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All - 

My wife says it's time to put the trains away.  So I need to put stuff in boxes and put into dead storage.

Looking for dos / don'ts for wrapping / packing tinplate trains & accessories for long-term storage; might be a year, might be 10 + years.

Storage environment will probably be 3rd floor / attic:  dry, but warm in summer (90-100 degrees).

Regional climate is NE Penna: cold-ish wet winters, warm summers, often humid.  House tends to be on dry side in winter, warm and slightly humid in summer - no central AC.

So, basic questions:

> what to wrap locos / cars in - don't want something that will damage / adhere to paint

> Locos and rolling stock - store on wheels or on sides ?

> Is bubble-wrap / foam-sheet okay for wrapping / padding ?

> Plastic totes or cardboard boxes ?

I don't want to pack in a manner that will cause harm over long-term storage.

Thanks for suggestions.

Fran McM.

 PS - trains & such are mostly pre-WW II, and some pre-1960 American Flyer.  No original packaging.

Last edited by Fran McM
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I have another suggestion:


Remove wife.


Bubblewrap and foam sheet is probably ok on its own, plastic totes are easily stackable and not going to crush in, stay away from newsprint or tissue paper. Oil all bare metals before storing them. You may also consider some of THESE to put in your totes before sealing them up. 

Last edited by SteamWolf

I've seen many people suggest bubble wrap can leave marks if it it the last part of the packaging actually touching the engines.  Probably need something between it and the engine if you are going to use the bubble wrap for cushioning, unless you want lots of little circles on your items when you take them out later.


I second Fuzz’s recommendation, above. 

Barring that option, these are my choice for wrapping: Disposable bed pads

They wick moisture, are soft and won’t leave bubble or other marks. Plastic totes (waterproof if you can swing it), items wrapped in pads, throw in a few silica packs for good measure, and some cushioning from foam sheet.
I’ve had good luck with this combination. 

Last edited by asmith1440

Wrap tinplate items in some sort of paper, prior to wrapping in bubble wrap.  Bubble wrap will leave marks on tinplate trains (especially if stored on a long-term basis) and these marks ruin the finish of the tinplate trains.  There is no cleaning of the marks from the trains, once they are present.  

I would recommend placing the items in a plastic tote, in case you have a roof leak, as cardboard boxes will allow water to get to the trains.

Nation Wide Lines posted:

Wrap tinplate items in some sort of paper, prior to wrapping in bubble wrap.  Bubble wrap will leave marks on tinplate trains (especially if stored on a long-term basis) and these marks ruin the finish of the tinplate trains.  There is no cleaning of the marks from the trains, once they are present.  

I would recommend placing the items in a plastic tote, in case you have a roof leak, as cardboard boxes will allow water to get to the trains.

Maybe that brown butcher paper? 

Recently did the same thing.  Wrap items in acid-free tissue paper (search on Amazon for whatever is cheap), pack into storage box, cushion with whatever you want - I prefer crumpled packing paper (cheaper than the acid-free type).  Bubble wrap is okay, but don't let it or any other kind of plastic wrap touch any item surface - bubble wrap can leave permanent marks on paint, metal, plastic, or wood. 

I'd also suggest the acid-free paper first, then you can use bubble wrap if you choose.  Truthfully, your enemy is high humidity and not necessarily high heat. I'm shocked your attic is only 100F in the summer, my loft was hitting around 110F with a good sized attic fan running.

If they're in the attic, I suggest you make sure your attic fan has not only a temperature control but a humidistat as well.  In the winter, circulating the air will keep the humidity down, that's as important as keeping the heat down in the summer.  I've actually been in attics with extreme humidity issues, and water was dripping off every roofing nail tip, it looked like it was raining!  Needless to say, the excessive moisture wasn't doing anything in the attic as well as the house any good!

If anyone ever told me to put my trains away I would get them a once in a lifetime piece of reclining furniture....with a lid!


I did have to transport a large amount of unboxed cars recently so I went to Costco and picked up a dozen low sided produce cardboard containers and some random cardboard boxes.

I cut the cardboard boxes  into dividers and hot glued them into the produce trays.  

If you get the large produce trays you could fit five 21" passenger cars or 10 freight cars in each one.

If you get all the trays in the large format of the same mfg. the tabs and slots will permit semi secure stacking.

