Train Storage Solutions, January 2020
This is a followup to our article "Expansion Planning, 2020. That article describes the our attempts to plan the last planned expansion to our "new" raised-platform garden railroad, the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek.
In the meantime, while the weather's too cold to work outside, but not too cold to work in the (mostly unheated) garage, I've been trying to make sense of the boxes and bins of stuff that came over from the other house willy-nilly.
I used to do a lot of clinics and demonstrations, so I always had backup items besides the trains I actually ran at home. A few years back, that slowed down for a time, and I sold or gave away a lot of stuff I figured I'd never need again. Then we moved a couple of years later, and I discovered more pieces I'm not likely to need again.
But since almost none of my pieces are in production these days, I do want to sort it first to make certain I'm not getting rid of things I'll need eventually. And a place to store it in the meantime is critical for that. Which for me means shelves and bins.
The commercial shelves from Menards and Home Depot all had a litany of customer complaints about missing and damaged pieces and lack of store and manufacturer support. I couldn't decide if they would be worth the money.
Then an auto parts store in the area went out of business and the building's new owners tore the shelves out. Many were too damaged to use, but I brought home over 20 11"x5/8"x8' boards I could use as shelves.
Later I bought some 2"x4"s to use as frames. The 2"x4"s and the screws I needed to fasten them to the wall and each other probably ran about $50. That and some time were all it cost to wind up with a 16'x8'x22" shelf system.
Construction The wall the shelf was going up against was concrete block, but the previous owner had put furring strips and drywall on the inside. Fortunately, I was able to screw my vertical supports right through the drywall and furring strips into the concrete block, using leftover decking screws.
An 11" board sandwiched between two 2"x4"s facing parallel to the wall would create a shelf system that was just over 14" deep, not deep enough for many of the things I needed to store. Two 11" boards would have created a shelf system that was 25" deep, so deep that it would keep people from getting their car door open in that part of the garage. So I slit several of the boards in half and put an 11" board with a 5.5" board. So my total depth is just under 20", big enough for anything I need to store on the shelves, but not quite making that side of the garage useless.
The drawing to the right shows the basic construction of the first 8' set of shelves. As you'll see, the long 2"x4"s are installed parallel to the wall. They are connected by short boards that support the shelves (only one of which is shown for simplicity).
Thankfully, I had the foresight to attach the cross-pieces to the inside of the first and third set of supports. That way the 8' boards had some "wiggle room" at the end, in case one was a couple inches short.
Each set of supports is 4' from its neighbors, so each set of shelf boards spans two 4' spans. Since most of what I'm putting on those shelves isn't THAT heavy, they are supporting the weight nicely.
After I got that much done and screwed together, I extended it by attaching crosspieces on the other side of the far support, then adding two more sets of supports further down.
You'll notice that I left a large space between two of the shelves. That's because some things I needed to store at that level require more height. Also, the third shelf from the bottom is about 40" off the ground, which makes it about workbench height for me, so I can operate certain pieces of equipment there more easily.
Also, I didn't put a top shelf on yet. As it is now, I don't need one, since I can stack the bins I'm using up there. I have enough of the original boards to add a top shelf eventually if I want to.
Train Storage and SchlepI run trains. That may seem like a stupid statement, but many of my fellow hobbyists seem to collect trains more than they run them. And a large part of their hobby time seems to be taken up with getting their trains in and out of their store boxes. I do keep a couple hard-to-find pieces in their original containers for safekeeping, but I gave the packages for the vast majority of my trains away years ago, because they were just too time-consuming to use. And ironically, the packaging on some of those was so ill-conceived that the pieces are more likely to be damaged getting them in and out of the box than they are from running and handling.
The railroad at our old house was about 160' away from the garage where I stored most of the trains. So to get my trains out of the garage and onto the track with the least hassle, I started using those semi-clear Sterilite containers.
I could easily fit four full-sized freight cars in each container. Usually I would put them in two layers, the trucks of each car facing each other, and a piece of cardboard separating the two. As long as I didn't kick the bins all the way to the railroad or something, that was safe enough for storage and transport within the back yard, or even to the clinics I used to do.
Smaller pieces could be packed more creatively, usually with a bit of fine bubble-wrap. (Be careful doing this with locomotives - many have whistles and bells that can be snapped off with very little pressure.) The trains were light enough to carry two containers at a time, so I could hoist a pretty long train out to the railroad in a few easy trips. I have yet to find a solution that is cheaper or easier.
Unfortunately, Sterilite has changed the shape of their bins several times, which makes matching lids to bins more complicated than it needs to be. Nowadays when I need new bins, I make a point of buying one specific size - the 56qt - which has kept the same dimensions for several years.
