Unitrack and feeders?

Dr. J. Jun 19, 2006

  1. dieselfan1

    dieselfan1 Guest

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    I used this same method of making my own terminal unijoiners with one small modification. I had a spool of old telephone wire (22 awg) . I took a unijoiner and cut a small notch in each end of it for the wire to be recessed into the joiner so it would let the track snap tightly together. I found that if I didn't cut the notch , it would create a small gap on each end of the joiner where it meets the rail and leave a gap. I use these on every piece of track connected to a 14 awg buss wire and have unnoticeable voltage drop. Bulletproof.
    Don't waste your money on those Kato terminal unijoiners, make your own.
     
  2. dexterdog62

    dexterdog62 TrainBoard Member

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    The reason why Kato makes those terminal sections is probably to facilitate the easy and quick assembly and disassembly of temporary layouts. They are indeed expensive if one were planning a larger and more permanent layout. On my Unitrack layout I use a very short section of 24 AWG wire inserted into the unijoiner. I keep this section as short as possible, 4-6 inch lengths at most, just enough to go through the foam or plywood, and connect them to intermediate lengths of 18 AWG wire which run to the 14AWG bus. It's a bit of extra work, but I find I have optimal DCC performance with this method.
     
  3. kmcsjr

    kmcsjr TrainBoard Member

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    Amazing. I searched out Kato feeders and found a 2006 thread, that was commented on 4 days ago. I'm wiring now. I am making my own joiners, using the method described on Mike Fifer's website http://www.fiferhobby.com/html/how_to_make_kato_unitrack_feed.htmland I think referenced here. I'm using 22 gauge stranded wire and, so far, so good. it is easy to guide the wires in preexisting grooves in the track underside, and drop them through the table, hidden. Earlier in the thread, someone mentioned these solder joints being weak. I get that if I solder poorly.... Barring a bad soldering joint, are those of you using this technique happy, over time?
     
  4. Rex Thomson

    Rex Thomson New Member

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    I was searching for tips on how to solder Kato Unitrack and came across this thread from all these years ago. Just wanted to say thanks to both Bryan9 for the technique and Joseph for the tutorial with pictures (pictorial ?). Saved me a lot of soldering headaches and I was able to quickly add feeders to my DCC layout. I used 22 gauge speaker wire and it works perfectly.

    Cheers
    Rex
     
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  5. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    I have never had any trouble with using Kato feeders for Unitrack, even though I usually don't put them as close together as the recommended spacings. But, that has only been for very temporary layouts, where the electrically connecting surfaces have recently been rubbed against each other pretty hard, so any thin layer of corrosion is probably scraped away during assembly of my track pattern.

    What I have read is that those unsoldered electrical connections will eventually build up corrosion and increase resistance, dropping voltage across them when the is current flowing through them. So, it isn't sufficient to just put a volt meter across the rails without any load like a locomotive or lighted car drawing current to that location. I use a 12 watt automobile light bulb as a load when checking my track. That draws about an amp, so it makes any section of track with a high resistance feed path easy to find with a regular volt meter. So far, I have never had any problems with my temporary track layouts. And, if I did, I would probably first try sliding track sections and wiring connectors between that area and the power supply to see if that solved the problem.

    But, once the track is surrounded by scenery, maybe even including glued-down track ballast, there are 2 additional concerns. The first is that it would be very destructive to the scenery to pick up track sections and wiggle their connections. The second is that any sort of paint or glue in track joiners might result in loss of connection when applied, or enhanced corrosion rates over time as the layout ages. I have read about Unitrack layouts with scenery becoming electrically unreliable after some years, even with track cleaning, so it apparently happens somehow.

    So, if I was going to make a permanent layout with Unitrack, I would make sure there was a path of soldered connections between every place on the rails all the way back to at least the electrical feeder block under the layout, where I could still wiggle and clean wired connections. That means that I would need to have a feed to every section of Unitrack, no matter how small, or solder some of the connections between sections to cut down on the number of feeders. Because I tend to use a lot of really short Unitrack sections to make things fit my plan, I am sure that I would end-up soldering some sections together to avoid having a huge number of feeders.

