Unitrack and feeders?

Dr. J. Jun 19, 2006

  1. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. TrainBoard Member

    Reading other posts I have seen that soldering feeders is the way to go. Do the feeders that kato sells not adequate?? Just wondering if the feeder track that are sold are not good and I should foget about them and start soldering?
    Any help is greatly appreciated!
  2. ac60cw

    ac60cw TrainBoard Member

    Kato's feeders are fine, I have a bunch with no issues. Most suggest soldering your own due to the cost involved with buying so many feeders. So if cost is an issue solder your own. If cost is no issue, then buy them pre made.
  3. Powersteamguy1790

    Powersteamguy1790 Permanently dispatched

    I prefer soldering my own feeders to the Unitrack using 22 gauge wire. Cost isn't the issue. Kato Uses at least 24 gauge wire in the feeder track. The 24 gauge wire is too thin to use as feeders on the JJJ&E.

    I also like to use the largest sections of track possible. I solder feeders to each section of Unitrack for the best electrical conductivity. This has worked out well for me.

    Stay cool and run steam.....:cool: :cool:
  4. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

    When soldering feeders, remember to only put enough solder on both the tracks and the wire to tin to metal. Any more solder just bakes a big blob, and doesn't add to the mechanical properties. The nice thing is that with minimal excess solder, the feeders almost dissapear!
  5. bryan9

    bryan9 TrainBoard Member

    In general, it is NOT necessary to solder Unitrack sections together - Unijoiners do an excellent job transmitting electricity from one track section to another. In this respect Unitrack differs from other track brands. For example, flex track users find that they have to solder each track section together. This is NOT necessary with Unitrack.

    However, in order to maintain sufficient track power -- especially with DCC -- it is necessary to provide feeder wires at intervals (say, every 10 feet of track). From Kato, you can get 62mm track feeders or terminal Unijoiners. Both are pricey. As a result, several people have discovered ways to feed power to Unitrack. All of the ones I've seen involved soldering, and that's what this thread is about.

    What I haven't seen mentioned is that soldering can be avoided completely by using the following feeder technique, which I just discovered!

    This is MUCH easier than it sounds - try it.

    1. Use AWG 22 - 24 wire.
    2. Strip the insulation from a little more than one half inch of each wire's end.
    3. Carefully twist the end of each wire so that the strands stay together.
    4. Pick up a Unijoiner (one that's not connected to a track).
    5. Insert the end of the wire into the Unijoiner where a track would normally go.
    6. Put your thumb or a finger over the metal track joint to prevent the wire from escaping.

    At this point you should still have about half of the stripped wire visible outside the metal track joint.

    7. Bend the stripped wire down 90 degrees, following the contour of the Unijoiner.

    8. Snap the Unijoiner onto a track section with the bent wire oriented toward the track section.

    9. Carefully inspect the Unijoiner to make sure there are no loose wire strands. Also, flip the track over, and pull on the wire. You will be amazed at how tightly it has been secured!

    This technique has no adverse consequences for tracking, derailments, etc. It is fast and cheap. Plus, if you change your mind about how you want your track laid out, you can undo these connections as quickly as you can make them!


  6. rush2ny

    rush2ny TrainBoard Member

    Good advice there. I have been using that very technique with my Atlas code 80 track for years with great success.

  7. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. TrainBoard Member

    If you do solder each track where do you do it! I have soldered flex track but I don't see an easy place to do it on Unitrack!
    Thanks to all that have responded!!!!!
  8. Calzephyr

    Calzephyr TrainBoard Supporter

    Bryan... in the method you described... there was no soldering involved?? I've soldered 22 gauge wire to the unijoiner's metal part in the past... very tedious... and difficult IMHO. If your method doesn't require soldering... it would be much better. Do you have a picture to see the results?
  9. bryan9

    bryan9 TrainBoard Member

    Dr. J, in response to your question about where to solder, I've seen two methods for soldering feeders to Unitrack:

    1. Take a Unijoiner, and pop out the metal part. Thread a stripped and tinned 22 guage wire up through the Unijoiner, and solder it to the bottom of the metal part.

    2. Flip over a section of Unitrack. Use a drill or a Dremel tool to gouge out some of the plastic so that both rails are exposed. Solder feeders to the rails.

