Model Train Express - Articles & advice for model train enthusiasts

Building a G scale garden railroad

G scale is a scale often used in model railways because of it’s size and durability. Garden railroads allow you to combine two hobbies, gardening and model trains making them fun for people of all ages. If you have experience running an indoor railroad then setting up a garden railroad will not provide you with too many headaches.

Planning

Once you have determined the amount of space required for your railroad you need to take into account two factors. Firstly for both smooth and realistic operation you want to have the largest corner radius as possible, preferably greater than 10 foot although you can get away with 5 foot.

Elevation of the ground also needs to be taken into account. Trains can struggle when climbing a gradient greater than 5% especially if you are running a lot of carriages and around corners. If your garden is not very level then you may need to build your railroad up of the ground using trestles.

Power and control

Garden trains can be powered using either track power or battery power. Most starter sets will use track power which will allow you to run a wide variety of locomotives without the need to do any conversions. If you want to run more than one train on powered tracks you will need to install a DCC system. Battery powered trains can be run off rechargeable Ni-Cad batteries and are controlled using a RC system.

Purchasing equipment

If you are building your first garden railroad its best to start by purchasing a starter set containing track, power supply and a train. Extra track can then be purchased to suit the space you have available. Here are some of the popular G scale train manufacturers:

  • aristocraft.com – Aristo Craft has been making some of the best model trains in the industry for over 70 years. Aristo Craft has a large range of G scale trains and accessories available for order from their online store.
  • usatrains.com – USA Trains claims to have the largest selection of G scale trains in the world. Their full product catalouge can be viewed online here.
  • lgb.com – LGB produces over 600 high quality model railroad products in G scale. All products can be purchased online or you can use the website to find your nearest dealer.
  • piko-shop.de – PIKO is a german manufactuer of model trains in various scales but they have a nice selection of G scale trains. Trains can be ordered directly via their online store.

If you are on a tight budget or looking to save some money then its worth checking out eBay as some great deals appear from time to time, the eBay G scale page can be found here.

Laying track

You should dig a small trench that is filled with gravel to provide a solid base and drainage, however this can be quite time consuming and is not completely necessary. Once you have planned were your track is going to run you should lay down sheets of newspaper then cover with a weed protection cloth.

Next you can begin laying your track on top of the weed cloth ensuring all joins are secure. At this point it’s wise to test your track to see if its working correctly before proceeding to the next step.

The track is secured into place using a gravel roadbed. Cover your tracks with the gravel brushing it between all the ties. Gently tap down on the track to ensure it is secure and remove any large pieces of gravel that may obstruct the track.

Garden railroad maintenance

To ensure your garden railroad runs without any problems you will need to undertake some maintenance, if performed regularly this won’t take you much time at all.

  • Clean the tracks – tracks should be cleaned regularly using a rag and kerosene. If tracks have heavy oxidation then a light abrasive scrubbing brush may need to be used. Before running your train you should also ensure it is free from any fallen debris.
  • Clean wheels – grime will accumulate on train wheels after use. The best way to remove this grime is to use cleaning alcohol and a cotton swab. If this doesn’t remove the grime use a Scotch Brite pad, avoid using harsh abrasives or steel brushes as these can damage the wheels.
  • Trim bushes – as your garden grows you will need to make sure the area your train operates is free from any overhanging foliage as this can cause derailments. Using a set of garden secateurs inspect your railroad cutting back any foliage that may obstruct your train.
  • Weed tracks – if you used weed matting when laying your tracks this shouldn’t be a problem. If you haven’t operated your railroad for a period of time weeds will no doubt begin growing between your tracks. Remove any weeds making sure to get all the root system so they don’t grow back.
  • When you are not operating your trains they should be stored indoors.