Soldering and crimping wires


Spend the money and buy a quality unit for your soldering of wires.

  • temperature controlled
  • temperature readout
  • many options for replacement tips
  • come with stand and tip wiper (wet sponge or the silvery ribbon ball)

For track, you want a physically large tip and attached copper part. You don't need super high wattage, but you need a lot of thermal mass, so as the rail tries to suck all the heat out, the iron has a "store house" of heat to keep the joint at soldering temperature. A big, old ugly thing usually works great.

Another thing that works great for track is a "gun" which is basically a transformer and the tip is the transformer output, they can make a lot of heat. The downside is they are pretty uncontrollable, so you have to get used to it, but some have dual temperatures and you might find one where you don't have to modulate the switch on and off.

Early someone in the thread suggested a gas powered iron. They indeed heat fast, and you can modulate the temperature easily. But you have no idea what the temperature is. The biggest drawback is the heat from the flame and sometimes the flame itself is usually exhausted sideways, and you can burn stuff up off to the side easily, please ask me how I know.. I do have one, but I use it for very specialized cases, like pinpoint heating the axle screws on Aristo loco that are slathered with red loctite.


There are a lot of people who use crimp terminals on garden railroad wiring. Almost everyone I have met do it wrong, either the type of terminal, the type of crimp, or the crimping tool itself.


I'll concentrate on the most common type of crimp terminals:


Many people get a cheap crimper, that just smashes the connector to an oval...this results in a very poor connection for stranded wire.


What you need is a crimper that forces part of the terminal into the wire bundle AND compresses the whole thing. (I learned about crimping connections from an engineer that designed and built rockets in our space program, things that CANNOT go wrong).

The place where the wire goes is actually a tube with a split in one side, because these are rolled from a flat sheet. This is important to how the crimper is positioned and the crimp holds the wires.

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Look carefully, you can see how the "split" is at the top of the terminal.

Now you need a crimper that is specific for this kind of terminal, below, look where is says "indent here"

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Notice this is not a plain round or oval space, but there is a "finger" on the right, next to the "HERE", what serves to firmly indent the body of the connector. This finger MUST be opposite from the "split" (it won't crimp evenly if the finger goes into the split.

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Now, even without a wire in the terminal, you get a strong mechanical crimp where wires cannot pull out:

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The next picture is poor, but it shows the indented area which locks wires from pulling out, since it is a "point" rather than along the entire body.

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