Garden Trains in Brutal Weather Conditions
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Author:  paulrace [ Thu Oct 31, 2019 9:51 am ]
Post subject:  Garden Trains in Brutal Weather Conditions

A reader writes:

I've had Lionel O27 since the '50's. I collect HO Steam items and components (trains, structures, etc.), complete small holiday layouts and gift them to grandchildren, relatives, and friends, and such. I've always loved large scale, from the black and white photos of Walt Disney riding on his at home. I even worked in a restaurant in the '80's where a Trolley ran around all day long, through different rooms, etc. Would like to learn more about them, the what, where and how to start, and maybe initially, a small landscape garden setup outside our NY home. Don't know very much about it, other than I have a long love for model trains, and love to learn more.

question: I live 1 hour north of NYC. The 4 seasons here can be harsh, from over 100 degrees to 2' of snow, and everything in between. My first questions would be: Can these outdoor trains operate throughout the year? Is there very special maintenance required to keep outdoor equipment? Is electric always supplied through the track or perhaps quality battery equipment is an option?

A few notes about garden trains and weather extremes.

There are many garden railroaders in harsher climes, such as Ottawa. The solid brass, steel, or nickel silver track stays outside all year long. It needs to be on a solid roadbed, such as concrete in the ground or 2"x6" ground-rated boards on an elevated RR. The track can't be fastened down, because the metal rails expand and contract more than the roadbed and will pull right out of the ties in very hot or very cold weather. But it's heavy enough to stay in place for anything less than a tornado or hurricane.

If you go with raised wooden roadbed (my preference), make certain any posts supporting it go below your frost line. (But you know that if you're in construction.) Alternatively, one friend in Canada has his roadbed so braced and fastened together that the whole thing rises and falls as a unit and only needs minor adjustments in the spring.

Consider having the RR attached to a structure that you can run the trains into at night. There's no use exposing them to the dew when you're not running them anyway, and if tomorrow there's a deluge, blizzard, or heat wave, they'll be protected.

Most commercial buildings and accessories made for garden railways have a limited life span unless you prime and paint them thoroughly with UV-resistant paint first. Or clean them annually and spray with a UV-resistant flat or satin clear coat.

I bring my model buildings in after Christmas and put North States "Village" bird feeders on the RR so it doesn't look naked all winter long. There are two - the big barn and the big church - that I have also painted and used year-round. They're a good size for garden trains.

Hope this gives you some ideas.

Here's a PDF of the RR I'm building in my back yard currently. Lots of work up front, but almost zero maintenance. ... b_n_dc.pdf

This is all probably more than you ever wanted to know. Let me know if you have more questions,

Paul Race

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