Laying Track Outdoors

It all started with an $8 purchase for a bunch of train stuff at a garage sale... Soon, I had a piece of track for my G-gauge locomotive as test
track, and plans for a loop outside. To make a long story short, I'm skipping right to the laying track part.
Laying track for an outdoor railroad is a lot more prep work than that of an indoor layout. For an indoor layout, one merely has to attach track to a flat-ish surface and connect power. (Nitpick: Yes, quality track laying is much more difficult.) For an outdoor layout, "flat" is something that must be created. My simple loop of track required taking dirt out of the garden to level some of the worst spots, and tamping it all down.
Since things will grow in flat empty dirt, step two involves laying down a weed barrier and putting gravel on top of it. In my impatience to get trains running, I had laid track on top of the dirt and added the gravel later. I think this was a mistake. What I should have done was put the gravel down first, tamped it all down level, and then laid track. (G gauge track needs to be level side-to-side. Grades are fine, but you'll run into trouble with some equipment if it's not level side-to-side.)
If it's dry tomorrow (rained today) and I have the time, I'm looking at taking up the track, compacting the gravel underneath and leveling it side-to-side, and relaying it. It's a lot of work, but I think it's worth it.
Puckdropper
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I have never considered doing a train layout outdoors nor do I know what is generally recommended, but if I had guessed how it was done, I would have figured that the best plan would be to "cheat" and use a concrete-board roadbed.
There are so many composite materials available now that can shrug off moisture and ignore termites, wouldn't it make sense to use a technique similar to traditional benchwork and substitute something like Wonderboard as your underlayment? After you have your track in place, you could build up the gravel or dirt or whatever and hide the roadbed.
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in article snipped-for-privacy@p77g2000hsh.googlegroups.com, ephemism at snipped-for-privacy@mindspring.com wrote on 5/16/07 5:46 AM:

I've been considering a similar outdoor layout for some time (my HO, video, and music project keep stealing time), and looked carefully at the G gauge layout at Epcot (in the Germany pavilion). Their "cheat" was to use 2x6 boards (treated for outdoor use) as roadbed which was then covered with gravel in most places. That seems a lot more forgiving than concrete.
So, the leveling, tamping step is necessary, but with the use of wooden sub roadbed, suitably spiked into the ground, a think a good, level track can be laid and maintained as the ground shifts and settles.
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Ed Oates
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On May 16, 10:51 am, "Edward A. Oates"

The product I have in mind is called "Wonderboard" and it is incredibly easy to work with. It is very easy to score and snap, it is flexible and can be attached to supports using nails or screws. If you've ever re-done a shower or bath enclosure, you might have used it. There are similar products used in flooring applications. In a sense, it is just like wood. Even treated wood will fall victim to rot or moisture damage over tme. I don't know for sure, by I suspect that the Wonderboard would last even longer.
There are other products that are wood substitutes used in making exterior siding. That stuff supposedly lasts forever.

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ephemism wrote:

That sounds practical. I would use such materials on edge so that warping and sag wouldn't affect track levels. (two parallel strips on edge, separated by bolting/screwing to either side of mounting stakes every couple of feet)
Greg.P. NZ.
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Heh, I haven't seen any, but there's gotta be an operating Large scale model weed sprayer car, spray patterns/amount controlled via DCC, and holding tanks fillable with Round-Up or equivalent...
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Sir Ray wrote:

LGB makes fillable tank wagons. Brass tube drilled with small holes would make a spray bar. Now wee need a connecting tube and a DCC servo/tap. (or just use the LGB tap)
Regards, Greg.P.
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That shouldn't be hard to build, depending on how you want to spray... A pump from a car washer fluid system at All Electronics is a couple dollars... That should provide plenty of pressure. There's plenty of spray tip nozzles available, and if you can't find one the right size it doesn't appear to be hard to make your own. (I've never tried making a spray nozzle, though. I could be missing something.)
Before building a weed sprayer, it would be best to test your favorite weed killer on the track first. Assume it will get on your locomotive's wheels and could reduce pick up.
Scratch building in G is so much easier than scratch building in HO... (IME, YMMV, standard disclaimers apply, my opinion only, caution: reading this post may be responsible for unforseen ailments, warning: scratch building can lead to dangerous activities, I'm not responsible.)
Puckdropper
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"Edward A. Oates" wrote:

I think the wooden board system might well work where the layout is used continually and someone is on hand to do light maintainance, but wood outdoors has a limited lifespan for quite a high cost. Wood might last 5 years and where the layout generates a reasonable return this might be justified compared to expensive labour costs to build a robust sub-bed, but I think for a home layout 5 years is a short time and a reasonable amount of free labour will result in a sub-bed that will last a lifetime.
Regards, Greg.P.
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You most certainly could use the board if you want to, but I was following the example of the real railroads with my track laying.
If you're looking at outdoor materials, do consider the UV factor. If you leave most plastics out in the sun all day they'll get brittle and crack.
Puckdropper
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Puckdropper spake thus:

I think that Wonderboard idea deserves a good look. (I hasten to say at the outset that I have *zero* experience with laying garden RR track, but I do have experience using Wonderboard as tile underlayment.)
As the person who raised the subject pointed out, the stuff is truly weatherproof. And flat and fairly rigid.
Here's an idea: what if a guy were to roughly level his ROW (dirt, gravel, etc.), tamp it down, cut Wonderboard strips for roadbed, then butter them thickly with mortar and lay them down over the tamped dirt? It would be a lot of work, but it seems to me you'd end up with a wonderfully flat and level roadbed, heavy enough to be well-anchored to the ground. That baby wouldn't be going anywhere, even in earthquake country.
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in article 464b4225$0$97277$ snipped-for-privacy@authen.yellow.readfreenews.net, Puckdropper at snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote on 5/16/07 10:40 AM:

There's a pretty good book you may want to get:
"The Large Scale Model Railroading Handbook" by Robert Schleicher, Krause Publications. If you (and I ;-) are actually going to invest the time in building an outdoor layout, it is probably a good idea to read such a handbook.
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Ed Oates
http://homepage.mac.com/edoates
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Some of my outdoor track has been down for 20 years. I put it down over about a 10 year period. Elevated parts are on dry stone wall, ground level is on the ground.
Getting the roadbed to the right level and flatness was the most time consuming part. I did what I could, then let it settle for a year, did some tweaking and finally laid track. I put a weed barrier under the track, but dirt gets in the ballast and a few weeds grow anyway, but they're easy to pull, and roundup works on the more aggressive ones.
There are humps and dips and twists in the spring that need to be fixed. That involves pulling ballast from under the high spots, or tamping more under the low spots.
I never considered a rigid base under the track. Sure, it would be nice at the start, but things move around outside if you have do deal with freeze/thaw cycles. Re-leveling a long piece of roadbed seemed like more work than leveling a few humps or dips. The joints between sections seemed like they would be especially troublesome.
Some people do build elevated layouts, and they need some sort of benchwork. Being outdoors, it's still going to move some. In that case, I'd say plan for a way to make adjustments for any movement.
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Bill Kaiser
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