Starting a New Garden Railroad Questions

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by TomPM, Oct 16, 2002.

  1. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    For a while now we have been contemplating constructing a garden railroad. We are thinking we will go with a G gauge line. Now I know a good bit about HO,N, and O but I have never dealt with G before.

    We are in the Philadelphia area so we need something that withstand our temperature changes. Also given our weather how would we power the train? Do we wire the track or is there so way to hook a battery to the locomotive?

    Also what is a good starter set?
  2. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Tom I don't know alot about g-scale/outdoor model railroading, but I do know they sell loco's that run on battery power. The upside is you never have to clean track (yea!!!!!! :D :D :D ), the downside is the batteries need to be recharged about every 4 hours ( If you are using sound, steam generators etc. maybe every 2 hours).
  3. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    One of the key things to consider in "our" N.E. climate,
    [I live about 100 miles NE of Toronto], is whether you want to try and run the outdoor layout in winter....won't be easy to keep it clean & dry.
    The other thing is the effect of melting snow, which turns to ice at night, then gets into a "glacier effect" when the sun comes out again... [assuming it actually does come out again ]. The movement and contraction /expansion of ice can do some nasty damage to track base, bridges, etc. unless these are wrapped up and waterproof during the worst months.
    regards /Mike
  4. Thortrains

    Thortrains Member

    I'm in central NJ and have had a garden railroad for almost three years. I'd categorize the major work here as "maintenance." Winter messes with the ballast a bit, so every Spring I have minor tuning up of trackwork. Otherwise, it's been just fine

    Go to my site - - and scroll down to the Large Scale & Garden Railroading section to see photos of it. The railway has changed a little as we improved the garden. Latest pics show it in its present state.
  5. pcentral

    pcentral Member

    Hi Tom,
    I finally got my garden railroad permanently installed this summer. You can convert electric engines to battery power and avoid cleaning track, but I would say start out with electric and then do your homework to decide if you want to convert. I run a track cleaning car in front of an engine a few times around and I'm ready to run. I would suggest a starter set from LGB or Aristocraft, depending what type of trains you want to run. My LGB engines will run everytime and for hours and hours on end without fail. The wiring is the same as HO you just need a power supply of 5 amps or better. Although it doesn't snow here I have seen pics and know of a guy who runs his in the snow. Pick up a issue of Garden Railroader, it will have answers to alot of the decisions you are trying to make. Also, I suggest you use rail clamps instead of rail joiners. These will help with the weather changes and conductivity too. Last my definately not least, ask for help here and I or someone else will gladly help you.
  6. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    Thanks everyone for the information thus far. I am a civil engineer doing highway design and construction so building the railroad does not bother me. I figure that I will have to do some maintenance every spring. I may have question regarding ballasting. I am worried about powering the train. I have concerns that with our weather that if I power it through the track that I will constantly have problems with dead spots. Or am I worried about something that I should not be?
  7. pcentral

    pcentral Member

    Hi again Tom,
    If you use the rail clamps I mentioned or solder jumper wires in between each sction of track you should have no problems with dead spots. Here is a website for a company that advertises in Garden Railways they make rail clamps. Steve
  8. SilverState55

    SilverState55 New Member

    Get some books on the subject also; Marc Horovitz put one out that is EXCELLENT, and gives good tips on setting it up in your climate. Track electrical power shouldn't be a problem as long as you use a decent wire guage (I use outdoor 14-guage right up to the tracks; works great!) and brass rail clamps.

    LGB & Aristo-Craft Brass or Stainless Steel track would work best for your climate; aluminum track contracts/expands too much in wide temperature variations. Also, make sure the track is set loose in the ballast, kinda "floating" on it, so that the expansions & contractions brought on by the temperature extremes will be absorbed by the ballast....and be sure to use rough-textured ballast, not round or smooth, so the ballast will have some "bite" and hold the track in place.

    And keep that track clean!!! There are several methods for attaching cleaning apparatus to an existing rail car, or a separate rail car with a cleaning block attached that all do the same thing...
  9. Tomsz

    Tomsz Member

    I would try staneless steel track. It is much less work to clean. Most people who have tried it will not go back to brass. I know one of my friends who has only had to clean his track one time in the last 6 months, but we are in CA where the weather is fairly the same most of the time.

  10. Freelancer

    Freelancer Member

    It has been some time but I'd say a good place to check out would be Nicholas Smith Trains in Broomall, PA. I beleive that is where my family got some of our LGB equipment when I was a child. If it is still how I remember it was a great place, and I am sure that they could answer any questions you may have.

