DCC & HO Outdoors

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Dear Wiring for DCC Staff,

In my many contortions of trying to build an HO model railraod, I have recently started looking into the possibility of building an elevated line outdoors,(Out of structural steel or masonry) as my indoor space barely permits my current 4X6 foot operation. While this line will be built more along the lines of a traditional indoor layout with outside hardy materials, what kind of steps am I going to have to take in regard to wiring to maintain suitible conductivity, with HO track out doors. (Is an elevated HO layout outdoors even feasable?)Obviosly I would have to manufacture some kind of "Basket" to hold the DCC gear and take it inside between operating sessions. I am presently using an older Digitrax Empire Builder with an Extra DT300 Throttle. I would appreciate any insights you out door Garden Railroad people have that could help with my Indoor-meets- Garden railroad.


James R. Mitich

-- James R. Mitich (Jumba@hrp.every1.net), February 15, 2005



Wire it just as you would for indoors. Solder every electrical connection.

There are several obvious problems you will face:

1. Expansion and contraction. Your track may contract too much in the winter leaving huge gaps that may pull out of the joiners. During the summer, your track may buckle.

2. Indoor track isn't UV tolerant. You will need to cover your track. Otherwise the sun will probably ruin your ties in a year or two.

3. The summer heat may soften up the spikes to the point that the rail comes off the ties.

4. I don't see wooden ties (attrack bugs and rot) and (rusting) spikes working.

5. Real life dirt will make scale bolders on the track. You will need to clean the railheads and the insides of the rails for the flanges carefully to keep from derailing.

On the good side, my G nickel-silver doesn't corrode very fast.

The Wiring For DCC Staff (I wish)

-- Allan Gartner (wire4dcc_admin@comcast.net), February 16, 2005.


You are also going to have trouble with dirt fouling the points of turnouts. This is a minor problem with my G scale. I'd expect it to be a major problem in HO.

If you are serious about putting HO outside, I would definitely plan on making some sort of cover for it.

BTW: The smallest scale I have heard of going outside is O. Have you considered O or G? Neither are cheap, but they are easy to scratch build for and a lot of people do.

-- Allan Gartner (wire4dcc_admin@comcast.net), February 17, 2005.

Dear Allen,

Thank you for your reply to my question. I have considered larger scales, but decided against it as I really do have a fondness for HO. I have amasses a large collection of locomotives (98 total) and rolling stock (525 cars total) as well as most of the track, structures, and scenery to support all of it. I am hesitant to build a separate structure as others have suggested, because local building ordinances would ultiatly permit me a Murphy Shed sized structure on my corner lot back yard. And unless the housing situation in this area improves or I can find a closed down K-mart or something, I am stuck in my one bedroom house.

Thanks Again,

James R. Mitich

-- James R. Mitich (Jumba@hrp.every1.net), February 17, 2005.

There have been several UK based OO(HO) outdoor railways. Reportedly, Peco Flextrack is not too affected by the sun, but the point base plastic is rather more sensitive. Another factor to consider is the expansion/contraction issue. If you live somewhere like I do (Victoria, BC, Canada), then it is not too big of a deal, being around 30 degrees C change from hot to cold on average. If you live in Toronto, the 60+ degree difference between hot and cold will cause no end of problems with the expansion/contraction.

I don't see any big problems that are unmanageable, but it may require more maintance than you want to be reliable.

Electrically, I would think that using a single run outside of 12 ga feeding outwards from cover would be best, and probably as simple a track configuration exposed to elements as possible (just track would probably be best, no pointwork at all). If you did this, then I would think radio throttles would be the best way to maintain control, with just a single plug (or 2) outside.

James Powell

-- James Powell (wx732@pacificcoast.net), February 27, 2005.

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