In the new garage, I have finally taken the time to sort my rolling stock out properly - the 1:32 pieces together, the 1:22.3 pieces together, and so on. I took advantage of the semitransparent nature of the Sterilite bins by printing or magic-marking two big labels for each bin - one for the end and one for the side.
As you can see, the bins fit nicely on my new shelves. The photo to the right may give the wrong impression, as not all of those bins are full of runnable models. Once things are in their place and time allows, I'll be revisiting several of those bins, fixing pieces that need help, and earmarking some for eventual liquidation.
I have to confess, though, that when it comes to getting rid of stuff I "won't ever need," I have to take into account that almost all of the pieces I own are permanently out of production, and parts for them will never be available again. So keeping backup pieces, and even a few incomplete pieces for parts, is not necessarily "hoarding" in the popular sense. There may be some articles about bringing damaged, but hard-to-find pieces back to life in future installments.
Other Schlep SolutionsWhile I'm at it, I'll add some other schlep solutions I've seen.
Even if none of these suggestions work for you, they may give you some ideas.
One solution I won't recommend is something a family with more money than sense did in the early days of Bachmann's entry into the hobby - they left their trains out on storage tracks all year long. They swore that being buried in snow off and on several times that winter didn't hurt them at all. I inadvertently did this once with one short train when a blizzard covered the tracks just after a day's running. Lots of rusting springs and brittle or broken handrails greated me in the spring. So don't try this at home. These trains can handle being outside any day you enjoy running them, but they're not like picnic tables - they need shelter when you need shelter.
Keep in Touch
Many folks I know have already stumbled on storage and schlepp solutions that work better for them than any of my examples or suggestions. Not to mention, many of my readers are far better carpenters than I. But I'm sharing my efforts and these suggestions in case anyone else is facing similar issues and looking for inspiration, or at least a low-cost solution.
Though my own train shed/station that is attached to the railroad is too small to store more than a few pieces, at least it allows me to keep one or two trains ready to go at all times. Yes, I still have to shlep out rolling stock when I want to run longer trains, but that's not hard either. So if you're headed toward or past Springfield, Ohio, please let me know, and I'll see if we can work out a quick visit.
Finally, please let us know about your ongoing projects. Ask questions, send corrections, suggest article ideas, send photos, whatever you think will help you or your fellow railroaders. In the meantime, enjoy your trains, and especially enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks,
Return to "Expansion Planning, 2020" - Three years after starting a garden railroad in our new home, we are trying to figure out the best way to finish the last loop of our raised platform railroad. How to make room for 10'-diameter curves and more towns and industries, but still keeping things manageable requires some thinking and rethinking.
Click on the photo to see the options we are reviewing for the next and last expansion.
Return to "Winter Preparation, 2019" - After the big open railroad event, we try to prepare the railroad for the cold months, including populating the railroad with North States bird feeders so it doesn't look empty, adding an air pump and bubblers to the pond, and more.
Click on the following link to see our status as of early December, 2019. https://familygardentrains.com/newbost/19_11_24_winter_prep/19_11_24_winter_prep.htm
Return to "Christmas Train Day, 2019" - Three years after starting a garden railroad in our new home, we host another Christmas-themed open railroad, giving many families a jump start on Christmas celebrations and sharing the experience of running trains with lots of kids.
Click on the photo to see a brief record of our busiest weekend in November, 2019.
Return to "Preparing for Christmas Train Day 2019" - Wrapping up construction projects for 2019 and getting ready for our annual Christmas-themed open railroad. Includes new lighting and other features, providing a temporary home for a Hogwarts Express train, weather issues, and more. Click to go to article.
Click on the following link to see our progress of mid-November, 2019.
Return to Decking the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek Part 2 - Getting the next part of the railroad ready to install trains. Includes installing 2"x6" decking, vinyl sheeting, edges to hold back the gravel, and corrugated steel panels. It's not done, but it will give us another place to set up trains for our next Christmas-themed open railroad.
Click on the photo to see our status as of late October, 2019.
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR - Part 7" - Installing posts, joists, framing, and decking for the eastern expansion of the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek. Although this installation was complicated by having to fit into an existing framework, the methods used could work for any raised-platform railroad.
Click on the following link to see our progress of early October, 2019.
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR - Part 5" - Once the major components of the water feature were installed and tested, we decided to add one more bit of railroad proper before our "Christmas Train Day," this November. The addition, about 5'x11', will allow us to put a small train and some scenery closer to eye level for youngsters. Eventually it will be part of the larger plan that will allow us to run our bigger cars and locomotives.
Click on the photo to see our plans for the next addition, as of late September, 2019.
Return to Waterscaping Part 4. - Installing the last connecting pool, so the whole planned waterfall is complete except for dirtscaping and planting.
