Remove rail joiners without damaging your rails (or fingers)

rail joiner toolHow to remove fish plates without damaging your rails, or your fingers.

If you’ve ever tried removing fish plates from old track you’ll be familiar with the problems.

At best, the fish plates (rail joiners) are ruined.

Your fingers can get ripped and at worst the rails can be bent.

The better way to remove fish plates

But there’s a really easy solution, helpfully described by Andrew Oram:

Essentially, it’s a matter of sliding a spare end of the rail into the rail joiner to be removed, gripping the sides of the joiner with pliers, gently pinching it tight around the rail, and then pulling it off.

An even better rail joiner remover

It’s a simple but effective technique but we can make it better.

I pushed and glued a spare rail into an old wooden File handle (see top picture) to make holding the rail joiner easier. With this, I just slide it into the joiner, crimp it slightly and pull.

The file handle allows you to hold the rail more comfortably and pull the joiner free with more force if needed.

With it, I can remove old rail joiners without damaging them, my track, or my fingers.

Of course, you now have to push the rail joiners onto the new track and for this I made another tool to help.


> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.


  • And if there are any 009 society members reading this, yes that was the June ’16 issue newsletter in the background. I happened to be reading it when I took the photo.


Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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