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Author Topic: Garden Railroading  (Read 5289 times)

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« on: March 23, 2011, 09:18:51 AM »

I have been looking at alot of pictures of Garden Railroads , and I am amazed at the sizes and what looks like alot of money people "Hobbiest" put into them . Then I look at what I'm building and contructing and it's not near what I see on alot of different web site's picture gallery ,and I'm always asking myself am I going to be happy with what I have  . Did alot of you start out small and grow over time and did you keep adding . Or did you get an idea and go for it . I look at the built up landscaping, river rock , scenery , length of track work . Sometime I know I will be moving into another home . But while I'm where I am at I just want to be content when I unbox my Loco's and rolling stock and run them for a weekend .

regards mark f
Loco Bill Canelos

Model railroading since 1947

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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2011, 12:41:28 PM »


Don't obsess or worry over the fancy layouts you see in the pictures.   they are very nice, but in most cases require a heavy comittment of time and energy and money just to keep up the maintenance on them.  What you never see or really hear about is the many layouts large and small that have fallen into disrepair and no longer run with buildings and details falling apart from long exposure to the elements.  I have a friend who got sick and couldn't take care of his railroad anymore, nor i doubt it will ever run again.  I have another friend with a very long layout that is really too large for him to take care of,  Trains can hardly get over the line due to the uneven track.

You never see pictures of these rundown layouts, because who takes pictures of rundown beat up layouts!!    I always take pictures of mine to show off the best parts, not the parts that need maintenance. 

I also have friends who have no layout at all, but who have large quantites of locomotives and rolling stock that just sits on shelves never turning a wheel

I have a small layout and would love to have a longer run, but I just won't because I know I can't really handle more maintenance.   

Be satisfied with what you have and remember you can always detail a space 2 or 3 feet long and get nice pictures of your own trains in the detailed area.   

Most important of all use the pictures of the super layouts as inspiration, but remember that it is all about having fun with what you have.

There are many ways to enjoy the hobby, just do your own thing and have fun.

If there is a club in your area join it and go out and look at the members layouts, I guarantee that you will see the good bad and ugly if you do.   

Be content and enjoy the trains you have!!!!


Loco Bill,  Roundhouse Foreman
Colorado & Kansas Railway-Missouri Western Railway
Official Historian; Bachmann Large Scale
Colorado RR Museum-Brakeman-Engineer-Motorman-Trainman
There are no dumb or stupid questions, just questions!
Kevin Strong

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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2011, 01:21:18 PM »

...and I'm always asking myself am I going to be happy with what I have?

That's really a question that cannot be answered. Bill's advice is great, and on par with what I generally advise folks. Big railroads = big commitment. Growing up, my dad and I built a railroad with around 1000 feet of track, so when I moved out and bought my first house, I figured 600' of track would be no trouble. Er, yeah. If you believe that one... That railroad was very much an albatross. I had fun with it, but in 5 years it never got me where I wanted to be. There was too much landscaping to deal with, so I never really got any of the buildings, etc. in place that would have made it more than just tracks in the dirt. I moved, bought a house with a smaller yard that necessitated a smaller railroad (around 300' of track.) It's very manageable, and within 2 years of its construction, the plants had filled in to where I was quite happy with the railroad. It's only gotten better ever since.

So start small and keep it simple. If you get bored, then start working on that next expansion to get your excitement back up.




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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2011, 02:40:55 PM »

I started with a good size layout and then it went to weeds. I had a friend rebuild it larger  and then because of illness I let it go for a year. I will soon have my friend rebuild it and enjoy it. I made many mistakes over the years. I laid the layout on treated lumber which twisted beyond believe. I've had weeds grow up and down through weed fabric.
My biggest problem is I had to pile gravel to high to make the track work with a bridge.  I may have to redo the track to make it all work.  Don't worry about size just get track down and have fun.
Huntington WV
Barry BBT

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« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2011, 11:31:45 PM »

I have always enjoyed what I was told was the first rule of building a layout:  Always make sure you finish a loop, even if it is not permanent.  The point being, you get to run your trains and start the learning process.

Barry - BBT

There are no dumb questions.

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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2011, 12:46:35 AM »

My layout is a fairly large irregular loop which surrounds a large bush in the corner of my yard. I used Lionel sectional track because I had a lot of it. I have horses in back so I had a lot of decomposed granite! I laid out my loop got everything connected and ran some short trains.
     I decided to use a battery to run my trains instead of trying to keep the track clean. I use a 12 volt burglar alarm battery in a boxcar with a switch on top and wire leads  to the locomotive. The track is held down by the decomposed granite. I cover the track with DG--level the track--and smooth the DG with a foxtail. Then I water the track gently with a garden hose.
      The DG settles down between the ties and holds the track down quite well. So that is my empire. I run a Piko 0-6-0 and three Bachmann cars lettered for D&RGW!
That's All Folks!
« Last Edit: March 27, 2011, 08:07:29 PM by tomplatten » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2011, 01:13:09 AM »

If you go to this web site  you will see an example of what Bill had mentioned, the building, down fall and rehab of a garden layout. Plus it has a lot of other useful advise.

