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Modern layout metnods in a super cold room

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Modern layout metnods in a super cold room
Posted by Redore on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 10:40 AM

Our club has been asked by a local historical society to build a layout in the ticket office of an old depot they use for their museum.  This is in northern Minnesota and the building is not heated. 

We have plenty of experience with a modular layout stored in a trailer outside year round but this has only relatively short track sections and rudimentary scenery.  The track is nailed down.  Even so the wood parts move a lot when humidity and temperature change.

Ambient temperatures in the room may range from -30F (yes, minus) to 85F.

Does anyone have any experience with the modern methods of layout construction, like using caulk to hold down track and roadbed and foam based scenery, in these kind of conditions?  We don't expect it to operate in the extreme cold, but would like it to stay together.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 1:45 PM

I have no experience on layout building with the extreme temps., but I have worked construction, in extreme temps.  I think if you use exterior rated products for the structural part, a good exterior urethane caulk to hold it together, I don't see what the difference would be in this verses the exterior of a building that withstands extreme temps. and total exposure to the weather.

Since nothing is subject to sunlight, winds, snow and rain, everything should stay together. exposed extruded foams biggest enemy is exposure to outside conditions.  Yours will be covered with scenery, and always inside.

This seems like a great oppertunity for your club.  Maybe to recreate local railroad history, while promoting your club, and the hobby in general.

Mike.

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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 1:57 PM

 According to Dow's data sheet for extruded foam (the pink brand), a 8 foot logn section will experience a maximim of 3.4 THOUSANDTHS of an inch expansion/contraction over that temperature range. There is no minimum temperature listed, they recommend no more than 165 degrees F maximum. It's not affected by humidity.

 An 8 foot long section of nickle-silver rail will change by more than .1 inch over that same temperature range, so solderign all track joints it out of the question. 

 Since I would suspect you would be building when it's closer to the warm side of things, you probably don;t need to leave much in the way of gaps. WHen it hits that low, they will really open up, and possibly be too open to run, but then who's going to stand in a -35 room and run trains? (wait, don't answer that LOL ).

 Latex caulk may well freeze at -35, so as much as it is generally NOT a good idea for most people, silicone caulk may be the better option here as it will remain flexible over a wider temperature range. The felx is what will save you, as parts move small amounts the caulk will 'give' rather than hold track solidly in place like nails into wood. 

 Cork roadbed is probably out, the cold dry winter will dry it out very quickly and it turns brittle. Foam type stuff from WS or similar will likely handle the extremes better.

                                      --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 11:40 AM

What is your timeline for when they want this completed? Perhaps build a small test section of layout (or several test sections, using different construction techniques).  You might be able to accellerate the testing by putting a small section of layout in a deep freezer (dont remember how cold they get, but its not minus 35).  

Rule 108: In case of doubt or uncertainty, the safe course must be taken.
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Posted by Redore on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 1:56 PM

It's almost spring here and they would like good progress before fall (October).  We've lost our window for extreme cold weather testing, but the deep freezer is a good idea.  They usually run around 0.  We don't have a problem with cork roadbed on our modules so I don't think that will be a problem, and we don't see anywhere near an inch of contraction on a 6 ft module in super cold.  I think that poster is off by a decimal point.  We can nail the track to the roadbed, but I worry about the foam layers coming unglued in the cold.  It sounds like the foam is pretty stable.  Also glue failure at those temperatures.

By the way, this town holds the record for cold in Minnesota, -60 F one morning in February, 1996.  Being in a building, it should be a little wamer, even without heat.

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 2:53 PM

 What poster is off by a decimal point?

Nickel silver is .1 - one tenth of an inch  over 8 feet, which is what I posted.

                         --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 2:56 PM

If your referring to Randy's post, he actually said .1 inch, as in 0.1, a tenth of an inch.

Your right about the foam, it should be fine.  And I mentioned the urathane caulk, because that's what we use on building exteriors, including between precast wall and facia panels, it's only a couple of bucks more than latex, and it's in most hardware and big box stores.  It's not a speciality thing that's hard to find.

If your modular sections keep good in a trailer, sitting outside, you'll be fine. 

Don't be shy about posting some pictures, as your project develops! Smile

Mike.

