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tomfassett
post Jan 8 2009, 11:05 AM
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My sister and I toured some garden railways over the holidays and had a great time. I got a few pics and will post them when I have a few moments. Now I am tempted to start working on one myself (again), and am even considering joining the club that put on the open houses. I know New Haven Neil has a garden railway--anyone else fooling around with this stuff?
Here are a couple of observations from my tours. First off, most of the building kits I saw were "toy like." I know the stuff has to face the elements (and semi-wild critters) but it seems to me that if anything, the G scale stuff should be even more realistic than HO. One guy scratch-built all of his stuff and it looked great. He used mostly redwood and cedar and said it held up really well (with a coat of Thompson's Water Seal every couple of years). The resin structures I saw didn't seem to be able to stand up to the desert sun (even with a thick coat of paint). The plastic was not much better. One guy said he put a thermometer in one of his buildings last summer and it hit 141 degrees (F) inside. That's asking a lot of styrene--no matter how thick it is. One thing I didn't see on the tour was a building built more like the real thing. Since most of the buildings I saw were not decorated on the inside, I figured one could make them with a wood frame, foam base and stucco or concrete. This is what most miniature golf structures are made out of. Everyone I talked to said they wished someone would come out with more kits that looked like stucco or cast concrete. Some had tried adding stucco to plastic or wood kits but it didn't stick. I suggested they study real world building practices.
Roadbed--the black art. tongue.gif This is what has held me back in the past. Some guys built up their roadbed just like the real thing and swore by it. Some guys mounted the track on stakes and piled gravel up to the roadbed. Some guys just laid the track on the ground. Most did a combination of the previous styles. One guy even laid asphalt under his roadbed. I know drainage is the key here and I'm sure we in the desert have it better than most although we do have the problem that rain doesn't soak in to the ground but runs off. Right now I'm leaning towards the stakes with gravel piled up around the roadbed. Anyone have an opinion on this?
DC verses self contained power. Most of the railways we saw were powered by DC through the rails. Most of the rails were brass. Seems to me it would be a constant fight to keep the rails clean--even though they are running at much higher voltages than the smaller scales are used to. I do like the idea that one can light passenger equipment and cabooses through the rails but it seemed like the self contained guys had less trouble. The biggest problem seemed to be the pickup system in the locomotives and rolling stock themselves. Many of the operators kept the pickups wet with conductive oil. This would be a constant battle in the desert as oil dries out so fast. One guy oils his locos and lighted cars every week. I don't really have time for that. Right now I am undecided on which way to go. Surprisingly, not a single layout used DCC outside. Nobody really had an answer for that other than to say, "it cost too much." This coming from guys who were wiling to shell out $600 - $1500 each for locomotives. huh.gif
Most of the guys moved the majority of their buildings and rolling stock inside when not using them. Not only do I not have time for this, but I don't have the space. My plan is to build a "Wild West" them so the buildings can get all "run down" and still look appropriate. Nothing like real "aging" to add realism to a model... tongue.gif

Tom F
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Smudgeloco
post Jan 17 2009, 03:37 PM
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Wow Tom, sort of spookily opportune this thread! I was just going to post a series of similar questions, and found this when looking for where to post it. rolleyes.gif
I too have ambitions of a small garden railway, and would love to start it this spring! I am rather keen on the above ground trackbed idea myself. I think it would be easier to keep clean and free of leaves and debris. I envisage a battery powered loco opening up all running sessions, by pushing an adapted car around - one with a sweeping brush on the front, and a track wiping pad underneath. I will be making this item myself, there might just be a market for such a vehicle! rolleyes.gif biggrin.gif
I have looked at 4/4 posts set into concrete at the chosen height (I'm thinking about a foot high). These would be about six feet apart, with a top of parallel 3X2s, these surmounted by half inch marine ply track bed. All screwed together with rust-proof screws. This trackbed would then have a covering of roofing felt, to make it water protected.
Is this a Little too ambitious? I am thinking of a meandering loop of say 10ft by 18ft, with a passing siding, and nothing much more.
I will appreciate any thoughts.
I have a bundle of well used G scale track, pretty bleached by the sun already. Do you think this has lost any of its integrity by being old?
I also have a couple of four foot radii switches, like wise old and in need of attention. It is straight track I am going to need some more of, any thoughts on a cheap supply?