I am assuming you did not keep the original boxes for your tinplate items (and again assuming they are recent vintage train from MTH or Lionel). The packing materials that came with the trains when purchased are the best for re-packing for storage, and that consists of a soft cloth-like material that the item is first wrapped in, followed by a plastic sheet that normally bears trhe manufacturer's logo. The item is then boxed in its original box, with several or more dessicant silica gel packets added to absorb moisture. Seems like most people toss those packets when they first open their train items, but it's a good idea to hold onto them. You also can buy these packets in various sizes from various sources.

If you don't have the original packing materials, and as others have already noted, do not wrap the items in bubble wrap or plastic wrap directly. A soft, plain white cotton fabric (available at any yard goods store) would likely work well for nest-to-the-item protection, which, in turn, can be wrapped in bubble wrap or other plastic sheeting.

Moisture/humidity (and/or temperature extremes) is the big enemy of tinplate or any other model trains, and that's one main reason why storage in an attic or garage is sure not the best idea if it can possibly be avoided. Prior to my move a few years ago, I chose to store many of my trains for a couple of years to make the move somewhat easier. I rented a climate-controlled storage unit, although I realize that is not possible for everyone. On earlier moves, I stored my trains in home closets, in which I placed a small dehumidifier to keep things at between 50-60% relative humidity. You can even buy "rechargeable" dehumidifier devices of the type I use in my gun safe. These should be available at any well-equipped sporting goods store. You simply have to remember to remove the unit(s) periodically; plug them in overnight so the crystals "recharge," and then place 'em back in the enclosed storage space. The limitation here is that the storage area itself needs to be relatively small. . . room size won't work. There also are cans of the dessicant that can be "recharged" in your home oven and placed in your plastic storage totes.

I'm currently building a small 4x8 tinplate layout so I can make some use of the many O gauge tinplate items I have (and hopefully figure out some way to find space in my train room lounge area to display the rest). Many of the items I recently unpacked have been stored--properly, in my opinion--for 10 or more years, and thus far I have not encountered any problems whatsoever.

Allan Miller posted:

The item is then boxed in its original box, with several or more dessicant silica gel packets added to absorb moisture. Seems like most people toss those packets when they first open their train items, but it's a good idea to hold onto them. You also can buy these packets in various sizes from various sources.

Alan, while I agree that it's a good idea to use a desiccant for storing things, the packets that come in the box have long since lost any ability to absorb moisture.  You can rejuvenate them in an oven, but just reusing the ones that come in the packaging is not going to help with moisture. Also, they only last a few months in a sealed environment, if you don't seal the box tightly in a plastic bag, they probably will be done in a few weeks.

One of the many Internet quotes on the topic.

It is recommended that they are not left open to the atmosphere for longer than 15 minutes. Larger sachets should not be removed from their packaging more than 1 hour before they are required for use. The shelf life of silica gel in a sealed environment can safely be said to be between 4 and 12 months.

You can revive them...

How to Reactivate Silica Gel

Hey guys, my trains have been in storage for some time now due to personal issues. I hope to start on my layout this year but we will see how it goes. Anyway, my locomotives are fine but all my rolling stock is in the rafters of my garage. They have seen 2 summers there. There are all in there original boxes inside of cardboard boxes. Do you guys think I ruined them? I hope not because I had a lot invested in them.

I would think they are okay for the winter but it's the summer that worries me. I think I had better get them out of there before it gets hot this year.

Last edited by Hudson J1e

A bunch of my trains are in storage. The O.P. doesn't state if he has postwar  era ,or mpc era, or modern era. Most of my collection is scale modern era. With that said:

Any modern era locos remove the batteries! Unless you have a B.C.R. in liew of the rechargable battery,remove it! Rechargeables do leak over time. If not leaking on the side, the 9v connector with develop corrosive crystals within the connection.

Second bubble wrap and/ or plastic wrap can stick/ leave marks on your plastic locomotives and cars finish. This is why the O.E.M. manufacturer use tissue paper between the loco/ car and the plastic wrap. USE PAPER towels and/or tissue paper. WHY are YOU taking the chance- especially with temperature fluctuating in the attic to over 100 degrees in the summer! 

If you don't have the O.E.M. box, wrap each car individually with tissue/ paper sotowel then bubble wrap. If they touch while being jostled in the box, they will not get damaged.

Before closing the box, you should add those silica packets inside the box to rid of any moisture/ condensation that may occur which could lead to that moldy smell when taking them out again.

I hope this helps.


After my Dad passed away almost 12 years ago , I took trains that had been in storage for 30 years out of his attic.

