S Gauge Outside?
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Author:  paulrace [ Wed Jul 15, 2015 10:26 am ]
Post subject:  S Gauge Outside?

A reader writes:

I am interested in information relating to S guage trains outdoors.

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Thanks for getting in touch. I don't know ANYBODY right now using S gauge trains in the garden. That said, the weight and flange depth of most American Flyer equipment is similar to that of most Lionel, and I know a number of folks using Lionel outside.

The main thing is that you can't keep AF (or Lionel) trains in a damp place. Think about putting together a padded suitcase or something to schlep them in, so it's no hassle to get them in and out on sunny days.

Also, you'll need stainless steel or brass track with uv-resistant plastic ties. Gargraves has advertised this in the past, but don't know if they currently carry it for S gauge or not. If you're not familiar with Gargraves, let me warn you, bending the track to nice even curves is not as user-friendly as they claim. So if you can order it pre-curved, do that.

A more user-friendly alternative may be the American Models track:

The rail is almost as high as AF rail, and a lot of folks use it with AF trains inside. You'd want to paint the ties before you put the track out - they're not UV resistant. Also, the brass rail is softer than the old rolled steel rail, so you'd want a really solid surface underneath your track, like the 2"x6" roadbed I recommend here: ... _posts.htm

I started on AF and still have a few pieces. Maybe I should considering setting a loop out on my next open house.

Of course all I have track-wise is the old rust-magnet stuff. Maybe I should try a loop of the American Models stuff myself.

Best of luck, please let me know how things turn out - Paul

Author:  paulrace [ Mon Jun 06, 2016 2:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: S Gauge Outside?

A reader writes:

Hi! You mention on your Introduction page that you have information on running American Flyer outdoors. I'm building a mining-themed layout in the garden in 3/4n2 and I have a LOT of 2-rail AF track that I'd like to adapt for the mine complex itself. Is it possible to adapt the track for outdoor use? I'm not concerned about rust, but the paper insulators Gilbert used look dicey. I'd appreciate any information you might have to hand.
Thanks, and congratulations on a wonderful site!


Thanks for getting in touch.

One problem with recommending AF-compatible track solutions is that manufacturers come and go, and even if they stay in business, they may drop specific lines.
Unfortunately the AF track will go to pieces very fast outside.

Gargraves used to make S gauge track with stainless steel rails and plastic ties, but now they only seem to be available with wooden ties. The wood is Basswood, which breaks down quickly outside, although if you could soak it with a preservative first, that might help.

You might could call them and see if the plastic tie versions are available on special order, although I doubt they are.
American model trains makes brass track with plastic ties, but the ties are NOT UV protected If you want to try to use these, plan on masking the rails and spraypainting the ties with at least two coats of SOMETHING (I'd consider a coat of indoor/outdoor primer, followed by a coat of indoor/outdoor dark brown, flat paint (you might have to settle for "satin.")

Even if you get your track situation in order, you need to make certain you keep your AF trains someplace dry and temperature controlled when they're not running. And protecting them from too much exposure to direct sunlight. I suppose you could spray the cars with a satin indoor-outdoor acrylic finish, but I wouldn't do that on anything with "collector's value" and I'd be VERY careful if painting any locomotives.

Hope this helps. I've only kept one AF train and I've thought about setting up a section for that on my outside GR, but I haven't got around to it yet.

Best of luck - Paul

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