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I currently have about 140' of track that is connected with rail clamps. They work good but the price adds up quickly. I'm looking at expanding in the spring/summer to triple the size of my layout. I've seen where some solder wires to connect track instead of using rail clamps but I was thinking of just soldering the track together. Anyone try this? Seems like it would be easy enough with a plumbers torch a little flux and some low temperature solder?
 

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Posted By jimtyp on 12/22/2008 9:13 AM
I currently have about 140' of track that is connected with rail clamps. They work good but the price adds up quickly. I'm looking at expanding in the spring/summer to triple the size of my layout. I've seen where some solder wires to connect track instead of using rail clamps but I was thinking of just soldering the track together. Anyone try this? Seems like it would be easy enough with a plumbers torch a little flux and some low temperature solder?

While this is done all the time for smaller scale indoor layouts, there could be exterior problems due to expansion and contraction cracking the solder joints. Also, if you ever want to take your track apart, it becomes a nighmare as you can't usually get both sides free of solder, or both liquid, at the same time to get them apart.

Probably best to stick with the jumpers.


 

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Posted By jimtyp on 12/22/2008 9:13 AM
I currently have about 140' of track that is connected with rail clamps. They work good but the price adds up quickly. I'm looking at expanding in the spring/summer to triple the size of my layout. I've seen where some solder wires to connect track instead of using rail clamps but I was thinking of just soldering the track together. Anyone try this? Seems like it would be easy enough with a plumbers torch a little flux and some low temperature solder?

One of the things to consider when you solder the joints together is the need to allow for expansion and contraction of the rail as the temperature changes that's why Aristo rail joiners have those slotted holes in them....I would suggest you reconsider the use of jumper wires instead...I did this more than 6 or 7 years ago and with 3 or 4 hundred feet of track and only1 pair of feeder wires I have had zero electrical problems, and if you decide to change or move the track, it's easy to just cut the wires, I do use split jaw clamps at all switches to allow easy removal of the switches for repair and I place the jumper wires across the switches as the switches are the weak link in the rail carrying electricity....check out my How-to web page "Soldering track jumpers".

 

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I soldered jumper wires across track joints when I first started laying track in my garden. This was done using a heavy duty soldering iron, even on LGB rail. I did not continue this on later stages, because by then I had given up on track power in favour of live steam and battery power, both of which have given me far less problems than track power. I know some folks are very successful and happy with track power and I would not want to deter anyone who feels that thsi is the way for them - it just did not seem to suit my way of working.


As indicated in earlier comments, track soldering becomes a real problem when you need to change trackwork. I found that I had to spend a long time grinding the solder off the rails in order to separate them from the ties so that I could re-bend the track to a new curve, or replace damaged ties. I did wonder if it would be practical to drill and tap the rail for a small bolt and then solder to the head of the bolt to avoid getting solder on the rail - perhaps someone else has tried something like this.
 

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Jimtyp,

In response to toddalin, the differential between the solder and the brass rail for that small a distance is in the tens of thousandths of an inch. Insufficient to crack a joint. The only consideration I would have on cracked joints would be poor soldering skills. Code 332 brass rail will act like a heat sink, so a good quality 100 plus watt soldering iron is what I would recommend, and keep a wet rag readily available to cool the joint.

As far as expansion and contraction is concerned, too few modelers give this enough respect. To solve that issue with your jumper wires, just make a small 360 degree loop in your jumper (wrap the wire around a pencil) before you solder it to the rail. This will allow the rail to expand and contract freely without affecting the electrical joint.

Good luck, and 'Happy Rails to You'

Bob
 

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Posted By armorsmith on 12/22/2008 1:18 PM
Jimtyp,

In response to toddalin, the differential between the solder and the brass rail for that small a distance is in the tens of thousandths of an inch. Insufficient to crack a joint. The only consideration I would have on cracked joints would be poor soldering skills. Code 332 brass rail will act like a heat sink, so a good quality 100 plus watt soldering iron is what I would recommend, and keep a wet rag readily available to cool the joint.


Bob


You missed the point. The lengh of rail will expand/contract and push out at the curves. This "pushing out" can crack the solder joints.

With respect to an iron, about all you can do with 100 watts is melt ties. If you use a big pencil type, you can get by with a couple hundred watts. I use a 325 watt Weller gun.
 

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Jimtyp.
Just to further confuse you about soldering rail here are my recommendations. These are based on more than
30 years of soldering experience in a sheet metal shop and over 10 years in garden rail laying.

Do not solder the rail joiners to the rail to make solid connections. reasons already explained by others.

Do use jumper wires, it will eliminate all conductivity problems on your rail system. Unfortunately it won't help
the problems caused by dirty track.

At first I used clamps at the bridges and switches because it seemed like a good idea, based on reasons already stated.
Later I quite using them and just used jumper wires.

