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Virginia Rail

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  1. Hi Laurie May I put in a good word for the use of plastic. I used foam PVC, which comes in 5mm thick sheet, as a track base. I laid this directly onto the garden soil, or on bricks, and I have never found expansion to be a problem since the plastic is not restrained. It is easy to work with, and takes brass track pins. It has lasted ten years with no sign of embrittlement or other degradation, though I take it up for the winters. I started with analogue DC, but found that the track could not be kept clean enough, so I opted for battery power and radio control. I think there are some pictures on this site under Virginia Rail. Good luck with your project. Peter
  2. Hello Damo. I'm sorry to hear you have had trouble with your plastic track base expansion. I used a plastic base, laid straight on to earth, with Peco code 100 track. The plastic is called 'Foam PVC', supplied by Barkston in 5mm thick sheets. The base is configured in sections of about 1.5m, and the track is pinned to each section, with a track joint coinciding with each section joint. The longest straight runs are about 3m, so there is scope for the expansion of the base to be accommodated by moving on the ground. I have not had any trouble with track buckling, nor any significant problems with excessive gap at the track fishplates. I think allowing the track and base to move with thermal expansion is at least part of the reason. I have been lucky! Have a look at my post earlier in the year under 'Virginia rail' if you are interested. I hope you can solve your problems. Kind regards Peter
  3. Hi Thomas Thanks for the info on exterior MDF. It sounds a very useful material. Peter
  4. Hi Jimbob, and thanks for the welcome. I use the Deltang system, obtained from Micron Radio Control. Specifically, the transmitter is Tx22 and the receiver is Rx60, and batteries 'Hyperion' LiPo, 320mAh. I found that two 1S batteries in series (giving 7.4V) give enough speed for slower trains, but three in series are needed for 'Express' performance. See photos attached. Peter
  5. Thanks Mick. Good advice on the track. I imagine that DCC would be designed to be tolerant of intermittent loss of the control signal, but of course if the motor loses power for long enough to stop, that wouldn't help.
  6. Thanks Chris. Maybe if I had known I would not have converted to battery RC! No doubt this will be useful indoors too.
  7. Thanks for your welcome and comments Mick, Chris, Clay Mills Jn and ThomasL. I started building ‘Virginia Rail’ (named after our house, a Victorian semi called ‘Virginia Villas’) in 2011, and converted to battery/radio-control in 2016. Yes, I suppose it was on my wish-list for some years before that. I agree, Mick, that one needs to the limitations of 00 and not be too ambitious. Buildings and infrastructure at the small scale are vulnerable if left outside: I only leave the platforms and viaduct arches (made of expanded polystyrene) and the bridges which are part of the track. The points are the only vulnerable part of the track, so I would suggest keep the number to a minimum, and keep them accessible. I did not go for any electric actuation, preferring to rely on grand-child labour! I remember I asked Peco if they could supply the points springs in stainless steel, but they could not (but they kindly sent me some spares). It’s a pity, because corrosion of this spring lets down of the whole system, for outdoor application. Have you had to replace these Chris? You get almost there, then ‘ping’ and you know you will spend the next half hour groveling on the floor looking for it! I am interested in your use of DCC, Mick: I have never used it either outdoors or indoors. Does it have more tolerance of dirty track and poor contact than the traditional system? Before I converted to battery power I found that cleaning was becoming more difficult as the track aged, and maybe all that bending down was more difficult as I aged too! I used soap and water with a home-made ‘cloth on a stick’ tool. I also found that the locomotive wheels seemed to get dirty quickly. It was this, rather than voltage drop, which pushed me to change to batteries. Not every loco has the space, of course. The GWR 2-6-2T is about the smallest which can accommodate batteries. I have to confess to having converted a Hornby ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ but the batteries and receiver are carried in the long-suffering Annie who follows him everywhere he goes… The soldering on the tiny receivers can be rather a challenge, but once installed, the system gives good control, with smooth starting and stopping, good slow performance and of course no hesitation on points or dirty track. And you can run several locos on the track under separate control. In answer to your question Clay Mills Junction, when I convert the locomotive to battery power I remove the pick-up brushes from the insulated wheels, so the loco is isolated from one track, and therefore, yes, you could run a conventional or DCC loco on the same track, I presume. Chris, I have not posted any videos on U-tube. I suppose it is possible someone from the family has. ThomasL – sunshine? What’s that? I live in Manchester! Seriously, I have not had problems with warping of the PVC track base. The PVC is only 5mm thick, cut to fit the track in a strip 50mm wide, so it is quite flexible and I just lay it on smoothed earth, or