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Long before LGB reinvigorated garden railroading with their "G-Gauge" trains, people had been running other kinds of trains outdoors, including O-gauge trains from companies like Lionel.
If you don't already have Lionel trains and accessories, and you want a garden railroad, please investigate Large Scale trains, like those by AristoCraft, Bachmann Big Hauler, and LGB - it really is easier to build a garden railroad with trains that are made to run outside.
But if you own and love Lionel and similar trains, you can have a working O gauge railroad outside.
Introduction to "O Gauge Outside - An overview of the state of the hobby, including both the successes that have occurred and the compromises folks have had to make. Planning an O-Gauge-Outside Railroad - What to consider, what options have been tried, how to protect your trains, and much more. Fred Young's Ground-Level Arizona Railroad - A ground-level railroad that has lots of operational options and some unique ways of adapting to the Arizona summer sun. Evolution of the B&P Garden Railroad - A detailed series of articles by Bob and Pat Canfield, describing their progress building an elevated O-gauge railroad in the Las Vegas vicinity. Using O Gauge Gargraves Track (Outside) - Tips on when to order preformed curves and when to use "flextrack." Also, what works and what doesn't work in Arizona, where termites eat wood and desert sun softens plastic.
Note: Family Garden Trains?, Garden Train Store?, Big Christmas Trains?, BIG Indoor Trains?, and BIG Train Store?
People have been taking their Lionel trains outside on sunny days since the early days of toy trains.
When LGB trains reinvigorated the Garden Railroading hobby, folks with a basement full of O-gauge trains wondered if they could build a garden railroad using trains they already owned. Though I've been collecting information for an article like this for years, I didn't feel I could make it credible without showing some great photos of a successful O-Gauge Outside railroad. Note: These "O Gauge Outside" articles are written to help serious O-gauge hobbyists adapt their equipment and their experience to outdoor railroading. Although most buildings designed to go on garden railroads are made to withstand serious abuse, they seldom encounter any abuse worse than direct sunlight, rain, and bird droppings.


Unlike Large Scale trains, which are made for garden railroads, O gauge trains are not rust-resistant or UV resistant, and some are particularly vulnerable to sand in their gears. Most O gauge trains are about half the length and a quarter the bulk of similar "large scale" trains, but they are still large enough to see outside; and for some folks it helps that they are small enough to fit a lot of railroading into a small space. Note about O Gauge versus O Scale - By the way, I say O gauge when referring to the trains because not all trains that run on O gauge track (1.25" between the rails) are the same scale. One big difference is that O gauge track is not quite as sturdy as LGB or AristoCraft Large Scale track, so we recommend using a method that provides a sturdy base that supports the whole length of the track. We've established that O Gauge Outside is a growing hobby and that many resources are available.
As you continue on your tour, you will move alongside the Mississippi River as it flows beneath the high river bluffs of southeastern Minnesota.
If you put a motor in the tender, can it be done with 1 more U-joint, and a bear in the loco ?
Although Bob and Pat created a world-class infrastructure ("benchwork") for their railroad, they also learned some hard lessons about Atlas Nickel Silver track and using HDPE for roadbed in a hot climate. Command Control Outside - Tips for using TMCC outside, including wiring suggestions and methods for providing a "ground plane" in an outdoor environment. Of course the trains, the track, and even the buildings were rust-prone, so they took everything back in when the dew started to fall. If you have a couple of Lionel trains in the attic that you seldom run, you will probably be better off keeping them inside and getting a Large Scale starter set to use outside.
This rules out some "floating" methods that garden railroaders often use, in which track is simply laid on packed gravel and more fine gravel is poured between the ties to represent "ballast." But track laid on poured concrete "roadbed," on pressure-treated lumber, or on HDPE roadbed is just fine.
All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 by Paul D. As you leave the river behind, you will come to Mattlin – our quintessential rural Minnesota town.


But a few brave souls built track and buildings that wouldn't rust out and created permanent O-gauge garden railways throughout the 1900s. A Tucson family, the Blessings, sent me a link to a "photo album" of their railroad, and John was helpful with my questions. Mattlin is named after one of our early members and is particularly soulful during our famous Night Trains show when its streets and buildings are dimly lit with its own soft lighting.
It was located where the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Building is today – at the edge of the Mississippi River on the west side Hennepin Avenue. Doing a kit bash like your doing you would have to keep the motor as low as possible to keep the torque down low to the tracks. So the O Gauge Outside articles are a summary of what we've learned so far, with much input and applicable photos from John Blessing and his family.
Also, although I refer to Lionel frequently, 99% of these articles' content also applies to using other brands such as MTH, Williams, or K-Line. Fortunately, they are still plenty big enough to be effective outdoors if you plan properly. I would go online & research some of these to get some ideas especially trying to keep your drive shaft hidden yet functional. Today, Gargraves and Atlas, both longtime hobby suppliers, make track that can be used outside - Part 2 contains more information on this subject. For the sake of simplifying the terminology in this article, I will say "O scale accessories" and "O gauge trains." Please contact me for more information if this "explanation" has muddied the waters.



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