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Room Conditions for a Train Layout

Ernie sent in this question:

“I have the opportunity to set up an HO layout in a room that is NOT heated or cooled. Will this affect the scenery or rails? Will it affect my loco’s motors? Please supply advice”.

6 Responses to Room Conditions for a Train Layout

  • Nigel says:

    I think the two things you need to look out for are humidity and temperature. Excess humiditiy could cause rusting of steel parts (which, to answer your question, could affect your motors), particularly if it leads to condensation in colder weather. In addition, it could lead to deterioration in card based scenery/buildings etc. Nickel silver rails do not rust so, fortunately, there’d be no worries there.

    As for temperature, metal expands/contracts with changes in temperature so you should leave expansion gaps in your rails to allow for very hot days when, without them, the rails would expand and buckle the track – nickel silver rails are just as susceptible as any other metal, sadly.

    I have no direct experience of this so the foregoing is just based on research for my own layouts. In the end, people do build garden layouts which run for many years without issue. They just accept the inevitable and plan their trackwork etc. accordingly.

  • phil johnson says:

    It depends on several things. Humidity, air temp, climate. I’m for Illinois and the club I belonged to at the time used 3/4″ plywood then glued and screwed 1/2″ homasote to the top. The following week, we hand-laid code 70 rail. ties and turnouts. This was all glued and spiked. The weather changed, typical Illinois fall, cold rainy and dreary. When we returned the following week, the yard looked like a roller coaster. My first home layout, I had a few problems with track slipping out of gauge, especially in the summer months. My basement had no ac/heat. I have noticed that the smaller codes are more effected by expansion and contraction. Heaven help those using code 4. I would suggest leaving small gaps between rail ends. I solder every 9’rail section and the first and last section on curves. I’ve also moved to Colorado, drier still hot

  • David Stokes says:

    Room temperature modulation in temperate climate areas is not absolutely necessary, however, the best climate for a model railway is the one YOU are most comfortable doing stuff in. We have a winter temp range between 15 and 38 degrees celcius in summer, and 0 to 18 in winter, rainfall is mainly in spring and winter. My railway room is in a steel clad, but lined and insulated outbuilding. The layout loves it, but I usually run climate control at around 18/20 degrees when I am in there. Is it necessary – no, but I’ve earned the right to be comfortable.

  • Garth says:

    As I have learnt the hard way, the rails expand a lot in summer. If you are laying track in winter, allow a gap of at least 1mm per 1m length of flex track. If you are laying in summer on a hot day, the gaps can be tight. Unless you are living in extreme conditions, the locos motors should not be affected.
    Cheers, Garth

  • Bob says:


    Expansion varies widely in materials. We can design for it, but we cannot stop it. It will happen even if the material has to distort. Note the big difference between metals and plastics. Plastics also start to lose strength at much lower temperatures than metals. Best to be careful when installing very long plastic bridges with metal rails.

  • Hervey says:

    Er nie,
    Try to keep the fluctuations to a minimum. Last winter I cut some plywood track base in my garage which was heated to about 5 or 6 degrees Celsius.I joined pieces together and ended up with almost 18′ feet of track. To save time I glued down the cork and glued the track with expansion space left at 6 foot intervals. I ran a test car on the track and everything was fine. When I moved it into the 19 degree Celsius basement train room everything was fine for one day. On Day two the expansion had caused a kink that derailed everything I tried to run on the track.
    Humidity control is important to reduce the changes in dimension of the wood you use in the construction of the layout table/frame. If all the framing is done with plywood or steel this will not be an issue. The use of lumber or wafer board will not be so forgiving.

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