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· Super Modulator
22,734 Posts
Bill, you did not state the manufacturer of the rail you are using.

I've been doing a little talking and a lot of listening on this subject recently. Also, with the convention in Phoenix, you got to see the layouts and talk to the owners of probably the toughest place in the US, it gets very hot, and also very cold there.

Two basic methods:

Free floating track, or screwed down.

If you free float the track, I think it's best to let the entire track section expand and contract, rail and ties. You will eventually get some movement in the ballast, as the ballast tends to lock the ties in place, but the expansion and contraction is irristable. Some people use sections of expanding track, like the Hillman or Split Jaw stuff. I am talking of the short sections of track where the rails slide against each other. Dion't even think about "expanding rail clamps". The most frequent use of these sections was every 20 feet!.

If you really want to screw down your track, i.e. the ties, then it seems best to let the rails slide within the ties. This may not be possible on all types of track. On Aristo track, the "spikes" are VERY loose, and all you need to do is remove the small screws underneath. On some other track, it's really too tight to do this. You really need to have expansion joints, and I would still use expansion track sections and rail clamps. If you don't then you should have loose joiners, i.e. forget track power, because all the track will not "nicely" distribute those gaps you left between rail sections, they WILL all bunch up, and if you have tight joiners, you will still have trouble.

This is the best info I have, and so far, have not seen any layouts where these things are not really true, just have to "dig" sometimes to really understand what is happening, sometimes it not obvious, even to the layout owner!

Regards, Greg
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