Starting Out/ Getting Focused

1054 views
10 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
HCF
  • Member since
    April 2020
  • 13 posts
Starting Out/ Getting Focused
Posted by HCF on Friday, April 3, 2020 3:00 PM

Hey Folks, 

I'm Holden. I'm a college student but due to the current situation I'm going to be quarantined at home for the rest of the spring and the summer. 

Something I have always wanted to work on is a garden railroad. I want to make myself go outside while also giving me something I love to do while doing so. I've gone down the research hole before but now it seems that the dream is actually going to happen. That said, I need a little bit of help sorting out how to start. 

I'm trying to decide between gauges, what I'll prototype, the scope of the project, what brand to use, how to know the real value of a product so that I'm smart when buying used, compatibility of brands, etc. I would really be incredibly greatful for some advice and guidance and it seems this forum is full of smart people from the threads I've read. 

I'm in the South West U.S. so it's dry though there is a rainy season. I am trying to decide between using my current stockpile of O gauge trains or taking the dive and investing in G gauge. 

For O gauge I'll list what I have. I'm not trying to brag or anything like that only trying to give as accurate a description of my starting point for everyone as I can. I have two running steam locomotives with tenders, 3 passenger cars, a variety of freight cars, a tin plate loco with cars, as well as some locos that don't run or that I don't have the transformer for. I have track but no switches/turnouts. 

This is a really good start for an O gauge layout but I'm worried about running my O gauge trains outside. I worry about dust and water damage and bird... you know. I realize that you store your trains inside but I still worry even about bringing them out to run. My heart is set on a garden railroad (and I don't have space for an indoor layout.) I know people have had success running O gauge outside, especially in my climate, so I guess I'm wondering what people's thoughts are on the matter. If I stick to O gauge are there things I can do to ensure more safety for my babies outside? 

On the other hand, I could invest in a starter set and some track for G gauge. Should I go this route my plan would be to get a simple starter set and to spend most of my train money on track. I love G gauge trains. I love their versatility and their seeming compatibility with ornaments and toys that equals lots of scenery and decoration potential. I have wanted a G gauge train for a very long time. 

I am leaning on making a switch to G gauge but I am hesitating. My hesitation comes from the fact that I'm worried that my reasons for making this switch would be just because G gauge is new and exciting to me and not because it's the best choice. The prices are also scary but they're not actually that far off from O gauge prices. 

If I take the plunge I'm also lost at how to start. If I buy a Piko starter set, is the track that comes with it compatible with LGB track? If I see a good deal on Aristocraft track would that be someting to seize or should I commit to sticking to one track brand? What do I do for power? Can the train be left outside or should I be storing it inside? What size curves should I be using? I have a lot more questions but I think these are the biggest worries right now. 

Apologies for the essay, didn't mean for this first post to get so long but I'm excited and eager. I'm ready to really commit to this hobby and I could see garden railways being a lifelong thing for me if I start.

Thanks so much for your time if you've read this far and I look forward to meeting you and sharing enthusiasm for trains and railroads. 

HCF
  • Member since
    April 2020
  • 13 posts
Posted by HCF on Monday, April 6, 2020 12:33 PM

Hey Folks,

Much has changed over the weekend. I found a really good deal on a collection of G gauge trains and track. It seems now that I'm committing to G for outside which I'm super excited about. 

As for track I think I'm going to stick to LGB because I hear good things about it's durability and that's what I got in my haul. 

I think now I need to restrain myself from snatching deals and instead focus on what I have and figuring out how I best like to use it. I'm gonna start doing research on raised layouts and cleaning track and more. That way my trains can run smoothly and consistently. 

I'm so excited that this is actually happening! 

Thanks,

Holden

 

  • Member since
    November 2011
  • 1,951 posts
Posted by Postwar Paul on Monday, April 6, 2020 7:17 PM

Hello Holden and welcome!

To answer a couple of your original questions:

Generally people don't leave the trains/equipment outside long term. They run 'em, and bring them in (or to a storage shed/garage) afterward. LGB track will work with PIKO America equipment and vice versa, and both are good brands that have been around for many years.

I would encourage a subscription to our magazine, of course, but I also wanted to point out that subscriber material on our website is FREE until April 11. We have TONS of stuff, from gardening to more than 500 product reviews. Read and print out items to your heart's content. And look into joining a club once you can leave the house again. We have a free database of club listings here too.

  • Member since
    November 2012
  • From: Kokomo, Indiana
  • 1,083 posts
Posted by emdmike on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 12:01 PM

G really is best for outdoor garden railways.  O gauge can be done but your track choices are limited(Atlas O) as anything that is steel/tinplate or not UV proof wont work long term.   LGB track is best, I have used it for over 15 years outdoors with no major issues.  I was originaly ground level on my railway, then age and dog issues pushed me to build my elevated set up.  I converted to onboard battery power in my LGB, Kalamazoo and Bachmann locomotives about 5 years ago.  No more worries about cleaning track or dealing with rail joiners that quit conducting power.  I also run live steam locomotives.  

