Minding the gaps

The common wisdom says that you should put something insulating into the electrical gaps between rails. According to model railroad folklore, without insulators, those gaps will eventually close up with all the humidity and heat-induced rail cavorting, and the resulting short will be remarkably difficult to find.

Now, Pembroke’s Presbyterian rails have never been inclined to cavorting, and have maintained a chaste 1/2 mm between railheads for six years. Even so, the gaps made for unsightly discontinuities in the railhead, and I’d always intended to fill them with something. Still, aesthetics are not yet my priority, and so, it waited.

It waited until this week when I found that one of the electrical gaps was the source of a derailment for 622. The glue holding one of the rails near the joint had failed, and as the engine passed over the rail, it was enough to spread the rail and pick the other rail at the gap. Checking all the gaps on the scenicked portion of the layout, I found a couple like it. For the most part, these were easy to re-glue just by heating up the rail and pressing it in place again. In some cases, there was sufficient paint interfering with the bond to require other approaches – either fresh glue or a handful of spikes.

While I was there, however, I decided it was time to fill in all the gaps. Doing so helped to demonstrate where the rail heads didn’t align perfectly (causing potential or actual derailments), and may also add a little extra strength to keep misalignment from coming back.

Not only that, but it looks better and will keep hanky-panky at bay.

2 thoughts on “Minding the gaps

    1. The rail gaps are still on their first go around, and I used CA.
      I haven’t decided what to do about the gaps in the PC board ties. Maybe just putty. They’re another cosmetic consideration.

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