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HO goes outdoors?

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  • Member since
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HO goes outdoors?
Posted by oldbuffalochip on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 1:17 PM

After 50 yr absence from the hobby, I'm impressed by all the advances.  I want to build an HO scale, dead-rail, radio-controlled empire starting on my front porch, crossing a magnificent bridge span to the flowerbeds, around to the back yard. Though G gauge looks like fun, track is $8/ft. HO track $1/ft.  Am I crazy to take HO outdoors?

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 4:59 PM

 Maybe, but it's been done. Heck, a 1975 issue of Railroad Modeler (not MR - different mag) had a story of a guy who built an N scale layout in a natural hillside in his back yard (modeling a quarry). In Southern California, where it doesn't rain - except like a week or two after he finished it. Trains were ok, he took those in after running the layout, but the track and scenery was destroyed. That's going to be the main issue, keeping the track in operating condition. A leaf falling across the rails might not stop a G scale loco, but it will an HO loco, dead rail powered or not. 

                                  --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 doctorwayne on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 5:01 PM

Welcome to the Model railroader Forums obc.

oldbuffalochip
...Am I crazy....?

Possibly, since you're here with the rest of us nuts. Smile, Wink & Grin

oldbuffalochip
...to take HO outdoors?

Without knowing anything about your location and situation, I'm sorta leaning to  "Yes!", at least for my initial reply.

"On your front porch" sounds like it would be annoying to the neighbours and/or perhaps an invitation to theft or vandalism.  Weather, either too hot or too cold will wreak its havoc on your track, let alone your locomotives and structures, as will wild animals and neighbourhood kids.  As for scenery, the birds and squirrels will likely eat it, or use it for nesting material.

Do you want to put up with those conditions, or are you prepared to simply cart everything into the house when you're not outdoors with your layout?

If you're really eager to have an outdoor layout, have you considered a modular one?  Well-thought-out, you could use it both indoors or outdoors depending on the weather or your particular preference at any time. 

Welcome back to the hobby, too!  I'm sure that you'll get some varying opinions on your ideas, so don't let my naysaying deter you.

Oh, and if you build it, please provide photos, and perhaps an on-going blow-by-blow on how it all works out - we like pictures, and we like to be entertained, too.

Wayne

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 5:21 PM

It´s not impossible, but you will have to keep the track free of anything Mother Nature decides to dump on i, if you want a trouble free operation.

Another, not yet solved question is whether the track, or, to be more specific, the ties, will resist the constant bombardement of UV light. G scale track from LGB, Piko or other sources use special, UV resistant plastic for the ties.

In 2011, BBC presenter James May, had a team lay HO scale track between the UK towns of Barnstaple and Bideford - here is what he experienced in running an HO scale train outdoors:

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xja5i0

 

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 8:18 PM

I tried G gauge I our back yard and gave up after two years.
 
I subscribed to Garden Railways Magazine for several years before I gave it a shot.
 
Installing the basic track and structures was a blast.  Both myself and my wife spent the whole summer of 2004 building a great railroad. 
 
Here in Bakersfield we don’t have much winter, I joke with “our winter is the first three weeks in January”.
 
The second year wasn’t nearly as much fun as the first summer.  No one warned us of the up coming problems.  Our grandson’s Lab lives with us, I spent some time repairing her damage, she like the insulation on the buried wire.  I spent several weeks installing conduit.
 
By the end of May I had to buy a track cleaning car to get rid of the crushed ants off the rails.  Come to find out the innards of the ants are corrosive and eats the brass rails.  A G gauge track cleaner isn’t cheap.  Spraying the rails with a deterrent doesn’t work very long if one waters the garden.  That meant running the track mop every other train.
 
Next was the birds, bird droppings on everything.  By August the frogs were occupying the structures.
 
The next year it was spiders, spiders everywhere as well as grass and weeds between and around the rails.
 
The third summer was spent removing our garden railway.
 
We had a lot of fun building and running it the first year but the maintenance did in my knees as well as our fortitude.
 
The biggest problem here was the Bakersfield varmints and heat.  The 108°+ Sun did a real job on the supposed to be weather proof structures and turnouts.
 
Out door model railroading isn’t a fun hobby as far as we’re concerned.      
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by mbinsewi on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 9:11 PM

oldbuffalochip
I want to build an HO scale, dead-rail, radio-controlled empire starting on my front porch,

I think it would be a cool idea.  When you said "dead rail" in your post, that means your locos are powerd with an on board battery, and NOT power through the track.

Go for it, maybe experiment with a short section to see how it works, and handles the weather conditions.

Mike.

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, December 5, 2019 12:43 AM

Tinplate Toddler
In 2011, BBC presenter James May, had a team lay HO scale track between the UK towns of Barnstaple and Bideford - here is what he experienced in running an HO scale train outdoors:

Hi Ulrich!

That was a very entertaining video! I watched the whole thing. Talk about nail biting!

Thanks,

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, December 5, 2019 6:24 AM

RR_Mel
I joke with “our winter is the first three weeks in January”.

.

Around here the joke is "Winter is my favorite day of the year".

.

I have seen HO layouts built down here outdoors, not as garden railways, but like actual layouts on back porches.

.

The formula seems to be foam scenery forms, no hidden track, and Kato Unitrack. Everything needs to be made of plastic, no natural materials at all, and it needs to be in the shade.

