Best Soldering Iron for Model Railroad in 2021 – an Engineer reviews the top products

By

Model railroads are miniaturized versions of the regular railroads we all know. One thing is sure; whether you are looking to build a temporary model railroad layout or want something more permanent for your game room or garage you will need a soldering iron.

Because we would hate to see you waste time and resources trying out soldering irons that will not just cut it, we have compiled a list of the best soldering iron for your model railroad.

The soldering irons we have picked can perform multiple tasks with ease. Whether you are working on joining sections of the railroad tracks, feeder wires to the track or connecting wires to each other, these soldering irons will meet your needs.

Here’s a quick overview our top picks before we dive into the details.

Quick Summary

The Detailed Review

Editor’s Choice – Hakko FX888D-23BY

If one product proves the phrase “looks can be deceiving,” it’s the Hakko FX888D-23BY. With its signature blue and yellow color, Hakko has become a recognizable brand in the world of soldering supplies. Here is a compilation of features that made this our top pick.

Speedy Heat-up

The Hakko FX888D-23BY is no time waster; it is ready when you are. Just plug and play.  The manufacturers say that it can reach 750°F in only 30 seconds, with the maximum temperature reaching as high as 896°F. This way, your model railroad project can be completed quickly as you won’t have to waste time waiting for the iron to get hot. 

This iron also does not lose heat quickly like many other soldering irons out there. So, it doesn’t matter whether you are using brass metal or white metal for your model railroad; the Hakko FX888D-23BY will get the model railroad project done. Here is a list of some of the features we absolutely love.

Adjustable temperature control

Since soldering a model railroad requires different heat intensities, it only makes sense to get a solder that can easily be adjusted to the temperature you need. The Hakko FX888D-23BY is perfect for this task.

It has adjustable temperature control and allows users to password the preset temperature so that when you take a break, you don’t need to worry about anyone meddling with your settings.

Thermal Recovery

Another incredible feature of the Hakko FX888D-23BY includes its excellent thermal recovery feature that allows you to solder at low temperatures without damaging fragile components or parts of the model railroad.

Display

Additionally, the soldering iron comes with a fully functional LED digital display and can be preset to any five temperatures.

Accessories

Lastly, there are several heating tips available depending on what part of the model railroad you want to solder, whether it is the circuit, the wires, or the track.

NOTES: There is only one tip included which is the T18-D16 . But it can be used with several other tips like T18-C1, T18-D12, T18-D32. The tips to be used largely depends on what model of Hakko soldering iron you are using, but the T18-D1 is the default tip and it can be used for a wide range of applications

PROS

  • Features different types of soldering tips for various uses, like soldering SMD and through holes
  • Password protection ensures safety and privacy
  • It is portable and compact
  • Preset temperature mode saves time

CONS

  • Although there are just two buttons labeled up and enter, it gets confusing when you try to perform other functions like setting the password.
  • Hot tips cannot be changed easily.

USER REVIEWS

With the Hakko FX888D-23BY, users complained about how complex it was to remember the soldering iron programming. Other than this, the FX888D is praised for several of its features, durability, build quality, and accuracy.

Runner Up – Weller WE1010NA

The Weller WE1010NA is a close match to the Hakko FX888D-23BY. That’s why we picked it as the second-best soldering iron for your model railroad.

This iron packs a lot of exciting features that make it perfect for soldering model railroads. Its build quality and temperature sensitivity are top-notch.

Features we love

The Weller WE1010NA features a Standby mode which means that when the soldering iron is not in use, you don’t need to power off completely. Once you get back, the soldering iron is ready to go again. 

Other features that can help you save energy include the auto setback feature and intuitive navigation. 

Like the Hakko FX888D-23BY, you can also password protect the WE1010NA so that no one tampers with your preset settings. The iron also boasts of temperature stability within the (+/- 4°F). 

Railroad modelers like yourself and general soldering enthusiasts will be pleased to know that this iron packs 70W of insane power. With this, you can be sure that your soldering iron will get hot faster and will not lose heat quickly, making it perfect for both track-to-track and wire-to-track soldering.

PROS

  • Features password protection that locks the station and standby mode to resume soldering operation anytime
  • 70 Watts direct to the soldering iron, making it heat quicker than its predecessors
  • It comes with an automatic shutdown option
  • The hot tip can be changed easily making it perfect for soldering any part of a model railroad.

CONS

  • No preset temperature options, so you always have to press the temperature button till you arrive at your desired temperature range.

USER REVIEWS

Many users found the WE1010NA very useful in getting their soldering projects done quickly and efficiently. This left them feeling that they had obtained great value for their money.

Some users were concerned about temperature discrepancies as the temperature readings were not always accurate.

Most Portable Soldering Iron – Weller P2KC

No other soldering iron is better a travel companion than the Weller P2KC cordless soldering iron. This is a gas (butane) soldering iron and hot air tool. The fact that everything you need to solder with it comes in such a compact box is altogether remarkable. 

The Weller P2KC is not just cordless and portable; it also packs the required power you need to solder your model railroad successfully. And although it is not the best for track-to-track soldering, it can still perform other model railroad soldering tasks with ease.

It can melt solder in less than 40 seconds, can be used continuously for one hour, and has a refill time of only 20 seconds. The Weller P2KC portable and cordless soldering iron has a power rating between 25-75 W; this way, it heats up super quickly.

An additional feature that we are sure you will love is the automatic cut-off switch that comes on once the cap is secured in place; this prevents any accidents.

