Large-scale locomotive and rolling stock questions and answers

Climbing grades, sound systems, and more for garden railroaders
My engines stall going uphill. Would it help to get a bigger transformer?

It might. If the engines stall (as opposed to slip) on hills, a bigger power pack that provides more wattage (volts x amps) might help. There are other factors to consider, though, including the steepness of your hill, the length and weight of the train being pulled, and the size of the locomotive.

Is it essential to use G-scale railroads for an indoor/outdoor railroad? We live in the benign environment of Florida and would like to make a railroad around our caged pool. We are well endowed with H0-scale equipment and would rather work at that scale. Is it feasible?

Yes, it is quite feasible. In Great Britain there are many H0 (actually 00) garden railroads. Things to consider:

Provide a firm base for the track-wood is probably best, or concrete with inset wooden blocks to which the track can be attached.

Provide plenty of feeders for good electrical conductivity.

Think about painting the ties to protect them from harmful UV. Large-scale ties have UV inhibitors, but HO ties don't.

Consider using manual switches. HO switch motors are not designed for the rigors of outdoors.

All plastic structures and bridges must also be painted to protect them from UV rays. Perhaps buildings could be brought in when not in use.

I was wondering where I could get some information on rotary snowplows. I would like to model a working plow in G scale for my garden railroad. I would like to know the dimensions and what railroad cars the blowers were attached to.

A scale model rotary generally does not work well in the snow. You need an impeller with more space between the vanes, running at a much higher speed than is prototypical. Even then, a rotary works well in the garden only on dry snow. Wet snow just gums it up.

Prototype rotary plows are not attached to any cars--they are self-contained (though not self-propelled) units. They were always pushed ahead of one or more locomotives. Garden Railways magazine has never published plans for full-sized rotaries.

What grade can an engine climb?

Different engines will climb different grades. If you are trying to stay within full-size railroad practice, your grades should be no more than about 3 percent for mainline traffic (3" of rise in 100" of travel) or 5 percent to 6 percent for logging, mining, or industrial lines.

I want to get sound for my engine. Will a sound system rob power from the engine?

With the proper power supply, it shouldn't.

I am interested in building a garden railroad with a live-steam engine. Where can I get a kit for one or information on them?

Kits are offered by Roundhouse Engineering of England (they advertise in Garden Railways) and by Aster of Japan. Aster is available through Hyde-Out Mountain. You may wish to read our "Steam in the Garden" series in the magazine (February 2000, April 2000, June 2000, August 2000, and October 2000 issues). I would also suggest a subscription to Steam in the Garden magazine.

I have purchased an MTH Challenger along with a TIU (Track Interface Unit) and an expensive 10-amp DC power supply. When you have an MTH unit running via remote control, how do you handle other types of engines (Aristo-Craft, USA Trains, etc.)? Can one type of remote unit run all types of trains? Do I have to stick to the MTH engines?

I spoke with Andy Edleman at MTH about this. The short answer is, no, you cannot run MTH digitally controlled equipment (DCS) simultaneously with other brands of digitally controlled trains. However, you can run MTH's DCS trains simultaneously and independently with any brand of analog-controlled locomotive. This is accomplished by hooking up the power supply into the TIU's Fixed Input Channels as per the normal setup routine.  Because the digitally controlled trains don't care what the track power is, you can vary the track voltage using the power supply's built-in controller to control the analog engine's speed while using the DCS remote to control the digitally controlled engine's speed, direction, and other DCS features. This should work as long as the track voltage is at least 4-5V.

Q: Most rolling stock available is equipped with couplers mounted on the trucks of the cars, although there are coupler pockets on the car body. Do trains run more safely when the couplers are mounted on the trucks, or can safety be improved when the couplers are mounted on the car bodies? I have been thinking about mounting link-and-pin couplers to the body of the cars, and I wonder if this might be better.

A: In general, body-mounted couplers are best. The stresses are transmitted through the frames of the cars, not through the trucks. This causes fewer derailments. I have seen 35-car trains being pushed around curves with body-mounted couplers. You could never do this with truck-mounted couplers.

Regarding link-and-pin couplers, you must be sure your curves are not too sharp to accommodate them. Knuckle couplers can turn and pivot, whereas link-and-pins are more rigid and require wider-radius curves. Curves can also be too tight for cars with body-mounted knuckle couplers, too, which is one reason manufacturers mount couplers on the trucks. Truck-mounted couplers allow the train to negotiate very tight curves. But if you have wide curves, body mounting is better.


Read and share your comments on this article

Want to leave a comment?

Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
How to Make Signs

How to Make Signs

Custom stickers, dry transfers, decals, and more!


Get the Garden Railways newsletter delivered to your inbox twice a month

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Garden Railways magazine. Please view our privacy policy