We could help fire each other along on this Tom.

Michael.


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cjbrock
post Jan 17 2009, 08:10 PM
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I've considered it too. I've got some LGB and Bachmann piled up. My goal would be to do like Neil and use live steam instead of electric power if I could swing it, but they want a pretty penny for those beautiful Roundhouse Engineering locos over here. I'd probably have to scratchbuild. I think I would also go with the raised track, as it is more comfortable for us OF's. I think would suffer less damage due to wildlife and I could possibly run it in the winter without having a bunch of snow clearance issues. It's a bit of a pain because I've had enough experience with 3/4" gauge elevated track to know you have to hand mow and then come back with a weedeater around the posts.

Michael, I have no specifics on construction. 4x4 are more than sufficient, but they probably need to be below frost depth - a lot of post holes. There are probably websites with details, or maybe Neil will jump in here with a dissertation.

My major consideration though is do I want one more project underway, and most likely unfinished for a lengthy time.


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tomfassett
post Jan 18 2009, 04:48 PM
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Most of the stuff I saw was only about an inch or two above ground. We don't have the problems (here) that most have with snow, frost lines or large (four legged) critters walking around (except for the smaller feline ones). Some guys used those aluminum garden stakes to hold the track in place. Others put down asphalt or concrete.
Hadn't thought about the roofing felt--good idea. I have a partial roll that has been sitting in the dirt at the back of the yard for a couple of years and it is still in decent shape.

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Tompm
post Jan 18 2009, 06:43 PM
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We have one in the garden around the pond. For various reasons we did not run it or work much this summer. Some of why was frustration on my part with the track and derailments. We have been having issues with the track getting out of line and level. I have tried several different ways to secure the track but have not found anything I thin k works. We have used small stones for ballast but have experienced washouts. I have tried mixed cement with the stone to get to lock into to no avail.

Weeds are also a constant problem. We have an anti-weed cloth down but we still get them. They pop through the seams.

I am hoping this year since we will not be dealing with Little League we will have more time for the garden and the railroad.

As far as running we have used Bachmann with a power pack. So far the track has not lost conductivity. I would like to look into a battery pack for the loco. This would eliminate the tedious having to hook up and unhook the power pack every time we operate the railroad.


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cjbrock
post Jan 19 2009, 07:37 AM
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If you are going to do it above ground, I think you definitely want it high enough you can get a mower under it - or have ground cover under it that doesn't require mowing - a low growing ground cover, or gravel/bark etc.

At my live steam club the ground level track is on about 4" of limestone with the fines, which helps some with the weeds, but soaking the ground in Roundup and a pre-emergent weedkiller still seems to be needed.


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New Haven Neil
post Jan 19 2009, 10:22 AM
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Ah, the garden! I don't know about a dissertation though - written two in the past, that's enough for me!!

My line has both ground level laid on ballast, and raised sections. Most of what has been written above is fine advice as far as my experience goes. The gravel sections look better, but do need re-alignment each spring (Bear in mind our climate is much less extreme - your mileage may differ, as you guys say!!) but the raised sections need little work. The critters (cats mostly, the odd rat, hedgehog) don't bother things over much, beacause nothing delicate gets left out. Raised sections are definately easier on the back, and easier to photograph. Watch the height though - I boobed, made it high enough for the mower then added edging strips to retain cosmetic loose ballast - which then stopped the mower fitting underneath - d'oh!

Going for fine detail is just asking for trouble, unless you take things in each session, garden railways are very rough and tumble. This applies to buildings and stock. It's not as if you can view up close anyway....take the pleasure from running BIG trains instead!

