Skip to main content

So far I have soldered just shy of 100 connections to the layout (a drop in the bucket--don't remind me!) and just TWO of them won't take solder. Bizarre. One of the cartoon strips--was it Mr. Magoo?--used to have a character that walked around while a rain cloud stayed over him pouring down rain wherever he went. That is how this problem makes me feel!

That's truly odd, and obviously something about that "bad" rail is different.

Truthfully, I'm still not seeing what the issue with soldering to tinplate track is.  Here's two soldering samples on a scrap of the Gargraves from my build.  The first one was just leaving a spot of solder on the rail, tinning the wire to be attached, then holding them together and applying heat with the gun.  It was seconds of work, took as long to strip and tin the wire as it did to tin the rail and solder the connection.

Soldered to Tin Rail

Here's the other sample, I've used the Dremel and removed all the tinning from the rail, that's bare steel you see.

Tinning Removed

Here is that steel patch soldered, note I marked it so I could identify which side I removed the tinning.  It soldered exactly like the other side, I had zero issues getting it to stick, and it took no longer than soldering the tinned rail.

Soldered to Bare Steel Spot

This has always been my experience with not only Gargraves, but any other tin plate track I've worked with.  I've had plenty of tubular track that needed serious cleaning of rust/oxidation before you soldered, and soldering to the bare steel on that track was no different than this track.

The only materials used were .031 Kester 63/37 Rosin Core Solder and the Weller 8200 100/140 soldering gun.


Images (3)
  • Soldered to Tin Rail
  • Tinning Removed
  • Soldered to Bare Steel Spot


you've already demonstrated that you have disdain for me, but I like a challenge

my Point is valid and true

as far as My Soldering  have an Applied Science Degree in Communications Electronics from a world renowned institution her is St  Louis  

I won’t mention it’s name because I’m certain you will find some lame way to disparage it and me  

I am component level trained to work on any device that communicates electronically  and that includes removing and replacing micro processor chips manually  

Im NABER CERTIFIED, and also Northern Telecom Certified-but that has lapsed-repairing those items is no longer cost effective  

I also build out Surgical Operating Theaters-most for teaching and conferencing across the planet, which includes thousands of connections on everything from Audio to Video, from interconnections on various medical monitors to the surgeons Apple device of choice. All custom made cables  that fed the central boom in the operating room  

I have never failed to solder anything I set out to join  

but there are times where Gargraves track is a royal time consuming pain  

I’m glad you’re having such an easy experience with it  

You chose to begin this

maybe you’ll choose to stop

So maybe I missed it but if you run into some stainless rail what’s the best war to get the wire to stick? Move down the line to the next Ross curve?

I came across the same thing on the clubs new layout had 2 sections of GarGraves that was a real PIA to solder to. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was stainless we use a lot of old GarGraves that had been dropped off and donated. We went through and got the cleaner stuff and tried to weed out all the stainless but 1 pice could’ve slipped in. That section is still magnetic but as stated earlier typically “cheep” stainless is still magnetic.

I haven't soldered to Gargraves (my new layout to be is Ross track, similar), but what I found worked for me was pretty much what GRR said

1)got the tinplate off the area to be soldered (this was lionel old O27). Found that it took more work then I thought, plus the rough contact area seemed to help.

2)I used rosin core solder but I also used paste solder, too (might be overkill, not professional, but I did it).

3)I tinned the wire to be soldered and I also tinned the rail.

4)I then used the iron to hold the wire in place, let it heat up, then added a dab more solder, let it flow.

Usually that was quick. I had some track that I coudn't get to solder, I think it was just old, either switched to another track, or replaced the one that was being problematic.

One of the few things I learned about soldering (besides that I could never do it professionally, my dad was an EE who worked for a company doing defense work in the military aviation sphere, saw my soldering and gritted his teeth, haven't gotten much better *lol*), is that there are a lot of variables there, it could work great one day, not the next, same kind of wire, sometimes would solder great, not the other, also learned from a friend that there is value to replacing the soldering tip of the gun/pencil solderer (which being my father's son I am loathe to do), could also be the gun itself is not always heating right.

Only suggestion I have is vary the method you use when soldering, if you can, borrow a soldering gun/iron from someone and see if that works better, maybe the gun is marginal (and I am not saying that will help the original poster), use different solder/different rosin.

FYI. Solder exists in 3 states. Solid; like in the store or on your shelf. Liquid as on the tip of a hot soldering iron. Then the really critical area known as "plastic" When you solder anything the area where things go south is if you move whatever you are soldering during the "plastic" state. Mil Spec and N.A.S.A. specified 63/37 because it had a very narrow temperature range where it was "plastic" It was called a "eutectic"solder because of this characteristic. Your chances of a "cold" solder joint are somewhat reduced using 63/37. Hope this helps. Charlie

Going back to the original problem--solder that didn;t stick to the rails, I tried both 60/40 and 63/37 lead-based solder with rosin core flux. Neither one would stick. Also, this solder is fresh, not old junk. I have had problems in the past trying to use old solder. I did not try the new (to me), lead-free solder. I also tried a different flux--SRA Flux #135--a paste flux that I have used with great success on antique radios. The 135 flux DID make the solder flow better (as it will do) but it did not make the solder stick to the "bad" rails.

The problem rails are on Gargraves "Phantom" flex track, not on their turnouts or sectional track. And the problem rails are the shiny outside rails. The black center rail takes solder just fine.

I think this case is a REAL outlier. I do not expect others to see much of this problem, if any. I think most people use GG track with NO issues. And to repeat, so far I hav only seen this problem in two connections out of about 90 I have made.

Thanks for all your thoughtful replies.

Don Merz

My technique has been to flip the target track over, pick a pair of ties, slide them apart, sprwad the rail with a flat screwdriver, insert wire parallel to the running rail, return the ties to the original position this crimping the wire.  A dab of solder is optional.  About a solid a connection as i have ever had.

It also could be a bad batch of rail, too, I don't know where gargraves sources their rails from, but it is possible it came from a bad batch. The other possibility if the rail is old is that it is so oxidized the solder won't take (I claim no special expertise here, mind you, other than a bit of knowledge on how oxidation works), oxidation can go deep on metal, what you see as surface rust is one type from what I dimly recall. 

Are you having trouble with all the track you have, or is it just some sections of it?

@bigkid posted:

Are you having trouble with all the track you have, or is it just some sections of it?

It appears it's only a couple pieces of track.

I think this case is a REAL outlier. I do not expect others to see much of this problem, if any. I think most people use GG track with NO issues. And to repeat, so far I have only seen this problem in two connections out of about 90 I have made.

Add Reply

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
Link copied to your clipboard.