A Bit of Soldering Goes a Long Way to Causing Insanity

I made a decision when I started the WSVRR to go to a DCC control system, rather than the traditional analog method used by many people for a long time. It’s nothing against analog. I’ve worked with it, it’s fantastic, and it was a great way to learn and be comfortable with DC electrical circuits. But when I started my planning for this railroad, I decided, since I only had some minimal equipment, that I’d go to DCC, and build my little empire that way.

In either case, getting track power to your tracks in N-Scale requires you to do one of two things: either connect to rails directly, or to connect at the joints using your particular tracks rail joiners.

In the larger scales, like O or G, you can get away with directly securing the wire inside of your joiner and against the rail, and not need to do anything more. The pressure from the joiner connecting to the rail providers more than enough force to keep things secured.

But when you get to smaller scales, like HO, N and Z, you can’t brute for things. No, here, you have to put some time into connecting to your rails. The more common method, so far as I can tell, is to connect with the rail joiners. It’s simple, it’s clean, you can burrow directly under the table in between track sections and run to your power source. Going directly to the rails themselves require you to solder the wires to the rails as you wish. The upside to this is that if you have a good connection between the wire and the rail head, chances are you will never have conductivity issues, which is, to say the least, great. The downside is, if you shake a bit much, you might accidentally slip and cause heat damage to your rails, especially if you use a form of fast-track like I do. Kato Unitrack is my favorite track for N-scale. I’ve worked with Atlas SNAP track, a few types of flex track, and Bachmann EZ track. Frankly, I’ve loved how well the Kato product works, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

The only real problem with Unitrack is that it is, in a word, expensive. And the accessories for it are likewise. For example: a 4 pack of 5 inch track sections is anywhere from $6.00 to $9.00. Comparable Atlas SNAP track comes 6 to a pack and is $3.00 – $5.50. So the unit price on the cheap side is $1.50 per piece vs $0.50. And then come the feeder wires.

Atlas feeder wires come as a pair of wires for anywhere from $3.80 – $5.00 but if you’re especially sharp at train shows, you can sometimes get them in bulk for less. But Kato Unitrack feeders? They cost about the same, and you almost never can find a discount for buying in bulk.

Now, I realize that even at $5.00 it doesn’t sound so bad. The problem isn’t if you need a couple of them. The problem is that, if you want to ensure a GOOD connection for DCC, you need them every few feet… and when you have nearly 200 feet of track to wire, even doing it every 4 feet means at least 50 sets of these things. Even if you can get that $3.80 per foot price, you’re talking about $175.00 in feeders. GOOD GRIEF!

On the other hand, if you have a soldering iron (I do) and buy your own wire (I did) and you have a few other necessities (right on hand), you can easily drive yourself crazy trying to make your own.

Okay, to be fair, I’ve made exactly two pairs while testing out the wires I want to use. I tried a stranded wire (28 AWG) and a solid wire (22 AWG). While the stranded wire is easier to manipulate and bend, it seems a bit less robust. So the 22 solid will be my choice. Next, I discovered through research and reading the to easily disassemble the Unijoiners for this requires me to use a set of electronics tweezers. So I have anset on order and will have them in on Tuesday of this week.

Once I test my methods a bit further, I will post up my approach to making my own joiners. More to follow.