The process included checking the pump, extending the hoses, rescuing toads, building the platform, trimming the platform, testing the pool's location, etc.
Click the photo to go to the article.
Return to "Waterscaping, Part 3" - After seven months of crazy long work hours, I finally got some free time to continue working on the railroad. Weather permitting, I often worked all the live-long day. This article describes installing two posts that will eventually support the last connecting pool, then digging the big hole for the in-ground pond, complicated by a three-month drought that turned the ground to concrete.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of mid-September, 2019.
Return to Christmas Train Day, 2018 - After two years without our traditional Christmas Train Day (something we did from 2008 through 2015), we were anxious to get started again, even without a huge right of way to show off. The kids' trains, the extra Thomas railroad, the popcorn popper and two Bachmann Christmas trains got a big workout. And the visiting kids all loved it!
Click on the photo to see a lot of last-minute preparations and some photos of the November 10, 2018 event itself.
Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 6" - Installing the board and batten siding on our train shed, installing the windows, installing the trim, testing the "tunnel entrances," and more.
By the way, going over lumber receipts in early 2019, I couldn't believe I was still siding the train shed in late October, and managed to have an open railroad in mid-November. It is a little crazy how fast things can go together if you have a deadline and a lot of gift cards.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of late October, 2018.
Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 5" - Planning the doors, walls, and windows of our garden train shed.
Includes choosing the siding and windows, installing the door, painting the windowframes, and adding crosspieces to support the vertical siding boards.
Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 4" - Choosing and installing underlayment and drip edge to protect the sheathing until I can get the final roof installed.
Now the roof is waterproof enough to get us through the next couple of months at least, maybe more.
Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 3" - Adding fascia, sheathing, and end trim to the in-progress train shed.
I thought about bringing in helpers for this part, but a reader commented on how helpful it was to see how one person could do this sort of thing by himself, so I just kept plugging away.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of September 13, 2018
Return to "Waterscaping Part 2" - Getting this year's waterscaping project done (for now at least). Installing and dirtscaping the third level of the waterfall. Installing pump and filter, adding an extra container and modifying the ones we already had installed to keep the water running smoothly. And lots of other tweaking. Includes tips about introducing fish and plants, as well as other information about water features in general that you may find helpful.
Click on the photo to see our status as of August 5, 2018.
Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 2" - Adding rafters to the frame of the in-progress train shed. Now it's starting to look like it might actually be a structure and not just a crazy collection of posts.
The way we got the rafters and ridge board up wouldn't work for everybody, but it worked for us, and hopefully will help other folks to "think outside the box" - literally in this case.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of July 14, 2018.
Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 1" - What started out as a simple addition of a deck to stand on when putting trains on the track got a little more ambitious when I realized that JUST installing the deck this year would require more work next year. So we framed out what we planned to be a train shed attached to the railroad. If it ever gets finished, I can easily put trains on the track at a moment's notice instead of schlepping them out from the garage.
Click on the photo to see our status as of July 9, 2018.
Return to "Waterscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek Part 1," our article on getting the top two layers of the waterfall on solid footing and getting the third layer framed. After we finish decking and dirtscaping the third layer, we will probably add a washbasin or something for the water to flow into, then add a pump to get the waterfall flowing. No big pond until next year at least - too many other projects.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of June 13, 2018.
Return to "Dirtscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 2. - Adding barriers to keep the rocks, dirt, and plants where they're supposed to go, placing platforms and running wiring for buildings, adding rocks, dirt, and plants to the upper level of the railroad.
Click on the photo to see our status as of June 1, 2018.
Return to "Adding Raised Roadbed to the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 2" - Trimming the corners off the roadbed on the upper layer and cutting the pieces that will support the curves on the middle layer. We need to get the upper two tiers of the pond installed before we totally complete this step, so the article doesn't quite show the finished product. You'll see it later as part of other articles.
Return to "Adding Raised Roadbed to the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 1" - Sorting out our priorities for the spring and summer of 2018. There a lot of little chores we really should get done before we start on the next big addition. Click to see our plans as of February 27, 2018.
Click on the photo to see our status as of February 20, 2018
Return to "2018: Springing into Spring on the NEW New Boston & Donnels Creek RR." - Sorting out our priorities for the spring and summer of 2018. There a lot of little chores we really should get done before we start on the next big addition. Click to see our plans as of February 27, 2018.
Click on the photo to see our status as of February 20, 2018
Return to "Dirtscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 1. - Putting edging around the existing "layers" of the new railroad, and beginning to add gravel and rocks. There were a few test runs, but we got stopped early by bad weather before we could dump the rest of the rocks, gravel, and dirt, much less plant the plants we hoped to get in before snowfall.
