Droppers on track

Discuss the prototype and how to model it.
Bilton Junction
Posts: 34
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 1:02 am

Droppers on track

Postby Bilton Junction » Fri Jan 16, 2009 1:41 am

Rather stupidly I made up sections of track in scale 60 foot panels. Well they look great don't they? The problem is that every 10 inches I need to use a dropper, unless of course I soldered them all together, which would defeat the object. What a joy that was, not. Hours of careful assembly ruined by the inevitable effects of a soldering iron melting adjacent chairs. No I didn't touch em! just that metal rail has a tendency to conduct heat and scale plastic components are not forgiving. Never mind replacements can be clicked in quite easily. I have used tinned copper wire (erstwhile ZTC) and because I was soldering to steel rail put on a drop of greenery-yellow flux, they didn't seem to stick to the cored electrical solder without. I am using brass fishplates (this is starting to be an MOD project, over budget and well behind time) as an insurance against the droppers falling off. Belt and braces? I think not, as already, a night after washing off the acid flux residue in a dilute solution of sodium bicarbonate (I am too tight to buy neutralising rinse - what is it and is it any good?) I am already cleaning off a nasty but colourful blue efflorescence around the solder joints, a few of em droppers have dropped off already. I am building an overambitious P4 tailchaser and have already built most of the non scenic section in PCB and the linking 39 inch curves in gauge widened flexitrack ( the other bits have worked, or mostly so far) It sounds cackhanded, it probably is cackhanded but my main hobby is microsurgery so I am not that rough with things, perhaps just a bit challenged by non-organic material science, or perhaps overambitious about "true scale". My impression is that I should cut my losses and revert to 3.5 gauge live steam or try 308mm to the foot. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

User avatar
grovenor-2685
Posts: 3136
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2008 8:02 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby grovenor-2685 » Fri Jan 16, 2009 1:07 pm

Once upon a time, briefly, I did the 60ft rail bit, then I realised that a fine notch on the rail head and a dummy fishplate did the job.
So far as droppers go I have long used steel rail and normal cored solder with no problems. Most of mine are on ply and rivet track where the droppers go on before the cosmetic chairs, but I have also a fair bit of C&L flexi and generally manage to solder the droppers without damage.
I would not use any green, yellow or any other colour of flux for this purpose as I always attach my droppers after track laying and cleaning the residue is not practical.

Soldering the droppers I do as follows:
1. Clean the rail, fibreglass brush before assembly, the end of a round riffler if needing to clean after its laid, eg if fixing droppers is delayed.
2. Hold end of cored solder to the clean batch and apply iron to heat rail and solder enough to tin the rail nicely.
3. Insert dropper in baseboard hole, strip last 10mm if using insulated wire, bend over last 2mm into a nice L shape to fit in the rail web.#1
4. Using cored solder again tin the end of the wire, do this irrespective of whether the wire is bare copper or already tinned.
5. Pull the wire from below to the right level and ensure it fits the rail and holds against the rail.
6. Dab the iron on to melt the tinning together, and allow to cool, a bit of a blow speeds up the cooling.
7. Give the wire a tug from underneath, if it comes off start again.
After you have done a few failures should be very rare.

#1. I always solder to the web on the non-viewing side, ie in the 4ft for the near rail and in the 6ft or cess for the far rail.
Regards

User avatar
Russ Elliott
Posts: 930
Joined: Thu Jun 02, 2011 6:38 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby Russ Elliott » Sat Jan 17, 2009 1:35 pm

I like to put droppers on the underside of the rail; the droppers (24SWG tinned copper wire) are put on before track panels are laid. Pre-tinning the rail is essential, but if quick with the iron, plastic flexi is not affected.

User avatar
grovenor-2685
Posts: 3136
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2008 8:02 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby grovenor-2685 » Sat Jan 17, 2009 1:51 pm

Yes, I know quite a few people like this under rail system, makes sense if you want to view from both sides, but for most layouts, IMHO its just extra work. Mainly as all the dropper locations have to be preplanned, holes predrilled and this significantly slows down the whole track laying process. 'To each his own'.
Regards

nberrington
Posts: 298
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 2:15 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby nberrington » Sat Jan 17, 2009 3:26 pm

New to P4 and the concept of making my own track, I am caught in a grande (perhaps naive) scheme. I have been toying with using brass chairs to feed the rail - that way one can completely conceal the dropper by soldering beneath the chair. It takes some forethought on drilling holes etc.

