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I just lightly hit the spot to be soldered with the Dremel with a fiber cutoff wheel to rough up the surface.  Break out my 100/140W Weller gun and tin the spot and then solder the wire on.  If you can pick up the track or it's not down yet, you can expose a section of the rail under the track and keep the connection hidden.  Remember that if you solder to outside rails, do it on the outside so the flanges don't hit your soldering job.

My two cents.  Do what GRJ says about using the Dremel.  Make sure you use rosin core solder.  I tin the wire first then apply solder to the rail.  Then I form the wire to how I want it to lay into the side of the rail.  I then use anything available to hold the wire laterally to the rail.  I apply the iron to the wire pressing the wire against the rail where I applied the solder to the rail.  No further solder is needed at this point.  When the wire collapses against the rail remove the heat and maintain that tool to hold the wire snugly until the solder cools.  I have a solder station.  When I am in a hurry, I set the temperature set point to 600 degrees as the wire tins very quickly and the rail melts the solder quickly also.  The problem with this temperature is that when applying the solder to the rail you need to be careful that the plastic ties don't begin to melt away from the rail.  And lastly these suggestions are based on using 60/40 rosin core solder.  And as a final note, Heat the surface where you wish to apply the solder and melt the solder to the wire/rail.  Solder flows toward Heat. Don't apply solder to the Iron point.

Atlas track has a reputation of being difficult to solder to, partly because the plastic ties are susceptible to melting.  I will probably use it but I'm dreading it.  I've seen a few threads on the forum discussing different techniques.  I strongly encourage you to do a search (you can also use Google to search the OGR Forum.)

The issue of soldering to Atlas track is hopelessly overblown! 

I've soldered to a lot of Atlas track, and I don't have issues with the plastic ties melting.  Contrary to common beliefs, the issue many people have is trying to use too small a soldering iron.  I use a Weller 100/140W gun.  I clean and burnish the spot for the soldering with my Dremel, then tin it and leave a small blob of solder.  With the gun, it takes seconds, and I have no melting issues.  I then position the tinned wire over the blob of solder, and a quick touch of heat makes the joint.  The trick is not to have the heat there too long, not to use lower heat.  The solid rail quickly carries the heat away, so with a low power iron, you're there for a long time slowly heating up a large part of the rail.  With more power, you make the connection and remove the heat quickly.

@Ted S posted:

Atlas track has a reputation of being difficult to solder to, partly because the plastic ties are susceptible to melting.  I will probably use it but I'm dreading it.  I've seen a few threads on the forum discussing different techniques.  I strongly encourage you to do a search (you can also use Google to search the OGR Forum.)

Another way to get power to Atlas track is to use the wired rail joiners that Atlas provides at a cost. But for the price of some rail joiners, both center rail and outside rail, and some wire at the AWG you prefer. I suggest stranded. Get out your soldering equipment and have at it. With this scenario there is no concern regarding the plastic ties. The draw back to this albeit minimal is the preplanning of where to drill holes to feed your drops through the table. As I said minimal but you do need to think ahead a little. 

@Ted S posted:

@Rich883  Appreciate the suggestion!  Can your approach be used when the track is already installed on a layout?  If so, do you need a special right-angle drill?  What size bit?  Thanks for sharing!

Yes Ted, In fact that is exactly what I do, track is laid so we know where it goes, and drill the holes in the table for the wire, and then the small hole in the rail to insert the wire and then solder.

The drill size need to match - just larger - than the stripped diameter of the wire you use.  You want it to slide easily into the hole, if too small it is hard fit. I drill down at an angle so the hold goes from the  side down to the bottom.  No need for a special drill.

I am sure that you are waiting for Rich to answer, but here is my two cents.  No not through the base but through the web.  I am not sure where I saw a pictorial of this process but it may have been on this forum so a search may be your best thought.  And to just double check I just went down stairs to confirm my suspicions.  The base is way to narrow to drill a hole sufficiently big enough to accept twisted stranded wire.

I re-read Rich's post and now I think I understand what he meant when he wrote "I drill down at an angle."  When I build my layout, I might not use roadbed (or only a very thin laminate), and was concerned about the thickness of the cordless drill body preventing me from drilling straight thru the rail web, especially where there are multiple parallel tracks.  An angle, I think I can do!

For what its worth, our whole layout was Atlas solid nickel silver, and I NEVER had to drill any holes in the "I Beam" of the rail. I used a Dremel abrasive disc to fully clean/abrade the inside of the "I Beam" of the rail, and soldered the #14 stranded wire directly to that spot. As previously stated, the two key points are:

1) Getting the spot on the rail REALLY clean.

