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Thread: Opinions On Jumpers For Kato Track

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    Default Opinions On Jumpers For Kato Track

    I have Unitrack laid out for a layout I plan on keeping for years. I searched on here about securing it (which I learned about). While reading, I came across threads about soldering jumpers and where, and how far apart, and how to solder jumpers to joiners, etc.

    It seems that the connections are considered self-cleaning, if you take them apart and put them back together occasionally.

    Well, of course, I want to secure the track and ballast it, along with other scenery.

    On one video, the poster felt that it was okay for several years (10 or so), then trouble showed up.

    I plan on adding feeders to spread the current around, but is it necessary to add them at every joint, every other joint, every few feet, or whatever distance posters opine?

    I don't want to rip it apart some years down the road to repair continuity issues.
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    I never trust rail joiners to conduct current reliably. Their primary function is alignment. So, were it me, I'd solder feeders to every section.

    Work now, or weep later. ...
    Paul Schmidt

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    @NScaleRR

    What @Paul Schmidt said above - solder feeder wires (24 gauge or Cat 5 wires) to each and every section of track.
    Cheers Tony

    "Knowing what to do is one thing ... being able to do it is another"
    "It is easy to criticize ... a lot harder when you have to justify it"

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    For a long-term layout, I agree. Though with Unitrack, I'd solder a feeder to every rail joiner - don't see a way to do nice solder jobs on the rails there. Might solder (most of) the joints, actually - although that largely defeats the purpose of Unitrack

    Heiko

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heiko View Post
    Might solder (most of) the joints, actually - although that largely defeats the purpose of Unitrack
    If you're concerned about it I'd personally go with this, rather than running feeders to every piece of Unitrack. On my current layout that uses Atlas True Track, and with the rebuild I just started on that uses a little Tomix track, this is what I'm doing. With the True Track that I used, things worked fine without that for a while (plenty of time to settle on a final track design)... and then they didn't.

    Although, I have heard long term Unitrack users say it isn't necessary. Unitrack's joiners do seem well designed, I just don't have the long term experience with Unitrack to say one way or the other. On the smaller layout I'm building with my son with Unitrack I'm relying on a single feeder. However, I don't plan to ballast it, and I'm accepting that I'm running a risk that I may have to fix later. It's a small, portable layout and the buildings are removable so that will make it easier to fix later if necessary

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    If it's a true permanent installation, I would use a combination of soldered rail joiners and feeders. Running a wire to every individual piece of Unitrack would be way too much trouble. Rather I'd probably run feeders to one piece, and then solder maybe 2 joiners in each direction making a 5 piece "continuous" section with a feeder. Then move to the next group of 5 and do the same. A good balance of running feeders and relying on too many rail joiners to connect.

    Joiners are "self cleaning" for the most part when installed and removed on a regular basis. Kato's plastic alignment bits mean they rarely get damaged too. But left in place, they will slowly corrode over time and eventually not conduct well.
    --
    Leo Bicknell

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    I kinda knew before I asked what the consensus would be. lol It's one of those things where you hope there's a miracle answer, but you know there's not.

    I don't want to solder all the joiners, expansion and contraction would create a mess.

    Soldering jumpers to the joiners still doesn't create a positive connection to the rails.

    Counting both rails of the 5 runs shown in the picture with my first post, there are about 328 (and that doesn't include sidings and spurs that aren't installed yet) track connections!! (The double track pieces have 4 at each connection, of course.)

    I think I'll use a combination of soldered joiners, with jumpers every so many joints, as several have suggested. It can then "move" with the weather. I hope I can solder the joiners. The road bed joiners are pretty close to the plastic snap connectors. I have a pretty small soldering iron, I'll find out if it's small enough.

    What a mess! All of that track I put together has to be undone and reassembled!!!

    Thinking further about this as I type, I have another question: I have read that all track joiners shouldn't be soldered because the track has to move with the weather. That makes sense. But track is nailed, glued and whatever else to secure it. Maybe I could solder most of the joiners and put feeders every 10 feet or so? (To distribute the current better.) What about the glued down track? Does track really move? Every mrr has secured track. I yam confused, but trying to do this once, without any (many) surprises down the road.

