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Garden-railway etiquette for visitors

Visiting others' garden railways is one of the great attractions of our hobby. However, when doing so, we need to behave like good guests. Here are some guidelines that have proved useful over time.
Published: June 26, 2009
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The Gateway Garden Railroad Club's modular layout
Photo by Bob Temper
• Don't arrive early. Most garden railroaders tend to work frantically up until the last minute getting their lines ready. Arriving early can be disruptive.

• Don't stay late. Our hosts are exhausted by the end of the day, so please leave by closing time.

• Thank the host and hostess. Whether you liked the railway or not, the owners have gone to a lot of work to make you their guest. A thank you is always appreciated.

• If you have kids, keep an eye on them. Kids love garden railways and most garden railroaders welcome well-behaved children. However, your kids' behavior is ultimately your responsibility. There have been far too many instances of kids who ran amuck while their parents were elsewhere or, worse, blandly looked on.

• Don't step into a railway without first making sure it's OK. Sometimes there are obvious footpaths or signs directing you into the interior, but if there aren't, just ask.

• Don't ever step over the track while a train is passing. This minimizes the risk of accidents.

• If you bring a train to someone else's track, make sure you have permission before putting it on the track. In one memorable episode, a fellow brought his trains in and just plunked them on the track without asking. The result was a bad accident, as the track was not clear.

• If you're running live steam and sharing a track with other trains, keep an eye on what's ahead. Any number of accidents have been caused by thoughtless or distracted engineers.

• Sign the guest book. Owners like to know who and how many attended their event, so take a second to enter your name.

• If you don't like what you see, keep your remarks to yourself until you leave. Critical remarks about someone else's work have a way of being overheard.

• If you're a host, it's nice to have drinks available. Even cold water is appreciated on hot days.

• If you're shooting video, be considerate of those around you. People hesitate to walk in front of someone with a video camera, even though they may have the urge to push him down the hill. Video-takers sometimes block proceedings in crowded gardens for minutes on end, oblivious to the fact that they were holding up traffic. Be aware.

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