HO Garden???

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HO Garden???

  • I am new to trains and am very interested in an outdoor railroad. I am limited on space for a G Scale, and figured that an HO would actually fit nicely in my yard. Questions are: 1) Can HO be used outside? 2) Has anyone else on this forum made an HO garden train? and if so, do you have images?
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  • Sswea

    1) Can HO be used outside?

    There have been HO (and HO/OO) outdoor model railroads.  However, most HO track products will not take kindly to direct exposure to raw sunlight.  The same can be said for the usual HO plastic body shells.  When I first moved to the Dessicated Desert, I, too, thought that my yard would be an ideal layout space.  I put a length of flex track on my back garden retaining wall and parked a swap meet box car on it.

    After a month of intense sun-baking, winds measured in (scale) Mach numbers and a few raindrops that hit with the force of (scale) 500# bombs, I noticed that the test freight car had faded badly and was beginning to turn chalky (consistency, not color.)  Likewise, the flex track tie strip was curling up and the rails were seriously out of gauge.  At that point I aborted the experiment, trashed the box car and flex track ties and beat a strategic retreat to the garage with the rail (which has since been used to fabricate a hand-laid turnout.)

    2) Has anyone else on this forum made an HO garden train? and if so, do you have images?

    Never took any photos of the disaster area - wouldn't have been very informative in any case.

    If I were to move outdoors again, I'd build some kind of shelter to keep sun, rain and critters off the railroad, preferably raised to usual indoor railroad-building height.  The result would probably resemble a row of display cases along the back fence.


  • Sswea
    Can HO be used outside?

    I would say, "do what ever you wish, it is your garden to enjoy". Just be aware of the inherent problems involved. In my case I used a "Z scale" line as a "garden railroad within my garden railroad." It lasted about three months.

    The smaller scales, as a rule, are not UV resistant. Plastic car bodies, plastic ties, plastic people all tend to rot in the sunlight. They also have a tendency to relocate to another part of the yard, via wind and/or animal.

    With this in mind, find a way to weather proof everything, make it all UV resistant, then you should be able to enjoy it outdoors. You could move away from plastic and construct everything from wood and/or metal. Anything can be done, the question is "should it be done considering the drawbacks?"

    Tom Trigg

    Planning for tomorrow is time well spent; worrying about tomorrow is time wasted.....

  • Check out PECO in the UK.  According to a few other blogs all their track ties(sleepers) are suppose to be UV resistant and for sure the, ON30 track.  A Google search- "Peco HO track UV resistant" will bring up all kinds of articles.

     Good Luck!

    Jim H


  • I don't think it would be a great idea.  Wind and rain will destroy the layout

    Scott Perry
  • I can vouch for the longevity of PECO track in a garden environment. I have had an HO railway in the garden for the last 28 years and all track is PECO. I have weathered the track with auto spray paints (only for appearance, not to preserve it) and quite a lot of the track is the original. The only time such track needs relaying I find is when it has been significantly altered in alignment either vertically or laterally after about 5 or more years outside. Sometimes at this stage the tie/rail fastenings snap and if too many go in one length then gage can be affected. Another, bigger, cause is the method of fastening-down the track I use. I screw the track to a narrow (2 1/4" wide) track board which is, in turn screwed into blocks set into the ground.

    Would love to hear others' experiences. How does Atlas track stand up outdoors?


  • Anything in any scale can be done outside. The problem comes in the limitations of material used. UV resistant rails and ties are available, not so sure about HO buildings and accessories. For buildings I would suggest a couple ot three coats of good quality outdoor paint (both ouside and inside of the buildings. This will not make them totally UV proof but will help extend their life by several years. Balsa wood kits, designed for indoor use will need a VERY GOOD paint job, maybe with model airplane "fuel proof" paint as a base coat.

    Always study the limitations of the materials you plan to use, understand these limitations and work around them. As I have said many times before, anything can be done in the garden. The key to success is proper construction and instalation. Spend the extra time for "solid and proper UV proof" construction and enjoy your hobby.

    Tom Trigg

    Planning for tomorrow is time well spent; worrying about tomorrow is time wasted.....