Progress on the West Ridge Branch Line

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Progress on the West Ridge Branch Line
Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 3:54 PM

Hello,

So now that I have my first engine on the way and a loop of track, I started brainstorming a trackplan for the area I had in mind for my permanent railway (tentitively named after our neighborhood).  Below is a verry rough drawing showing obsticles and features I'll be working around.  The pond is roughly 15 x 13 feet with a water fall at the top end.  The table, bench and bird bath are all concrete and anchored in the ground.

The main line would start to the left of the pond and travel around the rock garden which makes a natural mountain scene before turning behind the rock garden and pond.  It will sweep accross the back before a few wide s-curves returns it to the pond where it will eventually cross a long bridge back to the starting point.

I was hoping to use R3 8.1 foot diameter curves throughout but the bend at the top right is a tight fit between the trees at the top and the table/seats below.  I may have to consider the R2 5.4 foot diameter curves there.  I'm sure the LGB 2063 switcher I purchased will be fine on these, but are the R2 curves limiting for bigger engines like a 2-6-0?

I want to keep operation and wiring somewhat simple so the few turnouts will most likely be manual and located within reach.  I've seen videos of people manually operating switches as they travel their railway and it gives a real life feel to the experience.

Here are a few pictures of the area.  It's about 30 x 30 but not all will be used for trains.  Feel free to give any advice or bring up any concerns along the way.  I'll be moving slowly... doing reasearch, surveying with a water level, etc before I break ground.

 

 

John

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 6:32 PM

Hi John,

 this is all very exciting, and you've got room to work with. What is the overall size of the space ?

 Also, here's a bit of garden railway history, for what it's worth:

at one time, R3 was the widest curve LGB made, and was considered quite generous. Many of the larger early engines  ( Aristo C-16, Bachmann Spectrum Mogul,etc) can run on R3 as a minimum radius.  Of course, bigger engines are available now, and may need more generous curves.

So, Bachmann Spectrum 2-6-0 needs R3 or larger.

LGB 2-6-0 can run on R1, if need be.

I don't own any Piko yet, so can not speak for their 2-6-0.

Paul

I would suggest to stay with R3 for the main loop. R2 and smaller for branches. Remember that you do not have to use all the available space. Run your tracks in the unobstructed areas. Avoid the trees...

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Posted by Greg Elmassian on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 9:23 PM

Work hard to keep R3 as a minimum, all I can tell you is the extra work to make it fit will be worth it.

 

Greg

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 9:29 PM

Greg Elmassian

Work hard to keep R3 as a minimum, all I can tell you is the extra work to make it fit will be worth it.

 

Greg

 

This is excellent advice, because later on, when you want to add larger engines and cars, it will pay off. You'll be glad you did !

Paul

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 11:47 PM

BLT,

 

Really, really cool!  You have some fun terrain to incorporate into your layout!  

 

For what it is worth, I used R1 curves throughout, becasue that is all I had.  It worked out OK for a while, but I ended up having a "pinch point" in hot weather where the mainline curves through a hairpin that bound the movement of my LGB 2-6-0 and 0-6-2T and even slowed my LGB 0-4-0Ts!  I honestly don't remember if it bound the B'mann 4-6-0.  

 

Lesson learned?  Listen to the advice above and invest in the design and tracks for the broadest curves possible!

 

Eric

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 1:57 PM
Seems to be the consensus that R3 is the way to go.  Eric, the overall area is approximately 30 by 30 feet.  The plan as drawn would fit approximately 110-120 feet of mainline.  I was thinking of solutions to the tight turnaround at the top-right and one idea would be to eliminate that part of the mainline and use that space for a dead end freight yard with a shed covering a couple sidings to protect rolling stock and engines.  The only downside is the mainline would be reduced to approximately 85-90 feet.  However, a 7 car freight train would only be about 10-12 feet long (10-15% of the total mainline).
 
There are no turnouts or sidings on my diagram but I plan on having at least a few.  Looking at other garden railways, a runaround siding and a few team tracks are a nice way to add variety to operation.  Perhaps a small branch line weaving the rock garden would be a nice addition.

John

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Thursday, September 17, 2020 1:25 AM

John,

You have rougly e space and much, much better topography!  Still, hopefully the two year old picture below can help  you make the right call with your own track planning.

 

You can see the hairpin that gave me grief in the center under the avocado tree:

For the purpose of helping you plan, all the "corners" are R1.  Everything, up to an including the LGB Mogul, runs fine through those corners.  That hairpin caused binding, though, especially as the rails heat up.  Greg or possibly Bill Barnwell suggested inserting some larger radius curves at the entrance and exit to the hairpin.  It was just enough to solve the problem of binding.  Maybe a similar combination of curve radii would work for you?

