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In an air-conditioned room where the temperature stays within four or five degrees year round a gap is not so important but a friend has a layout in an attic and does not run the air-conditioner unless he is running trains so the temp in the summer is often near a hundred degrees and can be as low as fifty on a cold winter night. He realized early on when he only had one loop around the room that he needed some gaps or the rail heads got wavy when it was hot. He settled on about 1/16" every three sections, nine feet,  and it seems to have cured the problem.          j

Last edited by JohnActon

With me it's 1/16" but I wanted to see what others say. It can be very time consuming to get a nice close fit on all 3 rails at each joint.

My layout has mostly Gargraves flexible track for both the straights and curves. I do recall how difficult it was to use special bending forms to create the various size curves, cutting the track, and the difficulty of joining the tracks. The major challenge was keeping the ends of the three rails in perfect alignment if the curved track's radius slightly changed during handling process. After you posted your message I went to look at the joints of my own layout. In several places I have one outer rail and the center rail with no gap (to the connected track) but the other outer rail may have a gap. Most of my gaps are 1/16" or less.  It has really never caused a problem for me. At the time I built my layout, there were few options for preformed track. If I had to build a layout today, I would primarily use preformed track, even despite the high cost, because it is so much easier to use and to join tracks together. The only exception is when Gargrave flexible track can solve layout problems that even the layout software didn't quite predict.

@Bruce Brown posted:

The major challenge was keeping the ends of the three rails in perfect alignment if the curved track's radius slightly changed during handling process.

Fun fact, in order to close the gaps on the first end, just tap the other end of each rail until you close the gap.  For the second end, it usually takes a bit of trimming with the Dremel to get them aligned for the next piece.  Even then, that's where I sometimes got gaps, I didn't take the extra care to make those perfect.

I just finished my first level of GG.  My goal was no gaps, of course.  I used a 0-27 tubular track steel clamp tool that clamps on the tracks and the lever brings them together tightly (fortunately it also works with GG track because of its smaller rail profile than o gauge).

Unfortunately, like model making, it takes a lot of patience to cut the rails perfectly on curves so they line up perfectly and sometimes you actually tighten the track joint you previously joined but that gap is now transferred to the new piece you just cut perfectly and connected.  You can keep marking them and cutting them but you soon realize how time consuming it is, especially when you are laying a lot of track.  Eventually, in a few cases, I threw in the towel and said, good enough!  I agree that gaps from lift outs must exist and I found with my last layout that track tires do wear out faster with gaps.  Not a big deal.  And IMO the clickety clack is a nice benefit to non-perfection.

I like the idea of using solder or even liquid solder to fill the gaps after the fact.  I may try that later.

Solder actually worked well, I shaped it with a Cratex wheel after applying.  My only concern doing it for the whole layout is if I want to take the track up in a section it'll make it a bigger PITA.  I did a handful of joints to see if it worked well, but I'll reserve wholesale mods for later.   Truthfully, the track on the table with the Homasote base is quiet, even with some gaps.  It's just the stuff on the elevated section that is noiser.  I'm going to add insulation to the bottom of the structure to help that.

If you leave a gap, it can snag wheels and rollers, and it will chew the heck out of rubber tires.

I built some hi-railer modules with Gargraves and Ross track years ago.  I filed that *@$^%%#*$ nub down on EVERY track pin.  What a tedious pain in the tuchus!  The idea of the nub is good but IMO they are too big as they come out of the stamping die.

If you leave the bump on the pin and push the hollow rail over it, you *could* introduce a slight hump at the joint, or a "pinch point" in the gauge.  If the pinch point is in a curve, or a loco's wheels are already gauged a little too wide, then it will hesitate at that spot which ruins the realism.  Bottom line I recommend you file the pins down at least a little so they JUST grab the inside of the rail.  My $.02.

My gaps are the thickness of a dremel cutoff wheel--miniscule.  With O gauge wheels, you can get away with murder.  I've seen gaps about 1/16 that trains easily roll over.  Noise?  Trains are noisy in real life.

My gaps are so small that you couldn't possibly tell by noise or sight that they are even there.  I have hundreds on my layout.

@Pingman posted:

In lieu of track pins, I used Gargraves track connectors, GG product # 910-4, which are strips of sheet metal/steel the fit tightly between the web of the rails--no gaps or deformed rails. Simply inert and tap the rail ends to eliminate gaps.  (No environmental issues in my walk-out basement layout location.

Ah!  The "fit-up" connectors!  Yes, I use those to close a loop or in a tight spot.  The rest of the time (vast majority) I use the GarGraves track pins, including the pig-tails, and I tap them as close as possible.


Like most here, I try to close the gaps, but at a few places - on or at the end of curves usually, there ends up a pretty big gap.  In those cases I cut a piece of rail with a cutoff disc, the length of the gap.  I then just slide it over the exposed pin and squeeze it closed.  I then solder it to the adjacent pieces to keep it in alignment with them.  Fortunately, I think I have only three or four of those replacements

Much ado about nothing. I run trains everyday. Have replaced two tires on two 25 year old diesel engines due to drying out. One is lionel and one is Sam hongsa fm trainmaster. Have never replaced a tire on Lionel steamers. Gaps certainly do not chew up tires. I run 72 inch curves at moderate speed. Always run five 18 inch passenger cars or 15-20 freight cars all o gauge. I do not use any track cleaner chemical other that goo gone on thick build up crud mostly at Ross switches. All other track cleaning is by dry wipe with white rag. I do alternate all my engines which does decrease the run time of each but still they all see plenty of running time.


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On our clubs new layout there were a number of large gaps in the rail. Some were probably from trying to set track too fast or not accounting then cutoff wheel thickness when cutting. (That’s my speculation I wasn’t there to lay track I just get to wire it 😅) any who either way there where gaps. We ended up just soldering the gaps and filing them to match the rail profile. This got old quick though with 2 150ft mainlines. I did always wonder how your supposed to get a good fit with the nubs on the track pins. Sounds like most just tap the track together and make it go in? Sounds like that’d make a decent electrical connection at the least. But probably not as reliable as solder 😉

The nubs on the pins are there for a reason, it keeps the pin from sliding all the way in one of the rails. If you grind them off how do you know the pin is all the way in both rails ? you may have 90 percent in one rail and the other just enough to line the rail but not enough for good electrical contact.  The slight bulge hurts nothing, I run some 2 rail equipment with never a problem.

When I laid my Gargraves I tapped the joints together for no gap. If I felt a noticeable bump on the inside of the pin I filed it smooth. Over the years there's been some movement of the layout. My layout is in a temperature and humidity controlled room and still there has been some change in the gap in some places. If they look to large for my taste I just solder them and file if necessary.  

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