Backyard railroad with PVC pipe track

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Backyard railroad with PVC pipe track

  • This is my first post in this forum, so I apologize if it's in the wrong place.

     I am thinking of constructing a small backyard railroad for my two boys (something that they can ride on).  I have looked at track options, and it occurred to me that I could use PVC pipe to create a track.  I don't claim credit for the idea--I read online about someone making a roller coaster using PVC--but I have never seen it done for a backyard railroad.  I am curious if anyone has any type of experience doing this or knows of a good way to fasten the PVC to crossties.  I was thinking of drilling holes and using cable ties to attach it to 1x2 strips. 

    Any ideas or thoughts?

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  • Two immediate questions that come to mind:

    1.  What diameter PVC pipe are you planning on using?

    2.  How much weight is it going to be supporting and how far apart will the crossties be?

    PVC water pipe does not have much structural integrity for supporting weight without cracking.  What shape wheels are you going to use on the train?  Normal flanged wheels would tend to push the pipe outward, away from the center.  Bicycle or tricycle wheels with no tires would be better.  Here in Arizona the sun destroys outdoor PVC water pipe in just a couple of years by making it very brittle.  Cable ties, too, become very brittle from exposure to sunlight.

  • Many years ago, when Popular Mechanics still did year books, there was a plan in there for a backyard railroad that ran on wooden rails. almost the entire thing was constructed of plywood of varying thickness... I saw in my travels as an appraiser someone who'd done what you are suggesting with black pipe. If it were me I'd try wither wooden rail, or black pipe before PVC, as another poster mentioned PVC doesn't have a lot of structural strength...

    Hey I found this : it might help you-


    J. Walt Layne President, CEO, and Chief Engineer Penneburgh, Briarwood & Jameson Railroad.
  • The vintageprojects link is great!  Thanks for digging that up and posting it.

    I am also voting for making the track out of at least treated wood strips, if not metal.  The .pdf has some good suggestions.  One common method used in the live steam world is "groovy track" where the rails are metal strips placed on edge in grooves that are cut in the ties with a dado head on a tablesaw.  But you could certainly use 2x2 or 2x4 rails screwed down to 2x4 ties.  If needed, you could always put metal on the tops of the wood rails later - just like strap rail in the early days of railroading.  I'm still trying to think of something readily available that is inexpensive for wheels.  They could be fabricated out of wood, too.  Of course, there is always the option of using regular live steam rail and wheels, depending on your budget.  Check out .  When I was a kid, I made a garden railroad of about 5" gauge out of wood - rails & wheels included.  Too small to ride, but the concept was there.  Be resourceful and do it, your kids (and you) will love it!

     - James

  • I was 12 when that artical was published and didn't have two cents to rub together. So now would cost thousands to build and I still don't have two cents................


    The head is gray, hands don't work , back is weak, legs give out, eyes are gone, money go's and my wife still love's Me.

  • I built a Engine from the Popular Mechanics book.  If interested, I have a you tube video of the build at:

  • I saw the video you did. I download the train plan from google but some are hard to see, do you still have the plans. If so can you email them to me. Also what did you change in the plans to made it more up to date. thank you. email me at