New to trains-help!!!

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New to trains-help!!!
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, December 29, 2003 6:14 PM
[:)] My husabndand I have decided to build an outdoor Christmas railroad next year. We have very small children and would like to begin the tradition early. Neither one of us know a thing about trains or railroading. Where do we start? This si going to be a huge track. We realizewe need to start small,but eventually would like to surround a 95 x 150 lot. We would also like this train to have inclines which bring it up to the rooftop, etc. Can anyone tellme where to begin? I appreciate any help we can get.

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Posted by mikef7408 on Monday, December 29, 2003 9:09 PM
I'm new to this also,hope you find the help you need as I am looking also MIKE.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 12:40 AM
That’s ambitious. I think the first information you need is this: you really can’t raise the track much steeper than 3 inches per 10 feet. I have an HO train and that’s about as steep as it can be and still run ok. Perhaps the garden variety (no pun intended) is a bit beefier and you could go steeper, I don’t know. I’m thinking you’re going to have over 1000 feet of track. Even at 6 inches per 10 feet it will likely take more than 400 feet of track to go up and back down. I just purchased a lionel Christmas G scale train. All it does is go round and round a tree in the front yard. It runs really well and now I too want to make a garden railroad. All it takes is money. If you got that, it will be no problem.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 1:21 AM
Welcome Kathy! I would check your local hobby store for track or look in Garden Railways magazine. Also I have seen a small G-scale trolley go up about a 6' Christmas tree but I have never seen a train on a roof. The trolley was going around a large helix gaining about a foot each revolution. I hope this helps.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 1:54 AM
Uh...G scale...95 x 150 ... on the roof... as long as it isn't an extensive zig-zag layout and is just a one or two track loop, thats ok. My 12 x 6 HO scale layout (Much much smaller trains) cost over $700, and G Scale costs at least twice as much. this is a major invesment. Not to push you away from Garden RRing, but that may be a little too optimistic, expecially if you support children. Plus putting it up to the roof may cause the trains to fall off and break if there is a gust of wind or something.
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Posted by RhB_HJ on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 3:44 AM

You start with an oval and expand from there. There's lots to GRR so you have to do it in steps.
BTW going up to the roof of a house will take plenty of track. And as someone mentioned, if anything goes wrong up there you'll be less than pleased with the "maintainance" required.
Murphy's Law applies in GRR, the problems will always develop in the least accessible area i.e. up on the roof.[;)][:)]
Cheers HJ
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 8:26 AM

Christmas railroad sounds fantastic! Would the railroad be permanent or temporary?

You did not say whether you have a one story home or two. Where we live, a one story home from ground to ridge is approx 18 feet. Trying to get a G scale train up to that height would be daunting. You could use a rack locomotive such as produced by LGB. Their rack locos can climb a 25% grade with one or two cars, but the track work and supporting structure would take up a lot of room, plus you would not ordinarily run that loco as a ground level train.

Kalmback Publishing-(Host of this site) has a beginers booklet on garden started in garden railroading. They also have other books and tapes about this great hobby.

One thing to remember, the higher the grade, the shorter the train one loco can pull. As said above, 1 inch per 10 feet =a 1% grade and normally 2-3% would be max. Some G scale locos have a traction tire that aids in traction and those locos can pull a few more cars than locos without the tire.

If I may suggest, look up a garden railroad club in your area. Visit a meeting or two and see what others are doing. You might find that there other options open as to track layout, etc.

Depends where you live, whether you would lay track on the ground or raise it up a bit. Weather (Snow) can be a consideration.

Garden Railroading is fun at Christmas or year round. The whole family gets involved when the trains are outside.

The major cost would be in the track. If I may suggest, start with a Christmas set and get some extra straight pieces, etc. Select an area and try different track configurations and then use the one you like best to start with.

Hope this helps,

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Posted by BudSteinhoff on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 8:27 AM
Garden Railways mag. is a good start for info.
Going to roof height can be done but it would take most of your layout to get that high.
4% grade is about max and smooth, large radius turns with a smooth gradual climb.
It would take about 250 feet up and 250 feet down.
All locomotives may not climb that steep especially with many cars so check into which type loco that will have a lot of traction and power.
Most all my loco's will climb my 4% grades but my grades are not 250 feet long.
If you are starting with the roof heigth thing you can not start small.
I personally would use Aristo track.
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Posted by cacole on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 9:44 AM
Welcome to garden railroading. My suggestion would be to lower your initial expectations and start with a smaller layout that can be expanded as your experience, time, and money allow. As other members have pointed out, too steep an incline can cause locomotives to stall or wheels to slip. By starting with a smaller layout, you can experiment with different degrees of elevation and determine exactly how much you can get by with. Real railroads try to avoid anything steeper than a 2 percent grade, and that is the general rule for model railroads, too, regardless of scale, if you hope to pull more than two or three cars up the incline. The type of locomotives you hope to operate are also a limiting factor. A diesel model has better traction than a steam engine, so it can pull more cars up a given incline. Are you and your husband planning on building long bridges or using earth fill to reach the roof height? Bridges look nice, but a derailment off of a high bridge can be disastrous.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 10:28 AM
I don't confess to being an expert but a few things I have learned in the past 2 years of garden railroading may be of use to you.