The Weller P2KC also packs a PPT12 flame tip that can be used as a mini torch, and there is an ESD safe that protects sensitive components. 

PROS

  • It can be ignited with the push of a button
  • Automatic cut-off switch to prevent mishaps
  • Guarantees continuous soldering for up to 1hr and ensures fast refill time within just 20seconds.

CONS

  • Not suitable for large wire gauges and track-to-track or track-to-wire soldering.

USER REVIEWS

Many users applauded the Weller P2KC because it is cordless and compact. Some users didn’t feel they got the best value for the price they paid due to lack of solder tips and they felt even the one hour was too short a time to refuel.

Most versatile soldering iron – YIHUA 853D 2A

The most versatile soldering iron for your model railroad is non-other than the YIHUA 853D from the YIHUA company.

Why did we crown this soldering iron the most versatile, you may ask?

The answer is easy. The YIHUA 853D features a 3-in-1 design. It packs a soldering station, a rework station, and a DC stabilized power supply in one device. It has a soldering iron, a hot air gun, a power supply, and a voltmeter. 

Suppose you want to solder thick gauge wires or perform regular circuit soldering; this is the perfect soldering station for any part of your model railroad project.

It is not the most compact of soldering irons or soldering stations out there. However, once you have your workbenches set up, you shouldn’t have any issues. You might also like to know that this soldering station packs a USB port that you can use to charge your mobile device. 

There is a power supply station that can either supply power to the soldering iron or can be used to show the reading of the power supply output. This way, you can test if a component for your model railroad is faulty by merely performing a voltage drop test. 

PROS

  • The hot air gun makes it suitable for track-to-track soldering and the soldering iron makes wire to wire soldering a breeze.
  • Can test for faulty components.

CONS

  • Not compact, unlike other soldering irons and soldering stations reviewed.

USER REVIEWS

Many users like the YIHUA 853D for its soldering station, and the iron isn’t the real reason they get the station. They love the temperature accuracy feature. Many users also advised not to use the USB port if you are not sure where to put the probes if you are testing something powered from the mains, as it can fry the device connected through the USB port.

How we picked the best soldering iron for the railway model 

After doing our research on the soldering iron for model railroad, we picked the best using the main considerations listed below.

As well, we ensured that with the soldering irons we picked, you will be able to perform the following tasks with ease:

  • Join sections of the railroad tracks (rail connecting rail)
  • Join feeder wires to the model railroad track (rail-to-wire)
  • Join wires together (wire connecting wire)

Power rating

What good is a soldering iron if it cannot provide you with the power you need for the task at hand? 

Due to the power rating requirements of soldering iron for model railroads, we selected soldering irons with a power rating above 40 watts. This way, we were sure that the selected soldering irons will not lose heat quickly.

Also, since this review is all about soldering irons, we picked soldering irons that could solder wires, regular handrails, and also solder the track feeder wires with ease.

Temperature Control

The soldering iron for the model railroad we selected could heat up very fast and maintain a consistent temperature. They also could conversely cool off.

The soldering irons picked allow you to set the temperature to the exact range you want it to be; this way, you don’t have to gamble with the heat or fear using excess heat on delicate circuits for the model railroad.

Temperature range 

To be able to solder a model railroad to professional standards, there are specific temperature ranges your soldering iron should be able to attain without having to wait forever.

All the soldering irons we picked were able to attain very high temperatures within seconds. Also, since we are dealing with soldering parts for model railroads, all soldering irons could reach temperatures higher than 650 degrees Fahrenheit.

Portability and Versatility 

Since these devices are handheld and will possibly be used for hours at a stretch, we chose soldering irons that are portable, comfortable to hold and handle. 

The soldering irons we picked are also very versatile and not limited to handling model railroad projects alone. And since we know that you might need to use a soldering iron for hours, we picked the lightest soldering iron with well-insulated handles that guarantee user comfort.

Availability of a Sponge Cleaner

To get the best performance out of your soldering iron, whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, you must always clean the soldering iron before and after using it. 

While selecting soldering iron for model railroads, we picked the ones with sponge cleaner among various other accessories. This way, it is easy to keep the tip of your soldering iron clean, and you wouldn’t have to order a separate sponge cleaner.

Usability

Before we selected these soldering irons, we took a good look at how easy they were to use. No complicated manuals or difficult-to-understand features. They were all very easy to use.

Other Important factors considered

We also made sure we picked reliable, durable soldering irons and soldering stations that will give you the best value for your money. We understand that many people who work on model railroads are hobbyists, and it wouldn’t be wise to spend thousands of dollars on a hobby.

You can watch this video for tips on how to go about constructing your model railroad

What is the Best Solder for Model Railways?

The best solder is 63-37 Tin Lead Rosin Core Solder. We choose this solder as the best because of its low melting point. 

To complete your model railway project within the shortest possible time without mistakes, the type of solder you will be using is just as important as the soldering iron itself.

Solder and the soldering iron go hand in hand.

It will not hurt to add a flux, like a rosin paste flux. We generally do not advise you to use acid flux. The only exception is if you intend to dip your entire work piece into a neutralizing solution after completing the job.

In conclusion, the best soldering iron for model railroad should have the ability to heat up quickly, should be durable, portable, and versatile. It should also be of great value for the money paid to purchase it.

Summary

If you ever need a soldering iron for your model railroad, take a good look at some of the products listed in this article, we are sure this will give you the head start on what you need. As a recap here are our top soldering irons for model railroads:

Title picture by James Lee

Leave a Comment