2) Use the correct size/heat soldering iron.

Here is a photo

rail solder close up

I drill top down at an angle.  You can see it does not melt the ties. 

Now I agree with Hot Water and some of the others, you can solder to the rail with out drilling as long as you burnish/ rough up the spot you want to solder to.  I have done this, however I found that I really needed another hand to hold the wire tight to the rail, and I had the soldering iron in one hand, and the solder in the other.

This approach, at least for me, killed two birds with one stone. It created a fresh clean surface for the solder to bond to (inside the drilled hole) and it created a holding mechanism for the wire while I soldered it in place.  It also created the smallest point of solder you can see, I found laying the wire against the rail had a longer portion of wire exposed.

Lots of ways to accomplish the same thing, this one just works well for me.

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@Aem7s4lyfe posted:

Thank you all for your suggestions.  I definitely do not have the right soldering iron.  I will start there and practice on some scrap pieces.

 

Also, make sure you are using the right kind of solder for the job and that, if soldering wire to something, that the wire is pre-tinned. Nothing worse than having to wait for the solder to start melting and overheating what you are working on. For soldering wire to track, like in Rich's photo, it should take no more than a few seconds, at most.

Last edited by Richie C.
@Rich883 posted:

Here is a photo

rail solder close up

I drill top down at an angle.  You can see it does not melt the ties. 

Now I agree with Hot Water and some of the others, you can solder to the rail with out drilling as long as you burnish/ rough up the spot you want to solder to.  I have done this, however I found that I really needed another hand to hold the wire tight to the rail, and I had the soldering iron in one hand, and the solder in the other.

This approach, at least for me, killed two birds with one stone. It created a fresh clean surface for the solder to bond to (inside the drilled hole) and it created a holding mechanism for the wire while I soldered it in place.  It also created the smallest point of solder you can see, I found laying the wire against the rail had a longer portion of wire exposed.

Lots of ways to accomplish the same thing, this one just works well for me.

Rich, Not to belabor the point but once the wire is tinned and as GRJ stated a "Blob" of solder on the rail where the connection is to be made, no further solder is needed so set your solder length aside.  You use the iron to press the tinned wire to the rail. With the free hand (Now that you are not holding a length of solder) hold the wire to the rail with what ever tool is handy.  Remove the tool once the solder has cooled.  With this process, you do not need a third hand and this is the appropriate way to solder electrical connections.

Rich, Not to belabor the point but once the wire is tinned and as GRJ stated a "Blob" of solder on the rail where the connection is to be made, no further solder is needed so set your solder length aside.  You use the iron to press the tinned wire to the rail. With the free hand (Now that you are not holding a length of solder) hold the wire to the rail with what ever tool is handy.  Remove the tool once the solder has cooled.  With this process, you do not need a third hand and this is the appropriate way to solder electrical connections.

Jim thanks for your suggestions.  I understand how to solder, and have been doing so for over 30 years with all kinds of electronics. Typically I agree your point in timing the wire and the solder blob.  In my case, and maybe I am too particular it is much simpler to dress the wire in place before soldering than after.  Also if you note my wire goes straight down, very little wire to hold with your hand as it goes below the ties.  Also I use a two conductor wire with an overall jacket, so limited to having the wire feed from underneath the table.

As I said at the beginning my approach may be unconventional but it works well for me after trying a bunch of approaches.

I also recommend 63/37 tin/lead solder, it has a eutectic property where it goes directly from a liquid state to a solid state at one temperature.  The 60/40 is easier to a cold solder joint if it moves during the transition from liquid to solid.

I find that that thickness of the solder wire is also a variable - do you always use one particular thickness of solder wire or vary depending on the job ?

@Rich883 posted:

Here is a photo

rail solder close up

I drill top down at an angle.  You can see it does not melt the ties.

Now I agree with Hot Water and some of the others, you can solder to the rail with out drilling as long as you burnish/ rough up the spot you want to solder to.  I have done this, however I found that I really needed another hand to hold the wire tight to the rail, and I had the soldering iron in one hand, and the solder in the other.

This approach, at least for me, killed two birds with one stone. It created a fresh clean surface for the solder to bond to (inside the drilled hole) and it created a holding mechanism for the wire while I soldered it in place.  It also created the smallest point of solder you can see, I found laying the wire against the rail had a longer portion of wire exposed.

Lots of ways to accomplish the same thing, this one just works well for me.

I like this idea and am wondering if this has been tried on tubular track? However, my solder is not adhering. Thinking about trying flux with it? This is what I am using with a Sealody Soldering Station.

