I have been having electrical discontinuity problems with many many MTH NIB RealTrax rail, all the solid rail kind, I do not buy the later hollow ones.. I purchased a bunch of the solid track ones a few years ago, either through mail order, dealers, or through RTR Rail king kits such as the imperial SD70Ace sets.

 

After connecting a loop, I would run a test train. In most cases the loco would run ok but after a few laps, it would stop dead on its tracks and goes into shut down. Initially, I thought it was either the power supply or the PS2 loco. After hours of investigation, I found out it was the track itself that had intermittent electrical connection and always in the center rail. Seems that the electrical spot weld was not done properly at the factory. When I checked with an ohm meter at the brass/copper tabs, I would find either an open circuit or a few ohms impedance. Again after careful examinations, I found out that the weld was not done properly. Pushing down on the tabs with the multi meter probe would get about 0 ohms. If you look closely at some of the shots, you will notice that the "dimple" of the electrical spot weld is shallow in the center rail. The outside rails has a deeper "indent".

 

I did not know what to do since I had bought these tracks a while back, no warranty. Regardless I wanted to fix it myself anyway. I was going crazy and puling what's left of my hair not knowing what the problem was in the beginning.

 

I decided to use a drill to put a small hole in the center tabs and drop some solder in there. So far it is working well, but I am not sure of the long term result. The solder is not the best conductor but it helps keep the center rail and the end tabs touching and making electrical connection.

 

Today, I opened a new box of about 10 straight sections, only TWO were ok, the rest I had to fix...Now that  I know what the problem is, I check every single track before use. I check all THREE rails/tabs for 0 Ohms or so...

 

 

 Arrow points to the problem area

 

IMG_4012

 

Two out of ten were ok. Ten not shown here.

IMG_4013

 

You see how it is always the center rail. Black arrows pointing to problem area.

IMG_4015

 

Use a drill to make an indent. Make sure you go through the tab and into the rail a little bit. DO NOT drill all the way!

IMG_4016

Solder time! very high temp is applied quickly to prevent melting the plastic!

IMG_4017

Now They are all OK. . Note the different color tabs, I like the darker tabs, I think they are better quality brass/copper than the yellowish tabs, what ya think?

IMG_4018

 

In complete contrast, I had used Scaletrax and never had a connection issue....I do prefer MTH Scaletrax and my future layout will be using them.

 

No bashing preferred!

Sam E.

 

I will stop learning when my last breath leaves me, then I will start learning all over again in my Next Existence!...

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I also had recurring problems with third rail continuity because of defective welds of the contact tabs. My fear was that inaccessible tracks in tunnels and or under the city platform would fail and ruin my layout. So as my layout was already built, I opted to solder brass strips across the 3rd rail joints. Since adding the brass strips, the 300+ feet of Real Trax on my layout has been excellent.

 

I too only use the solid rail Real Trax, but I find that the weld problem is not unique to any one batch of Real Trax. Your fix is the way to for any new tracks I install. Thanks for sharing it.

 

Track Joint Techniques

Bobby Ogage

"I hear that train a coming,

it's Long Island No. 39 rolling

around the bend"

 

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Thanks for posting your fix. I had similar issues and decided to solder across the rail joints. I had many bad pieces. I almost threw it in the trash with disgust. I ended up soldering almost every piece. No problems so far. I have over 100 feet but would not get anymore.

 

Bob

Originally Posted by Todd Lopes:

Sam, I found this picture that Dave Hikel did a few years back.  Hope this helps.  Todd

 

Thx Todd.

 

Originally Posted by CP BOB:

Thanks for posting your fix. I had similar issues and decided to solder across the rail joints. I had many bad pieces. I almost threw it in the trash with disgust. I ended up soldering almost every piece. No problems so far. I have over 100 feet but would not get anymore.

 

Bob

 

I feel your pain Bob, I actually brought a big hammer and I was going to destroy them and post pix...LOL.... But now I like them!!

Ahhh, what a crazy hobby...

Sam E.

 

I will stop learning when my last breath leaves me, then I will start learning all over again in my Next Existence!...

Originally Posted by Bobby Ogage:

I also had recurring problems with third rail continuity because of defective welds of the contact tabs. My fear was that inaccessible tracks in tunnels and or under the city platform would fail and ruin my layout. So as my layout was already built, I opted to solder brass strips across the 3rd rail joints. Since adding the brass strips, the 300+ feet of Real Trax on my layout has been excellent.

