Solder like a pro
Richard Foster takes (and enjoys!) a masterclass in soldering with Model Rail’s Dave Lowery.
Richard foster takes (and enjoys!) a masterclass in soldering with Model Rail's resident expert Dave Lowery.
My ‘Gedney’ layout is supposed to be a compromise. I want to make the scene as accurate as possible while making use of off-the-shelf components, such as Code 100 track. Signalling was one area where I didn’t want to compromise. Not only did the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway feature an interesting collection of motive power, but its signalling was just as fascinating. Signal boxes were either Great Northern or Midland in origin, while GNR somersault signals rubbed shoulders with LNER/BR upper quadrant types – not to mention the M&GN’S concrete posts. Model Signal Engineering (MSE) has one of the largest ranges of signalling components and offered pretty much everything I required: GNR somersault signals, LNER/ER upper quadrants, wooden and concrete posts. MSE is part of Wizard Models and you’ll find its stand at quite a few exhibitions up and down the country throughout the year. I found all I needed at a recent Warley exhibition. But there was a snag. Unlike Ratio’s kits, MSE’S are brass and whitemetal - and I’ve never worked with either material before. I needed to see someone who could demystify the so-called ‘dark art’ of soldering. Who else was better qualified than Model Rail’s own modelling consultant Dave Lowery? “We’ll have you soldering in about ten minutes,” Dave said confidently. Really? Dave started me off with a simple task: join two wires together. I flux both ends, apply solder (a process called ‘tinning’) and then use the heat of the iron to sweat the two tinned ends together. It’s a technique I’ve used countless times in recent months, with much success. Except under Dave’s eagle eye, the wires fell apart. So much for ten minutes! He spotted the problem right away. “You’re not letting it cool down,” he said. “The solder is still molten and then you took the iron away and they’re not held together.” I’ve talked about the joy of discovering flux before (MR228). It made soldering dropper wires an absolute joy. Flux, as I understood it, allows the solder to flow into a joint. That was partly correct. “It’s not necessarily the solder,” Dave explained, “but the heat as well.” I have a 50W Antex soldering iron (a recommendation from George), which is perfect for wiring work. But, according to Dave, it might not be enough for kit-building. “The fundamental thing with soldering is heat. We can use this [50W iron] but it’s really not going to do it. You can use it to put the solder on it… but you need heat to get the solder to flow into the joint.” ROB TIBBITS/COLOUR RAIL Even whitemetal, explained Dave, which has a lower melting point than brass, will still “suck the heat out”. Let’s see how we get on…
Ivatt ‘4MT’ No. 43068 arrives at Gedneywith a brake van on September 3 1963. The signal behind has a tall, concrete post, with a somersault arm and a miniature wooden post, also with a somersault arm. The one behind that has a concrete post but has an LNER upper quadrant arm.