Expensive.

Will take some pictures today, but I quite like the concept.

Neil

User avatar
derekrussan
Posts: 117
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:02 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby derekrussan » Sat Jan 17, 2009 7:57 pm

Russ Elliott wrote:I like to put droppers on the underside of the rail; the droppers (24SWG tinned copper wire) are put on before track panels are laid. Pre-tinning the rail is essential, but if quick with the iron, plastic flexi is not affected.

We used this system on Brinkley and over time they have been our biggest single cause of failure. I would never do it this way again.

Derek
Derek Russan, Eileens Emporium.

User avatar
Tim V
Posts: 2217
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:40 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby Tim V » Sat Jan 17, 2009 9:25 pm

I use the method as Keith, all droppers are soldered to the other (unseen) side of the rail.

Not all railways used 60' rails, I was misled and should have used 44' rails. When I was last at Bicester (GW) it has 44' rails in the main line (about five years ago). The Tintern branch was still laid with 32' rails.
Tim V

User avatar
jim s-w
Posts: 1697
Joined: Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:56 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby jim s-w » Sun Jan 18, 2009 7:52 pm

Hi All

Not that this helps you much Tim but my method is as follows.

Always 2 droppers per rail and always use as long a piece of rail as I can. I agree with Keith's notched rail and fishplate method.

Put the 2 droppers on sleepers that are together. Ensure that the rail is free to move along its length if it needs to - ie. dont solder opposite ends as it will introduce stress into the rail.

The droppers are formed from copperclad sleepers, drilled under the rail and a brass lacemakers pin inserted. The whole lot is soldered together. The advantage of doing it this way is that if the solder fails or the dropper gets snagged under the layout the pin is trapped between the rail and the sleeper and cant come out. The solder to the underside of the rail without a sleeper method means that if the joint fails the dropper falls away.

My method means that in the event of a failure a quick touch with a soldering iron is all you need to fix!

Cheers

Jim

User avatar
Rod Cameron
Posts: 637
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:01 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby Rod Cameron » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:36 am

derekrussan wrote:
Russ Elliott wrote:I like to put droppers on the underside of the rail; the droppers (24SWG tinned copper wire) are put on before track panels are laid. Pre-tinning the rail is essential, but if quick with the iron, plastic flexi is not affected.

We used this system on Brinkley and over time they have been our biggest single cause of failure. I would never do it this way again.

Derek


We've used the 'underside of rail' method on Eridge (I think Mk2 is the same) without any problems of failure - always two droppers per length of rail though, so I can't guarantee that there were no failures at all.
Rod

User avatar
derekrussan
Posts: 117
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:02 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby derekrussan » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:58 am

Rod Cameron wrote:We've used the 'underside of rail' method on Eridge (I think Mk2 is the same) without any problems of failure - always two droppers per length of rail though, so I can't guarantee that there were no failures at all.


We also use 2 droppers per rail, but over about 20 years we have had at least 6 or 7 total failures, where both have come off. Maybe there are other issues, like stiffness of the dropper, tension, temperature cycling and method of attachment of flying end under boards. The fact remains that this method gives a joint that has very poor pull strength we have found prone to failure. It is not too difficult to lay the dropper inconspicuously into the web of the rail (ideally blind side) significantly increasing the pull resistance.

Derek
Derek Russan, Eileens Emporium.

Terry Bendall
Posts: 1611
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2008 7:46 am

Re: Droppers on track

Postby Terry Bendall » Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:53 am

My method is to solder the dropper to the underside of the rail before laying the track. As others have said this does require pre-planning. Where I differ is to screw a small piece of copper clad board to the underside of the baseboard next to the hole and solder the dropper to that. The feed wire is then soldered to the copper clad board. The disadvantage is an extra joint in the system, but the advantage is no strain on the dropper so it should not get pulled off the rail and if you are fault finding you have a contact under the baseboard for a test probe. Nothing fallen off yet on steel rail and I usually use flux and clean it off later, but Keith's method of pre tinning sound better to me. Always at least two droppers per rail, even on short bits and three on longer lengths. Belts and braces!

