Feeders soldered mid-rail. How?

MP333 Sep 10, 2016

  1. MP333

    MP333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    Howdy all,

    Atlas Code 55 user here, both flex and rigid. Reading old threads, many people mention they solder feeders somewhere mid-rail. The question I have is how this is done? On the bottom? How exactly does one solder a bare lead to the rail in between the ties? Are you soldering the lead horizontally on the outside above the ties? How do you not melt the ties? How can you solder on a curved piece of flex with the sliding rail?

    I've always used a feeder soldered to every single rail joiner, but am curious how everyone does this "mid-rail" thing. Pics would be helpful!
     
  2. emaley

    emaley TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have not worked with flex, but I have soldered to Z scale sectional track. I suggest a good hot soldering iron and flux paste. The flux allows a good flow of solder and allows the rail to get hot quickly so you only have a short touch time with the iron. I tin the wire first and put the flux on the rail where I am will attach the wire. It usually goes fast. Clip style heat sinks on either side of the solder point will help with the heat. I had good success with this method. You also need to keep a clean tip for good heat transfer. Try on some scraps for practice. It does help to have a couple extra arms. It can be hard manipulating wire, solder, the iron and not set yourself or anything else on fire. After 25 years in avionics, I have learned not to brand myself anymore. Give it a shot and take your time.

    Trey
     
  3. CraigN

    CraigN TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have 2 different methods of connecting feeder wires to my code 55 rail.

    1. In areas not easily seen, I just cut out a tie and with a 90 degree bend at the end of the feeder , I solder to the bottom of the rail and then feed the wire through a hole directly under the track.

    2. In areas that are close to viewing , I drill a small hole right next to the outside of each rail and again bend a 90 and solder to the outside of each rail. Make sure that the length of wire that touches the rail is as short as possible so that it can easily be hidden. I paint my rail afterwards and that helps to hide the solder joint.


    Every single piece of track on my railroad has a feeder attached , that way I am not relying on rail joiners for electrical continuity.
     
  4. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    1. Remove the plastic webbing between the ties.
    2. Use a file to clean the bottom of the rail where you removed the plastic webbing.
    3. Heat up the soldering iron for at least 5 minutes maybe more. The iron has to be hot. Make sure the tip is clean to allow maximum heat
    transfer
    4. Apply flux to the rail bottom
    5. Pre-tin the rail bottom as well as your wires.
    6. Bring the wire in contact with the rail bottom and use a piece of wood to wedge it so it will not move.
    7. Touch the iron to the rail bottom or side of the rail bottom
    8. When cool remove the piece of wood.
     
    locomcf likes this.
  5. MP333

    MP333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thank you all for the replies. Some good advise here.

    It's the curved flex that most I wondered about. Another question: Does it make any difference as to being in the middle of the track piece? Or is any location good enough, say 1" from the end of a long piece? My guess is that it doesn't really matter.

    Yet another question: What solder should I buy? Diameter?

    My soldering has never improved much from beginner. I'll give it the old college try again. Probably time to update my solder iron, too, if anyone has a suggestion for a good one that fits N scaler work. I'm not afraid to spend a few dollars, I want this to go cleanly and smoothly.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2016
  6. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    Two important things are clean the work pieces and have a hot iron.
     
  7. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    No, it shouldn't matter where on the piece of flex the feeder is soldered, unless you are running some yet undesigned high current drawing locomotive that can pull 5,000,000,000 cars. I tried feeding every other joiner, so each piece would be fed from one end, and other than a few unfortunate cold joints, it worked well. I used my resistance solderer with the tweezer tool, which gives you a sort of third hand, and loved it.
     
  8. MP333

    MP333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    For disclosure, I've been relying on near-100% joiners-as-feeders. Usually works pretty well, but makes track joints more noticeable, and now I've developed some gremlins somehow in Layout 6 on the back stretch and in a couple of turnouts. Stretchy loose rail joiners with dirt is what I suspect.

    And so, I need to step up my game a bit. I'm working on getting some new real estate, and am planning to exploit it. Thanks all, keep 'em coming.
     
  9. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    When soldering feeders to rail, small diameter solder is easier to use than large diameter solder. I recommend 0.032-inch rosin core solder.

    Here is a photo of how I solder feeders to the outside of the rails on my N-scale layout. I use solid-conductor #22 wire. Solid-conductor wire holds its shape, making it easy to form it so it lays neatly in the web of the rail.
    [​IMG]

    As you can see, some melting of ties can occur. In the closeup above it looks worse than it does with your unaided eyes. After ballasting and weathering, the feeders are much less obvious, as shown below.