    Do please try my newly discovered method, described elsewhere in this thread, which requires no tools (other than a wire stripper), no solder, and very little time!

  10. Powersteamguy1790

    Powersteamguy1790 Permanently dispatched


    That's an excellent technique you have for attaching feeders to Unitrack.

    I still do it the old fashioned way soldering 22 gauge wire to the rails directly. I've been able to hide the solder joints and wiring so it isn't noticeable.

    So far so good, the JJJ&E has been running for almost seven years. I'm in the process of another addition to the layout. The Unitrack is laid down and ready for feeders. Maybe I'll try your method on a few of the sections.

    Stay cool and run steam....:cool: :cool:
  11. wiking

    wiking TrainBoard Supporter

    I use the first method that Bryan talks about it works very well. I have 12 of these types of feeders on my 4x8 layout using Unitrack.

  12. josephbales

    josephbales TrainBoard Member

    Thanks Bryan9. I just tried the solderless method above and it worked like a charm! I'm about to build a Unitrack layout and my biggest concern was how to wire it. I had tried soldering my own wires to the feeders, but my soldering skill are lacking and my hands shake too much when doing delicate work. Now I have a simple, cost effective way to wire. Thanks again.
  13. josephbales

    josephbales TrainBoard Member

    ogre427 likes this.
  14. atsf_arizona

    atsf_arizona TrainBoard Supporter

    Joseph Bales - thx for making that website - makes this procedure really clear.

    It will be interesting to see over time if there is any degradation in the electrical conductivity. Keep us all posted on what happens or feedback you may get.

    Thx again. :)
  15. bryan9

    bryan9 TrainBoard Member

    Thanks Joseph - that's perfect. You got the thumb action exactly right! The key thing is that you have to hold the wire in there until the Unijoiner snaps into place.

    John, that's a good question about degradation of electrical connectivity. If you try this technique, you'll see there is a surprisingly strong mechanical clampdown on the wire -- in fact, it's difficult to pull the wire out without disconnecting the Unijoiner. Where people could get into trouble with this, presumably, is humidity and corrosion -- but there would have to be a lot of humidity. In such cases I would recommend the use of marine-grade wire.

    --Bryan Pfaffenberger (aka Bryan9)
    Charlottesville, VA
  16. Calzephyr

    Calzephyr TrainBoard Supporter

    Thanks Bryan and Joseph!

    Bryan I will be using this technique in my layout.

    Too bad this didn't come out about 6 months ago... I did the soldering method on the club layout. That was very tedious... and ruined some unijoiners too.
  17. BrucePerkins

    BrucePerkins Resigned From Forum

    I am getting ready to start my layout with Unitrack. I'm not prepared now to work with DCC. Would this method described work with "blocking".

  18. Krasny Strela

    Krasny Strela TrainBoard Member


    Yes, as long as you use insulated rail joiners at the gaps b/w blocks and run your feeders to your block switches and then to the mains.

    I've used the solderless method for 3 months now and have maybe 90 connections made (with another 180 to go). I'm dropping connections every 3rd joiner so that means that every track section is powered from at least one end.
  19. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    There is a reason and purpose for soldering. According to the electrician who first taught me, a friend - who is an electrician, my son-in-law the electrical engineer it boils down like this. Electricity as it moves from one wire or from wire to track can tend to chatter (a loose interpretation). A better definition, there can be a current, amperage or voltage drop, a type of resistance. IE., by weaving wires together or placing a wire pinned to the inside of a railjoiner or the track. I tried pinning the wire down to the inside of the railjoiners in HO. Eventually the wire would work loose and the contact would void itself. Soldering the joint... you reduce the chatter or arcing across the gap creating a direct path for the electricty to follow. The measurable drop in current, voltage and/or amperage may not be discernable with the little meters most of us use. DC operations may not show a obvious problem however, when using DCC you might see some interesting variations occur.

    I think the idea Bryan has shared is great. Just suggesting you monitor the performance levels and let time be the teller.
  20. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter


    What he said! Thanks!
    I'll be using this extensively on the Grey and Grandure. I might solder hard to reach places just to cover my bets. Since I'm using 14 guage computer power cord wire I might get different results..

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