“Steaming in the Sunshine on Florida’s East Coast”
The Tribe Track Layouts, Merritt Island,
By John Tribe
Tribe Layouts all came about …
running Gauge 1 electric inside the house in the early 90’s, mostly with
LGB and Bachmann equipment. Living in a salty atmosphere next to the
Indian River Lagoon, I didn’t think electric rails would hold up well
outside. Since I wanted the track installed semi-permanently, I decided
the best solution was to run it around the kitchen above the cabinets.
gotten a doubtful OK from the kitchen boss, I started the necessary
shelving between the cabinet tops and negotiating for the top shelf in the
pantry and the associated holes each side. After that, as doubts arose
about the extent of this work, I found it was easier to seek forgiveness
than to ask permission for future acquisitions.
my wife was working a lot of second shift during this time and I could cut
holes in walls, frame them out, stain the trim and, very importantly,
clean up the mess before she got home. As the layout grew I decided that
it made a lot of sense (to me anyway) to extend it through the kitchen
walls into the utility room. This would give me enough room for 3 more
sidings allowing for a total of 7 separate trains to be stored above our
heads. My long-suffering wife accepted all the activity and the noise when
I was running but put her foot down when I ran smoke generators that had
the habit of leaving a brown trail on the ceiling and a lingering smell in
we closed in a screened porch and converted it into a dining room and bar.
It was a logical step, again for me at least, to punch through another
kitchen wall inside the pantry and run track down through this new area
above the bar. Unfortunately I screwed up on window sizes on the opposite
wall and while I maximized the viewing area of the river I left
insufficient height for a track bed so the track had to stop after a 40 ft
straight run down along the inside wall.
installed a couple of diodes across the track joints at the end of the run
to slow a train down and a timed directional change to back the train out
on its own with similar controls at its siding in the utility room. All
this is still functional and great for entertaining the grandkids. It does
tend to get bit dusty because the house duster says “she don’t do
around the turn of the century I was bitten by the live steam bug,
eventually committing to build an Aster A3 “Flying Scotsman” kit. I built
a treadmill for it but this soon paled and I needed some outside track to
run freely. Obviously inside was out of the question because of tight
radii, fire hazards and oil splatter (plus a wife who said, in no
uncertain terms NO WAY!).
looked around the garden for an appropriate site until my yard
superintendent (who also manages the inside of the house) pointed out
where I could put it (literally) and the boundaries I had to work with. I
started off with the intent to just have a single loop of track to check
out the Aster performance and proceeded to design a substantial support
structure for an elevated track of a nominal 32 inch height using 4 X 4 PT
posts, 2 X 4 PT cross beams and 2 X 6 PT stringers.
decided that with that substantial base it would be foolish not to have at
least two track loops so I laid out two ovals with 25 ft straights and
radii of 7 ft 6 in and 8 ft 3 in. On the inside loop I added two sidings
and on the outside loop a passing siding and connected the two loops with
switches. I used all Aristocraft track and switches.
tiring of scooting under the tracks on my knees every time I needed to get
to the inside of the layout I built crude walkover steps at one end to
reach the inside of the oval and then a more substantial set of steps at
the other end for the less limber of our central Florida steamers.
year, continuing my tradition of building only British kits, I built an
Aster 9F “Evening Star” 2-10-0 and because its initial performance seemed
lacking on the curves I assumed the configuration demanded more radius. (I
subsequently tweaked the 9F and it worked fine on the smaller radii).
pressed on to add a 10 ft radius loop using the passing siding on the
existing outer loop and just squeezing past the house wall with inches to
spare with a new loop outside the other two. It was tight but it worked. I
took out the switches connecting the two inside loops and used them and
two more to connect the two outer loops.
this work required some rework of faucets, sprinkler systems, landscaping
etc. – all under the eagle eye of the boss lady but it worked out well and
steamups have been successful. As I said earlier we live on the Indian
River so views from the railroad make for a pretty layout with only the
minimum of landscaping.
garden railways it’s never finished and I see now that I should have
thought bigger when I started and had more steam up sidings, maybe better
access and more durable top boards. I used PT 1 X 6’s but the Florida
weather is tough on them and I will probably have to change them out
I will use Trex composite boards and camber them a little on the curves.
(The trains haven’t come off on the curves but the flat track makes one
worry a little if they are hustling, as Asters are wont to do!).
although the Aristocraft track is holding up pretty well their switches
have not worked as well. The frog gaps are too large for the Asters and
the clunk of the wheels dropping into the gaps offends me even though the
wheels don’t derail. Also all the switch boxes have deteriorated, their
stainless springs rusting and the action seizing, and while Aristocraft
have replaced parts I have found it better to switch to simple throws from
Sunset Valley. In fact I would go to Sunset Valley for all my track needs if I were
layout was fun to design and build and very rewarding to see my locos
strutting their stuff. As with all these projects you learn a lot and next
time it’ll be an improved version assuming I can again get spousal
(click on thumbnails to enlarge)
Spring 2009 Steamup photos are posted on page 2
Photo Gallery 34 - page 1 >