Turnout and Track Questions from a newbie

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Paul M

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Rail joiner as they come with the rails from the manufactures are good for about a year outdoors. After that the contact becomes questionable. Oxidization and dirt are making the contact resistive and eventually they become intermittent and fail completely. Conductive grease is not really very conductive, but it helps, not in making the contact, but by keeping the dust, dirt and soil out of the joint. Lets not forget that exposed to the weather the rails are in constant motion due to the thermal heating and cooling. It causes the dirt to enter deeper and deeper into the contact areas. On my fist layout I soldered jumper wires over each joint with good success, but the soldering was a main chore considering the many joints. A friend had an idea. He drilled a small hole at a 60 degree angle trough the rail joiner, the foot of the rail and out again through the bottom of the joiner. A small (#4, 3/8 inch long) stainless steel self-tapping screw is placed in this hole. Two for each joiner, four to each track joint. It seem a lot of work, but it is still less of an effort than to remove each joiner and replace it with a much costlier clamp. A little touch-up with paint makes the screw heads almost in visible.
My present extensive layout was build following my friends idea. It has close to 500 track joints (2000 screws) and not one has failed to conduct in 17 years !!!
Ride the rails in one of my videos and see if you can spot them:
Doesn't the joiner/clamp discussion depend on where your line is? If it's at ground level, the dust and grit problem is going to be worse than a higher level line on a wooden deck, also the expansion and contraction issues will be different.
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

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Doesn't the joiner/clamp discussion depend on where your line is? If it's at ground level, the dust and grit problem is going to be worse than a higher level line on a wooden deck, also the expansion and contraction issues will be different.
I think that matters not what hight the line is located, but on a high line (near ceiling) defishplating unseen could be a little embarising. I think that it may also matter to a lesser or greater extent depending on the local one lives, a coastal location or perhaps near a Chemical Works could have a differing effect. For me the benefit has always been twofold, one fit and forget the other is that alterations are so much simpler with clamps than fishplates. A third benefit in the Garden as I have frequently said is that of security, very tricky to run down the road even with an LGB circle if R1 Securely clamped together. One of our members has had his track saved recently by clamps.
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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The track and joiner questions depend on tons of things.

Using better clamps, grease, stainless vs brass, etc. all mitigate the problems of getting the power to the loco.

The issue is that if you "commit" to a solution that is not "good enough" then you can face a significant expense to a different solution.

In my case, I knew I needed DCC, and I had read forums for years before I started a layout. So I heard all the stories, some true, some false. Many people who made the wrong decision covered it up to avoid embarassment, and many gave up on track power and went battery in frustration.

So I built a small loop in the back yard of 3 different manufacturers' track, and quickly learned that brass oxidized too rapidly, the Aristo and USAT joiners were crap and loosened, and "fixing" an oxidized joiner was a whole lot of work.

Now the budget came into play... could go brass track, and either use bond wires between segments, or expensive clamps, but I still had the oxidation problem.

So, I made a loop of stainless steel rail... NIRVANA!..... did this 20 years ago, made the financial committment bit by bit, and 20 years later still in nirvana.

So, make the right decision for yourself the first time, take you time, consider your budget, but the track is the foundation of your layout.

Greg
 
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phils2um

Phil S
11 Sep 2015
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I have to admit knowing what I do now, I would use more stainless steel track especially is areas where access is limited like my 15ft plus long tunnel. I will eventually get around to replacing the LGB sectional track in the tunnel with SS flex. I really do like the way LGB brass track weathers to a realistic color though. And, in general, I don't have conductivity issues caused dirty track. My track is all LGB brass flex and sectional with the exception of about 30 feet (9m) of Aristo stainless steel flex. I run a train with LGB's 50050 track cleaner just about every day. I do not have a dedicated track cleaning loco. I do have a Massoth track cleaning pad mounted on a drywall pole sander and the ever trusty LGB track cleaning block that I have to occasionally wield.
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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There is a guy on the US forums that figured out how to realistically rust SS and it looks great, of course it is only surface rust, he uses vinegar and steel wool I believe, laid up against the rail. In my case some track was near the grass, and the fertilizer that was high in iron did some realistic looking rust on the rails. It can be done.

It does not "creep" over to the railhead. All I do before running is either nothing or a once over wipe with a wet "swiffer" pad, which wipes the black grime from the rails, and I can do it at walking speed, 5 minutes for the mainline.

One of the best decisions I ever made, sure it is twice as much as brass, but buy a few less locos in the beginning.

Greg

(and please guys, don't jump in with your battery stories, the post is about track power, not asking for a comparison with battery, I know all the battery guys are very pleased with themselves and it is absolutely the best way to go)
 
JimmyB

JimmyB

Semi-Retired; more time for trains.
It amazes me how people consider SS does not rust, there are lots of grades of SS from hard SS with lots of steel and rust without any problems, and soft SS with much less steel and is less prone to rust. It is a balance between the other properties you want in your SS and the rust resistance. Lots of experiments have been carried out on the rust potential of SS and it can (not necessarily will) rust under the right (wrong!) circumstances.
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

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It amazes me how people consider SS does not rust, there are lots of grades of SS from hard SS with lots of steel and rust without any problems, and soft SS with much less steel and is less prone to rust. It is a balance between the other properties you want in your SS and the rust resistance. Lots of experiments have been carried out on the rust potential of SS and it can (not necessarily will) rust under the right (wrong!) circumstances.
Too true, I have SS bone knifes that live outside in my Garden all of the time. Some rust badly others not at all. Plus so called modern SS cutlery comes out of the dishwasher with rust marks.
 
