Large Scale Central

Triple O - Thoughts on Rail Clamps (and a 2023 Objective knocked out)


To be honest, I am doing this to prove to myself I am making progress against my Triple O - 2023 Plans & Objectives. There may be a few people out there though who still run track power and are still weighing the merits of rail clamps, so this may be of some practical value to them.

I know that somewhere out there someone has done the math and, for large railroads, battery makes more sense and is likely cheaper. If I had started from scratch, I think I would have gone this route with a pair or trio of locomotives. I had my brother’s and my legacy locos, and, in retrospect, I could have made 2-4 battery cars and rewired everything as I went along. I never thought about it, lacked the skills, anyway, and discovered LSC well too late in the process.

We experimented with three types of railclamps, Splitjaw on-the-rail, Splithjaw over-the-joiner, and Trainli. None of these being inexpensive, we slowly added clamps pack-by-pack, addressing the worst areas on an as needed basis. The only “explosion” of clamping followed a lucky score on over-the-joiner clamps a couple years back and a “get it done” purchase this year.

For those who might be interested, here are our findings.

  • Splitjaw on-the-rail. These hold well, but we had issues keeping the rails in alignment once we removed the LGB rail joiners. This made it somewhat iterative to get our R1 curves all lined up when we installed the clamps and, later, when we had to tear up track to account for changes in track plans, maintenance, or plantings.
  • Splitjaw over-the-joiner. Hands down our favorite. They old like their on-the-rail cousins, but we had none of the alignment issues. In our climate, we’ve yet to experience conductivity issues that we were warned would happen as grime accumulated between the joiner and the rail.
  • Trainli. By far, these are the easiest to install, as you can use a screwdriver from the top. They are also relatively cheap. You have to remove the rail joiner, though, so we had those alignment issues. Also, we found they had a hard time keeping a grip in some of our sharper turns. I am sure the fact our track floats exacerbated all of this. If we were using broad turns and had tracks affixed to a sub-roadbed, though, I think these would have been a very economical answer.

Anyway, all good products, but, for our little railroad with its sharp bends, the Splitjaw over-the-joiner clamps ultimately made the difference between halting operations to nearly flawless running.

Since none of this matters absent photographic proof, however, given my initial purpose of proving I am actually working on the Triple O this year!

We had three main areas to address. The passing siding at Haluku’ilio, which was nearly deadrail:…

…the turn out the tunnel complex on our "plantation tracks"and into the mill area (picture taken after the new clamps were in place)…

…the “plantation track” back into the tunnels…

…and finally the “plantation tracks” serving a small farmstead.

Kid-zilla was my MOW helper, and he cleaned the rail surfaces and clamped together sections of track.

I did have to help tighten some of the screws! His help made the difference between a static display and a functioning railroad at a garden party we hosted later that day.

So, yes, work proceeds apace!


I have not had your issues with my over the rail clamps( Split Jaw) , but I do have wider radius curves . If you are looking for more over the rail , I know someone selling them, and he has 28. Message me and I can get them to you the price is quite reasonable

Thanks, Pete, but we are good. All that is left to clamp are some stub sidings which, for the moment, are mostly for show.