Terry Bendall

User avatar
Russ Elliott
Posts: 930
Joined: Thu Jun 02, 2011 6:38 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby Russ Elliott » Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:34 pm

As a 'rail underside' fan, I do acknowledge that the joint doesn't have great mechanical strength, and thus pre-tinning of rail and ensuring a good joint to the dropper before the track is laid is essential. I've found tinning the TCW (yes, I know, sounds superfluous doesn't it) is also desirable, and old-fashioned electrical tin-lead solder is still usually the best in my view. Making the baseboard dropper hole generous enough is also a good idea, to reduce mechanical stress when the track is being placed in position - getting the dropper axis aligned with the dropper hole is not always easy, so be generous with the dropper hole diameter, or be prepared to do a little bit of dropper shifting. Like Terry, I also terminate the TCW underneath the dropper hole as soon as possible (on a bit of tag strip in my case, a practice I took from Green Street) and allow the TCW 'tail' beneath the board sufficient freedom. Two droppers per rail piece, of course.

Bilton Junction
Posts: 34
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 1:02 am

Re: Droppers on track

Postby Bilton Junction » Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:33 am

Many thanks for the various thoughts on droppers and helpful tips about soldering. I will reserve the greenery-yellow flux for some other purpose. I did put the droppers on to the non scenic section after laying the track. I stuck with the original intention of scale length rail for the next section. Time will tell if the droppers stick as well! A bit stupid really as that section on the main line is beyond the platform edge and under the canopy. The problem will come trying to lay 30' rails in the yard in the foreground, which I think was the standard rail length for sidings on the NER. There are still sections of NER pattern 45' rails with 17 sleepers in Bank Top Station, Darlington. The practicalities of attaching 2 droppers to a 10 inch length of rail have already eluded me and the prospect of two droppers in five inches sounds a bit close to masochism. I suppose it may be possible to use yard rail lengths load them up with chairs and stick them on 9' sleepers then notch the rail joints afterwards. Awful complicated P4 aint it?! ;)

User avatar
jim s-w
Posts: 1697
Joined: Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:56 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby jim s-w » Sun Jan 25, 2009 6:04 pm

Bilton Junction wrote: Awful complicated P4 aint it?! ;)


No! You should have 2 droppers per rail regardless of the scale/gauge! ;) ;) ;)

Cheers

Jim

User avatar
beast66606
Posts: 22
Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2008 8:48 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby beast66606 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:04 am

jim s-w wrote:
Bilton Junction wrote: Awful complicated P4 aint it?! ;)


No! You should have 2 droppers per rail regardless of the scale/gauge! ;) ;) ;)

Cheers

Jim


Agreed - Widnes does, even on a 1" length I had to graft in - and its "only" OO :D

Under rail every time for me, two wires per rail, never had a failure.
DAS
-------------------------------------------
All opinions are mine and mine alone
http://www.wirralfinescale.com
http://www.johnskipsey.fotopic.net

User avatar
stephenfreeman
Posts: 62
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:13 am

Re: Droppers on track

Postby stephenfreeman » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:26 pm

Hi,

I think the main problem you were having was in the choice of solder. If you use lead-free, it's a real pig to solder to steel without using a corrosive flux, switching to a leaded cored solder should be a little easier, better still use nickel silver rail (steel rail doesn't really look like prototype steel rail, Mr. Lewis's Hi-Ni arguably looks better).
Stephen Freeman
Bespoke Finescale Trackwork and Semaphore Signals 7mm to 4mm scales
https://www.tracknsignals.co.uk

User avatar
derekrussan
Posts: 117
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:02 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby derekrussan » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:59 pm

The problems we had were with track laid before the H&S nannies had invented the lead free concept, so this was not the culprit.

Agreed, the composition of solder does affect the ability to create mechanical strength by varying the degree it is prone to form a meniscus. The problem is more that any pull force away from the bond, the meniscus does help, but not much.

