Occasionally, a particular bug or customer query will necessitate jumping into a Rails console connected to a live database, or a copy of the live database, that we wish to read from, but not change.

I was reminded today of an option that can be passed to the rails console command, -s, or --sandbox. This wraps the entire console command in a database transaction that will be rolled back when the console is terminated.

The implementation of the --sandbox option is actually very simple. When the console starts, begin_transaction is called on the ActiveRecord::Base connection. A hook is set up to trap at_exit, which will rollback any changes made within the sandbox. Here’s the implementation:

ActiveRecord::Base.connection.begin_transaction(joinable: false)

at_exit do


Effectively, this means that when a rails console --sandbox command is run, records can be added, removed, changed (and anything else that is processed inside a database transaction can be done), without it affecting any other part of the Rails application.