Upland Garden Railway Society - www.uplandgrs.org

What I have Learned About Garden Railroading

by Ed Saalig

  • The most difficult part of Garden Railroading is getting started.
  • Every garden railway needs a track plan, era, and theme to model after.  There is no wrong combination.  
  • Remember, this is a hobby. There's no hurry. Half the fun is the process of designing and building.
  • Keep GARDEN in garden railroading. Focus attention on a iniature landscape with a railroad running through it. The entire railway should never be visible from any one vantage point.
  • Use the widest radius curves possible. It adds realism and lets you use a greater number of rolling stock.
  • An outdoor garden railway is never finished. There are always structures to be built, landscape to  be cared for, new track to be laid and rolling stock to be modified and/or repaired. 
  • Your justification for the financial commitment is the many hours of pleasure in planning and building.
  • Special features add interest and character to your garden railway.  These features include; tunnels, trestles, bridges, waterfalls, streams, ponds, stone walls, fences, sound modules, lighting, etc.
  • There is nothing wrong with various scales using the same gauge track.
  • Time will corrode rail joints, use jumper wires or rail clamps for best electrical connections.
  • If the above sounds like a lot of extra work, use radio controlled trains, and let the rails corrode!
  • In building your road bed remember, brass rail will expand and contract and the ground constantly moves.
  • In the long-run plastic outlasts wood. Weatherproofing is a constant battle with wood. Wooden structures should be on a foundation - cement slab or Styrofoam to avoid dry rot and termites.
  • Wood models typically will last two years untouched, glued plastic kits last about five years, and concrete buildings can last longer than you.
  • Rebuilding and revisions are mostly directed at making things simpler and stronger than they were.
  • Use silicone sealer on the inside of your outdoor buildings.  It seals out water and adds strength.
  • When ready to repaint old weathered plastic buildings use Armor-All  instead!  They'll look new.
  • Never throw away extra parts; wire, plastic, screws, etc.  You ever know when you'll need them again.
  • Your railway has two lives, one in the daytime and one at night.  Don't forget to use lighting; for buildings (inside and out), signs, signals, rolling stock, lamp posts, switch stand lamps, etc.
  • The smaller and finer the details, the greater the chance they will be broken or lost due to wind, rain, leaves, fallen branches, accidental traffic (cats, dogs, humans), etc.
  • My preference to signal placement has always learned toward ascetics rather than prototypical installations.  Place signals were the operator and visitors can see them.
  • Electrical problems are fewer if lines are above ground rather than under ground.  Use power poles.
  • Always use conductive paste on outdoor electrical connections, rail joints, light bulbs, etc.
  • Buy a volt meter to check track voltage and other electrical items.
  • Have short jumper wires with clamps for quick connections until repairs can be made.  Good to have when having an open house.  That's when shorts occur!
  • Buy a transformer with more power than you think you'll ever need.  Later you'll thank me.
  • Kit bashing is an extension of your imagination, skills and research.  Try it you'll like it.
  • Remember our hobby is more of an art form than a science.
  • Model paints don't hold up to the effects of weather, exterior latex house paints do.
  • In designing your railway use as little grade as possible.
  • Add "audio animation" where possible;  in stations, churches, barns, rolling stock, engines, etc.
  • American realism begins with steel wheels and KaDee couplers.
  • Added weight to you locomotives equals added pulling power.
  • Put a video camera on a flat car.  It will show you the details you missed.
  • A good product warranty is worth paying a higher price.  It is like receiving an insurance policy.
  • Never pay retail!  There is always someone who will save you money!
  • Ask questions!  Everyone is willing to share experiences and knowledge of the hobby.
  • Subscribe to G-scale magazines, buy garden railway videos, and go to model-train shows, conventions, and garden railway society meetings.  You'll get lots of ideas and meet new friends.
  • Promote your hobby, join a garden railway society.  Join more than one!   Attend meetings!
  • Share your experiences (good and bad) write articles, take pictures, send them to G-Scale magazines.

Upland Garden Railway Society
1810 W. Foothill Blvd. Suite E
Upland, California 91786

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