There is extensive information on the internet that will keep you on the right track for planning your railway and giving you enough knowledge to make reasonable decisions about the plan of your railway.

The issue of grade is one that you must look at this way. Do you really see american prototype railroads going up or down steep grades? The answer is no. The reason is quite simple that it is physically impossible to achieve this and therefore efforts must be undertaken to use switchbacks, bridges and very long distances to move a train from one level to another. The problem with model railroading usually doesnt involve loss of life, which I am sure is a concern to the prototype railroads, rather loss of money and enjoyment of your hobby. Trains falling to the ground will break, and will cost you money to fix or replace. Having to always attend to the speed of your locomotive is not usually very enjoyable. An operating layout is one in which you are attending the train constantly and are "playing trains". The railway you described for yourself seems to be of the type you would just turn it on and watch it go. Thats fine, but you can't have steep declines with that type. You have to remember what goes up must come down. The power to make a train go up an incline will be too much for that train to decend the incline, unless it is adjusted along the way, which is not practical.

One of the things I knew about before I purchased anything related to this hobby was the cost. That of course is a kind of personal issue. We can all spend our money on whatever we want. G scale trains compared to other scales is more money and thats just the way it goes.

Your inital question on where to begin can be answered this way. Purchase some trains so you don't lose interest. Plan a simple layout which will not break the bank. Build your layout so after the inital construction you will have something to enjoy. Realize it will take about 6 weeks to build it. Operate that layout and get to know how the trains work. Design that layout so you can expand with the least amount of disruption to what exsists and add to it for the next few years.

Most of us would admit that it would be great to be able to build the ultimate layout and operate it by the end of one summer. That is not reality. Model railroads of any scale take time for the average working person to build, we must remember that this is a hobby. Half the fun of having a model railroad is building it. Some might say that is the fun of it. I tend to like operating them more than building, but once you get going on a project in the garden it sure is fun too.

I hope my wisdom has been of some assistance to you. The longest journey is always started with a single step. So, put one foot in front of the other and get started..Good Luck and always have fun.

Happy New Year,
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Posted by vsmith on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 12:38 PM
Hello Kathy,
Welcome to Garden RRing, some helpfull hints for a novice...


Garden Railways magazine is the best place to start. There are also several book out there, any and all are good resources, they will help you with the hows to's, and why-that's.


maybe a 20'x30' to start, sounds big, but in G scale it actually quite managable. it allows you to get operating without getting overtly complicated and you can develop your skills for later expansion.

KISS-Keep It Stupidly Simple

A loop with one or two sidings, basic wiring, is the best way to start. Any model RR can get VERY complicated VERY fast if the builders ambitions are greater than their skill. Take the time to learn, and get versed in the ways of building. Many HO and N model RR's never finish a layout because they want the huge room sized pike and they think they can do it all at once, get frustrated, and give up. Start simple, with a single line weaving thru the garden. Its better to have something that you can actually use then to keep saying, " I will finish it next year"


This is perhaps to newest and biggest single rule to a fun layout. This is the biggest "if I could start over or make one change" issues Large Scale modelers say. The reason is because most every maker of trains is moving towards engines and cars that need the bigger radius turns. Better to plan for future locomotives now before you start than to get stuck down the road and having to rebuild or make do with smaller engines.


Its a fact, we can spend alot of $$ in this hobby, but dont panic. The single most expensive item is TRACK. Track and switches are expensive, BUT they are also one of the most durable items we buy, and once you have it you HAVE IT. Also the sectional track covers a great deal of space with a relatively small number of pieces, so the cost is not as much as it might seam


Dont buy boxes and boxes of 12" sectional track. Get it in 3' or 5' lenths, wichever work best for the layout you will plan. The longest sections are the most cost effective. For example a simple 20' x 30' loop with 8' dia curves would only need 6 sections of 5' straight track. Longer works better for electrical conductivity also, less joints

HAVE FUN! Its your railroad, have fun with it.

Gnomes, dragons, birdhouses, all are fair game in the garden. GOOD LUCK

   Have fun with your trains

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