Last Updated: 19 February 2023
After deciding on the rail profile “code”, the rail profile material, the decision to go for sectional track or flex track, you still need to decide on how to connect pieces of track together.
As we’re attempting to model the real thing, let’s look at the prototype first. As far as I know, railways evolved from using fishplates (Wikipedia – external link) – a metal plate used to bolt to track sections together -, to welding the rails together.
Modeling fish plates in Large Scale is for sure possible, but probably quite fiddly when scaling down the bolt and nut dimensions. So in Large Scale, first of all let’s divide into G/2m Scale and 1 Scale as their rail profiles are quite different.
In G/2m Scale, typically there’s two types of rail joiners: fishplates or rail clamps.
G Scale Fishplates
When buying sectional track from most (if not all) manufacturers, the track sections come with fishplates. These fishplates are slid on the rail profile, and typically hooked into a tie to secure it in place.
Fishplates are easy to use for “play” layouts, where track sections are connected and disconnected often for temporary layouts. Over time, these fishplates do loosen, causing rail connections to become less tight, and the electrical bond worsens.
On larger track-powered layouts, this may cause power pick-up issues. Close to the power supply / controller, all is well, but the further away the locomotive moves, the worse the power pick-up gets. You can place more feeder wires at regular intervals (e.g. every 10 meters), or you can replace rail joiners by rail clamps.
G Scale Rail Clamps
Rail clamps are a sturdy and reliable option to replace the standard fishplates. There are few different designs on the market. Rail clamps are available for Code 332 and 250 rail profiles, and for different rail materials like brass, stainless steel and nickel. Most rail clamps are designed to be screwed directly onto the rail, but some clamps are intended to just be clamped over an existing fishplates/joiner. The design of the rail clamps is generally the same, but there are some minor differences. Some clamps have horizontal screws, other have vertical screws.
If you have your model railway in place for some time, with the track nicely settled, potentially ballasted, and maybe some nature taking over the track, replacing a track section becomes increasingly difficult. You need to rip everything apart, and with standard rail joiners that is difficult as you need a horizontal movement to disconnect track pieces. With rail clamps, it’s easy: you unscrew them, and you can lift out that particular track section vertically without touching any adjacent pieces of track.
Decision Tree – Fishplates, Rail Clamps, Prototypical Fishplates?
- Sectional Track?
- Small Layout – Keep fishplates
- Larger Layout
- Low Cost Option – Keep fishplates but use more feeder wires
- Higher Cost Option – Replace fishplates and use less feeder wires
- High Maintenance – Keep fishplates and use more feeder wires
- Low Maintenance – Replace fishplates by rail clamps and use less feeder wires
- Prototypical Look? – Replace fishplates with prototypical fishplates
- Flex Track?
- Prototypical Look?
- Prototypical Fishplates
- Rail Clamps
- Prototypical Look?
G Scale Rail Clamps – Code 332 – Brass
- 18.SVB Rail Clamp, Brass, 20 mm, 10 pcs – MSRP CHF 22,00
- 18.SVB.K Rail Clamp, Brass, 13,5 mm, 10 pcs – MSRP CHF 20,00
Market: Europe & USA
- 8100250 Rail Clamps Brass 15 mm, 50 pcs – MSRP 55,00
- 8100150 Rail Clamps Brass 19 mm, 50 pcs – retired
- 8100424 Rail Clamps Brass 39 mm, 24 pcs – MSRP 59,90
Market: Europe & USA
- 35293 Rail Clamps, 10 pcs. – MSRP 34,50
- 35294 Rail Clamps over Joiner, 10 pcs. – MSRP 34,50
- BR 332-SJC 7.0 Rail Clamps Brass, 60 pcs – MSRP $219,00
- BR 332-SJC 7.0 Rail Clamps Brass, 12 pcs – MSRP $46,20
- BR 332-OJSJC Rail Clamps over Joiner, 60 pcs – MSRP $219,00
- BR 332-OJSJC Rail Clamps over Joiner, 12 pcs – MSRP $46,20
- 1020013 Rail Clamp Brass 15 mm, 10 pcs – MSRP 12,00
- 1020013-100 Rail Clamp Brass 15 mm, 100 pcs – MSRP 155,00 [more expensive than 10 pcs, weird]
G Scale Rail Clamps – Code 332 – Stainless Steel
- SS 332-SJC 7.0 Rail Clamps Stainless Steel, 60 pcs – MSRP $282,00
- SS 332-SJC 7.0 Rail Clamps Stainless Steel, 12 pcs – MSRP $59,40
G Scale Rail Clamps – Code 332 – Nickel
- 19.SVB Rail Clamp, Brass Nickel Plated, 20 mm, 10 pcs – MSRP CHF 25,50
- 19.SVB.K Rail Clamp, Brass Nickel Plated, 13,5 mm, 10 pcs – MSRP CHF 23,00
- 8102350 Rail Clamps Nickel 15 mm, 50 pcs – MSRP 80,00
- 8102450 Rail Clamps Nickel 19 mm, 50 pcs – MSRP 89,00 – retiring?
- 1030013 Rail Clamp Nickel 15 mm, 10 pcs – MSRP 13,50
- 1030013-100 Rail Clamp Nickel 15 mm, 100 pcs – MSRP 170,00 [more expensive than 10 pcs, weird]
G Scale Rail Clamps – Code 250 – Brass
- BR 250-SJC Rail Clamps Brass, 12 pcs – MSRP $46,20
G Scale Rail Clamps – Code 250 – Stainless Steel
- SS 250-SJC Rail Clamps Stainless Steel, 60 pcs – MSRP $282,00
- SS 250-SJC Rail Clamps Stainless Steel, 12 pcs – MSRP $59,40
G Scale Rail Clamps – Code 250 – Nickel
- 8102650 Rail Clamps, 50 pcs – MSRP 59,90