EDIT:  OOPS, sorry Randy, you posted while I was typing. Laugh

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Posted by bearman on Thursday, April 13, 2017 10:05 AM

Foam road bed may be a problem.  According to my local train shop, here in Phoenix some people have problems with foam road bed in the hot summers whne a layout is in a non-climate controlled location, like a garage.  When I told them my train room was indoors and climate controlled, they understood.

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by davidmurray on Thursday, April 13, 2017 7:47 PM

In one of the old MR published books of tips, there was suggestion that half lap joints instead of butt joints for the rails would allow for slight bits of movement.

As the rails over lap, a gap can be left, because it occurs in two place, on each side, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart.

I never tried this, just read about it.

Dave

David Murray from Oshawa, Ontario Canada
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Posted by rrebell on Sunday, April 16, 2017 1:22 PM

First off there is a lot of misinformation out there. They say foam shrinks by 2% which is true but that is new foam, old foam is more stable, the best in my opinion is beaded foam (think exterior floating docks, they don't use pink for a few reasons). What you need to use are materials that all expand at about the same rate. Nickle silver rail and cork roadbed and beaded foam all expand at almost nil as far as the space you are considering. As far as framing, I have had no problems with 1x4s as they expand very very little length wise but maybe where you are, metal studs should be considered.

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Posted by SouthPenn on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 10:05 AM

Due to the extream temperature changes, you might consider using some 'rail aligners' available at Proto87 stores (scroll down). They would allow the track to move some.

South Penn
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Posted by garya on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 4:21 PM

Redore
By the way, this town holds the record for cold in Minnesota, -60 F one morning in February, 1996. Being in a building, it should be a little wamer, even without heat.

Gary
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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 5:07 PM

I've noticed this thread for a while and I'm still trying to wrap my head around its basic premise.

I live in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming at 5000 feet and it gets mighty cold around here. Thirty below is fairly common; not every winter, but often enough.

Why is there no heat in the building? Is there none at all? Insulation? Functional doors and windows? A finished floor?  At thirty below there can be no plumbing. At thirty below batteries cannot hold their charge and computers will literally curl up and die. So no permanent command station or decoders or throttles. I cannot imagine exposing my favorite locomotive to such raw conditions for more than one or two minutes. Not to mention my bare skin. I never tried operating a throttle in mittens. A portable layout seems your best bet. Maybe a two-season portable layout.

Plus, how can the historical society maintain a museum? And invite in the public? I find it hard to believe local codes would allow occupancy permits.

Not trying to be a pain in the buttocks, just trying to see if this thread is on the up-and-up.

Robert 

 

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 6:59 PM

Layout constructed for a 100 degree (F) temperature range, very low humidity:

Scale, HOj (1:80) using American 16.5mm HO track gauge and NMRA standards.

Basic benchwork (C work like L girders, joists, risers, 'rain gutters' for some runs of straight hidden track) is built of steel stud materials.

Subroadbed is thin cookie-cut plywood with riser support on (approximately) 16 inch centers.  Any tendency to warp or 'roller coaster' is controlled by screwing angle iron to the underside, sometimes across several risers.

Roadbed is sculpted fan-fold siding (or not sculpted, in the netherworld of hidden track.)

There is a full size cardstock track template caulked to the top of the roadbed.  This allows positive location of the flex track at every tie end, not just at the nailholes.  Since the low extreme is still above zero (F) latex caulk has no problem.  The same caulk is used to anchor the roadbed to the subgrade.

Flex is laid with expansion gaps at every joint.  Jumper wires around the joints assure electrical continuity.  They butt solid in August, and open up to about 3/32" on a cold morning in January.  Leaving inadequate space when tracklaying at moderate temperature WILL cause caulk failure when the oven reaches a maximum.  (Don't ask how I learned this!)

All specialwork is hand laid on wood ties, caulk, card stock, more caulk and foam.  No problems to date with things not wanting to stay put.

I run the old fashioned way - the only microchips in the layout space are in an FM radio usually tuned to PBS.  The temperature range doesn't give plain DC control any problems, the ancient power supplies work fine and the locomotives don't seem to know (or care) whether it's twenty or one hundred twenty in the layout space.  (The operator does, but that isn't the question.)

If I was facing a problem keeping electronics alive at Antatctic temperatures, I would put everything (including hand-helds not in use) in a heated, insulated cabinet.  Locomotives would all be parked in a staging yard, either above the electronics or provided with separate heat.  We used to be able to make do with a couple of low-wattage incandescent bulbs, but the geniuses in Congress have cut off that path by outlawing them.