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    Feeders to every piece of Unitrack would be such colossal PITA overkill I have trouble putting it into words. For even a small layout you'd literally be soldering over 100 feeders for less than 100 feet of track. Ridiculous. You don't need a feeder every 6" with Unitrack.

    Unijoiners stay together exceptionally well compared to pretty much every type of sectional track I've used. They're very tight and very reliable. Unitrack was literally engineered that way. Ever seen a T-Track layout at a show? They'll have hundreds of feet of track with a couple of power terminals, running DCC, get bumped and poked all day and have zero issues. And these modules come apart and go together all the time. I respect the opinion of a lot of the members of this forum, but suggesting a power feeder for every piece of unitrack is patently insane. You're not dealing with crappy Bachmann-EZ track or poorly connected Atlas flex-track here.

    Looking at your layout picture there, I'd say you could get away with 15-20 power connections.. and that's on the paranoid side.

    On my layout I have power connections every 16" or so (though it doesn't work out quite like that because of the way I powered the sidings).

    The only place I found on mine power gets a little flaky is around turnouts. Those should be fed power from all directions from nearby feeders, IMHO.

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    As a member of a T-Trak club that exhibits at shows all the time, I concur with kalnaren from experience. A lot of our modules are doubles, triples and even quads. They are ballasted and only have one feeder per module. And sometimes we don't even feed all modules due to lack of wires/connectors.

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    There is a difference between joiners on T-Trak-modules that are being disconnected and reconnected every few weeks - that's what those Kato joiners are made for - and joiners that are being left to sit and stew and accumulate paint and glue and dirt and other scenery materials for one or two decades as the OP plans. And it's less pain to solder (most of) the connections or add a feeder to every joiner now than it will be to chase down "bad" joiners in ten years.

    So you may not need it, but if you find out ten years from now, you're stumped. That's where my suggestion comes from.

    About your question regarding thermal (and moisture) expansion, @NScaleRR: I use flex track, so it's no direct comparison, but I make one cut per module, which can be one foot or it can be three feet. In other words, I keep an unsoldered gap (or make one) between every two fixed points of benchwork. And I've seen those cuts open and close by one or two millimeters between hot&dry and cold&humid. Which - again - may be different on a fixed layout, though I guess you can get away with two-three foot long sections with soldered joiners (and therefore less feeders) as well. Yes, the roadbed will be fixed to the wood, but the metal rails can move slightly in the plastic. So when the wood shrinks in dry climate, the plastic roadbed will (hopefully) be flexible enough to not crack the glue, but the strong metal rails can slide in the plastic. Same with temperature...

    YMMV,
    Heiko

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    Yes, those are the end joiners at the end of the modules. But there are joiners in mid module for your double, triple and quad modules. It's not one long track but rather also sectional Unitrack pieces. They are never disconnected and reconnected every few weeks and the tracks are ballasted and scenicked. I don't think anyone is arguing to not use feeders but how much is enough and how much is overkill.
    Last edited by kingmeow; 12th Feb 2020 at 10:46 PM. Reason: typo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heiko View Post
    There is a difference between joiners on T-Trak-modules that are being disconnected and reconnected every few weeks - that's what those Kato joiners are made for - and joiners that are being left to sit and stew and accumulate paint and glue and dirt and other scenery materials for one or two decades as the OP plans. And it's less pain to solder (most of) the connections or add a feeder to every joiner now than it will be to chase down "bad" joiners in ten years.

    So you may not need it, but if you find out ten years from now, you're stumped. That's where my suggestion comes from.
    I get that, but you have to keep in mind Unitrack geometry. The longest single piece of Unitrack is 248mm -or 9.7". And many Unitrack layouts are made up of 124mm and 62mm pieces. A power feed every single piece is simply not practical, nevermind whether or not its even necessary.

    I'd also hazard the long term reliability of Unitrack exceeds most other track as well -even flex track- though I don't have first hand experience to back that up.

