310 - 15910 Fraser Hwy
Surrey, BC   V4N 0X9
Greater Vancouver
Garden Railway Club
Greater Vancouver
Garden Railway Club

Scale versus gauge...

G Scale is a scale for model railroads and because of its size and durability is most often used outdoors in the garden, although many modelers have indoor layouts. It is not uncommon for people to start out with a circle of track around the Christmas tree, the track eventually being moved to the garden for year round usage.

SCALE: Describes the size of a model compared to the real thing. For example, "G" scale (on average) is 1:29 (1 to 29; 1/29 of life size; you'd need 29 of an item strung end-to-end to be the same length as the real thing)

GAUGE: Refers to the distance between the rails.
The rails on life-sized track are 4' 8-1/2" (56.5") inches apart (measuring the inside edges). Narrow gauge track has the rails closer than that- 36", 24"; many variations of narrow gauge exist.

How are the trains powered?

Locomotives can be either track powered (electric) or battery powered. Some modelers will also use catenary. Most large scale engines use track power, which can be converted to battery power.

Due to the large size of the locomotives it is also possible for them to be powered with live steam. The latter are usually fired by butane or alcohol.

Remote Control: In a nutshell there is DCC (digital command & control) and RC (radio control). RC can either control the engine itself or the track. There are advantages and disavantages to both types

Can you run live steam and track power at the same time?
Some live steam locomotives can be run at the same time as track powered engines, providing the wheels are insulated. As a general rule it's not something that is recommended for a beginner.

What is Live Steam?

Article coming !!

Layout Construction

A garden railroad can be as simple as an oval of track on the deck/patio or around a feature such as a pond or it can be as elaborate as a full back yard layout with multiple tracks and dozens of buildings and bridges. Remember there is ongoing maintenance on any outdoor layout just like the full scale railroads, so the bigger the layout the more maintenance that will be required in ballasting track, pulling weeds, trimming trees and keeping the track clean to name just a few.

There are many ways to build a garden railroad but most people start with either of two common methods:

Ground Level Roadbed:
The ground level railroad is built using a trench 5"wide by 3"to 5" deep, filling it with crushed gravel (which should be tamped into the trench), laying the track on top of this gravel layer and then finish ballasting by pouring and leveling a thin layer of finely crushed gravel between the ties.

Raised Roadbed:
The raised roadbed is constructed by surrounding an area with a wall of pressure treated wood, Allen Blocks, natural rock or any other material which will hold back the dirt. Height is an individual decision but 24" to 30" is common. Next fill the area with dirt and rock to create a landscape which might include a pond or stream. Laying the track then follows the same basic procedure as for the ground level roadbed technique. This technique is more work but is easier for running the railroad and for maintenance as you do not have to get down on your hands and knees to work.

Most of the larger manufacturers produce their own brand of track. The most popular is track made of brass but it is also available in nickel silver as well as oxidation-resistant stainless steel, though the later two metals are more expensive. Track can also be obtained in less expensive aluminum. It can be purchased in pre cut lengths and curves (snap track) or as flex track where the modeler bends the track to their preferred design. Track also comes in various sizes or codes with code 332 (heavier and more damage resistant) and code 250 (lighter but more protypical) being the most popular. All brands can remain outside in all weathers.
In designing your track plan, use the widest-radius curves your space will allow as wider curves will give your railway a much more plausible look. Space is always a problem, so do what you must; but tailor your rolling stock to your curves. Very long engines and cars just don't look right negotiating very tight curves. Also, when planning grades, try not to make them steeper than about 3 percent (3" rise over 100" horizontal travel). Steep grades are unrealistic, and they will severely limit your train length.
Frequently Asked Questions:
GVGRC 2017
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Greater Vancouver Garden Railway Club