They had been wrapped in newspaper from the 1970's and 80's and placed in cardboard boxes. To my surprise being the attic had zero heat or a/c ,the trains an accessories had little to no rust , corrosion or oxidation .

But I have stored a lot of items here at my house for the last 25+ years and have found the plastic foot lockers you can buy at Walmart holds quite a few trains . Then I use clear tissue paper then bubble wrap on the trains.

I put cardboard between each level of trains in the box to minimize the pressure of the weight that might  create damage.

I store my trains in a finished basement , but still use a dehumidifier . It does make the room subject to more dust than usual , but remember moisture and excessive heat are enemies to your trains .

Oh and a avoid pushing the containers or boxes up against the block walls of a basement if you store them there, lesson learned boxes will over an extended period of time draw moisture out of those blocks no matter how dry you basement is.

I did have some trains in a cabinet that were in cardboard boxes that some how got pushed up against the block walls and caused minor surface rust on some wheels , not a big issue but beware.      


One thing to consider with a lot of the pre-war lithography particularly American Flyer, Ives, Bing, Fandor, and KBN.  A number of these cars have a clear lacquer overcoat which will soften in the presence of heat.  If you have these cars wrapped in tissue and they are laying on their sides or if they are compressed against other items, there is a good chance of either having the tissue stick to sections of the cars or not sticking but leaving an impression in the lacquer coat which you only get to see after you unwrap the cars. 

  To guard against this I store these cars upright and separated from the other cars with cardboard inserts.  I place crumpled tissue underneath the cars to keep them from moving around in the boxes when I shift or move the boxes.  It takes a bit of work to build a cardboard matrix to do this but it is worth the effort. I use discarded computer paper boxes for storage and build partitions like those in Figure 1.  The paper boxes allow for 2 layers of 8-10 cars each.

Figure 1


 Another thing you might want to consider is building your own boxes from scratch - Figure 2.  In those cases where I have purchased a train set without a box I'll make one.  This does take a bit more effort - you will need a carpenters square, a good cutting knife, and a hot glue gun, but what you will have is all of the cars for a set in the same container.  In the case of Figure 2 the set is a Marx clockwork UP freight set.  Marx doesn't seem to have the problem of contact with tissue paper so I have no problem wrapping them.

Figure 2





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Factory packing materials may be optimal for storage, but they are a nightmare for trains that will be intermittently used.  The trains we take to run at SGMA events are rolled up in clean bath towels, and then stored in plastic bins purchased at Home Depot.  The towels do not damage the paint, and provide excellent padding.  If bubble wrap is also used, we take great care to avoid having it contact the paint.  All of our trains are metal, so temperature is not an issue.

The bins are available in a variety of sizes, and are plenty strong enough to stack.  The also provide some protection from water.



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Just want to add my experience to this thread. I stored a bunch of post war hopper cars for about 15 years. I recently took them  out and the towels, or maybe the dye in the towels, reacted with the die cast trucks. The corners of the truck castings had turned white, expanded a bit and in some cases the threads of the towel were stuck to the castings. Looked like white rust. I had stores some other cars in the same towels, but wrapped the car in tissue paper and they were  fine. So now I will rinse towels well in the washing machine, then wrap in archival tissue paper from Gaylord Archival (since the Smithsonian uses them). Of course it's better to run trains than store them, so I'm making that change as well.

i have been using trading card boxes. search for 'super monster 5 row trading card box'.  they hold at least 5 cars/locos per box and the 3" wide x 5" tall format works for most everything o-gauge. card collectors use them and they have low acidity  (that bit needs verification) but the card guys swear by them to help with moisture and they all use them for loooong term storage. my brother-in-law is a card collecting geek and he's had some in this type of box for 20+ years and his stuff is minty. in quantities you can but them for $8 or $9 per box, (or maybe a little less). they have full lids and separators so they are strong. if you add a single ply of museum/archival tissue paper (that's what the card collectors do for their high-value cards) you're good to go long term. they are strong, so they will also stack up pretty high. i have them 5 or 6 high with postwar locos under my table now.

I agree with Alan concerning original packaging. However, you don't  need to pack your engines or cars as tightly as they arrived from overseas shipping.  Sometimes is is quite difficult to remove new trains from their packaging the first time. You can leave out some of the wedges and even some of the one piece formed Styrofoam insert. Make it easier to remove the engine or car without force later.     

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