Getting Started
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General questions and answers about garden railroads

Answers to basic garden train questions
Published: June 26, 2009
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What are large scale trains?

"Large Scale" is a term that denotes trains that are larger than 0 scale (1:48) but smaller than the trains that are large enough to ride on. Large-scale trains generally run on gauge 0, gauge 1, or gauge 3 track.

Do you leave them outdoors all the time?

Most people bring their trains indoors when they are not running, even though most brands (Aristo-Craft, Bachmann, etc.) can withstand prolonged exposure to the elements. Some people have built tracks that run indoors through the walls of their houses. However, the rest of the infrastructure -- track, bridges, buildings -- stay out year round.

Can a garden railway be built in areas that receive snow?

Sure. When you model indoors, you are dealing with realism, the illusion of reality. When you model outdoors, reality stares you in the face.

A garden railway faces all the same natural hazards as a full-size railroad, including rain, sleet, snow, and gloom of night. That's all part of the fun. People in the northern climes often have working snowplows to clear their lines. These can take the form of a simple wedge plow mounted to a locomotive's pilot or to a gondola car pushed ahead of the engine, to working rotary plows that will toss the snow 8' or more to one side.

Snow, of course, is one of those things you can't scale down. A moderate 6" snow scales out to 12' in 1:24 scale. Keep this in mind when expecting your plow to clear the track. Also, light, powdery snow is much easier to deal with than the wet, heavy stuff.

I want to start a G-scale railway in my yard. Where do I get all my questions answered on building a railway?

1. Join a garden railway society in your area (see the Club Directory on the GardenTrains.org website).
2. Read the books aimed at beginners. We sell several books, such as Get Started in Garden Railroading and the Miniature Garden Guidebook.
3. Read everything else you can lay your hands on.

4. Visit the Garden Railways forums to correspond with hobbyists around the world.

5. Learn by getting out and doing it.

I have HO or O gauge/scale trains. Can I use those in an outdoor garden railway?

There is no reason why other scales can't be used in the garden. You will need to protect plastic ties and any plastic structures from the sun's UV rays, but a good coat of exterior paint should take care of that.

Is there any publication that provides suggested prices for used large-scale trains?

Kalmbach Publishing Co. publishes Greenberg's Pocket Price Guides for various toy train lines. I know of no published information for LGB, Bachmann, USA Trains, Aristo-Craft, Hartland, or other manufacturers. Your best bet is to read the want ads in the magazines and on the Internet and send for people's lists. You can also visit online auctions such as eBay and see what prices items have been selling for. Over time you should get a feel for what things are selling for.
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