.

Using items suitable for outdoors take precedence over realism.

.

-Kevin

.

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by joe323 on Thursday, December 5, 2019 6:47 AM

In general HO is not designed for outdoor use.

Having said that one of my to-do projects is to build a simple portable layout that I can take outdoors in the summer on nice days. Might just be a seniced circle of track on a board.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by Harrison on Thursday, December 5, 2019 7:18 AM

I to have had these thoughts, but I was thinking having the track mounted on 2x4s and running on elevated posts through the lawn. I would also be using track power, and would make the track removable (too much snow, rain, and pollen around here). Good luck on your project, post photos if you build it!

Harrison

Homeschooler living In upstate NY a.k.a Northern NY.

Modeling the D&H in 1978.

Route of the famous "Montreal Limited"

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Posted by NVSRR on Thursday, December 5, 2019 8:05 AM

The best option here is to start with a small experiment layout in the area you want to try.   Run that for two or three years and see what happens.   Plan on storage carts to bring structures and such in and out. And to store them.    You are in somewhat pioneering territory there

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

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Posted by sandusky on Thursday, December 5, 2019 8:14 AM

My concern here in Georgia USA beyond heat/sun is how heavy does the rolling stock have to be to not be blown off the rails.

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Posted by nealknows on Thursday, December 5, 2019 9:15 AM

Mel,

Just read your post. I live in Northern NJ and wanted to build a G scale layout in my backyard, and have it raised off the ground. Reading everything you wrote, I want to thank you for changing my mind! I think I'll make an indoor static display with the few pieces I have.. Crying

Thanks!

Neal 

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Posted by York1 on Thursday, December 5, 2019 9:23 AM

oldbuffalochip
I want to build an HO scale, dead-rail, radio-controlled empire

I have no experience with this, but I would guess, as other posters point out, that having battery power and radio control would solve a lot of issues.

I think you should try it, take pictures, and let us know how it succeeds (or fails).  It sounds neat.

York1 John       

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Posted by kasskaboose on Thursday, December 5, 2019 11:37 AM

I too can't wait to see what you produce outdoors.  Mother Nature is posed to present you with a host of various types of weather and animal encounters. Pls post pics and good luck.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, December 5, 2019 11:58 AM

oldbuffalochip
After 50 yr absence from the hobby,

That means you are closer to my age, 68, than 50.  Working on my hands and knees to lay roadbed and track wouldn't be much fun.  Compared to a layout, your trains are going to be much further away.  While you will be able to run really long trains, all that money you spent on detailed engines and rolling stock will be very hard to see.

In my yard we have foxes, raccoon, too many squirrels to count, possum, deer and a passing through beaver. 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by nycmodel on Thursday, December 5, 2019 3:15 PM

Having a G Scale railway in the garden I would say anything smaller Than O is a bad idea. The ties will turn to mulch in a year or two. I can also step on my G scale track with no issue. Try that with HO and you will have a roller coster. Even deer have been known to step on and bend G scale track. In G scale we have a 10' rule. As long as it looks ok from 10' away it is ok. With the relative scale issues in G that's a good thing.

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Posted by oldbuffalochip on Friday, December 6, 2019 1:16 PM

Wow! Thanks everybody for the welcome, the humor, and for sharing your wisdom and experience about taking HO outdoors.  James May's great train race video was outstanding!  So, as founding CEO of the Dog River RR (and sole investor), right-of -way land acquisition, i.e., benchwork construction for a tabletop HO layout will begin in my 11x17ft backyard shed within weeks.  It'll be a DCC steam-era small logging and mining operation from various work sites in the tree-clad mountains of the Pacific Northwest, with rail lines running downhill to a small port town where coal and wood products will be delivered to a docked cargo sailing ship and a few local industries...and so on and so on. Phase II will be R&D on the front porch with actual outdoor operations in mind (call it a branch line of the Dog River RR).  I had a phone conversation with a radio-controlled, battery-powered locomotive retailer yesterday.  In essence, the technology is not quite small enough yet for HO, but its getting there. So front porch ops will be G gauge, and secondary to mainline work in the backyard shed.  So enough for now, time to get to work with track planning grid paper, pencil, ruler, compass, etc. What fun! Again, thanks to all for your input - will update with pics and progress reports, and questions!....       

 

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Posted by carl425 on Friday, December 6, 2019 4:20 PM

hon30critter
That was a very entertaining video! I watched the whole thing. Talk about nail biting!

I watched the whole thing too.  What a great video!

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Friday, December 6, 2019 4:41 PM

oldbuffalochip
I had a phone conversation with a radio-controlled, battery-powered locomotive retailer yesterday. In essence, the technology is not quite small enough yet for HO, but its getting there.

Dead rail, as it is called, was a thing a couple years ago.  I thought there was a problem with the company (as in it; might have gone under) called Blue Rail, but they still have a website

http://bluerailtrains.com/latest-news/

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Friday, December 6, 2019 6:10 PM

oldbuffalochip
I had a phone conversation with a radio-controlled, battery-powered locomotive retailer yesterday. In essence, the technology is not quite small enough yet for HO, but its getting there.

 Apparently, this guy is not up to speed on what´s going on in terms of RC controlled trains running on "dead rails"

Look at this HOn2 engine, running on 6.5mm track.

And a peek inside:

I wouldn´t want it to run outdoors, though!

 

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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