 

Hopefully, the picture will also inform your decision on whether or not a shortened mainline will work for you.  We were in "full dress" and crammed everything we could on the tracks for that picture.  It might help give you a sense of how trains and locos of varying sizes look on tight curves and small spaces.  Of note, we've added some terrain features that blocked view planes.  This really stopped the appearance of a loco chasing its own caboose, so maybe a similar approach to planting or landscaping will allow you to shorten the mainline and run trains that look visually OK to you.

 

As you weigh your choices, an outdoor storage shed would be really, really cool.  All of our trains are on shelves indoors, and that is a process to get them down.  A few things have taken the dive to the floor, and other bits of rolling stock have suffered from damage in the process of taking them down and putting them up.  Talk to others who live in a similar climate, though, to see if this is a viable idea.

 

Aloha,

Eric

 

 

 

 

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Thursday, September 17, 2020 7:26 PM
Eric,
That’s a great overview shot.  I see what you’ve done with having the natural features allowing trains to go in and out of view.  Also, love that you have an avocado tree in the middle of it all (something we don’t see too often here in NJ).  Looking at your track plan I think 80 feet is more than enough for what I’ll be running.  Since the trains will be more for ambiance when we have company, having the train out of view for too long may not be a good thing.
 
Until I decide on storage I’ll also be taking them in and out.  If a storage shed is possible I think that’d be the way to go.  These trains are a lot bulkier than the O Gauge I’m used to.  Is anyone on here from the northeast and have suggestions on outdoor storage in this climate?
 
Now on to the update…
 
Today I put together my homemade water level.  I used 50 feet of plastic tubing and two yard sticks.  I zip tied both ends of the tubing up each yard stick.  Then I added water with red food dye, making sure that all the air bubbles were out.

I anchored one of the yard sticks at my first point and then moved the second around to each location.  I took the measurements of each end and the difference between the two was the change in elevation.  At each point I placed a numbered marker flag for reference until I can draw up a map with grade and landmarks.

After taking all 30 measurements, I now know the change in low to high elevation is 19.5 inches.  Obviously I'll need to do some filling in low areas, but as of now the 19.5 inch rise would be over 50-55 feet (2.95 - 3.25%).  To get to 1.5% I'd need to get that difference down to 9-10 inches.

 

John

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Thursday, September 17, 2020 10:58 PM
OK, so our boring yard had some advantages over yours! No leveling required! Not sure how it works in NJ, but the long leg in filling our garden was tapping the Super Secret Hawaiian Dirt Network for the fill material. If you don't have it ready to hand, may I suggest you start looking around for it now?
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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Sunday, September 20, 2020 1:00 PM

I wouldn't mind a connection with that secret dirt network, but I think shipping to NJ might be costly haha.  Luckily, I think I can raid the town dump.  They have a huge pile of escavated dirt and rocks.  My neighbor goes there whenever he needs to fix his rock retaining wall.

So, I figured the best way to come up with a more concrete plan would be to lay down some track in the area and see how it would fit in.  Since I only have curves at the moment, I measure the spacing between curves to figure out how much straight track I'd need.

With a good idea that it would all fit, I was able to draw up an altered track plan.  The total length of the main line would be 102 feet, which it more than adequate for what I want.  I'll add a couple team tracks and a small yard for variety.  I may play around with the yard a bit, possibly just having a runaround siding then a branch to a bigger yard in the top right space instead.

 

John

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Sunday, September 20, 2020 1:17 PM

That's a fantastic start ! You can always start with this initial loop, and then you'll get a better feel for what else to add.

Paul

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Sunday, September 20, 2020 1:45 PM

John,

Really, really smart idea to lay the track down and see how it looks.  I might add three things:

  1. Cardboard "Tracks." You might want to take the time to cut a material to use to help simulate the straightaways. When fixing the hairpin (aka Deadman's Curve), I actually made cardboard cut-outs to more accurately simulate what I might need  Commercial track generally comes in certain  lengths.   I use LGB and PIKO, and they are in 1', 2', and 4' lengths.  TrainLi has 5' lengths, if I recall correctly.  All through this website, you'll see the advice to buy the longest tracks you can afford.  I replaced all my 1' sections over the last several years, and this has really, really improved operations.  It is also ultimately cheaper if you choos to use railclamps to hold the track together.
  2. View Planes.  Since you said you want to the railroad to help with entertaining, you may wish to consider where you expect guest to view the railroad.  We have two natural gathering points, the lanai (patio) and the grilling area.  Mountains, plantings, buildings, etc. are deliberately set to facilitate viewing experiences from those areas.  The lanai  gives you a sweeping view as trains emerge from tunnels and snake away.  The grill area is more focused (and  for the moment, boring) and is designed to focus attention on what is to become our sugar mill and surrounding support facilities.  As a bonus, since all of our turnouts are manual, this tended to group them in areas where people naturally congregated.
  3. Nap Zone.   I noted the hammock.   I know what that's for! Big Smile Make sure it is properly shaded and just enough out of sight that no one catches you "meditating!"  We call the area under the avocado tree the Valley of the Nap. Nice shade and out of sight!