I still advocate the safe way is to be subtle and put the wire in the web where it touches the rail in 2 planes and any meniscus goes around 90 degrees more of the wire and any pull is not directly trying to peel the wire off.

Derek
Derek Russan, Eileens Emporium.

johnWM
Posts: 62
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:33 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby johnWM » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:19 pm

Many years ago I remember listening to a discussion between two modellers who were debating how best to work out where the holes for dropper wires in the baseboard needed to be and how to get the positions accurate, so that the baseboard hole was directly below the solder point. I listened to the conversation for 10 to 15 mins. I eventually chipped in that I thought that directly below the solder point was the last place you wanted it, due to the posibility of a direct pulling force on the joint. I was given a withering look. Somtimes we can be over obsessive about detail. I still think it makes sense many years on, and I chose to ignore the withering look at the time. The baseboard hole does not want to be below a sleeper position, but a cm or so away from the solder position also makes sense. The bit of wire can be lost easily in the ballast. A hot soldering iron, with a decent sized bit, clean rail and a bit of patience is also needed to make sure you don't get an occasional dry joint. That's why I am still nervous about plastic sleepers. Others get on well with them, but I still prefer ply and rivet. That probably makes me a luddite, but, there you go; we are all enjoying the hobby in our own way.
John

MPR
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Aug 11, 2008 9:34 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby MPR » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:25 pm

I've built my small layout with holes drilled half way up the rail section in line with the chair position. A single plain sleeper with a rivet sized hole is positioned underneath, and the hole continued down through the baseboard.A couple of lengths of fine copper wire are then threaded up through the hole in the sleeper, through the rail and back down. They are then soldered to a copper clad sleeper glued to the underside of the baseboard.
Advantages are threefold
i) No mechanical strength is required of the wire to rail solder joint
ii) Cosmetic half chairs can then trimmed and glued into place to completely hide the joint
iii) The copper clad sleeper stops any stress on the wiring loom being transmitted upward

Of course it takes an age to do...

Regards

Martin

mattots

Re: Droppers on track

Postby mattots » Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:28 am

As something of a perfectionist I decided I couldn't live with the blob of solder on side of rail, even if it wasn't on the viewing side, so opted for the under-rail option.

Using C&L components, my preferred method is as follows:

* Glue down the sleepers
* Decide where the rail joins will go
* Drill holes - 2 per rail length - through the sleepers at dropper positions with a bit of room for the wire to move around rather than being a tight fit (otherwise the slightest innacuracy in measuring/marking/soldering or any movement once in place will cause problems)
* Cut the rail to the required length
* Place it in position on the sleepers and use a fine tipped marker to mark the dropper positions on the side of the rail
* Add the plastic chairs that will go between the two droppers (I usually space the droppers at least 5cm apart - you can bunch the chairs together while soldering so they don't melt then re-space them and add the ones either side of the droppers afterwards)
* Firmly blu-tac rail upside down to work surface and clean underside of rail with fibreglass pencil at dropper positions
* Cut two lengths of 1mm copper wire so they're long enough to pass through the baseboard with a little to spare
* Bend the tip of the wire (about 3 or 4mm) at right angles using a small pair of pliers
* Clean the wire
* Use a cocktail stick to liberally apply solder paste to about 1cm of the rail underside at the dropper location (but not so liberally that it goes all over the place)
* Dip the end of the wire in solder paste so there's a good blob
* Hold the dropper wire in place and solder.
* Wash with soap and water and an old toothbrush
* Add the remaining chairs, insert droppers into holes and fix chairs to sleepers
* Add cosmetic half-chairs either side of the rail at the dropper positions

Yes it does require some planning and care and takes longer than the alternative but for my money (and my perfectionist tendencies) it's worth the effort in totally concealing the droppers.

I've not been doing this for long so can't say how well it will stand the test of time, but so far it all looks fine. If the worst comes to the worst and both droppers fail on a rail length I'll just have to swallow my pride and solder a new dropper to the back of the rail web!!

mattots

Re: Droppers on track

Postby mattots » Sun Feb 15, 2009 3:54 pm

Sorry, meant solder paint (as sold by C&L under the Carrs label), not solder paste.

