Fixing track that gets hot at the track joints

Last Updated on December 27, 2017 by Dave Farquhar

I saw a question about a Fastrack layout getting hot at a track joint. That’s a conductivity issue causing voltage drop, which in turn causes the heat. While not likely to be dangerous, it’s a sign of inefficiency and can lead to other problems, such as the train slowing down at some parts of the layout. Poor conductivity also causes motors to run hotter than they should, which can eventually damage the armature.

I can think of two fixes, none of them especially expensive or time-consuming. And although this question was about Lionel Fastrack, it can happen with other makes of track too, and even other scales.

One fix involves disassembly and a piece of aluminum foil. Or you could disassemble the track and solder the pin to the rail if you prefer something more permanent and a slightly better conductor than aluminum. The aluminum foil trick won’t work on traditional O27 or O31 tubular track, but dabbing a bit of solder into the groove near the pin does work extremely well on those types of track. And while you have it disassembled, applying  small amount of copper-bearing grease to the pin can help enhance conductivity.

If disassembly isn’t an option, apply a drop of Rail Zip to the joint and let it sit overnight. Just apply a drop right where the pieces join. Capillary action will pull the liquid down onto the pin. Clean up the excess the next day. This will treat any oxidation that may be in place on the pin or the track. You may have to repeat the application at some point, but that’s easier than taking up track for repair.

As routine maintenance, I treat the joints on my mostly-Marx O27 layout once every couple of years this way. The greater consistency of the trains’ speed is indicative of the improved conductivity.

And if you can’t or don’t want to do either of those things, adding more power drops can be a quicker, easier solution. For Fastrack, here’s how to run more power drops. Tubular track is easier. Just add additional lockons wherever the track gets hot. You can have as many lockons as you want. Just be sure you’re consistent with which wire goes to the center rail and which one to the outer rail so you don’t cause a short circuit.

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