 

I too only use the solid rail Real Trax, but I find that the weld problem is not unique to any one batch of Real Trax. Your fix is the way to for any new tracks I install. Thanks for sharing it.

 

Track Joint Techniques

Thx Bobby, good info...

Sam E.

 

I will stop learning when my last breath leaves me, then I will start learning all over again in my Next Existence!...

ALSO - Note that some pieces of track have 4 raised posts adjacent to the connectors and some don't. If you use the plastic MTH track holding clips to secure the track better (carpet layouts), they won't hold with the tracks with the posts. I drill out the 2 center posts so the base is flat like the others, the clips then hold properly. Use a smaller diameter drill on the post and then a tip nippers to remove the remainder. Hielsie

I have my engineering curiosity hat on and thinking about the manufacturing problem that arises when electric spot welding connectors to the rails. This is conjecture.

 

The contact and rail materials are dissimilar metals and I think that the contact material has a lower melting point. So the amount of current in the spot welding process may be based upon the lower melting point of the contact which is borderline for a good weld to the rail.

 

Perhaps a better idea is to solder the contacts to the rails in lieu of spot welding them.

 

Bobby Ogage

"I hear that train a coming,

it's Long Island No. 39 rolling

around the bend"

 

I believe there is a market for a snap-on rail connector like Type C in my sketch. Such a connector will substantially improve the reliability of Real Trax for those of us who have already bought this track system. The material of the connector should be compatible for soldering it to the rail. 

 Track Joint Techniques

A similar connector is a fix for Real Trax switches as well:

 

Real Trax Switch Open Circuit Fix 2.7mb

 

Bobby Ogage

"I hear that train a coming,

it's Long Island No. 39 rolling

around the bend"

 

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As I have posted here before, MTH Realtrax is a very bad choice. I understand (not from personal experience) that Lionels Fasttrack is a better choice for sectional track. Since my layout is permanent I should have gone with track like Atlas flextrack. I have a few short sections of flex track used to smooth the track flow on my layout. It appears to be very good track. Realtrax switches have also been problems. Realtrax is bad stuff...period.

 

LDBennett

Thanks for this very useful information, Sam. I used FastTrack for my layout but I use Realtrax for under the Christmas tree. I haven't had any problem with the Realtrax so far but now I know what to look at if I do.

Joe B.

 

President Emeritus of the Olde Newburgh Model Railroad Club, now retired and living the dream in Florida.

Originally Posted by LDBennett:

As I have posted here before, MTH Realtrax is a very bad choice.Realtrax switches have also been problems. Realtrax is bad stuff...period.

 

LDBennett

I can tell you from personal experience with both Realtrax And Fastrak that I've never had issues with either and I've been using Realtrax since it first came out and never had an issue of any kind. If and when I do re-do my layout it will be with tubular mainly for the Magnetraction which is useless on Realtrax and Fastrak since I have a pretty large fleet of postwar engines that have it. I have no real issue with Fastrak but with my investment in tubular and Realtrax it makes no sense for me to switch to a third option.

 

Jerry

This is all very helpful. I am working with Rich O and his son Luke in restoring a 4 level layout with about 250' of RealTrax and fifteen switches.

 

This is my first experience with RealTrax, so it's been a learning one. The layout is circa 2002\2003 with solid rail.

 

I have enough tracks feeds that I may be hiding some of these pesky tracks. Now I know what to look for when we have a track section that seems slightly annoying.

 

We are about to complete the 3rd reassembly and then power and test the switches. I have observed one that likes to spark. Thanks Bobby for the info and the cure.

 

We also had one with the rail height alignment issue. I just replaced it, but it may need to be used again. Found that fix on another thread.

 

Thanks again Same E., Bobby and all for sharing your experience.

Carl

Arctic Railroad

Originally Posted by LDBennett:

As I have posted here before, MTH Realtrax is a very bad choice. I understand (not from personal experience) that Lionels Fasttrack is a better choice for sectional track. Since my layout is permanent I should have gone with track like Atlas flextrack. I have a few short sections of flex track used to smooth the track flow on my layout. It appears to be very good track. Realtrax switches have also been problems. Realtrax is bad stuff...period.

 

LDBennett

I disagree.  MTH RealTrax has been on my layout for 15 years, and I've had to replace three pieces of track and one switch, all due to use...or overuse may be more accurate.  I had one minor connectivity issue, and it was resolved with a track screw. 