Cost is a factor.... A 5 buck roll of solder, a couple rolls of 2 buck wire and a 5 buck bottle of flux will do the joints of your whole
railroad. Considerably cheaper than clamps and just as fast or faster to install.

Negative soldering myths abound. Code 250 and code 332 brass rail can easily be soldered with an 80 watt pencil electric iron. Jumper wires can be
soldered to the rail and even rail joiners can be soldered solid to the rails. A year or so ago this discussion came up and I posted pictures of old
dirty code 332 rail that I soldered solid than tore the soldered rail joiners apart to show the solid connection. Nobody seemed to give a ****
so I seldom bother arguing it anymore.

Negative soldering myths abound because very few people know how to properly prepare a joint, the correct materials to use, or how to properly apply the
simple techniques to get good results. I have posted the correct items and techniques several times in these forums under various thread headings like
" you need 10, 000 watts to solder 332 rail" or "stainless steel can't be soldered".


I use code 250, 5 foot rail sections and before I lay the track I flip each section over and solder and solder a 3" piece of 22 ga wire to the end of each rail.
Put in place using regular slip rail joiners (for rail alignment only) I then solder the wire ends together and bury in the ballast. If you ever need to remove a
bridge, switch, or even a section of track, simply slide the rail joiners back pull the item up and snip the wires. To reinstall, replace the item, strip
the ends of the snipped wire and re-solder, really simple.

Well what ever you decide to do
Good luck.
Rick Marty
 

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On my layout I soldered some of the sections of track running through tunnels. I just used regular rail joiners and added solder. But I only soldered 2-3 pieces of track together continuously. In between I used rail clamps to make it easier to remove the track from the tunnel if I ever needed to repair or replace it.

I also soldered track together where it goes over some of the bridges and trestles, as I felt the rail clamps detracted from the appearance in those places.

I used a "plumber's torch", and wrapped strips of wet paper towel over the ties near the joints. This worked surprisingly well to reduce or eliminate damage to the ties.
 

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Posted By armorsmith on 12/22/2008 1:18 PM
Jimtyp,

In response to toddalin, the differential between the solder and the brass rail for that small a distance is in the tens of thousandths of an inch. Insufficient to crack a joint. The only consideration I would have on cracked joints would be poor soldering skills. Code 332 brass rail will act like a heat sink, so a good quality 100 plus watt soldering iron is what I would recommend, and keep a wet rag readily available to cool the joint.



You need a really big soldering iron or like Todd said "you'll melt the ties"......
Here is what I use....


When I say big I mean is a really BIG soldering iron that will heat the rail quick, I used an old iron I've had around for years, also soldering rail on a warm sunny day will make heating the rail easier.

By big I meant a BIG soldering iron.... The soldering iron in the picture is only 150 watts but the tip has enough mass to heat the rail and melt the solder almost instantly, I've never melted a tie.... FYI, that is a 12" ruler in front of the soldering iron..."
 

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Our club has a resistance soldering rig that members can use to solder rail together end to end...works great I'm told. Flux the rail...butt the rail pieces together...hook it up...turn it on...apply solder...done. Around here, the recommendation is to leave a 1/8" rail gap every 8' to handle expansion...and that gap gets a wire jumper.
 

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I soldered all of the joints in the 20+/- feet of street running because I didn't want the rail expanding and deteriorating the concrete. Otherwise, porbably about 30& of the rest of the joints are soldered; the rest just use the as-supplied Aristo joiners. Works for me!
 

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There R 2 real good reasons to solder Ur track together, the 1st is that when done properly
it will last indefinately with 0 connections problems... I have an indoor layout that involves
about 300 ft of track and switches and was butt soldered together in 1991.. This layout has
been in continous operation since that time, and has had 0 problems... For outdoors do the
jumper bit, it works as well electrically, an allows for expansion and contraction... The 2nd
reason is cost, a typical layout has 1 rail-joiner for every 2 ft of track U have, so if Ur layout
involves say 500 ft of track Bunky, U have 250 rail joiners to buy !!! I dare say U'll pay a helluva
lot more them than U will for a little solder and good big iron if U don't already have one... After
U do 5 or 6 joints U'll have gotten the hang of it and will be able to move along with it rather
quickly... We won't even mention that those 250 rail-joiners, R 250 potentially bad electrical
connections, all waiting to happen !!!!
Paul R...
 

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I soldered together 3 or 4 sections of Aristocraft USA Sectional Track and then clamped those sections together using Hillman Railclamps. Been that way for 4 or 5 years now with no problems. I like how rigid it makes the track with no problems of the joints becoming loose or offset. I did add one Hillman Expansion Rail on one of my longish straights that gets sun all day long. I used a small Butane fired torch to melt the solder into the joints. This worked really well and I have no melted ties.
I have a freind with over 700 feet of track and he soldered on jumber cables. Works great until one of the joints breaks. Kind of tough to find the problem and resolder it.
Russ Miller
 
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