    Quote Originally Posted by kingmeow View Post
    Yes, those are the end joiners at the end of the modules. But there are joiners in mid module for your double, triple and quad modules. It's not one long track but rather also sectional Unitrack pieces. They are never disconnected and reconnected every few weeks and the tracks are ballasted and scenicked. I don't think anyone is arguing to not use feeders but how much is enough and how much is overkill.
    Yea, exactly this.

    My layout is 3'x6.5' and I have 17 power feeders on it, and could have done with a few more around the turnouts.

    IMHO based on my experience with Unitrack if you're using a lot of turnouts you're going to need more feeders. The turnouts don't reliably transmit power, especially across the diverging track. If you have mostly loop track you could probably get away with one every 24" reliably.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kalnaren View Post
    I'd also hazard the long term reliability of Unitrack exceeds most other track as well -even flex track- though I don't have first hand experience to back that up.
    You're right, you apparently don't have enough first-hand experience with flextrack to back that up. It's like avering that apples taste better than oranges when you've never eaten an orange.

    I'll keep my ME flextrack for its cost, closer-to-scale appearance and reliability. ...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    You're right, you apparently don't have enough first-hand experience with flextrack to back that up. It's like avering that apples taste better than oranges when you've never eaten an orange.

    I'll keep my ME flextrack for its cost, closer-to-scale appearance and reliability. ...
    TBF, how many people have 20 year old layouts made of Unitrack? We know it's less susceptible to corrosion than most other track.

    Our club nscale layout is pushing 15 years old now and is having significant problems around the rail joins between sections of flex (and even more where they join non-flex). Though also to be fair that track probably wasn't laid all that well, either.

    Almost regardless of what you use, the better you do it, the longer it will last and the fewer problems you'll have with it. That's as true with Unitrack as it is with flex. I still think 50 feeders for 25' of track is complete overkill.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kalnaren View Post
    We know it's less susceptible to corrosion than most other track.
    Based on what credible, independently verified evidence? And define "we."

    And yes, sloppy workmanship in tracklaying and benchwork as well as poor choice of benchwork materials do eventually result in problems with track.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kalnaren View Post
    TBF, how many people have 20 year old layouts made of Unitrack? We know it's less susceptible to corrosion than most other track.
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    Based on what credible, independently verified evidence? And define "we."
    Actually there is no independently verifiable scientific evidence, just user experiences. This is similar to the NoOx threads that you see on the various forums across the internet. It's all user experience with no scientific data to back it up.

    Talk to all the T-Trak (and some N-Trak for those that use Unitrack) guys and they will tell you that Unitrack is some how "different" than the rest of the tracks out there where it seems to stay cleaner longer. These guys keep their modules in all kinds or whacky environments from dirty garages, trailers sitting in the sun, dirty convention halls, in the trunk of their cars, hanging from the ceiling of basements, etc. Whether that is attributable to less corrosion or different metallurgy or something else no one knows.

    I once talked to a high level Kato executive visiting from Japan and asked him why it *seems* that Unitrack stays cleaner longer and whether they do something different to it. He just smiled.

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    Wow, lots of good thoughts! I appreciate mucho!

    I'm going try this:
    - Solder a yet to be determined number of sections together. I'll pay close attention to the turnouts.
    - Jump the sections I don't solder to the feeder (bus?) The rails should be able to expand and contract at these joints. I'll try to increase the gap, as it's colder now. In the summer they'll expand.
    - Secure the track using latex caulk; either at the bosses that are for nailing, or along the edges. I'm leaning towards under at the bosses, sounds neater.

    I agree with Heiko, The roadbed can be fastened, but allow the rails to float.

    Yes, I'd rather do the work now, than have to do it later, when it's all ballasted and has other landscaping. Maybe I wouldn't have any issues down the road. But if i did, UGHHHH!!!

    I'm out of work right now, (detached retina), so I should be able to get this done before I return to work in April (I hope to, anyway!)

    Thank you, everyone.

    I believe that modules or any track that is disconnected and re-connected relatively often won't have the conductivity issues that a long term layout could.

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