DaveBywater
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:04 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby DaveBywater » Sun Mar 08, 2009 10:17 pm

One idea not mentioned so far is to place uncrimped rivet (don't know if that's the correct technical expression!) into sleepers where you wish to place droppers and solder rail to heads of same. When track panel completed (I'm using ply/butanone/plastic with occasional rivets) it can be inverted and wire droppers (0.85 mm from domestic twin & earth wiring is a snug fit into the rivets)soldered into the rivet before positioning and laying track. My worry at the moment is that droppers will part company with the rivets and would present major headache to restore. I am led to believe that this system has been used previously - has anybody any experience of this before I/we commit ourselves more fully? I would hope that being generous with the solder at the rivet/dropper joint will produce a strong enough job!

Incidentally, the original Spital team instilled in me the necessity of two droppers per rail section. This was in the days of fully riveted track and droppers attached to shim riveted to the bottom of the sleepers. On Spital, we have encountered some but not excessive problems with failures; generally I believe that this is happening when the rivet/shim joint comes adrift.

Concerning melting chairs, I have avoided disasters so far. When soldering to rivets between full plastic chairs, I tend to use open pliers either side of the rivet as a heat sink. With fishplates, leaving the adjacent chairs clear of the rail joint by a sleeper space seems sufficient; I use brass etches, Carrs 188 solder paste and the RSU for convenience although my 25W iron copes just as well but is a little less clean. In my opinion, only steel rail looks like steel rail! However, it may be my lack of technique, but I find that Carrs 179 No Clean Solder Cream is less effective on steel and that the rivet/rail joint appears to part relatively easily after a while.

Finally, I have recently learned to be patient with solder hardening as I understand that lung assisted cooling can increase the incidence of dry joints.

Comments on all or any of these issues will doubtless geberate further discussion!!

Cheers
Dave Bywater.

Plant

Re: Droppers on track

Postby Plant » Sun Apr 26, 2009 3:30 pm

Being a recent convert, I'm building my first BIG layout. I melted some sleepers as well, although I'm quite careful with the soldering iron. The other problem I have is that I live on the cliffs near to Lands End. Usually warm, usually very wet, and salt air is my problem. Probably have to nick the dehumidifier for my well sealed garage\workshop\engine shed.

I came across Wire Glue (American) from Greenweld, £5.99, I think. Have only just tried it, yesterday, a dropper on a peice of test track. I used multi strand cable as the glue is not super fast, or strong. I thought the multi wires would spread with a more combined glue effect. Just a dab of the black glue on the tip of the wires, leaving some room before the insulation. That's for the dab of really good superglue i.e. Hafix. Recommended by Exactoscale, very good. Place on base of rail and hold until superglue takes. I then intend to leave it for twenty fours hours before I, try, to coat it with a smear of epoxy resin. My first test, without the resin, needed quite a good tug to remove it. But I also need the epoxy to seal the joint to eliminate exidation, I also dislike flux floating everywhere.

Brass fishplates, Exactoscale, expensive but good, easy peasy. No need for superglue.

A word to the wise, do NOT get it on your shirt. The back of my legs are still smarting.

Now to use this new fangled internet.

David Bigcheeseplant
Posts: 286
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:10 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby David Bigcheeseplant » Sun Apr 26, 2009 4:48 pm

Just dropped through my letterbox for MRJ small suppliers review is Masokits folding fishplate for electrical connection Item 11.31 priced at £3.00 for 49 fishplates.

these have a tab that you solder a .6mm wire for electrical connection then the fishplate is folded round the rail, they look good but have not built them yet but I do have a example made up too, so will take a few photos and post them up.

David

User avatar
Rod Cameron
Posts: 637
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:01 pm

Re: Droppers on track

Postby Rod Cameron » Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:36 pm

One of the usual issues cited about droppers attached to fishplates is the long-term stability of the electrical connection between the fishplate and the rail(s). It will be interesting to see how the Masokits one addresses this - if you have to solder the fishplate to the rail you might as well use plastic or semi-cosmetic fishplates and solder the dropper(s) to the rail as normal.
Rod


Return to “Track and Turnouts”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests