Solutions for train storage

Fourteen ways to store engines or rolling stock on your railway
1. Behind a raised Colorado railway, a magnificent 20' train barn doubles as a street scene of local Leadville storefronts, circa 1890. All three pictured trains fit inside, along with spare rolling stock. Also notice the red running shed over the portal on Bob Ferrero’s Red Cliff Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.
Bob Ferrero
2. Joe and Chris Genc’s Cripple Creek Railroad in Illinois is small but intensely detailed, often requiring explanations and fascinating stories by Joe. He opened the roof to show his easy-access engine house. More at
Nancy Norris
3. On Jerry and Gail Klink’s Runaway Railroad in Ohio, no train will be turned away at the end of the day and all seven-plus tracks in their car barn will be full. The arching gray window frames can be seen in their video:
Nancy Norris
4. Rich Abate got architectural plans to scratchbuild a model of the roundhouse from down the street on Lenzen Avenue in San Jose, where he and his brother Ed grew up. Read about their Rooster Creek Railroad in GR’s June 2007 issue.
Nancy Norris
5. Jim and Julie Barber modeled a local streetcar barn in their Ontario, Canada, JMB garden railroad. Download Julie’s instructions, “How to make poured cement buildings” under “Articles and Tips” at
Nancy Norris
6. Warren Eckman’s Wc&G Railroad must contend with Florida’s searing heat, high humidity, and winds that rush over flat land. Warren designed and built an insulated “train shed,” disguised as a mountain with two tunnels.
Nancy Norris
7. Along his sturdy new fence in California, Harsh Misra had cabinet-maker Ron Presser build a type of snow shed for his SHMS Railway. Entrances on two levels are hidden behind quartzite-cliff façades. Each section opens on the front side. Eaglewings Iron Craft welded the custom bridge.
Nancy Norris
8. Paul and Elizabeth Blondefield of California created an immense view-block of a mountain on their Four Corners Railroad. Behind it, Paul demonstrates how he intends to store trains in a structure along the fence, framed by steel angle screwed into concrete blocks and elevated above more tracks.
Nancy Norris
Our garage-like storage buildings for rolling stock are known by many names. Whatever their labels, they must be weatherproof, critter-proof, and, for some, burglar resistant. How we find the space and how we dress the building to keep it in scale is this column’s topic. I’ll show you 14 examples from Zones 5-10. If you don’t have space on your railway, we have a few options for that situation, too.

Fine features with functionality
Photos 1 and 2 show that raised railways can solve the problems of weatherproof storage with easy access to trains. They elevate car barns to be level with the railway’s track, and keep sidings in scale. Both builders covered sturdy boxes with scale lumber to model prototypes, but the first models a row of historic buildings while the second shows an engine shed with believable details. The first becomes part of the scenery in a large yard, whereas the second lives around the corner from the mainline in a smaller yard.

Don’t you love clerestory windows? Photos 2, 3, and 4 each model a different style to add character and point out a fact of life in train sheds—it’s pretty dark in there without the added roof windows. The windows in photo 3 are long sheets of plastic, framed by arched plywood cutouts. The panes are absent in photo 4, where a warm climate dictates that light and ventilation are needed more than heat retention.

Materials matter to control moisture
The first four pictured “motive-power depots” (as they say in the UK) were built of wood with plastic windows. Other stiffening and strengthening framework keeps them from sagging. All have substantial bases of either wood or concrete (board or cast). Wood should be pressure treated, meaning it should be soaked in a copper compound (a known toxic chemical).

I’ve bought plastic engine houses and reinforced the corners and roof because UV eventually causes degradation, opening the edges to weather. On my first little railway I used a Pola faux-stone engine house (still kicking 20 years later) as the end of my point-to-point line.

Years ago I thought I was smart to store trains in long tunnels, until I was horrified to find that all the metal drivers and wheels had corroded from the ground moisture that kept the air damp (in spite of a so-called dry climate). In one case, irrigation spray hit the train shed, causing housed trains to get misted. To mitigate this, I installed a 40-watt incandescent light bulb to heat the air and drive out moisture. In a wooden engine shed in foggy San Francisco, I installed mini Eva-Dry dehumidifiers that we plug in monthly to recharge.

Unsealed concrete will shed water but any wetness will permeate slowly, making dank conditions inside. Two completely different uses of cast concrete are illustrated in photos 5 and 6. The first (in Canada) uses Precision Board ( reusable formwork to build sides of the building; the second (in Florida) creates a freeform mountain, with two tunnels and a see-through door.

Side-yard storage
Garden railroaders find some ingenious ways to store their trains, based on available space and knowledge of building materials. Photo 7 shows a kind of snow shed sandwiched between a fence and a mountain façade constructed of flagstones; it is a two-level car barn, with doors that open in the front for access, that houses 20' trains. Photo 8 shows the start of a yet-to-be-covered running shed behind the garden railway.

Whether they cut a hole in the back of the garage or build an interesting train barn, railroaders learn quickly that if all they have to do is open the shed door to run a train, they’re more likely to be out in the garden having fun.
The local paper ran a story on Trevor’s FC&W. Here, two of the 300 guests inspect the trains and Lionel-kit engine shed built by Trevor. Also notice the plastic clerestory-roofed industrial building, which could house an engine.
Nancy Norris
Tucked behind Ray’s Mystic Mountain Railroad, a weatherproof train shed houses his long coal train, which is ready to go at a moment’s notice. Ray likes working with acrylic, which should last a long time.
Ray Turner
Craig actually works in a railroad shop, which he modeled when scratchbuilding his scale metal engine house. The roof came from a fluorescent light fixture.
Nancy Norris
After many months of build time in his garage, Bob emerged with a practical car barn, so trains are ready to roll anytime. Gas struts help with raising the three separate overhead doors.
Nancy Norris
Gary likes the durability of concrete. Scratchbuilding means that one can add features like diamond panes and automatic doors, and copy plans from the prototype.
Gary Condry

With what materials did you build your scale train shed?

Trevor Park
Santa Cruz, California, Zone 9
Beefed up wooden kit
See related online extra article.

When designing the train yard for the front-yard portion of my Fern Creek & Western garden railroad, I realized that I needed a focal point in the railyard. Since space is limited on our railroad, I knew that a one-stall engine house was what we needed to make a believable engine-repair facility that was suited for a small narrow-gauge railroad.

On a day that we were touring other railroads in our area, my partner and I, who built the FC&W, came across an open house that had a for-sale table: I bought a Lionel #8-82105 Wooden Engine House kit, produced some time in the late 80s and early 90s. Now came the more involved part, building it.

Craig Lund
Denver, Colorado, Zone 5
Recycled metal
See related online extra article.

I like to use “used” items in my railroad. The light fixture, a standard two-bulb unit with all the guts removed, was purchased for $5 at a garage sale. The project manager at a construction site gave me the other metal pieces. Both sources are good for clean, low-cost materials. I used all metal in the construction. Wood can be used but tends to warp and rot. My shed is over-built but will last 100 years. I simply built a metal frame out of perforated angle at the base, and steel 6" x 1.5" studs for the sides and ends. This frame gave me something to which I could screw and rivet the outer skin. The height above the doorways is to give the illusion of an overhead crane inside, which all heavy-repair shops would have. My daughter put together a video that showcases the engine shed rather well on our Boxwood Scenic Route Railroad:

Ray Turner
San Jose, California, Zone 9
Acrylic sheeting
See related online extra article.

Most visitors to our house are intrigued by the railroad, having never seen one before, and want to see the trains run. Except for little kids, who will chase the trains for an hour or more, adults just want to see the trains run for five-to-ten minutes. If I had to retrieve engines and cars from the garage and put them on the track, that would take 10 minutes right there, and I wouldn’t be inclined to bother. I think it is valuable to be able to run at least one train within a minute or two, so that I can easily run for a visitor. Thus, I need a train-storage box that I could quickly open, turn the train on, and run. Due to the location of my coal-train shed, people can barely see it, so having no façade makes sense.

Bob Ferrero
Leadville, Colorado, Zone 5
Scratchbuilt wood
See related online extra article.

The engine house still looks great after seven years. [See photo 1 in “Greening.”] The scale-redwood facades are holding up well in our sometimes-hard winters and hot summers but they’re removable if needed for touch-up and repair. My goal is to operate trains anytime, weather permitting, with minimal effort of setup. The engine house was built in two 8' sections, enabling the ability to move or reposition it to different layouts. The train layout is raised to about 24-30". The engine house is held level with the track by sitting it on square steel (1½-2") tubing with the bases in cement. The entire unit stays dry even in blizzard conditions. The result is a layout that can be enjoyed most all the time; just remove the snow from the track and have fun. See photos at

Gary Condry
Wooster, Ohio, Zone 6
See related online extra article.

I modeled Cleveland Railway’s Wooster Office and Interurban Car Barn. I bought Quikcrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher, which I use for all my buildings. I used Stoneworks ( flat-sheet siding forms and Stoneworks windows and doors. The windows have diamond panes in them formed by 1/4" hardware cloth behind the clear plastic. Unfortunately, one can only see it up close or when it’s dark and the lights are on. The garage-door wall is plastic, a better material for fastening doors to such large openings. Now I’m working on the operating system to get the doors to automatically open!


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