20220414_130810

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Rosin core has flux in the solder. You can use stand alone flux if you want, just make sure its the electronics stuff and not acid flux for plumbing.  If its not sticking there could be oil on the rail or the iron isnt transferring enough heat. Those soldering stations for electronics are great for electronics, but they dont have the outright power thats needed for soldering track. I've never had issues soldering on tubular so long as it was clean.  A wipe with alcohol or acetone would help. So would a wire wheel in a dremel.  Try soldering a bit of straight solder onto the rail without the wire. Then tin the wire, put the wire on the spot on the rail and apply heat. Once the solder melts you're just joining solder to solder.

Last edited by Boilermaker1

I like this idea and am wondering if this has been tried on tubular track? However, my solder is not adhering. Thinking about trying flux with it? This is what I am using with a Sealody Soldering Station.

I use a Weller 100/140W soldering gun, I've soldered tons of tubular track drops, and recently all the drops for 500 feet of Ross/Gargraves track and 30+ switches.  All the track was new, and I never needed any additonal flux.  I just used rosin core solder and just apply heat and solder with one exception.  I cleaned off the black treatment on the center rail of the Ross/Gargraves before soldering.  You may not be getting enough heat to the track.  With tubular and/or Ross/Gargraves with wooden rails, no danger of melting ties, so a little more heat is good for quick work.

Oh Boy,  I am the worst solderer in the world!

First off, I always use thin rosen core silver solder.  Is this wrong?  In looking at the spool of solder in the foregoing pictures, I didn't see any reference to silver on the label.

Second, everyone says, "Just be sure to tin the track and wire first."   

Problem is, . . . I just can't tin!   I have watched videos of tinning, and people seem to do it with ease.   But, whenever I try, the liquid solder forms a round glob on whatever I'm trying to tin, and then just falls off! No solder is left behind.   

Should I be using a really fine point solder iron point in my gun, or a wide flat one, or something else?

I occasionally solder lead wires directly to the outsides of the rails.  I always clean the rails and even wire with mineral spirits first, and let them thoroughly dry.   I always heat up the rail really hot with the iron before trying to solder the wire against the rail.

But, once again, a glob forms, and I try to keep the wire in the glob, but the wire just pops off, and then the glob either cools into a glob or just falls off.  Then I start over again, and heat up the glob, but very quickly the rosen in the glob sizzles and is gone, and I am left with a mess.

Thanks for any advice.

Mannyrock

First rule of soldering- you heat the object you want to solder. It sounds like you are putting solder to the iron tip and melting it, however, the object you want to solder is not hot enough, so yeah, exactly what you said, the solder never sticks and drips off. Again, a key technique is to touch the iron to the object- example wire, with firm pressure. Then touch the wire solder against the object (wire in the example) near where the iron tip is touching the object so the object melts the solder, not the iron tip.

Don't feel bad, I have a scar on my left knee from learning to solder as a teenager on my own without instruction and I made some of the same problems. A hot solder blob dropped right on my knee and sank in. That's learning the hard way 2 lessons, never solder in shorts, and learn to properly solder. It's taken me a lifetime (30+ years) to get to the skill level I'm at now. Had I had the Internet and videos, I probably could have learned faster.

This video shows the wrong way and then the right way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRPF4wpXX9Q

To learn to do extreme fine pitch surface mount, this is the skill level I'm trying to get to https://www.youtube.com/user/r...arch?query=soldering

Last edited by Vernon Barry

Mannerock check the melting temp of your silver solder.  It typically has a higher melting point than tin lead solder.  The 63-37 tin lead solder is noticeably better than 60-40. 

The cleanliness of your tool and the soldering surface is the most important factor.

A quick touch using the larger solder "gun", as mentioned by GRJ and others. is much better than trying a pencil type iron.  You can buy extra tips for the solder gun and file/shape them to access smaller areas.  Reducing the mass at the end of the gun tip by filing does shorten the life of the tip.  Likewise the high powered solder stations usually have multiple shapes of tips to choose from.

I like to pretin the wire first and have it reasonably hot before taking it to the rail solder area.

Also you can put electrical alligator clips, or clamp crushed aluminum foil onto the rails near your solder area to get the heat away from the rails and protect the plastic ties.

I use a Radio Shack 230/150 watt gun with 60/40 solder. I always thought the most challenging part of adhering the wire to the rail was getting the black anodization completely removed from the side or bottom of the center rail.

Ross Custom Switches offers track that has soldered contacts to the rails. The fahnestock clips can be cut off for a cleaner look.

IMG_3491

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