    So, that leaves me with a question about how to best solder Unitrack rail sections together. My thinking is to do it like I do with sectional track: scratch the surfaces with a wire "pen", apply liquid flux to the area, and then touch it with a soldering iron with a small amount of liquid solder on its tip, heating the point where the two rails and the rail joiner make contact just long enough to see the solder flow. Has anybody done that? Can it be done without melting any plastic? The plastic part around the metal part in the Unitrack rail joiners seems to be pretty vulnerable to the heat needed to make the solder connect to the metal part of the joiner. The only other way I can think to do it would be to just try to solder the rails at the top, and then trim any blob to the rail profile with a fine file. Has anybody tried that?
     
  6. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    I'm with Maletrain, on this.

    I solder in my wires directly to the rail because of the concerns already expressed. Just be-careful you don't get things to hot as the plastic will melt. If someone asked me what I thought about rail joiners and wires attached to or soldered to-them. NO said emphatically. Avoid that.
     
  7. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    I had a Unitrack layout (thrice around on a HCD) for about 10 years, with one Terminal Unijoiner per loop. Nothing soldered (except the feeder wires to their Unijoiners), no problems. There was some acceptable voltage loss on the far side from the TUs, but it did not change over time. The layout was in a climate controlled spare bedroom, not a basement, garage, etc.

    The key to the Uni-joiners is that they are firmly supported by the plastic housing, which is in turn supported by the socket for that housing in the Unitrack roadbed. This level of support prevents the contact pressure from subsiding over time

    In electrical connectors for high reliability applications, they use "gas-tight" contacts, that have enough pressure (PSI) on the mated contacts to ensure that potentially oxidizing gases cannot get in between the mated contacts, or at least a mated area necessary to support electrical specifications for current capacity and/or contact resistance. Properly crimped contacts also provide a gas tight connection between the contact and the wire. These crimped joints are every bit as reliable as soldered joints in far more damaging environments than a typical train room would provide.

    This is why the overwhelming majority of permanent, non-circuit board electrical connections today are crimped or otherwise made gas tight, not soldered. Circuit board component connections are still soldered because of production efficiency, not electrical joint quality.
     
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  8. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Jusy my $.025348 worth...

    I think feeders on every piece of Unitrack is overkill. I have been running THERR in an RV that has temp swings from 0 degrees in the winter to 105+ in the summer. I havent had a track electrical issue in 8 years on my Unitrack layout, I put feeders on Unitrack joiners every 3 pieces of track. Each joiner will handle the track section on either side of it. The 3rd odd piece between the two with feeders is getting power from both sides so it is be unlikely that it will ever be a problem.

    You can use the Unitrack joiners and make feeders from them by removing the metal joiner from it's plastic holder, soldering a wire to it and putting it back in its plastic holder. You have to be careful where you solder the wire to the joiner, or it will not go back in the holder.

    .
     
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  9. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    On the JACALAR I soldered feeders to the underside of the Unitrack, most every (but not all) pieces. On the underside, there are holes right below the rail, and at each end, they are double length and easy to attach a feeder to.
     
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  10. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    I am using the Unitrack feeders as designed and only have three serving a 15 foot by 3 foot layout. The feeder are connect to single three port unitrack connector and then a single wire connection to the MRC Tech 7. I can lash up 7 locomotives and run them without any difficulty.
     
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  11. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    Well, that has not been my experience with sail boat electrical connections. Everything corrodes on a sailboat, if not soldered, sealed, or at least greased.

    But, that doesn't stop "professional" people from making bare crimped connections on boats. The "efficiency" is for them to make money as fast and cheaply as possible, not to make the sailboat as reliable as possible for crossing oceans, which is the "efficiency" that I want.

    So, I solder wherever I can, use "Liquid Tape" where I can't.

    But, even an RV should not be as challenging as a sailboat.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
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  12. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    HHHHhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... an n scale layout below deck on a sailboat....:sneaky:(y)(y)(y):whistle:
     
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  13. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Well, if your layout is on a sailboat, then additional and/or different measures may apply...
     
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  14. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    But the challenge is what makes it fun...;)
     
  15. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Hmm, sailboats and model trains together. It isn’t just a hole to through money down, it is an abyss!
     
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  16. Onizukachan

    Onizukachan TrainBoard Supporter

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    Even the RC ones can be a money pit. Lol.
     
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  17. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Anti-sailboat. :ROFLMAO::LOL::D:p

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Wow, what if a model railroad on a sailboat modeled a harbor rail line, with a sailboat scene that included a model railroad on the deck?!

    Recursive model railroading!
     
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  19. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    That hurt my brain. :ROFLMAO:o_O:LOL::cool:
     

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