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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2011, 11:13:19 AM »

Question, I'd call it a deciding factor - do you want to have any personal life beyond the railway?

When all esle fials, go run trains
Screw the Rivets, I'm building for Atmosphere!
later, Forrest
Chuck N

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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2011, 07:40:04 PM »


I agree with what the others have said.  Start with a small loop and then expand.  Be sure to try to contact other Garden Railroaders in you area.  Most parts of the country have clubs that are very helpful to beginners. I'm on my third railroad.  I built two in Denver before moving to Virginia in 1993. The first Denver train was a small dog bone shaped loop on a lower terrace.  I then built a larger loop on the upper lawn level and then connected the two with a cog railroad.  My train in Denver made the cover of GR in the early 90s.  It had electric switches and signals.

My current train in Virginia has only 90' of mainline and all manual switches and no signals.  I learned to simplify.  In Virginia the electric switch machines all filled with mud and ants.  Your local climate can dictate a lot about what you can do and probably should think long and hard about doing.

Get some trains running and then with that experience you will have a better idea as to how much time is required to maintain your railroad. 

Remember this is a journey, not a destination.  Very few garden railroads stay the same after their initial installation.  I've modified mine in Virginia several times.

Several suggestions.

1. Use the largest diameter curves that will fit into the area,

2. Make your passing siding twice as long as you think that your longest train will be (I've had to lengthen mine twice).

3. Because of all the sunshine and fresh air, don't be surprised if you layout grows like the weeds you will the trying to control.

Most of all HAVE FUN!!!

Chuck N


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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2011, 09:26:48 AM »

Thanks for the replies . Starting out is the learning experiance and I'm finding that listening , reading and researching does help . When buying equipment . As of now the Layout will be 10ft w x 18 ft x 30 ft L shape with a diversion going threw the middle over a plastic pond so I can use my bridge and trestle's I have made . Can be seen on the" timber trestle's thread " My son and I started laying the ballest . As of now using pavers .The progress we made yesterday, I had to lay some track and run my F-3 A unit . Even if it wasn't finished and along way from it . Just seeing the Locomotive run down the track hearing the horn ,bell and diesel sound there's nothing like it .

I did find using the LGB track to power connectors ,the ones with the screws with the high plastic terminal the nose of the F-3 hits it and made it jump . So got soldering iron out and fixed that problem . Soldered wires to rail joiners .I needed to do that any way also for the feeders . The NW-2 and GP30 have good clearence but the war bonnet is my baby . On a couple of switches I bought , they are both remote . I don't understand why one has a manuel lever and the other does not .Same turnout switch but 2 total different switch machines and one of them will take battery power 6 AA's or a 9v . I was just like man . The one that doesn't have the manuel lever. The Picture clearly shows it on the box . So I'm asuming that Aristo Craft had an up grade or 2 different production series of these switches .

But anyway making good progress .And I am a member of a good club here in houston Petty Coat Junction ,They meet on Thursday nights I haven't been in a while . Due to work and finding time . Cynthia my wife now layed the Harley down and broke her Ankle Oct 5 and had a Fusion done last Tuesday . So have to deal with that .Thats why I'm glad I have this Hobby to resort to when I need to get away from it all . Thanks everyone I will keep you posted on the progress .

regards Mark F    MF5117 RR

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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2011, 09:45:33 AM »

One more thing "not a plug " and thanks for turning me onto Anyrail software . I used it to figure the track layout and get the geometry . My son and I got our panel point's on the grid pulled a strings and got our arc for the radius on the 1/2 curves and 1/4 curves and lengths of straight sections diversions and siding and worked out quit well . Again if I didn't have the resource ,I would have been moving pulling and piecing and not have good lay ed track .

regards : Mark F

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« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2011, 06:43:35 AM »

Good to hear you're do so well!!!   Shocked
Building I found was and is one of the most enjoyable part of the hobbie!
Shame on the broken ankle , shattered mine a while a go!! Slowed me down just a tad!  Grin

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« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2011, 09:06:54 PM »

beginning of the garden railroad had to run my one of my strings . in the picture going to take the back half I decided out 8 more ft and then 16ft over to the right . Just got part of the base down and getting the idea of what we want todo . Have more timbers and a load of dirt coming for the rest of the base .

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