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Garden Railways - A Lego Layout in the Garden? Is She Nuts?


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#1 Locomotive Annie

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 08:20 AM

This is something I've been wondering about ever since I discovered brick built trains; - would building an outdoor layout in the garden be an ok thing to do, or am I being nuts?  I was going to do it with my 16mm railway models, but 16mm scale can get expensive really quickly if you're not careful and then there is the sheer size of the models which means that a lot of space is needed.

I've seen this older topic and it left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied really..... http://www.eurobrick...?showtopic=9750

After being ill for quite a while my garden is a mess.  I stare at it and feel very much uninspired to spend all the necessary hours of effort to get it back to how it used to be.  But if I was to build a garden railway it would give me some extra incentive to keep everything tidy as well as giving me a reason to potter about in the garden in odd spare moments.
I know people have said that leaving plastic out in the sun isn't a good idea, but I've had a Fisher Price castle and an Imaginext Wizards Tower out in the garden for some years now and they seem to be surviving alright.  True enough they are in a shady corner of the garden and not in the direct sunlight, but the site I'm thinking of for the railway is also out of the sun for most of the day.
Ground level lines look all very lovely, but they are bad for your back and they take a lot of upkeep, - so I'm not going to do that.  I would like to attach a shelf along the garden fence at suitable height and build the railway on that.  Buildings built in Lego can be brought inside when the railway isn't in use, or else be covered with purpose built plywood 'box' covers to protect them from the worst of the weather as well as the neighbourhood cats.  Locos and rolling stock would also be brought inside when not in use.

So any thoughts or comments at all?
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#2 kieran

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 09:32 AM

If done well I think it could look really good. The issues you will have are around the durability of the rails. Legoland in the UK has some trains running around the outdoor display but they don't run on off the shelf rails.

Keeping the rials off the ground will help keep them clean of ground debris but will not help keep the from the weather, I think you may have to try a test piece of track for a few months and see what happens. Heat and sun light will work to buckle the track and make the plastic brittle, it will of course also fade. The cold if you get it in your part of NZ will also play havoc with the plastic over time.

One other consideration is the control system, out doors in bright light I think your may find the IR system of Power functions less than perfect.

all that said I hope it works, with some well chosen plants and other garden sourced scenery in the right sort of scale I think a railway and Lego builds will look great, good luck

#3 Locomotive Annie

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:06 AM

Trackwork certainly is a concern and I think I'll setup an experiment fairly soon with some track left outside in the location where I intend to build my railway to see how it stands up to the weather.  In the middle of Winter we do get -7 degree C frosts at times and during Summer the temperature can reach 30 degrees C so it will be interesting to see how the plastic track copes with that.  We do also get a considerable amount of heavy rain which is one reason why I want to build a shelf type layout so I can avoid washouts.
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#4 roamingstudio

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:30 AM

There was a thread on this a couple of years back. For normal outdoor rails; this is a good series
http://www.youtube.c...8EC991557ED1767 from Marc Found

From memory the biggest issue on the previous threads were related to weathering / tempeature extremes / and discolouration / cleaning. Plastic toys are not meant to be outside all the time. One solution would be to design the layout and make a 'disused railway line' approach where during the outdoor activities it is easy to replace the track... for those summer days... and then tidy away again. Into safe storage for example. Secondly consider the buildings in a modular standard so they can also be easily tidied away.

Hope it helps

#5 Daedalus304

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:39 AM

I've been considering an outdoor railway for quite some time, but as keiran suggested the durability of the rails has given me some worry. Here in Arizona the summer temperatures can hit 118F and stay there all day - easily. I'd love to hear how the experiments turn out - do be sure to share.

One other option that's presented itself is ME Models Rails and the new BBB Rails - as I believe the metal rails will hold up much much better, and replacing only the sleepers once in a while isn't as big of an investment loss as a full rail system. Although I am finding myself concerned about the effects of 125 degree metal rails will have on the plastic drivers - perhaps "Arizona" and "Outdoor railway" just aren't compatible ideas. (Some may rightfully argue that "Arizona" and "outdoor anything" aren't either, but I digress).

Edited by Daedalus304, 16 November 2012 - 10:39 AM.

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#6 Ashi Valkoinen

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 01:43 PM

I think the LEGO train track won't last long time in the garden. However it's not LEGO, if you want to run your LEGO trains in the garden on pernament layout, I advice to see all the pics in this gallery, how to build pernament train track:

https://picasaweb.go...sa?noredirect=1
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#7 kieran

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 02:30 PM

View PostAshi Valkoinen, on 16 November 2012 - 01:43 PM, said:

I think the LEGO train track won't last long time in the garden. However it's not LEGO, if you want to run your LEGO trains in the garden on pernament layout, I advice to see all the pics in this gallery, how to build pernament train track:

https://picasaweb.go...sa?noredirect=1

wow that is a pretty heavy investment in time. Looks like it will last

#8 JopieK

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 07:05 PM

maybe it is the same one, but some German also has a Garden LEGO train:

http://www.harrys-mo...ist&category=20

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#9 Locomotive Annie

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 07:14 PM

I've never seen that done before Ashi, but as you say the end result would be definitely permanent.  Making the casting mold is a lot of work, but once it's done casting the trackbase sections looks to be a relatively straight forward process.

