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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Today I reread Kevin Strong's article on making stuff w/metal in GRR Dec05.

He said aluminum and steel shouldn't touch b/c of reaction that degrades aluminum.

I just purchased alum rails and steel spike. Any problems you see down the road (besides the spikes eventually rusting away)?
 

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Any time you have two dissimilar metals, you run the risk of creating a 'battery' and the oxidation that can occur could lead to problems. In this case, plain steel (1020) with regular 302 Aluminum does have a reaction that consumes the metals where they interface. You might be able to avoid some problems by using some kind of a coating on the steel, but that may or may not work in the long term.

Found this article:
http://www.finishing.com/360/71.shtml
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks. I was hoping, I guess, that the insult to the aluminum would take many years to eat thru. Also, I plan to spray paint the rails, but don't know how much protection that would afford.

I guess I was hoping the alum oxide would shield somewhat. I wonder if galvanized steel staple spike would react. They don't stick in wood as good as plain iron or steel.
 

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Don't really know. You might want to give this page a look:

http://www.geocities.com/eggink806/Calvert_RR_4.html


My buddy Pete lays his own track using aluminum rail, and to be totally honest, I have no idea what his timeline is for replacing spikes. It didn't come up in any conversations, so it may not be a problem at all.
 

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Electrolysis can work rapidly to be sure, but it requires, in addition to two dissimilar metals, water. So if you lay all your trackwork indoors, it will take a really loooooooooooooong time for the aluminum to dissolve away as the only moisture available is the humidity in the air. Outdoor railroads exposed to rain, snow, sprinklers, etc., is another kettle of fish. Also, depending upon the particular alloys, the electrolysis may be faster or slower - I'm sure there are charts for this somewhere, but don't have ready access....

Brian
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
wPosted By Allegheny on 02/18/2009 3:45 PM
Electrolysis can work rapidly to be sure, but it requires, in addition to two dissimilar metals, water. So if you lay all your trackwork indoors, it will take a really loooooooooooooong time for the aluminum to dissolve away as the only moisture available is the humidity in the air. Outdoor railroads exposed to rain, snow, sprinklers, etc., is another kettle of fish. Also, depending upon the particular alloys, the electrolysis may be faster or slower - I'm sure there are charts for this somewhere, but don't have ready access....

Brian





Is your railroad outside?

Mine is outside.
 

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It's always been my understanding that metals, too dissimilar in make-up or properties, should avoid coming in contact with each other to secure parts or conduct electricity. Especially where they can be exposed to the elements of weather.
 

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I have had my aluminum rail with steel spikes on redwood ties down about 7 years in southcentral PA, plenty of summer humidity. The only problem was when I tried blackened stainless steel spikes. They would work their way out every winter. I replaced all of them with plain painted steel.

I use a needle nose pliers with a groove ground in the tip to start the spike and a small nail set stuck in a file handle to send them home. I tried predrilling but found it not worth the trouble. My track gauge is a few pieces of plastic strip glued together.
 

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Looks to me as if the aluminum has been painted or it's coated with something. Anyhow, this could be a good reason for the success of the project. Then again, we're talking a "brad" type nail and it's small size or contact area.....Then again it may not be subject to the correct environment for oxidation to.......Or it's alloy composition may have somethings to do with it. Judging the way the nails I buy to do trim work with a hammer and punch bend.......do we really know what the make-up of the nail is that's being attached to the rail? They are supposed to be hardened steel but?????? Then again I'm no metallurgist and only know what has been explained to me in the past regarding things electrical and structural.JMHO
 

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Several things to try.
One product is called No-Ox-Ide. I haven't seen it in a while. Used for coating connecting metals.
Also there is some goop in the electrical dept for covering connections with aluminum wire.
 

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Aluminum radio antennas are regularly held together with steel fasteners, both zinc plated and stainless. If they are not carrying grounded current and are not in a sea air environment you should be fine - the steel will rust eventually, likely before the aluminum corrodes. If the aluminum rail had been anodized (hard surfaced with aluminum oxide) it should be fine. The chlorides in sea air are particularly troublesome forming weak hydrochloric acid in fresh water. If you're running power through these rails, make sure the track can stay clear of standing water.
 
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