Rail Breaks

When reading articles on wiring model railways you will see references to where you need to place rail breaks in your track. Experienced modellers know how to create such breaks and have their favourite method of doing so. For some beginners in the hobby, how to do this is not so obvious.

I received the following enquiry from one beginner and he has kindly given me permission to share his question and my reply so that other beginners can also have access to the information.


Question:I would like to let you know that your website has helped me enormously in the build up of my model railway, and I am eternally grateful for this. As you are a man in the know I was wondering if you could help me out with a couple problems that I still have. I am new to the hobby and am having a bit of difficulty understanding isolations and breaks. I have had people explain to me where I have to do these, but nobody seems to tell me how I actually isolate or make a break in the track. If you could assist me in this small way I would appreciate it very much. Once again I would like to thank you for all the advice that I have got from your site, and also in advance for any information you can give me.
Yours faithfully
Alan Huddy


Answer:There are two ways that you can make an electrical break in the track.

  1. If you are sure of the break location before you lay the track then you replace a metal rail joiner (fishplate) at the spot closest to where you want with a plastic one. The plastic joiners also have a small piece of plastic at the centre of the joiner to stop the two sections of metal rail from touching.
  2. If you need to install a break after the track has already been laid then you need to fix the rail securely in place and then cut it. The way that I do this is to put two panel pins into the board either side of where I am going to cut. They go as close to the outside edge of the rail as you can get them and they need to be put in far enough that their heads are just below the top of the rail. Be careful not to hit the rail with the hammer while doing this, a nail punch helps. Next solder the two panel pins to the rail so that the rail is held firmly in place. Now you can carefully cut through the rail between the pins. The cut needs to be at right angles to the rail. To avoid damage to anything around the spot this cut is best made with a cutting disk in an appropriate power tool such as a dremel or similar. If you need to break both rails then you can cut with a hobby saw but you will need to place something across the track (eg. a block of wood with two saw cuts that align with the rails) to securely hold the track in place while cutting.
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Copyright Stephen Chapman