Bill TCA #03-55791

If you bought the Realtrax track 15 years ago then it is not the current production which mine is. There could be a difference. Here is a summary of my problems:

 

Track rails fail to align both vertically and horizontally due to lack of guide pins in rails, requiring filing of rails to keep bumps in train travel to minimum

 

Switches anti-derailment feature defeated (as is being able to change switch position) by contact with adjacent track section which is supposed to be isolated.

 

Points fail to contact rails, requiring bending, and repositioning of internal springs

 

Guide rails through switches too loose allowing wheels to override frog (just a bigger bump)

 

Some MTH engines arc and spark due to shorting of center rails to outer rail by engine roller pickups

 

I'm glad you have satisfactory operation on your Realtrax but new production runs appear to be much more problematical than your older track or even some newer track you might have based on reports here (??).

 

LDBennett

Interesting lead post and follow up debate.  I purchased a lot of RealTrax about 10 years ago for my Christmas Carpet Central Railway and labored with major league continuity problems from the beginning.  I finally gave up on it and replaced it with Lionel Fastrack and I have good luck with it for about 6 years or so.  I hope it continues. 

 

I am always loathe to throw things away so I kept the old RealTrax.  I think I will pull it out and work in this new fix to see if it will cure my old RealTrax woes.  Its always good to have a backup track system available.

LDBennett;

I have the answer to some of your problems.

Rails failing to align Vertically and the Anti Derail switch fails you describe are usually due to non level benchwork.

Make sure all rails approaching a switch are dead level wit the switch.

I have a lot of Realtrax and it has been moved and rebuilt repeatedly over a span of nearly 10 years. It is mixed solid and hollow rail, more hollow than not.

Horizontal misalignment can be caused by no more than the pressure of your thumb on the rails, do not file them, bend them back in line.

Vertical misalignment I have never had.

Now, to the OP comment;

Many people do not connect and disconnect Realtrax properly, MTH has not put out instructions and this is the problem.

Hold the Track in a V with the rails touching. (about 45 degrees)

Rotate the track flat while pressing the rails together. This makes the electrical contacts align properly. Pushing them in straight like a pinned track can cause side to side shifting while connecting and then the contacts can slip past each other.

Add the next piece by holding it up at 45 degrees and pressing the rails together as you bring it down flat.

Last connection of a loop, hold both sides up in a shallow V and press together.

The larger the loop the easier this gets.

 

To disconnect, hold one piece flat and raise the next one, they will separate smoothly.

Table work is a flat piece of plywood . Track is screwed to plywood with an underlayment of thin indoor/outdoor carpet. The MTH  Realtrax is just not quality. I have too much of it to change and have it working good enough. If I did it over it would be Atlas Flextrack. But that is not an option. As long as I can keep it running it will have to do.

 

Lionel Fastback is better because of the alignment pins keep the rails aligned vertically and horizontally.

 

But the Realtrax switches are just junk.

 

I assemble Realtrax upside down first, that way I see the contacts aligned or not. I then sheck with an ohm meter for continuity as I go along. For curves I assemble 1/4 circle and do the same. After all is well, I gently turn them right side up, check with meter again and make the final connections between the straights and the curves, ohm them again, Yes, it is a PITA but had to do. Same with switches. I may have had a bad batch..... For me, this has worked great once I found out the poor welds and fixed them.
 
Your idea is great too, I'll try it next time. Thx....
 
 
Originally Posted by Russell:

Now, to the OP comment;

Many people do not connect and disconnect Realtrax properly, MTH has not put out instructions and this is the problem.

Hold the Track in a V with the rails touching. (about 45 degrees)

Rotate the track flat while pressing the rails together. This makes the electrical contacts align properly. Pushing them in straight like a pinned track can cause side to side shifting while connecting and then the contacts can slip past each other.

Add the next piece by holding it up at 45 degrees and pressing the rails together as you bring it down flat.

Last connection of a loop, hold both sides up in a shallow V and press together.

The larger the loop the easier this gets.

 

To disconnect, hold one piece flat and raise the next one, they will separate smoothly.

 

Sam E.

 

I will stop learning when my last breath leaves me, then I will start learning all over again in my Next Existence!...

Thanks for the suggestions - I have disassembled my layout after 12 years and starting to rebuild in my new house - have had connection issues in the past wt Realtrax and much of my track was bought used at train shows - sometimes a good deal is not a good deal - also less space to work with here but that is another issue - thanks to all!

I prefer the hollow rail. If their are continuity problems you can rig up a rail pin, no soldering required. I used to prefer the solid rail but with the problems stated above, got rid of it in favor of hollow rail. I still occasionally have issues but rarely do I have to do any soldering.

Steve

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