with an occasional snow. Summer, average 95-105 can go as high as 115. It just lays there and does it's job. It can set for months during the winter, I just run a sanding pole lightly around to knock off the trash and sand then run trains.

When installed, It was all hand laid on Redwood ties on stringers as per Marks artical in GR about 1997-98, and all rail joints are jumper-wired. The jumper wires were done by tapping a brass screw into the rail web and soldering wires to them. I know, electrolysis, but after nearly ten years it has not reared it's ugly head.

Even more interesting is the hand laid switch using aluminum rail, I confess I used nickle-silver rail for the frog but it continues to function in spite of that:).

Even though it continues to function faultlessly there are some changes.
All the track after that was laid using AMS code 250 brass, on table top, It is wired for track power but most motive power is changing over to battery-rc.

So to get to your question, I may be interested in aluminum rail in the future but am not really interested in hand laying any more rail.

Thanks
Rick Marty
 

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I think this may be a good idea, but timing and being practical is the hard part. I think its great that Joe is thinking of things to help the hobby.
 

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Joe, was not trying to be a wet blanket, just that a couple of things cannot be changed in aluminum, like it's coefficient of expansion. That has to do with physics period.

If someone is telling you they make a type of aluminum with a different coefficient of expansion, like much lower, run screaming.

Likewise you cannot change aluminum and still make the surface conductive. Unfortunately, plating aluminum is not really practical, and anodizing it gives you an insulator.

So I hope you are focusing on the low cost part of the equation, not trying to beat the laws of physics!

Rick, I do not dispute your experience at all. But yours is the exception, rather than the rule. I know guys that never have to clean their brass track, and many others that need almost daily cleaning.

I know one guy that had nothing but problems with stainless and his brass track performs better. Unbelievable problems with black deposits on his rails.

But, you gotta look at the majority experience. The majority of people have problems with track power and aluminum rail.

All of that said, Joe, more power to you! If you can solve some of these problems and get it for a good price, you will be doing many people a service.

Don't take it as negative. Take it as your friends wanting to make sure you are not being fed a line of xxxx.

Regards, Greg
 

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Actually, there are at least two methods in use, to give Aluminium a suface yhat is very conductive.

- Nickel plating. I use some nickel plated nickel-silver rail. Nickel plated brass rail is well known and used in Germany by many. My experience, is that this track keeps much cleaner than my stainless steel track.

Prices of both brass, nickel-silver and steel, have risen very sharply last couple of years, and are not expected to come down again in any forseable future.
This makes the proposition of nickel-plating aluminium more and more attractive.

- Novelty Chemical treatment. There is a new process in use since only a few years. It changes the chemical composition of the aluminium surface, into non-oxidising and with good conductivity. It is for example used by the mobile phone industry, where they want to mount electronics on aluminium directly. I found two companys in Sweden, offering this new surface treatment.

However, personally, I've decided to switch entirely to battery (and live steam) operation, so I'm not pushing these venues any longer.
I think we will se a lot more aluminium track beeing sold in the future, as the price difference is now hugely in favor of aluminium. And I also think / hope/ track-power will diminish.

An interesting thing, is that Maerklin offered aluminium gauge 1 track in the 70's and 80's! And I think they may have scrapped that line, to minimize number of stock items. (Competition is nothing like the US in Europe. Companies get away with that kind of profit maximizing in Europe :-(
 

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While all my track is stainless, mostly due to the hard well water in my area and the overall potential oxidation/corrosion effect, if I could get a 332 Aluminum with diminimis oxidation characteristics with track power I could very well be interested in the opportunity.

Key for me is a "Prove it" mentality. I'd have to really see some of the material and some quality tests on it to decide. The last I plan I scetched out, I'd need roughly 1600 feet for the next phase of the railway so the potential savings would be significant.

Mark
 

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I don't use track power and I'd be interested in purchasing code 250 aluminum for future expansion; trouble is, I don't know where to buy it at the cheapest price
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Posted By Spule 4 on 05/16/2008 10:18 AM
I assume this would be made by an extrusion process? Please advise.....




Yes.
 

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I have run the math on this once a couple years back when I was frequently in one of these plants for work. The two factors were die costs ($1500-$2500) and getting an extruder to do a smallish run. And then competativeness goes out the window.

Now, if you are a die maker by trade and working at such a plant on third shift when no one is around....:)
 

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Posted By cmjdisanto on 05/16/2008 11:14 AM
Posted By Spule 4 on 05/16/2008 10:18 AM
I assume this would be made by an extrusion process? Please advise.....

Yes.




I'm certain aluminum track and brass are extruded but I'm not so sure about the SS tack? Is that roll formed? That would explain the slightly different profile of SS rail too.

Chas
 

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Joe,

I'm out, but just a suggestion: Get moving on this soon. Our steel suppliers (castings and plate) forecasting 20% price increases for June.

Aluminum and other alloys are likely to have a 5% jump per month in the foreseeable future (through August). I know folks think that the manufacturers are raking us over the coals with track prices, but the price of raw materials has increased so much just this year. Quite frankly, I am surprised that people like Aristo do not continually increase their track prices, and that the price merely doubled last year.

Regarding a bulk purchase, be advised that most places we go to for metal prices can only hold that price for 24 hours or less. No kidding. While your volume is likely low, maybe what? 3-4 tons? expect the price to change daily.

I'd be more interested if you were going after stainless steel. But even at that, I don't know I could commit that kind of capital with the downturn in the current stagflation.

Mark
 

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A friend's family runs a local non-ferrous material scrap yard and they adjust their prices daily. Sometimes hourly. The lines for drop off are around the block some days. Just saying.

Chas
 

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Thing is, a very large portion of the cost of track, are the tie-strips. With aluminium rails, the tie-strips becomes the majority of the cost. Ans so, offering just another (new) source of aluminium rail-profile, seem quite pointless - unless offered with conductive surface treatment.

Already, Llagas offer both code 215 and 250, and Sunset Valley offers code 250. As for code 332, I seem to remember there are several companies offering this.
 

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By the way... I think offering conductive surface aluminium rail, is a very rocky business proposition. Because of so many people here at myLargescale.com, and Llagas and Sunset, report success with track power using aluminium rail, and Maerklin once offering it, I believe most of the opposition to aluminium track, is simply prejudice, not based on experience.

Because aluminium rail is getting like 1/5th as expensive as alternatives, more and more people will try it, eventually killing prejudice. And there goes the basis for offering aluminium rail with "extra" conductive surface... ;-) Another reason I scrapped this idea. (Apart from battery and RC based operation, wich I think will be the thing finally tipping the issue in favour of aluminium.

"Just my 2c" , as you americans put it :)
 
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