View PostJopieK, on 16 November 2012 - 07:05 PM, said:

maybe it is the same one, but some German also has a Garden LEGO train:

http://www.harrys-mo...ist&category=20

A working Lego Technics track maintenance vehicle, - that is seriously amazing.
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#10 Hrw-Amen

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 09:06 PM

I have also been tempted to make an outside layout. In fact it was planned for this year but unfortunately my gardener passed away suddenly so it never happened. I have a relatively small garden with a raised bank around the wall at the back. The plan was similar to what you said, put a shelf in around the wall. This was to be made of wooden floorboard type material and then build the existing bank up under it possibly edging it with patio slabs. That way it would avoid much of the bending whilst providing a flat surface.

I was hoping to get reasonably long sections of track ballasted so that they would be quick to set up on this ready built flat bed and also easy to take down. It was just going to be a loop at each end, a long track in between with maybe a passing track. Nothing fancy. I have still ballasted the track (Or am in the process of doing it gradually.) but the garden bit has been put on hold as I am unable to do it on my own. (I am a cripple and cannot get about much.)

I had heard that the IR was not particularly good outside as the signal has no ceiling or walls to bounce off of and gets lost in the surrounding atmosphere. I don't know if that is an old wives tale mind you as I have not tried it yet? However as it was going to be against the wall I figured it would in quite a closed off space so hoped it would work.

The idea was to be able to take the track in when not in use and set it up again quickly when i wanted to run it. The weather here (Even in the south.) in the UK is very unpredictable and has been this year especially so it probably would not be out more than a handful of days. I would like to be able to set up a permanent line but did not want to spend a fortune on it. I did think that the metal BBB track maybe better when I read about that, but I don't know we will have to see when it goes on sale. I am considering getting the metal rails even though I run PF system as I think it maybe more durable. Not only that if I ever want to run a current through it then I don't have to change the whole set up.

I am undecided as to if I will try and get this done next summer. I will have to see if i can rope in someone to help with the building work.

#11 Locomotive Annie

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 09:35 PM

I think your idea of having track in long ballasted sections that can be uplifted and taken back indoors is a good one.  What I would like best is having the track permanently in place, but if that's not possible then a long removable section built in plywood with track permanently attached would be a good compromise. Now I find myself wondering what would be the ideal size for each section.  For someone like myself with wobbly balance who walks with a stick the sections can't be too large and unwieldy or the business of setting up for a running session becomes no fun at all.
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#12 Saint

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:44 PM

Wow.... traintracks in the garden.... I remember a "kind of famous" person who did this, and some other guys here in the Netherlands.... quite the challenge !

Having the same thoughts along the way I decided not to do it, but to figure out something else... The track with the "concrete" slabs looks promesing, but a little to permanent.
Plywood ...hmmm I wouldn't go there.. You would have to protect that very very well for the rain.. otherwise water will ruin the wood.

I guess there is little to do rather than this : Make your own track with a alloi ( I don't know this word )  that does not rust, but that will take a lot of skill and labour.. Not really doable for a lot of people I guess... or you have to outsource that.


Storage would be better If you would lay tracks into a shed or doghouse .. Depending on the kind of track ( 9 volts or pf train ) you can operate this from a central place in the garden ,if you catch my drift.


Good luck with thinking up the perfect system for your garden !!!
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#13 michaelozzie

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:05 PM

Yes i agree with Saint that plywood is a bad idea in the garden. Why not buy timber for an outdoor deck as most of it is precut to a similar width needed for lego track. It is better suited for outdoor weather. Then checkout garden storage boxes as I remember in Australia we sold alot of those with a handy flip open lid which would allow you to quickly place module lengths of track approx 2m long into it when needed. Im sure that would be alot handier than carrying it all inside the house.
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#14 peterab

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:33 PM

View PostHrw-Amen, on 16 November 2012 - 09:06 PM, said:

I had heard that the IR was not particularly good outside as the signal has no ceiling or walls to bounce off of and gets lost in the surrounding atmosphere. I don't know if that is an old wives tale mind you as I have not tried it yet? However as it was going to be against the wall I figured it would in quite a closed off space so hoped it would work.

Even in large exhibition halls with high ceilings I've found the range of the PF controllers is limited to about 2 meters. At home they seem to be far more reliable.

#15 Bamos

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 03:21 AM

Locomotive Annie

You could buy regular UV resistant track desiged for outdoor railroads and build your locomotives to that scale. I think the Lego track would dry out and become so brittle from the UV rays that it would lose its clutch power rather quickly.
A man on the Model Railroad forums tried it with regular HO track. Within six weeks it was so brittle it fell apart when the tried to move it after a washout..

