National Model Railroad Association Master Model Railroader Gerry Leone talks heat shrink tubing in this video. Electricity is essential to model railroading and when two wires touch that shouldn’t, they short-circuit and cause problems on a layout. Short-circuits can be prevented with measures like heat shrink tubing. The tubing comes in variety packs and can be purchased from home stores or electrical stores. These kits include a variety of sizes from 16th of an inch to 3/8ths of an inch in diameter. Tubing purchased from electronic stores often comes in three foot lengths.
The material that heat shrink tubing is made of is called polyolefin. This material shrinks when it is introduced to heat, enabling modelers to insulate electrical connections. The tubing is virtually indestructible and won’t crack or be influenced by normal temperature changes. Other than electrical connections, heat shrink tubing can be used on switch legs to keep the terminals isolated. Use with LED lighting can isolate one wire from the other and can cover both wires with a larger tube for even further isolation. For mechanical connection, it is still important to rely on soldering before covering with the tubing.
Leone recommends using an embossing tool to heat and shrink his tubing. These tools are sold at craft and electronic stores. After heating the tubing around the wires, it is good to crimp the end with a pliers to seal and waterproof. A lighter can also be used, but the tubing cannot linger too long over flame or it could burn. A regular soldering gun or hair dryer can also be used, though they are not as fast as other methods. They are, however, safer than using an open flame when working under a layout. For more tips for wiring your layout, visit the Model Railroad Academy website.