For me, track power is too much hassle - I want to run trains NOW when I get the urge, not spend an hour cleaning track. Other friends disagree, it is a personal thing. I use on board batteries for non-steam stock. Steamers are expensive here too.....hence not doing much on my HO recently! Accucraft US outline should be available to you for a decent price, they did a nice mogul. Roundhouse, well, yes, by the time you pay to import, I can understand are too much really, but they are the business, with a superb back up second to none.

I'll post more later of my experiences, or you could buy the Garden Rail magazine with my layout in it...... wink.gif laugh.gif

Neil.

PS - my new loco.....

This post has been edited by New Haven Neil: Jan 19 2009, 10:23 AM
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tomfassett
post Jan 19 2009, 08:11 PM
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Many of the more detailed garden railways we looked at were in raised planters and not very large. The average layout was around 15-20 feet long and between 6-12 feet deep. Since most were built in the backyards of tract houses, the rectangular shape of the yard necessitated a mostly oval track plan. I was surprised at the creative use of "altitude"--not one of them was completely flat and all had at least one bridge or trestle. Even the smallest one had two separate lines for running multiple trains. The biggest one had a turntable--I don't even want to know what that cost...

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New Haven Neil
post Jan 20 2009, 04:11 AM
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Right, what else can I think of?? huh.gif

Over here our back yards tend to be much smaller (MUCH!) than in the US, so perhaps we are more creative with our space - we have to be! My line is an L shaped dog bone, a reverse loop (another reason to avoid track power) at each end. Overall run is only about 140 feet, in our 'average' garden. One reverse loop is around our koi pond, which is raised 18'' or so above datum level. Note not across the pond - steamers leave oil on the water surface which will suffocate Mrs NHN's expensive fish...... unsure.gif

I use LGB track, purely beacause I had some from an earlier small line when we lived in the UK. It isn't very good looking, but it is bullet proof. Some friends use Peco, looks nicer but is not nearly so robust. Robust is good in the garden.......!!!! LGB track is sort of self supporting, so is easier to keep level on the free floating sections. Peco track really needs a solid base to keep it from twisting - a friend has laid concrete trackbed for his, about 2'' thick.

I have three large bridges, two where a loop crosses a garden path, and one to allow mower access to the lawn. These are removed each session, but only take two minutes to install.

One way to keep track in place is what is known over here as 'Rowlands Mix', after Dave Rowlands, a great exponent of garden railways. It is a mix of gravel ballast, cement and peat, to give some flexibility. It also encourages moss growth, which gives a nice look for our predominately narrow gauge lines. See the photo I posted above, of my new loco on the line of the guy that painted it, Geoff Munday of Lightlines.

There is also a large society for G1 standard gauge modellers in the UK, the G1 MRA. Most of their lines tend to be of raised track with little or no integration into the garden, and approach more like the model engineering ride on scales. They tend to run trains at high speed around loops, whereas the 16mm scale narrow gauge approach is more bucolic narrowgauge trains wandering between stations. Peco do standard gauge G1 track, as do a couple of other UK based companies, this is much lighter than LGB and needs a firm base.

Anyway, without a doubt ground level lines look much nicer, but are high maintenance, and knee and back killers, which at almost 50 I can't cope with! So raised it is for me, although perhaps an ideal would be 'ground level on raised flower beds' type of approach!

Good luck! wacko.gif
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cjbrock
post Jan 20 2009, 06:18 AM
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QUOTE (New Haven Neil @ Jan 20 2009, 12:11 PM) *
Note not across the pond - steamers leave oil on the water surface which will suffocate Mrs NHN's expensive fish...... unsure.gif

ANNNND kill mosquitos. -1, +1. smile.gif


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New Haven Neil
post Jan 20 2009, 12:14 PM
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Not much of a mozzie problem here John! Not a common thing over here.

The fish eat anything stupid enough to hover close to the water anyway!!!!...... wink.gif


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New Haven Neil
post Jan 21 2009, 08:37 AM
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You can make nice scenes even on the raised sections....



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