Hibernating for winter

Because Cottingfield ordinarily lives in the garage it has had to hibernate for winter. The challenge with garage based layouts is that in winter they are sadly prone to getting damp.

With the best will in the world, the vast majority of garages are not as well sealed as the main house. Our garage has a number of exit and entry routes for damp in the winter, including under and around the door, around the fascia boards, and many more i’m sure.

Last winter I could not get enough moisture traps put out fast enough, it was an ongoing challenge I ultimately lost.

Damp and railway layouts just don’t mix well

I’m sure this news won’t surprise you! And in fact the number of challenges is considerable

Warping – anything other than marine grade ply and you are likely to get this. Especially if you have any untreated wood used in the construction of your baseboards.

Lifting – this is where you find out how good the glue was you used. Enough damp for long enough will see ballast loosen itself and paper / card based items list and degrade. Whilst Cottingfield doesn’t use at present any of the Metcalfe models cardboard kits, these would be especially vulnerable to a cold damp winter.

Oxidisation – although thankfully no corrosion yet. Possibly the most infuriating of issues this one is metal oxidisation. Whilst the locomotives and rolling stock always seem to do ok, the less said about the track and circuitry the better.

The challenge with the track is two fold, not only does it end up looking tarnished and messy, it doesn’t work as well either. With a tarnished set of rails and points you’ll struggle to run anything as the electrical supply just does not flow. Locos will struggle or fail to get any power from a rail with even the thinnest layer of oxidisation.

Whilst the track work is easy to resolve, a track rubber amongst other products will soon restore its former glory. However points are far more challenging, and a lot more time consuming too. Here you are having to clean both sides of every point blade which is a fairly delicate job. Also you will need to clean the corresponding track contact surfaces either side.

After hours of trial and error I have found a solution I prefer called track magic makes this task easiest. Available from all good model shops this comes with a handy tool in the starter pack that is ideal for cleaning points. Also included is a tool for plain track work. Just on plain track i’d say it’s not really worth it, but for what it brings you on point work it is money very well spent.

Hope this has helped…

Hopefully this page has helped bring some insight into why it may be a good idea to hibernate garage layouts. I’m lucky to be able to transfer them to a secure lock up which is largely dry. However I realise not everyone will have this luxury, so I would recommend anywhere you can keep them flat. And possibly more crucially, make sure they do not get damp over winter

Just as a note of caution for anyone who is thinking about putting away in the loft… Lofts in modern homes often suffer the same issue as the garage. Due to changes in design standards over the years modern loft spaces are often quite damp in winter. We have had a suitcase go mouldy in ours from the damp, but I can assure you the roof does not leak.

It’s just a case of design… older houses have much better made loft spaces. Growing up in my parents house we had no such issues, which is just indicative of how things have changed with time. Their house was built in the 1950s and whilst like all lofts it got very hot in summer. Winter there was no issue with damp at all.

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