How to avoid unsightly solder globules on the sides of rails

This article describes a method of connecting wires to rails, which avoids unsightly globules of solder and melted sleepers.

Our method improves the realism of the layout by making the joints unobtrusive. The following pictures illustrate the problem.

The method shown above is the one most often used by modellers to solder wires to rails.
As a method it enables the track to be laid quickly and the wiring to be left until later. However, this results in unrealistic wiring connections to the rails and the possibility of having to deal with unforeseen electrical problems, which were not apparent at the time of laying the track.

A 'New Way' to attach Droppers

The alternative to soldering wires to the side of rails is to attach them to the underside. If droppers are to be attached to every rail there is little planning involved just patience.

The procedure is to remove the sleepers from the track, solder the wire to the underside of the rail, then file down the surplus solder and replace the sleepers. The wires are threaded through holes drilled in the baseboard as the track is glued in place.

The method provides a tidy connection with no melted sleepers or unsightly solder globules. This technique also works with 'foam underlay' ballast.

Wires soldered to the undersides of rails - underside of track view, sleepers pulled back to aid visibility:

Wires soldered to the undersides of rails - topside of track view, sleepers pulled back to aid visibility:

Track Laying

The following picture shows track laid on cork where the dropper wire has been laid in a grove cut into the cork. The track itself has been glued down using Evostick:
(Note: 'Evostick' is a UK brand name. The product is sold worldwide under other names, e.g. Australia - Selley's Kwik-Fix.)

Offsetting the holes in the baseboard from the rails and cutting channels in the cork has advantages:

  • There is more flexibility in aligning the track. Positioning the holes in the baseboard directly under the rails makes it difficult to adjust the alignment of the track as it is glued down
  • It is not always possible for a dropper go directly down from the rails. Often, a board structural beam may be in the way. Offsetting the holes enables this problem to be overcome

The Finished Model

Finally, once ballast is placed around the track the electrical connections are completely disguised providing a much improved appearance over traditional side soldering.

Graham Plowman (August 2017)

Reader Comments