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Soldering Rails or Rail Joiners?

Darren models HO and asks:

“I’m using sectional track and about to start soldering some rail joiners and installing feeder wires. Should I solder my feeder wires to rail joiners, or directly to the rails?”

16 Responses to Soldering Rails or Rail Joiners?

  • john gould says:

    with using sectional track I personally would go soldering feeder wires to rail joiners. If at a later date if you wish to make alterations to your plan life would be easier.

  • Ken Hartman says:

    I would use rail joiner and then solder unless you are not sure of what you want the layout to look like.. Either way t can be changed, but is easier if nor soldered; but the solder joint will definitely give you a better electrical connection.

  • Hervey says:

    Most solder to the rail but in reality there is no difference from an electrical perspective. Since you will be coming up to the spot you want to solder to through the roadbed you may find it easier (more options) to drill the holes along the rail rather than right at the joiner.

  • Derek Roger says:

    I suggest you solder the rails becaus if you want to disconnect the rail it is not easy to unsolder the joiners

  • phil johnson says:

    I like to solder the wire to the joiner and the rail.

  • The N-Scale Nerd says:

    I explored the pre-made rail joiners with feeders from PECO and discovered they get in the way of using isolating joiners when doing blocks. Simpler to go under-rail. (…and solder the joins too)

    An under-rail connection is easier to “hide” with ballast, but you MUST, MUST, MUST ensure that the solder join under the rail is good. REALLY good!

    I discovered a dodgy join the other day on my layout and it took a bit of solder-surgery to fix it.

  • Ron Scannell says:

    I solder to the joiner. It’s easier to do this while the strip of joiners are intact. Solder a wire to one joined and remove it from from the strip. Add feeder wires to every section of track. Do not solder the joiners to the rail.

  • Rudy Cepeha says:

    I solder to the rail. If you later want to disassemble an area, the joiners are free to pull apart.

    • Dany Henderson says:

      Most model railroaders lay the track and then solder the wires (from underneath) to the rails with the rails already glued or nailed into place. To me that is not an easy chore due to gravity acting upon upon both the liquid solder, and the wires. I personally like to lay the track I’m soldering the wires to upside down upon the workbench and then solder the wires onto the rails by letting gravity do the work for me instead of fighting against me. Afterward, I drill the two holes in the layout to correspond with the positions of the wires, run the wires through the layout, and then lay the track with the wires soldered to it into place and then conect the rail joiners. In all acuality it makes more common sense to let gravity work for you than let gravity work against you, not to mention that with the track being upside down you can actually see what you are doing and that the solder joint in attatching the wires to the rails is being done correctly.

  • Jim Kennedy says:

    Soldering directly to the rails should fix your problem depending on how you run your wiring. If you are soldering every section to the previous section everything should be alright. Keep in mind the rail joiners can still form a break in the electrical connection whereas direct wiring to the rais should prevent that problem. the joiners then provide smooth running from one section to the next regardless of electrical connection.

  • geoff says:

    Soldering to the rail avoids the potential problem of relying on the rail joiner to transmit the power.

  • Frank B says:

    The reason for soldering power feeders to long runs of track is that push-fit rail joiners cause slightly more resistance than a soldered joint, which adds up over many joins to cause a significant voltage drop, slowing down the train.

    In deciding how and where to connect, think about the fact that you may want to extend or modify your layout in the future, and how it will help to have your joins and connections in accessible places.

  • Jeff Morrow says:

    I’ve always had the best success soldering the feeder wires to the rail joiners. I can do the soldering at my workbench and don’t have to drag my soldering station all over my layout. Besides that, I can always make sure the solder connections are secure before putting everything together. I connect the track, feed the wires through the drilled holes in the roadbed and make the under table connections. The connections at the joiners become invisible once the ballast is added. I have 22 control blocks on this layout and have no issues with electrical connections.

    I have soldered connections directly to the rails on occasion, but you have to be very careful not to warp the rails or melt the ties when doing this. I don’t have any of those concerns using the joiner method.

  • SteveB says:

    soldering to the joiners has many pluses that have been detailed here. The only drawback to soldering to the rail joiners is long-term contact resistance and the joiner becoming loose. This can happen with long-term usage. I will use a pair of flat-nosed electrician’s pliers and squeeze as hard as you can to lock the joiner as tight as possible. If you are like me and have a loss of strength in your hands; I use a C-clamp to squeeze the handles. The handles can break on less expensive pliers

  • John says:

    Electrical points are all covered; but there is structural value in soldered joiners – especially on curves. Unsoldered joiners are not reliable electrically or structurally.

    My electrical rule is “every” piece of track has at least one soldered connection – either drop feeders on side of rails or track joiner to next rail ( which must have soldered drop feeder wires) .

    Structurally, the soldered joiners assist in maintaining vertical and horizontal alignment on curves where stresses tend to pull rails apart. Especially if curve is also on a rise. Then we have expansion and contraction issues to allow for. Unsoldered connectors can allow for some expansion and contraction. – subject for another blog ?

  • Ian McIntosh says:

    Rail joiners can become loose or oxidized and stop conducting well. Soldering to the rails is more reliable long term.

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