  11. atsfman

    atsfman New Member

    Hi Tom:
    funny to run into you on this forum and not HO, but I have a garden railroad also, been in place about 12 years now. The track is code 250 aluminum (Llagas Creek) laid on a trench of (a)gravel, (b) buckshot gravel (c) crusher fines. You can use TiteBond II diluted like we do in HO and it will hold the fines in place. My layout is in Kansas City where we get a little of everything. I chose early on to go with Radio Control/Battery power for all engines, and have never been sorry. No electricity to the layout anywhere.
    I use NWCS radio control, which is made in Austrailia but available from several places in US. I now have 11 diesels running with it. Much like DCC. Some diesels will hold two sets of batteries, and I get pretty good run times with them.

    I did replace all cars with Kadee body mounts couplers, and metal wheel sets, and enjoy running it as much as the HO layout inside, except in July/August when the temps reach 100 and the heat index reaches 110. The railroad has been through hailstorms and survived, one near tornado, also survived. I don't leave engines out, but most cars stay on the railroad during April-October.

    That is a nutshell overview. You will find some glues, etc that we use inside are not suitable outside. It is like learning a new hobby.

    Let me know if I can help.
  12. Trains

    Trains New Member


    Craig and I been into G scale about 18 years. We live in the midwest so
    the winters are about as bad as yours. When we built our layout we layed
    it on cader, we also used a conductive grease in the joints. We have little
    problems with running. As far as engines we can take a LGB engine out right
    after winter and it will run with out cleaning the tracks. USA and Aristo you
    will have to clean the tracks first.

    Don and Craig
  13. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    Thanks everyone for some great suggestions. Right now the project is on hold. We have had too many other household type things to do for the last year. We are still talking about it and I am hoping that maybe we can start something in the spring. With all the rain we have had this year trying to build anything would be fruitless. It would just float away. I have made a few hints for Christmas so we'll see what happens. Keep the sduggestions coming I hope to be implementing them in the Spring.
  14. Slick

    Slick New Member

    Of course you could forget about all that electrical stuff and go Live Steam..... The Ruby Kit is going very resonably......
  15. Livesteam

    Livesteam Member

    Yeah that ruby kit is very nice and fun to build i have never built one but talked to a ffew guys and it went together easy, a nice electric engine is the aristo craft Dash 9 it is very powerfull and will pull almost anything and it is only about $340 or so.
  16. Philinbos

    Philinbos Member

    Since you live in PA, you should consider attending the ECLSTS (East Coast Large Scale Train Show) held in York in April. Nicholas Smith as well as Hartland, Aristocraft, USA Trains, and Accucraft are all represented. There are several layouts up and operating. It is a great take- folks come from all over to attend - Last year I met someone who drove 1100 miles to attend. It runs Fri night, Sat & Sunday. It's a great oportunity to see what's avaiilable, pick up some bargains, and put faces on some of the people who post on the forums. If you attend, stop by and say Hi!
  17. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    We've been going since the first one in A.C. :) :) I was at the last show.. Where were you???? :) :) I tried to get Tom to go - But I think he was busy... i can't remember :(
  18. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    You did!? I can’t remember either. Let’s see April. That would be the end of basketball and the beginning of Little League. I most likely was busy. When it rolls around again Mikey keep me in mind.

    As far as the garden railroad goes not long after I first posted about we ran into some serious money troubles. It took us year and a lawyer or two to straighten things out but now things are better. Or at least were until the wife’s Tracker started acting up, again and again. We have been recently talked about it. The last time we were in Mitchell’s Hobbies we looked at a few starter sets. The biggest problem maybe time now. The wife has seen the Water Tower Diorama and the Passenger Station Diorama so now I getting the question from her about when the HO layout will be built. I may wind up with a load of lumber for Christmas. I really do need to start. When spring rolls around and we begin gardening who knows.

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Keep ‘em coming.

    As far as NS Trains go I have not stepped in there in over two years and do not intend to do so any time soon. I had an unpleasant incident with one of the owners and basically feel that my money will be better spent in a place that appreciate its customers instead of one that degrades them.
  19. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    Yeah - it was Little League.. :( :( I remember now that you said it. I'll definatly remind you about the next one :)

    NS Trains......I've had some "Grumpy" experiences there too - but overall its a good place :)
  20. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    Well it maybe finally happening thanks to my son. A few years ago for Christmas he got a toy G-scale train set from Kay-Bee Toys. He was played with the set many times. The set was not made to last but it made through about 3 years until the track began to fall apart. The battery-powered locomotive and cars are still in good shape. This year he is asking for a replacement. Given the price of these toy sets and their longevity the wife asked about getting a better set. We then spent about an hour browsing various online stores pricing and researching different sets. I think we have come down to a few possibilities. After we were done browsing the conversation turned to what to do with the set after Christmas. The agreed upon idea was to put it around the fish pond. The suggestion was made by she who must be obyed.

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