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Soldering Track Joints or Sticking With Rail Joiners?

Darryl sent in this question:

“I would like to know if I should solder all my track joints, or just use the rail joiners? I haven’t had any problems as yet, but I’m quite new to this. I read that jumper wires might be a better option allowing for expansion or contraction, given likely weather/humidity changes? Maybe I should solder the rail joiners as a back-up?”

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17 Responses to Soldering Track Joints or Sticking With Rail Joiners?

  • Raymond Rionsays:

    You can do both.

  • Michael Fenertysays:

    I only solder joins if there is a gap.

  • Herveysays:

    You don’t say what type of track you are using but either way you need a balance. If you are using flex track you should solder every second joint unless there are insulated joiners. With sectional track I would solder two joints and leave the third unsoldered to allow for expansion and contraction. Do not solder all joints.

  • Willsays:

    soldering (all) your crack joints – Three questions but is it because you; A) don’t like the looks of the gap, B) you think soldering the rails will aid in keeping a good bond with solder OR; C) it’s because the wheels on the locomotive keep derailing or dies when it encounters the gap?
    In my situation. I don’t care for Wide open gaps. It serves no purpose so yes, I will add a dab of lead between them. In real life – full size rails, this is actually done (but not with soldering lead!) Secondly (B) soldering the rails together (does not assist in joint strength. Actually, ithere is NO strength in soldering rails together – this is WHY we use rail joiners. (Peco makes an awesome rail joiner)
    and thirdly, yes, locomotives can and do either suddenly stop the locomotive dead on its tracks (Ouch!) or if the gap is long enough, can cause a dead spot on your layout.

  • James Hallsays:

    I think the best bet is to solder the joiner to one side of the joint and to also when putting droppers to open one side of the joiner, put the dropper in the open side of the joiner. Squeeze shut and then solder.

    • David Stokessays:

      Great idea James. It’s probably not new, and it makes good sense. The Nor’west Bend Railway is sending the gangers out tomorrow to instigate this one.

  • Jimmie Pottbergsays:

    I’m new to this myself, but I soldered every other joint, using feeders to every piece of track. Some may say this is overkill…..but I have backup redundancy for bad connections, broken wires, etc. Soldering every other joint allows for expansion but helps to maintain track consistency on the curves.

  • Neville Parrysays:

    In general, soldered track lengths should not exceed 6 feet (2 pieces of flex-track). each 6 ft piece should have droppers. Long soldered lengths will cause problems due to length changes in the rails due to temperature, or movement of the benchwork with humidity changes..

  • Rick Davissays:

    I solder my track joints with the rail joiners excpt at switch joints just incase I have to replace it thats makes it easier. Use jumper wires for those joints.

  • Deonsays:

    I had a 40 m Z scale track with dcc control just to test the feedback system and to get to know iTrain. Only had 2 common wires and 16 feedback wires. Had no problems. On my permanent layout I soldered every joint, biggest mistake I made, I had a lot of problems on the turns and it was 1.2 m, thats huge for Z. What is a good idea is to feed a few power fly leads to a common bus wire but I wouldn’t to every joint. Our G scale club has 2x 75 m loops both with only 2 supply points also dcc and no problems. Do keep in mins expansion due to heat also needs some movement of tracks. If your installation is permanent and the tracks glued down I would only solder joints once they become problematic. My 2 cents, always use brand new joiners. Enjoy your trains

  • Timsays:

    I don’t solder because if you change your track design it makes it very hard to undo the sections and points often get damaged. If you have clean track and new joiners (I use Peco) I have never had a problem with locos running smoothly. I live in Australia and with the heat track does expand and buckle if everything is solid.

  • Garthsays:

    I have never soldered joints but have always used droppers on each and every length of track (flex track of course). When laying in winter I need to leave a gap of 1mm for each length (1m) to allow for expansion and on hot days in summer I can lay without gaps.
    As someone else has mentioned, Peco have very good rail joiners in HO and N scale.

  • David Stokessays:

    Darryl,
    Some good points made above. I only see two reasons to solder track pieces together. Firstly, and most importantly, to ensure the flow of electricity. The other is at joins between rails on curves. With just joiners the track never seems to just fow properly. There is always a tightening of the gauge and an almost invisible kink. By sliding joiners on,slightly staggered, and soldering the joiner to both rails before curving the second piece you can ensure the first is well secured to the roadbed, slide the sleepers (ties) so to close the gap. Then, as you curve the free end it will stay in gauge and there will be no kink to worry your locos.

  • Edwin Barlowsays:

    I generally solder joints with track joiners when flexi track is used to make a large radius curve. Droppers are used everywhere because I use DCC. Temperature extremes are not a problem.

  • ROBERT SCHWORMsays:

    If using DCC, install droppers from every section and turnouts down to a common buss. Do not rely solely on joiners to distribute power. There is no need to solder track to improve electrical performance if you use droppers, For turnouts, cut back enouigh ties so that your joiners can be slid back completely on the rails. Then install them and the track ends, and move the joiners half way back to cover the tracks. This way if you have to remove a turnout – you simply slide the joiners back and lift it out. For curves, with flex, I either cut the rails just before the curve begins so that a full length of flex is on the curve. As the track goes around the curve the rails will become uneven. Not a problem…leave them like that as it helps to avoid kinks on the curve…and solder these areas if you wish. When the flex comes out the end of the curve and back onto the straight, you can then use a dremmel and square off the ends once again and continue on.

  • Morgan Bilbosays:

    Hi! This is JMHO. Most of what is said is good. I will say only that: Solder all rails in curves. (Rail in curves can move and you don’t want them to.) I don’t solder turnouts, depending on the rail joiners. Some say that’s not good. But if you solder any turnout rail, it makes it difficult to fix them/as in taking them out. I had to do that – take a turnout off the layout to the work table to fix it and put it back. It was easy with just sliding the rail joiners onto the adjoining flex. You really don’t need to solder every rail. Like said above, solder two 3′ flex together and yes, little jumper wires are great if you take the time and have good solder skills. I don’t, so the only soldering I did was feeder wires to the bottom of the rails so they can never obstruct wheel flanges. All rail is clean on the inside of the rail. Except for rail joiners that are very low. Is this clear?

  • Bob Rimmsays:

    The issue with soldering is twofold: If you don’t solder them properly you will get cracks in the solder which will cause intermittent power feed through connection and when you solder the rail you can melt the nearest ties which can allow the track to flex as a train goes over it. I have been soldering power connections to the bottom of the track clips. This way here I have a good connection to the tracks that will allow for temperature expansion of the rails.

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