on bricks for raised sections. At higher levels I just rest the base on wood pillars at about 300mm intervals. The viaduct in my photo is done that way, but it is a bit of a cheat: the arches are only on the viewer’s side of the track. At the stations the base width is up to about 300mm wide, but again, I have not noticed any deformation. The foamed PVC comes in sheets 1.2m square, which I obtained from a company called Barkston. I do not leave the track outside all year, but there is no sign that the base would deteriorate if it was outside. I use brass pins for the track and stainless steel screws to join the sections, so apart from the afore-mentioned points spring, the system is weatherproof. You say you have used foamed PVC panels: was this for a track base or for larger constructions? What material do you now use instead of foamed PVC? Again, thanks for your kind comments, and I look forward to our future correspondence. Peter
  8. Hello All I enjoyed reading your posts and seeing the photos of your railways. There are some wonderful creations, which are I am sure an inspiration to anyone contemplating building a garden railway. Over the last few years I have been experimenting with a garden railway, and I thought some of my experience may be of interest. It was to be ‘a bit of fun’, not a serious scale model, of course, since the plants and foliage are way too big. Against that, the space available means that the scale track length can represent a few kilometers rather than 500 metres at OO gauge. I chose OO for cost reasons, and because the family already had a selection of rolling stock at that scale. The concept was to mount the track on sections of a ‘baseboard’ (not much wider than the track itself) which would be laid out in the garden for the summer and stored under cover for the winter. This would protect the track from the worst weather, and would allow most of the work of pinning the track down and wiring ‘off-site’ during the winter. The first task was to make a detailed plan of the garden, including the locations of plants and other immovable features. I then decided on a track route, and began negotiations with the Authorities over demolition orders for plants which could not be circumnavigated! I kept to a simple single-track figure of eight, with a station, passing loop and siding at each end. For me, the attraction of a garden railway is in long sweeping curves, weaving amongst foliage, and dramatic bridges and viaducts. My garden, in a Manchester suburb, is about 18 metres long, and the track follows a bed which extends down one side of the grass. The baseboard was cut from 5mm plastic sheet , sold as ‘foamed PVC’, which I found easy to cut using a jigsaw, and it will take screws like wood. It has proved durable and strong enough. The sections are 50 mm wide (for single-track) x 1 – 2 metres long, joined with a short lapping piece and stainless steel screws. During winter, the sections are hung up indoors on a couple of portable clothes-rails. I used Peco Streamline track, code 100, pinned down to the baseboard by brass pins. For underlay/ballast I used the Peco product. The railway had been outdoors for 5 or 6 summers since 2011, and the basic track survived the elements well. However, the underlay disintegrated, or maybe it was eaten by slugs, stolen by birds for their nests, or otherwise vandalized. I replaced the underlay with roofing felt, which looks ballast-like from a distance, and weathers well, but does not conform to the sleepers like the foam underlay. The other track problem encountered concerned the points: there is a small over-centre spring used to hold the points set which is subject to corrosion and clogging with earth. The clogging can usually be cured by a water jet from a syringe. I have had to replace some of the springs (obtainable as spares from Peco) and it is, shall we say, a challenging task! As regards the electric power supply, I initially used conventional pick-up from the track (not DCC). I bridged all fishplates with soldered wires, and ran a cable down the garden to avoid voltage drop problems. The result was satisfactory initially, but the track needed laborious cleaning before use, and the loco wheels needed regular cleaning. These problems led me to consider on-board battery power and radio-control. The modern Lithium Polymer batteries are small and lightweight, and I have converted four locomotives now to this system (obtained from Micron Radio Control). This gives a run time of 1 – 2 hours depending on the usage and the loco (different locos have surprisingly differing current draws). Of course it removes the need for any wiring and isolation switches in the outdoor environment, and several locomotives can be run on the same track, which is particularly useful on the long tracks available in the garden. The points (6 in total) are not power-operated. The bridges I used are the commonly available plastic kits, and they survive well outside for the summers. For platforms and viaduct arches I used expanded polystyrene, recycled from packaging, cut to shape and painted, which survives surprisingly well considering the material’s low strength. Other buildings and trackside items are deployed when the railway is in use, but stored indoors. All in all it has been a pleasurable hobby, and has been much appreciated by visiting grandchildren, but as with any outdoor activity, we are always at the mercy of our British weather! Peter
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