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#16 LEGO Guy Bri

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 06:10 AM

You could also look into UV protection sprays for added durability. I know they make them, but not familiar with them. I'm sure a call to your local Hobby shop could give you all the answers as far as that. The only problem with a paint or spray is if it would affect the traction, though I don't see that as much of a problem. It does seem to be a quite a task to maintain a garden railroad, but I really like the concept of garden railroads   :classic:

View Postroamingstudio, on 16 November 2012 - 10:30 AM, said:

There was a thread on this a couple of years back. For normal outdoor rails; this is a good series
http://www.youtube.c...8EC991557ED1767 from Marc Found

I watched everyone of those videos a month or two ago. Very interesting and a lot of detailed and HUGE layouts  :thumbup: :classic:
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#17 Locomotive Annie

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 09:06 PM

Some great ideas gentlemen :classic:

Yes I think that using decking timber would be the way to go as it's intended for being outside and getting wet as well as being nice and strong.  I will go ahead and conduct some experiments with plastic track being out in the weather, but will plan for replacement with handlaid track with alloy rail.  With having been a longtime railway modeller handlaying track doesn't scare me at all and alloy rail is reasonably cheap to buy.  I don't really want to use off the shelf garden railway track and start regauging my brick built trains as I want to stick with just one gauge in my life these days, and besides I don't think regauging to 45mm would be all that easy and on 6 wide locos and rolling stock it would look really strange.  Having worked in 16mm scale on 45mm track with building my own locos and rolling stock the thought of building in that scale with Lego is seriously daunting.  Apart from the weight of the completed models the quantity of bricks needed for each model would be serious bankruptcy territory :cry_sad:
Your tip about the garden storage boxes is a great idea michaelozzie and I'll check those out next time I go on an expedition to the 'big smoke'.  It would also be possible for me to run track into the garage from the garden and have storage tracks in there as well.

Going into the garden with L gauge is going to be a long term for me to potter with and work on in between things while I'm getting back on my feet again.  My present project is an indoor layout which should give me the best of both worlds as on a cold and wet Winter's day the last place I would want to be is out in the garden trying to play trains. :laugh:

Edited by Locomotive Annie, 17 November 2012 - 09:07 PM.

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#18 graafderk

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 03:41 PM

View Postroamingstudio, on 16 November 2012 - 10:30 AM, said:

There was a thread on this a couple of years back. For normal outdoor rails; this is a good series
http://www.youtube.c...8EC991557ED1767 from Marc Found

You made me loose my weekend ;)

I think there are a lot of parts available for the LGB trains and the like (that's G gauge I guess), maybe you could get some axles and wheels for that scale and build your lego trains around them?

In Legoland Billund, they use some custom track for their trains. The Lego parts seem to be glued to a custom frame which holds the train wheels, motors, etc.

#19 Locomotive Annie

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 10:19 PM

Yes that series by Marc Found is good isn't it :laugh:

I have a lot of parts for 'G' gauge and 16mm scale already, but using those would mean that I would need to work in approx 15-16mm scale with building brick built trains and I don't really want to do that.  In that size I'd be much better off going back to building rolling stock in wood and metal like I used to and again I don't want to do that at the moment.
The brick trains I'm building at present in 8 wide work out to being about 9mm to the foot scale which is perfect for me in my present state of health.  8 wide is not too small and not too big and it's easy for me to work on my train models in bed on those days when I'm not well enough to be up and about.  As I've said in an earlier post, making my own trackwork doesn't bother me at all as I've done it before.
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#20 dr_spock

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 04:39 AM

I built my outdoor deck with Trex.  It is an engineered composite made from reclaimed wood and plastic.   Nice thing is it doesn't need staining or re-staining every few years or rot.

http://www.trex.com/au/index.html

Garden Railway magazine is also a good source of info.  http://grw.trains.com/

#21 Locomotive Annie

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 07:31 AM

Hey that Trex looks to be really useful and just the thing for a garden railway.  I've just been checking to see if there is a New Zealand supplier and there is :sweet:

Thanks for the tip Dr Spock :thumbup:
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#22 graafderk

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 07:48 AM

View Postzephyr1934, on 25 November 2012 - 04:47 AM, said:


Saw the above link in this thread, might be of interest for your garden...

Edited by graafderk, 26 November 2012 - 02:12 PM.


#23 Electricsteam

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 11:38 AM

I think having a garden railway where you put the tracks out prior to use like a temporary thing, say for making a video for YouTube .
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#24 Lazarus

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 07:33 PM

I would not see any issue leaving RC track out in the weather all year round. Its not that harsh in NZ, you might need to replace the rails every few years if the get britle due to the sun. But the 9v you would have issues with.

#25 Locomotive Annie

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 08:16 PM

View Postgraafderk, on 26 November 2012 - 07:48 AM, said:

Saw the above link in this thread, might be of interest for your garden...
He is using 45mm commercially made track intended for garden railways and has gauged his loco to suit.

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I would not see any issue leaving RC track out in the weather all year round. Its not that harsh in NZ, you might need to replace the rails every few years if the get britle due to the sun. But the 9v you would have issues with.
Yes I think you are quite right Lazarus, - I think I'll just go for it and not worry about it.  The place where I want to lay track is in a shady location and not in direct sunlight.
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