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Paul M

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Too true, I have SS bone knifes that live outside in my Garden all of the time. Some rust badly others not at all. Plus so called modern SS cutlery comes out of the dishwasher with rust marks.
Seems like the knives are plated, rather than proper stainless.
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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OK, so there are all kinds of stainless steel... of course.

But the alloys used in Aristo, and the others do not rust or corrode.

I don't understand the thrust of the comment, but it is not an issue, thousands of people that have stainless steel rail are the evidence.

Greg
 
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Paul M

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I don't understand the thrust of the comment, but it is not an issue, thousands of people that have stainless steel rail are the evidence
I think the comments are merely stating that not all stainless steel is created equal, a little discussion on folks experiences, a small warning to avoid the cheap stuff. A bit like a real meandering conversation in a bar or club house, which we've all missed over the last few months, and will probably have to miss for a bit longer. I mean what we really should be wondering is why some of the participants in this thread leave their stainless steel knives out in the garden!:giggle:
 
AustrianNG

AustrianNG

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One of the problems I have here on my new layout is bird droppings - there are several pigeons in the locale and they seem to eat as much as an elephant !
I will have to coax next door's black and white cat over and put him to work.......
The LGB track block cleaner cleans it off but it is a frequent chore.
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

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I think the comments are merely stating that not all stainless steel is created equal, a little discussion on folks experiences, a small warning to avoid the cheap stuff. A bit like a real meandering conversation in a bar or club house, which we've all missed over the last few months, and will probably have to miss for a bit longer. I mean what we really should be wondering is why some of the participants in this thread leave their stainless steel knives out in the garden!:giggle:
They are uncoupling devices and are left at each of 5 stations in the Garden so that it is not an added task to get the line ready for an operating day.
 
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Paul M

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I don't understand the thrust of the comment,
Sorry Greg, I totally missed that pun, I'm obviously wasn't as sharp as I should have been this morning.
Thanks Jon, for explaining why you left knives outside, I knewthere had to be a good reason
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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I think the comments are merely stating that not all stainless steel is created equal, a little discussion on folks experiences, a small warning to avoid the cheap stuff. A bit like a real meandering conversation in a bar or club house, which we've all missed over the last few months, and will probably have to miss for a bit longer. I mean what we really should be wondering is why some of the participants in this thread leave their stainless steel knives out in the garden!:giggle:
Well Paul, as far as I know there were only 3 manufacturers of stainless rail, AML (now no longer stocked), Aristo (out of business), and H&R which is only sold in the US from a Florida company.

So, talking about other alloys that may rust has no significance, since there's really only the Aristo stuff available now, AML was for a very short time, and the H&R stuff is virtually nonexistant.

So in that context, a general statement on the many different alloys of stainless steel is irrelevant to anyone considering stainless steel now, the only availability is NOS Aristo or used Aristo.

Trying to be helpful and constructive to the OP, and to the thread and others considering stainless steel rail.

Greg
 
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Rhinochugger

Rhinochugger

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27 Oct 2009
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It amazes me how people consider SS does not rust, there are lots of grades of SS from hard SS with lots of steel and rust without any problems, and soft SS with much less steel and is less prone to rust. It is a balance between the other properties you want in your SS and the rust resistance. Lots of experiments have been carried out on the rust potential of SS and it can (not necessarily will) rust under the right (wrong!) circumstances.
Mmmm - have you been inside the containment suite at Porton Down? They know all about rusting SS there ;);) We discovered that an alternative that would not rust when Chlorus solution was flushed down the system was Hasteloy, about as expensive weight for weight as silver.

When I moved on to other pastures, they were considering whether it would be cheaper to use thicker, sacrificial SS and replace it every 15 years or so :worried::worried::worried:
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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When Aristo came out with it's SS rail, it was half the price of the competition, so we lived with the somewhat sloppy dimensional tolerances from batch to batch, and other things.

Everyone was so happy to no longer scrub rails to remove oxide, except one guy who just went on and on about how awful it was, and it oxidized and did not work, etc... everyone was very confused.... he kept claiming he was not doing anything to the rail, nothing weird, etc... this went on for years, any time someone was talking about SS rail, here he came, going off on how awful it was, etc. Just going "off the rails" on virtually any and all threads on SS track.

After maybe 4 years, he posted a picture of his track, which was very near the side of the house, on a concrete surround around his pool. He made a comment on having to work on the house and do his monthly mildew prevention (he was in Florida, where even plastic home siding gets mildew).... the track was just inches from the house... yep, he sprayed sodium metasilicate and chlorine bleach on his siding MONTHLY and never rinsed it off, clearly getting it on the track, after years saying he never sprayed anything on the track..

(well not on purpose was his reply when he was "caught")

So after years, the mystery of the "terrible" stainless steel track was solved... yes SS is not impervious to everything ;)
 
Rhinochugger

Rhinochugger

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One of the problems I have here on my new layout is bird droppings - there are several pigeons in the locale and they seem to eat as much as an elephant !
I will have to coax next door's black and white cat over and put him to work.......
The LGB track block cleaner cleans it off but it is a frequent chore.
Yep, the wrong sort of pigeon poop is a frequent problem in rural areas where they have reached pest proportions. They also tend to be habitual, so will sit in the same spot at night and dump in the same spot creating a bit of a pile at times :oops::oops:

A bit like the Two Ronnies' news item about an elephant who had done the ton on the M1 - please regard this as a roundabout :D

There is a slow change, with the reduction of pesticides, and a return to hedgerow management, the programme to re-introduce red kites back in the 70s / 80s - so now you see far more raptors than before - they're still not keeping up with pigeon re-production though; pigeons are the avian equivalent of rabbits when it comes to re-producing :eek::eek::eek:
 
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Paul M

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