    - Jeff

    [​IMG]
     
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  10. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising TrainBoard Member

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    [QUOTE="MP333, post: 991096, member: 31704"
    My soldering has never improved much from beginner. I'll give it the old college try again. Probably time to update my solder iron, too, if anyone has a suggestion for a good one that fits N scaler work. I'm not afraid to spend a few dollars, I want this to go cleanly and smoothly.[/QUOTE]

    I might suggest the Weller WLC-100.

    And on the Sub, most of my drops are in the middle of the flex section. I spread the ties a bit, file the underside shiny, apply flux, tin, then solder. Use a fairly hot iron and get in and out quickly, but make sure you have a good joint.

    I have had exactly one solder joint failure in the eight years I've been running this 1000 square foot layout. And all I had to do to fix that was wedge the wire in position under the rail and apply heat.

    You need to practice making good joints - maybe YouTube has something. Me, I built a lot of Heathkits. A lot!
     
  11. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    Jim, I just had to respond to this. Some years ago I calculated that I had made approximately 10,000 solder joints while building a large number of Heathkits over many years. A fantastic way to improve one's soldering skills.

    Now, back to the topic. I bought a Weller WTCPT soldering station more than 30 years ago, and it's still working perfectly for everything from soldering feeders to installing DCC decoders. Highly recommended.

    - Jeff
     
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  12. locomcf

    locomcf TrainBoard Member

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    I use pretty much the same technique as Inkaneer, with the following variations:

    1. Before I solder the droppers I cut the track and test fit it. When I'm happy, I mark where the droppers will go on both the length of track and the roadbed.

    2. I remove the webbing from between about 3 ties on each side of where the feeders will be soldered, and then slide them apart - 3 ties in each direction. That gives me a nice gap to work in without the ties getting in the way. Once the soldering is done I clean excess solder off the base of the rail with a file and then slide the ties back into position.

    3. I use "figure-8" speaker wire for my droppers. I tin about 1cm of the ends, and then spread them apart to form a "T". Once they've been soldered to the rail I snip off the excess wire so it doesn't show outside the rail.

    4. After doing another test fit, I drill a hole for the droppers to pass through. Then I lay the track, and tug down gently on the dropper to make sure the wires are below the top of the ties.

    Here's how it looks when I'm done:
    [​IMG]

    Once the track is ballasted the wires are almost invisible.

    Regards,
    Ron
     
  13. MP333

    MP333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    Jdetray, thanks for the pictures. That is pretty much how I imagined it, and your trackwork in the second picture is fantastic! And yes, I standardized on 22g solid feeders a while back.

    My dad built some Heathkit stuff. The amplifier I grew up with and discovered rock n roll on, was an old Heathkit.
     
    Jim Reising likes this.
  14. MP333

    MP333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    OK, so the Amazon truck pulled up today, and I have new soldering goodies. I got a Weller 100 station, a spool of .032" solder, a neat-o fine point solder tip, and even some heat sink clips for good measure. Now on to some progress.

    One thing we didn't really discuss were turnouts. I'm a little concerned with how to hide feeders for those. (Another) dumb question: Is that what the bottom side exposed copper thingy is for? If so, this may be a lot easier than I thought.

    Really trying to step up my game here for the next layout!
     
  15. locomcf

    locomcf TrainBoard Member

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  16. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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  17. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    Late to the party, but had a few things to reiterate... Not all irons have tips that are 'tinned' (previously coated with solder). Make sure that the tip has been tinned. If it is gold or copper colored, you are going to need to tin the tip and it can usually only be done with another iron (usually a bigger one) or by buying a pre-tinned tip. As already pointed out, everything needs to be clean. If the track isn't shinny, take an exacto knife or a file and make it shinny. Finally, use flux. It comes either in a tube or a shallow container with a screw top. Pre-tin the wire by dipping the wire into the flux and applying solder. Apply flex to the track after making the track shinny and tin as well. If you are having to apply the iron for longer than a few seconds, then something isn't right and you will be melting ties and not getting a good joint. A good joint is also shinny, not dull grey (cold solder joint).

    Thanks for reminding me of Heathkits. I remember going to a Heathkit store and thinking I found heaven as a kid. Radio Shack used to have projects as well, but they usually were simple kits where Heathkit was building something...usually something big. They still exist and produce kits (after taking a break of several years)...but there aren't many and they are expensive for what you are getting ($100 for a digital clock, $150 for a 'no solder' AM radio).
     
  18. Zug

    Zug TrainBoard Member

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    I use Kaina 63/37 tin/lead, 0.8mm, work great, yes I said lead, I buy it mail order from overseas since stores don't sell lead solder anymore..
    fine solder is easier to work with on small stuff. A basic 25 watt iron is all I use, nothing fancy, no temperature controls or anything.
     

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