Storing Model Trains & Engines

When your model trains aren’t on display, you need to storing model trains & engines properly otherwise, you risk damage.

Here are a few tips for keeping your treasures safe:

Storing Model Trains & Engines
Storing Model Trains & Engines

Modern trains go in their boxes:

Be sure you store them out of direct sunlight and fluorescent lighting in a cupboard, drawer, or other dark, dry area. A packet or two of silica gel inside the box helps keep moisture and humidity low, so your boxes won’t get musty, and metal parts don’t rust. Prevent trains from rolling inside their boxes, so the inside of the packaging doesn’t rub off the paint.

Don’t wrap trains without boxes in newspapers:

Newspapers, especially recycled newsprint, may leave a dark smudge or black mark on the body from your handling.
Do not wrap trains in old dusters or clothes: Residual soap, other detergents, and cloth dyes can bond to the plastic or tinplate and, when removed, take some color and details with them. At worst, they can initiate minute corrosion and abrasions, giving a rough feel to surfaces. Therefore, if you want to use the cloth as an initial wrap, You recommended that you put it through two or three hot-water rinses in a normal washing machine to remove dyes and residual chemicals.

Wrap sheet metal and plastic items in alkaline tissue paper first:

Use two or even three sheets of acid-free tissue paper. Then wrap the item fairly tightly in the first 24- by 20-inch tissue and then wrap it again in a second or third tissue, folding in the ends, much like wrapping a present. Besides, put a note on the outside to identify a stored item. Ensure to put one or two silica gel sacks nearby to keep down the humidity.

Wrap flatcar loads separately:

Vehicle loads may have old rubber tires susceptible to becoming soft and flattening on the bottom. The tires may also chemically react with the surface of a plastic flatcar. Wrap them separately but store each load with the correct car. Don’t attach a load on a flatcar with an elastic band or tie-tape. Rubber bands and elastic will deteriorate over time and stick to the surface of the load. If possible, store vehicle loads upside down to take the weight off their tires. Mount other types of loads with dry blocks of wood that hold the load above the car’s surface. This is also a good method for displaying these loads on a shelf.

Dry all items before storing:

A cloth towel that’s warmed from home heating (radiant/forced air and radiators are best) works very well for this.
Avoid woods that emit acidic vapors and strong odors: These may keep away moths but can harm trains. Pine and cedar, with their strong scents, aren’t good. Also, keep your trains away from any “green” wood you may have purchased when building your layout.

Store old trains with their wheels down, but don’t let them roll:

If you are storing two rows of items in either a box or drawer, separate the top and bottom layers with a layer of newspaper or a thin dense foam layer (lightly springy foam will break down over time) to provide an ample cushion.
Use polyethylene bags with care: These are helpful, but they can trap moisture, causing metal objects to rust. Bags can also release compounds that damage any plastic items stored inside them.

Keep humidity at 50 to 60 percent:

Buy a hygrometer at a hardware store or home improvement center to measure the humidity of wherever your trains are stored. Also, keep that area at an even, moderate temperature (55 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit). Very low humidity is not ideal either. Storing items in an attic without insulation during the hot summer can be as bad for your trains as keeping them in a wet basement. Items can dry out, causing the paint to crumble and decals to crack. In extreme heat, plastics can warp or melt.

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