NICKEL SILVER vs STAINLESS STEEL
Nickel silver is an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc that boasts a high degree of flexibility while also being easy to cut, file and solder. Being non-ferrous, it has an in-built resistance to corrosion, but is liable to tarnishing, especially when exposed to damp conditions, although it is easy to clean with solvents or abrasives. Electrical conductivity is acceptable, but not as good as other metals. Therefore, adding multiple power feeds at regular intervals is recommended, especially on larger layouts. Stainless steel offers superior electrical performance, with the added benefit of resistance to corrosion and tarnishing. In fact, stainless steel rails require cleaning less frequently, apart from the removal of surface dust. Suited particularly to DCC layouts, where electrical continuity is vital, it’s also claimed that stainless steel rails offer a greater level of adhesion for metal locomotive wheels, although we haven’t been able to prove this conclusively. High performance comes at a cost, however. The material is slightly more expensive than nickel silver, as well as being difficult to work with. Sturdier cutting tools and files are needed to trim the rails cleanly, and the ‘springy’ nature means that the track won’t settle into tight radii or complex curves without a fight! Soldering is also more difficult, with a powerful iron required (minimum 50W) to heat the metal sufficiently. Special fluxes and solders are also necessary.