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soldering track joints vs leaving them loose

7667 Views 11 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Twiglet
What is the consensus out there on track joins? My layout, under contruction, sits in the attic which experiences a wide range of temperatures from under 10C in winter to in excess of 28C in summer. At the moment I have left all joins (peco flexitrack) unsoldered as I was always led to believe that leaving a few gaps and letting the rails move would prevent buckling due to heat expansion. But is this correct? Would I be better off simply soldering the joins? And how much gap is needed if you leave them unsoldered? I am working on a millimetre or so every three or four lengths of track.
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My advice based on thirty years of layouts in lofts and air conditioned rooms is to leave out the rail joiners, leave a 0.5-1mm gap between rail ends on a normal temperature day, and THEN join the rail lengths (as required, allowing for section breaks) like this:

I use garden 'rose' wire (B&Q or your garden centre - the kind used by flower arrangers) which is tinned and flexible (stronger than fuse wire) and make a complete loop (round a small file) in a short length; the ends of this loop are soldered to the rail ends. The loop will allow expansion and remove stress from the soldered joint. The thing will work better if you lightly tin the rail as well. A quick dab with a small iron and Robert's your father's brother. It is similar to the way track circuit wires are done full size. My current layout has used this method for twenty years with no failures. Fishplates are not reliable conductors of electricity as you will find out when showing your layout off to club members.
It has other uses this wire- holding things together while the glue dries, and for soldering awkward parts. One bobbin will see you out.

Alistair Wright
'5522' Models
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