Click on the photo to see our status as of November 21, 2017
Return to "Decking the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR - Decking the 'middle layer' of our proposed three-tier outdoor railroad. Prepping more track, laying out track and decking to make certain we have measurements correct, installing most of the remaining decking for this layer.
Click on the photo to see our status as of October 25, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 6" - Modifying and finishing the framing on the second layer, cantilevering, using R3 track versus all other pre-curved track formats, finalizing the track plan, why painting the track makes old and new track blend better, and more. This will be the last bit of "framing" in 2017, and it worked out well, considering.
Click on the photo to see our status as of October 15, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 5" - Spreading the billboard-sourced vinyl underlayment on the top layer. Prepping used Aristo track for (hopefully) many more years of service. Laying the first loop of track, attaching power wires with spade terminals, and testing conductivity with a Bachmann streetcar.
Click on the photo to see our status as of October, 10, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 4" - Planning and running the decking for the top layer, testing the track plan, checking clearances, prepping used track with new railjoiners, examining the vinyl I ordered to go over the decking, and more.
Click on the photo to see our status as of September 26, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 3" - Getting the frame finished on the top layer, ordering other things I'd need eventually, deciding on materials for the decking on the top layer (at least).
Click on the photo to see our status as of September 17, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 2" - Once I had the overall frame relatively solid, I hooked up the underground power lines to two GFI plugs that should be in easy reach once everything is finished. I also decided to frame out the top railroad layer while I could still access the center of the railroad easily. Because I was running out of vertical space, I reconfigured that layer. Then after I got the "core" pieces on, I changed my plan again. But the whole thing is getting easier and easier to visualize, and is getting closer to complete with every board I cut and fasten on.
Click on the photo to see our status as of September 7, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 1" - Once I started dropping posts in the holes and screwing things together, I didn't want to stop before I had the basic frame built (for one thing, the wood warps less once it's fastened in place). Now the folks driving down the street past our house (we're on a corner lot) probably wonder if I'm building an elaborate chicken coop, but that's fine with me. I still need to make a few more lumber runs and do a lot more cutting and sawing, but having the basic frame in place should make the next bits a lot easier.
Click on the photo to see our status as of August 10, 2017
Return to "Breaking Ground on the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek" - Okay, in case you wondered if we'd ever get started on the thing, we broke ground in July, using a manual post-hole digger. Well two manual post-hole diggers. But by the end of this article, we're ready for the posts to start going in.
Click on the photo to see our status as of the end of July, 2017
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 4" - Well, the rented post-hole digger fell through, so we dug our vegetable garden with a manual post-hole digger (the scissors kind). In addition, I stake out where the railroad was going to be. Twice. And tweaked the plans again. Sorry about the redo's, but sometimes just walking around the yard trying to visualize things makes me reconsider something that seemed "settled" only a few days before.
Click on the photo to see what we were considering as of late May, 2017
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 3" - We have still not broken ground. In part because we plan to rent a post-hole digger and dig the post holes for our raised vegetable garden and the first phase of the garden railroad at the same time, and we don't have enough lumber on hand yet. (If we didn't break it down into multiple trips, we'd be blowing out the shocks on our minivan.) In the meantime, we used a line level to see if the slope of the back yard was as bad as we thought it was (it's worse), and we did other site preparation, including planting a whole bunch of spruce tree seedlings to eventually give us some privacy in our side and back yard. Plus, I'm still wavering a little on the "where-to-start-first" issue.
Click on the photo to see what we were considering as of late April, 2017
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 2" - More plans. We've moved on from the 2"x6" roadbed-on-posts to a sort of "train-table-outside" plan. Our goals include low-maintenance, high interest, and high reliability. We're also trying to get around having a thousand dollars' worth of dirt hauled into the back yard. If you want to get some idea of what our planning process looks like, reading these through in sequence may help. Or it may drive you crazy.
Click on the photo to see what we were considering in early April, 2017
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 1" - If you're subscribed to our newsletter, you know that we moved just after Thanksgiving in 2016, leaving behind most of the track, a few of the bird feeders, and one Bachmann train set for the new owners. We also left behind a high-maintenance garden that we do not intend to replicate at the new place. This is the first chapter of a new chapter in our lives, which we hope will include a lot of "lessons learned." But first, some serious landscaping had to take place.
Click on the photo to see what we were considering in March, 2017
Return to the New Boston and Donnels Creek RR Page - This is the page describing Paul Race's progress and frequent rework on his own garden railroad, started on a shoe-string budget in 1998, later expanded, and later refurbished several times as issues arose. Issues that Paul hopes to avoid by building the next iteration above ground.
Click on the photo to see the home page of Paul's railroad.
Return to Family Garden Trains' Home Page - The home page with links to all the other stuff, including design guidelines, construction techniques, structure tips, free graphics, and more.
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