How to easily fit rail joiners perfectly, everytime

how to fix rail joiners easilyIt’s undoubtedly one of the most frustrating, annoying, downright infuriating jobs in constructing a layout. My fingers bleed and I’ve ruined track ends doing it but no more.

Fitting rail joiners to already laid track is now something I almost look forward to. Well almost!

If you’ve ever tried fitting rail joiners to track that’s fixed in place you’ll know the problem.

The problem is that once the track is fixed in place there are just millimetres of space under the rails and absolutely no give in which to manoeuvre, slide and manipulate a rail joiner into place. And making this worse, it’s vital the rail joiner be slid into position correctly.

Of course, the best approach is to place joiners to rail ends before fixing the track down but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Maybe you want to extend a siding or cut into a line, replace some track or add points (how to alter already laid track) but whatever the reason sometimes there’s just no alternative but to fix joiners to the already laid track.

In one recent case, a change of plan required fitting a short section of track to the end of a curve that I’d already glued down. Several broken, bent, railway joiners later I’d just about stopped myself from swearing but decided there had to be an easier way.

And there is.

As luck would have it, I happened to have a bit of 4mm metal tube lying around (I use this for carrying wires through Polystyrene scenery). Glancing at this while nursing my sore fingertips I had a Eureka moment.

I crimped the end of the tube a few millimetres and pushed the rail joiner in it.  (The crimp prevents the joiner disappearing up the tube).

With the joiner held snug in the pipe it slid quickly onto the rail and, unlike with my fingertips, could be worked into final position with ease.

Once in place, the pipe was pulled back, leaving the rail joiner in situ.

No bloodied fingers.

No bent rail joiners.

No damaged rail ends.

Since then, I’ve bent the pipe into an L shape so it can be held above the track and fitted a wooden handle to make it more comfortable to hold.

With this tool, fitting rail joiners is now something I don’t dread and I almost look forward to.

Find some metal tubing now and make your own version for easier, quicker, rail joiner fitting.

Footnote: The 4mm pipe works for OO gauge rail joiners; other diameters would be used for other sizes of rain joiners.

A final, personal, note: I spend a LOT of time testing, photographing, writing and often wrecking my own layouts researching techniques for these articles and don’t charge a penny for them. If you enjoyed this article or it was useful to you in some way, please add a comment to say so, it gives me encouragement to continue. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.


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17 comments
  1. Hi Lindsey, this blog is for enthusiasts of all levels; some tips are for complete beginners, others for those moving up and some for more advanced modellers. Track that’s being laid first time or not fixed down like yours, should assemble quite easily and this tip isn’t relevant. This article is for is for intermediate builders who are modifying track fixed down on layouts.

    Re your specific problem. The plastic body shouldn’t be coming away from the wheel assembly that easily. They are usually held in place with clips to stop this. I’d recommend returning it and asking for a replacement as they should just work, which is why they’re great for children. I would recommend however always letting children play with a basic set for a while before spending too much on more items in case they don’t actually take to it.

    Thanks, Andy

    PS: Your comment has made me think about a better way to sign post the stage of model railway building my articles are intended for and I’ll be looking at this in the New Year with beginners articles clearly differentiated from those for intermediate and advanced users and vice versa.

  2. Hi, my grandson was given a small hornby set this Christmas, we spent a long time just trying to get it to work. One issue seems to be the body ( plastic casing) comes free of the metal motor ( engine /wheels /etc) which we are trying to resolve. However in researching possible solutions, I came across your blogs. Thank you so much for damping my enthusiasm quelling any major impulse buying to see if this is something he really sticks with, And if he does, well i will know where to come for advice. Much appreciated.

  3. Andy:
    Thank you for all your hard work, tips and tricks, from Colombia, where no rail clubs exist, web is the only resource

    • Hi Juan, thanks. There are still model clubs over here and the UK’s largest model railway show is even run by one. It’s a shame there aren’t any in Colombia but glad my blog helps you. Andy

  4. Hello Andy
    I think what you do is really helpfull to many modellers including myself i have been at my TT 1.120 and my grandsons N-gauge for years but there is always much more to learn,I made your fish plate fitting tool to, it works just as you say
    Keep the good work up and thank you for the many things i have learned from you
    derek turner

  5. Can any one tell me why on my n gague layout I can’t get the right handed siding to work the main line and the left siding work fine r

  6. Hi Andy.
    Just like to say thanks for the advise and tips you publish, and the time that’s involved running this site, it is a big help and I for one appreciate all your work.
    Thank You, and all the very best for 2019.

  7. Andy,
    I do like your website. You have lots of useful tips, tricks, info and advice.
    But mate….you really need to proof read your stuff before publishing it.

    • Hi Stu, thanks mate. I do try and have a spelling and grammar checker too but mistakes still creep in occasionally. Appreciate the heads up 🙂 Andy

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