it’s the battle against rust brought on by the high moisture of coastal Maine
or the destruction of wood and canvas from the blazing sun of Southern
California, outdoor storage of railway equipment and other large artifacts
remains one of the biggest “collection killers”. We’ve heard it called
“negative preservation”, the car is saved from rapid certain death only to
be placed on death row with a longer calendar. Providing stable indoor storage
for our artifacts is the solution we need to work towards, but buildings are
expensive, collections are large, and time is short.
The key is stabilization- targeted intervention that will stop an artifact from
deteriorating until it can be placed in a more stable environment. The basic
idea is to protect the vehicle from the weather- this can take many forms,
everything from keeping the roof sealed and the sides painted, to cocooning the
entire vehicle inside a tarp.
One - Tarps
of the most practical interim methods for stabilizing a car or locomotive is to
cover it with a tarp. High-quality plastic tarps are available from a variety of
sources, but usually not from your local home-improvement warehouse. The common
blue plastic tarp is not the right tool for the job, but there are tarps which
will survive for five years or more in even the harshest environments.
What kind of a tarp is best?
popular choices include a heavy vinyl-coated nylon material and a lighter-weight
Armorlon tarp. Vinyl-coated nylon tarps can be seen every day covering loads on
highway tractor/trailer rigs. They
come in a variety of materials and are made by a number of different vendors
throughout the country. They’re known for their durability and long life but
are also quite heavy and reasonably expensive. The Armorlon tarp is a lower-cost
alternative. It’s lightweight two-layer design has a woven fiber reinforcement
mesh sandwiched inside. It’s made by Reef Industries of Houston, and is
available for about one-half the cost of a similar-sized 18 oz.
vinyl-coated nylon tarp. In areas where high UV exposure (eg: Southern
California, Arizona) exists, our experience has been that the both types of tarp
have about the same outdoor longevity (5-6 years). In environments without the
high UV exposure, the vinyl-coated nylon tarp should last longer, although the tradeoff is heavier weight
and higher first cost.
If you are planning to tarp something for less than five years, I would consider
using the Armorlon material. If you want long-term storage in areas without
high-UV levels, have a fairly strong
roof structure, and you have the facilities to support the installation (a
fork-lift comes in really handy), I would investigate the vinyl-coated nylon
After choosing a material, you must decide on the best design- flat sheet or a
fitted “toaster cover”. You will also need to think about things
like reinforced seams, grommets, laced corners and other features. For the
Armorlon tarps, the flat sheet method is simple and straight-forward. While you can
lower the cost of the tarp by going without grommets, we've found that having
grommets applied to reinforced edges at about 3 foot centers along all four
sides works best. For the vinyl-coated nylon tarps the fitted or “toaster
cover” style seems to work best. This can be accomplished with either sewn-in
seams or open seams which you lace together after installation. The
lace-together seam is a lot easier to apply, although it does leave a little
open area at the corners.