Chevron jumpers

Wiring problem - chevron jumpers

Layouts always act up when company comes.

On the weekend, I had a couple of friends over – two of whom are not in the model railway hobby, and were visiting my house for the first time. They wanted to see the layout, though – so at some point we went to the train room, and naturally I ran a train…

… which, just as naturally, hit a dead spot on the Stone Church Road overpass. I determined that one of the rails over the bridge was not receiving power. This is not the first time I’ve had problems on this bridge. It went dead on me once before.

Now, I know that I installed drop feeders – I did that for every length of rail on the layout, and when power disappeared on the bridge last time, I dug into the ballast, found the feeders, and resoldered them. It was a painful process – in part because of all the trees around this scene, and in part because the fact there’s a bridge here means there’s half a sawmill worth of lumber belowdecks:

Stone Church Road overpass - under construction
(The Stone Church Road underpass under construction)

Perhaps, because of these issues, my solder joints to the rails were cold last time I repaired this. I decided that this time, I would do something topside.

In the photo at the top of this post, sharp eyes will pick out a chevron-shaped piece of wire spanning the gap between adjacent lengths of rail. There’s one on each rail in this photo. I took short lengths of 0.015″ phosphor bronze wire – the same stuff I routinely use to add pick-up wipers to locomotives that need them – and bent them into chevron shapes with feet at each end. I then used a wire wheel in a Dremel Tool to remove the paint on the rail ends, tinned the feet on the chevrons and the rail ends, and soldered a foot to each rail segment so that the chevron spans the gap.

The chevron is important – it gives the wire some flexibility in case the problem here is that the layout is expanding and contracting with the seasons.

I brushed on some brown paint over everything and my bridge is once again in service. This has taken care of the problem – hopefully, permanently! I’ll find out this coming weekend, when I’m hosting members of the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Association of Railway Modellers for an open house…

5 thoughts on “Chevron jumpers

  1. Neat.
    On jointed-rail within electrically detected block sections in the U.K., I have noticed similar jumper wires in use, so that circuit connectivity does not rely on nuts and bolts.
    Whilst this may not be your prototype, it is nonetheless prototype practice somewhere in the world!

  2. Trevor – From my days in the full-size rail world, your “chevron jumpers” are known as bond wires and were used wherever signals of any kind – manual ball type excepted – were in place. My knowledge of this came from being in the wrong place at the right time to be put to work cleaning up a head-on collision that had the single-track main tied up. (At the time I was a civil engineer in a division engineer’s office.) As information, the bond wires are placed on the outside of the rail, not inside as in your photo.

    • Hi Jim:
      Yes – I was thinking about bond wires as I installed these. I don’t have any signals on my line, unfortunately, so these are really intended to disappear.
      Fortunately, they’re not very visible in this location on the layout – they’re behind trees so you have to go looking for them. And that’s why one (not both – just one) is on the inside of the rail – they’re both installed on the side towards the aisle, because I couldn’t get the iron into the position needed to solder the far one to the outside of the rail.

  3. Really really love this idea – especially in areas that are already ballasted! I did something similar by soldering a short length of bare wire to the side/web spanning the joint, but realize now that I should have used your “chevron” idea so that that wire “bridge” doesn’t break with layout expansion/contraction. Thankfully, I’ve had no failure so far, but if/when I do I know now how best to repair it. Thanks!

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