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

  • Member since
    November 2012
  • From: Kokomo, Indiana
  • 1,083 posts
Posted by emdmike on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 1:02 PM

The next trick is to avoid the "shot gun" approach of buying anything that is of interest or impulse buying.  Pick a theme, Euro, USA main line, USA narrow gauge ect. I myself prefer the Euro narrow gauge.  Mostly due to what I can afford in live steam and easy access to LGB brand trains.    Mike

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

  • Member since
    November 2011
  • 1,951 posts
Posted by Postwar Paul on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 1:25 PM

HCF

Hey Folks,

Much has changed over the weekend. I found a really good deal on a collection of G gauge trains and track. It seems now that I'm committing to G for outside which I'm super excited about. 

As for track I think I'm going to stick to LGB because I hear good things about it's durability and that's what I got in my haul. 

I think now I need to restrain myself from snatching deals and instead focus on what I have and figuring out how I best like to use it. I'm gonna start doing research on raised layouts and cleaning track and more. That way my trains can run smoothly and consistently. 

I'm so excited that this is actually happening! 

Thanks,

Holden

 

 

Great news!! You're on the right track!! ( pardon the bad pun)...

Paul

HCF
  • Member since
    April 2020
  • 13 posts
Posted by HCF on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 2:04 PM
Also thanks so much for the advice and help so far Paul and Mike! I feel affirmed in my choice to grab that G scale deal. Now it seems I gotta make sure not to grab every deal that comes along, haha.
  • Member since
    February 2013
  • 729 posts
Posted by PVT Kanaka on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 10:32 PM

Aloha Holden,

 

     Welcome to the hobby and congratulations on your purchase.  As you figure where you want to go, you'll be able to swap things out or modify what you have to fit your needs, but, as a sufferer of "analysis paralysis," I think making an initial outlay is important in going from concept to reality!  My recently returned to model railroads, and almost all of my collection came down from the 1980-s in working order, even after 20+ years in storage!  You will have years of ejoyment with what you have, and you'll find parts are available to repair or modify them as you will.

    I echo the positive thoughts and advice from Mike add two more bits of guidance that got me moving on this journey.  The first is from my first mentor, the late Tom Trigg, whom I met on this forum.  It is simple, "Get outside and get dirty!"   The second is from a gentlmenan I met at the Hawaii Historical Railroad Societ, "Get something running, get ANYTHING running, and keep it running!"  The rest is evovling history!

 

Eric

P.S.  Oh, document your progress.  There was nothing like seeing my thoughts, people's responses, and my promises of coming progress to keep me going!  You can read my account on this forum at "Progress on the Triple O."

 

  • Member since
    February 2013
  • 729 posts
Posted by PVT Kanaka on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 1:56 AM

Holden,

 

One other thought...If you bought track with your stuff, check to make sure it is solid brass or stainless steel.  Bachmann has track that is a hollow "U-shape."  It is fine for testing ideas, running round the Christmas tree, or storage, but we found it held up neither to indoor play by the "crew" nor outdoor use on the railroad.  At the suggestion of others, I used this stuff to make and abandoned siding.  While my climate is certainly wetter and my winds saltier, you can see the effect of 6 months in the ground:

I actually like this shot.  It has a sort of haunting beauty!  

 

    To be fair, this stuff is not meant for the garden.   If this is what you have on hand, by all means use it and get started.  It'll serve you well to get you up and going, but I would plan to replace it sooner rather than later.

 

Aloha,

Eric

 

 

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 657 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Friday, November 20, 2020 12:46 PM

Holden,

A couple of suggestions - raised track is great for your back not having to bend down but it doesn't lend itself to layout changes over time.  As a college student you shouldn't have any issues with getting down and playing in the dirt.  Also as a college student you may not be at your current location a few years down the road.  Consider portability of your equipment to new locations as one of your variables.

Gardening is the other 50% of the hobby and can take a fair chunk of time.  I also live in the southwest in the high pine country so not much desert here although it is very dry.  Irrigation was and is a primary consideration for my layout.

I did make a lot of my own switches as I'm cheap.  All it took was a grinder and some soldering tools.  I produced a dozen switches for under $15 each.  Draw your proposed layout and add in the pieces of track and switches you are missing.  If you're not a drawing person then take some garder hose and lay it out on the gound to get a feel for what it will look like and what else you will need.

Right now you probably have a lot of time on your hands with the virus but once school goes back to full time your "play time" will be limited.  Consider battery power versus track power to relieve yourself of a lot of track polishing between weekend runs plus you don't have to run/bury wires everywhere.  You can run by just setting the train on the track, turning on the battery and go.  I run Airwire but there are a lot of great options out there.

If you can, send us a picture of what you have to work with and we'll add more ideas.

Rex

  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: North Coastal San Diego
  • 921 posts
Posted by Greg Elmassian on Friday, November 20, 2020 1:59 PM

I have a few pages on my site of (what I believe to be) helpful advice to new comers.

There's actually 10 topics on 10 separate pages. It's a compendium of what I wished I knew when I started. It is not biased between battery or track power, which will be the next great quandry.

 

https://elmassian.com/index.php/large-scale-train-main-page/beginners-faqs

 

Greg

Visit my site: http://www.elmassian.com - lots of tips on locos, rolling stock and more.

 Click here for Greg's web site

 

Search the Community

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

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