So, where's the layout I described?  In a non-climate-controlled garage in North Las Vegas, NV.  I've been building and operating it for over a decade, and one chunk dates from 1981.  So far, it and I are both happy.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964 - with the rest of Japan in staging)

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Posted by Redore on Thursday, April 27, 2017 10:22 PM

This is on the up and up.  The museum is only open in the summer and left totally cold in the winter.  Plumbing is drained so it can't freeze.  Electronics can be stored in the cold, just not used.  -30 is a guess for inside temperature based on my garage being about 15 degrees warmer inside than outside, outside it may be -45 or worse on a bad morning.  For the Wyoming guy, think of an unoccupied shed.

The location is Tower MN.  There's no heat in this building in the winter because heat costs money.  The building was once heated and does have working doors and some 1910 era insulation.  It is dry inside and the building is wind tight.  The floors are bare wood.

We store our DCC stuff in the trailer and it comes alive no problem after we give it a few hours to warm up.  Same with some locomotives and rolling stock.  As stated before, we do not intend to operate in the winter, only May - September at the most.  We're just trying to avoid cold caused damage.  We know from the modules we can't use things like cast resin water.  It cracks.

For the guy with the cartoon, Frostbite Falls is supposedly inspired by International Falls MN, about 80 miles north of here.

By the way, it snowed here yesterday and is supposed to snow again on Sunday.  We should normally start seeing green by mid May.

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Posted by Track fiddler on Tuesday, May 02, 2017 12:01 PM

Redore      "Frostbite Falls"   Yes.   I wish I could come join you and your club but I don't live up there any more.  I grew up north of you on a resort on Lake Kabetogama.  I went to School in Orr.  I remember a unique bit of rairoad history up there. The Orr Railroad Depot was auctioned off some time in the early 80's if I recall right. They moved up north highway 53 overlooking Ash Lake and made it into a bar & cafe.  Not long after the bar cafe went broke and they moved the old Depot back to Orr.  The Patten Cafe bought it.  Is It still there?  The food sure was good.  Anyway what a lot of people dont realise unless they have been to your neck of the woods is for a rather large percent of the population of northern minnesota, is based on tourism.  Seasonal bread and butter so to speak.  People dont realise alot of buildings, lodges, cabins are winterised and boarded up until spring at the start of tourism season again.  (So I getcha).  I see you recieved a lot of good valuable information from the other members on your thread here.  I just want to point out some thing you may have already thought of, but I thought of it when I was looking back on my memories.  A lot of residents up there have old homes with pump houses on the exterior with heat lamps inside and also heat tapes wraping the water pipe going into the house.  In late fall they fluff up straw and cover the pipe with a poly barrier and flip the heat tape switch on for the winter. Running water is nice.  lol.   I think you know where i'm going with this, they make heat pads too.  Model Railroading is'nt inexpensive like the 70's any more.  Niether is you and your clubs valuable time, it might be a cheap insuranse policy.  As my father used to say and I quote  "When its this darn cold throw the statistics of physics right out the window, What can go wrong will go wrong".   I remember a day of 50 below actual with a 90 below wind chill factor,  things went wrong.  Hope to here from ya.  Good luck with your project.                                                                                                                                                     Take Care  Al                                                                        

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 9:59 AM

Redore

It's almost spring here and they would like good progress before fall (October).  We've lost our window for extreme cold weather testing, but the deep freezer is a good idea.  They usually run around 0.  We don't have a problem with cork roadbed on our modules so I don't think that will be a problem, and we don't see anywhere near an inch of contraction on a 6 ft module in super cold.  I think that poster is off by a decimal point.  We can nail the track to the roadbed, but I worry about the foam layers coming unglued in the cold.  It sounds like the foam is pretty stable.  Also glue failure at those temperatures.

By the way, this town holds the record for cold in Minnesota, -60 F one morning in February, 1996.  Being in a building, it should be a little wamer, even without heat.

 

No that is accurate but that is for brand new. after awile it will shink and stay at a smaller size, but like I said, the bead board is even more stable, but even that you have to age (you can usually buy the aged stuff, just measure it against the stated). My 2'x4' peices of foam on my layout were accully about 1/4" less in length when used.

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