Posted by: bgtwindad | September 12, 2010

Feeders, Part 2: Turnouts and Curves

(Note:  Part 1 of this series can be found here.)

I’ve gotten a bit farther with the track laying and it appears that my method of dropping feeders does work fairly well.  My work doesn’t score very high in the neat and unobtrusive category, but most of those issues could be fixed with a thinner-insulated wire and a steadier hand at soldering.

Today, we’ll look at turnouts (switches, to some, but since we’re talking electrical stuff, here I’ll use “turnouts” for the track elements) and curved flex track.  Curved sectional track is easy, since everything is fixed into place, but because the rails move when you bend flex track, it is harder to figure out where to put the wires.

Fortunately, a friend on handed me a great idea.  First, we pre-form the flex track on the layout, allowing the rails to (temporarily) take the shape they will have in their final position.  Once pinned in place, take a Sharpie or other permanent marker and mark both rails and the hole location for the feeder wire.

When you remove the flex from the layout, it will return to its straight shape, and you will notice that the Sharpie marks will be offset by several ties.  Here’s a very mild example.

Flex track marked for soldering

Flex track marked for soldering

Sharper curves will have more separation.

Now, we need to solder the wires.  Technically, this proceeds just as with the straight track, except you have to provide some additional separation of the paired wires to accommodate the separation of the marked locations.  Solder each wire to the marked point on the corresponding rail such that the bend in the wire lines up with the marks.

Below, the white wire has been soldered, and the black wire is clipped in place.  You can see how they are separated, and how the wire is lined up with the mark.

Soldering the wires on the marked spots.

Soldering the wires on the marked spots.

Next we install the track on the layout, leaving a little extra slack in the wire.  As we form the track into position, the rails will slide together just as they did when we marked them, and we should end up with the solder points directly across from each other and right next to the drilled hole.

Installing the flex track

Installing the flex track

Turnouts are easier, but care must be taken with the soldering iron.  I’ve had considerable trouble keeping the rails and ties connected properly if I take too long to get the soldering done.  I think it’s a combination of the tension on the curved rail and of course, melting the plastic spikes.

To solder the side with the control on, I clip the wire close to the switch machine at the points end of the turnout and bend the bare part toward the end of the rail.  Care must be taken not to over-solder, or you will have trouble installing a track joiner.  Alternately, if a metal track joiner is to be used, it could be soldered in place while installing the feeder.

Soldering the machine side of a turnout.

Soldering the machine side of a turnout.

The other side is easier, as the switch machine is not in the way and the bare wire can be bent away from the rail joiner.  However, this is the side that is most sensitive to accidentally breaking the rail loose.  If this happens, CA (“Super Glue”) is your friend, but nothing beats keeping the turnout intact, so go slow, but solder quick.

Soldering the curved side of the turnout.

Be careful not to break the rail loose from the ties.



  1. […] On Dropping Feeder Wires (Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-Part Series.  Part 2 can be found here.) […]

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