 

 

Have a great week!

 

Eric

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 4:39 PM

John,

 

As an aside and a follow-up to an earlier question about references, you may wish to consider Garden Railways the Complete Collection.  It has a really, really solid search function that brings up multiple articles on the given subject.  It is my go-to reference for idea generation before I go to the forums.

 

Eric

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 5:11 PM

Eric,

I was thinking the same regarding track sections.  I'm using LGB track and will try to use 4 footers whenever possible.  Soldering is not a strength of mine so I'll be using rail clamps and conductive paste.  Taking your advice on vantage points, I'm going to move the sidings towards the viewpoint of the deck since most people wont be looking from the front yard. 

I'll check out the Complete Collection for sure.  I just watched all 14 videos of Mark Found's series on building his garden railroad.  Between those and the book I read, I felt pretty comfortable getting to work.  I'm sure I'll make mistakes but I guess thats the best way to learn.

Todays progress:

I took a trip to the dump and picked out some nice rocks for retaining walls.

Made a trip to home depot and picked up some multi-purpose sand that worked well for me as a sturdy base for another project in the yard.  I'm starting in the rock garden building up a roadbed at the high point of the main line. I ripped out some rocks and built up around some low areas.  I used stakes and a level to ensure this area is nice and flat before adding the sand.  I tamped it down using a 4x4 and then added more.  Finally, I spayed the sand down with the hose to help is set and bond together.

John

 

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 4:26 PM

John,

 

Great start!  I am envious of the space, topography, and availability of fill material!  I find it fascinating how each of us has to adapts physical circumstances and material availability to meet our ends!  Part of the "realism," if you will, of the hobby.

 

One more thought for you.  You had mentioned in your post on couplers kids are / may be in the future.  May I suggest leaving an accessible area for them?  I had strict orders to plan for the kids' involvement ("This cannot be just your hobby!"), and it has paid dividents.  This really enhanced my enjoyment of the endeavor and helped secure support for it.  I'd just leave an area open as your last area to develop, maybe routing your mainline just out of reach of the youngest self-propelled visitors (6-24 months).  This has worked for us without limiting where we go with the Triple O.

 

You'll also note that the kids closest to you will  generally not be the problem.  They will "get it."   Trainsets, let alone garden railroads, are not common, and they will positively draw their friends to the rails, where a tiny handful will cause - or try to cause - havoc.  Typically, these are also the ones whose parets will say, "It's OK.  They'r just toys." Angry

 

I short, I think planning for kids interacting with the railroad and the level of interaction desired is as important a consideration as scale and prototype.  Remember, too, kids only get older, so you also have to plan to dial up the complexity of their interaction over time.

 

My Two Cents!

 

Eric

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Thursday, September 24, 2020 1:53 PM

Eric,

I definitely think I'll have room for expansion down the road so future kids will be able to get involved.  Luckily, the railroad will be technically on the front yard side of our fence so where the kids would be playing with less supervision, trains would be out of reach.  They can safely view them from the deck or be escorted to the front and we can enjoy them together.

I agree on enjoying the unique challanges that pop up with my new venture into garden railroading.  It's very rewarding to slowly see the terrain shaped into what I envisioned... and since I'm dealign with soil and rock, I can always knock down and start over if needed.

John

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Saturday, September 26, 2020 6:52 PM

Today's Update:

I've been working on building up the section leading to the pond and future bridge.  I used a mix of gravel and soil before topping it off with the general purpose sand as a roadbed.  After tamping and soaking it down, it becomes very solid even when walking on it.

Before the track is set in place for good and ballasted, I'm going to add the conductive paste and clamps.  I grabbed the piko over joint clamps for the regular sections and the on rail ones for turnouts so they can be removed if needed.  I was considering alternating clamps on the left and right rails each section to save some money.  Do you guys think that'll be enough to keep the rails together?

Have a great weekend!

John

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Posted by Greg Elmassian on Saturday, September 26, 2020 7:30 PM

I would say put some straights between your curves. What curves are they? R1, R2, R3, 10' diameter?

 

Greg

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Saturday, September 26, 2020 7:59 PM

Great progress!  You got some skills!

 

As for alternating rail clamps, I have done alternated them in sections, too, and for the same reason!  I have not had issues with the connection or electrical conductivity...yet.  I am sure it is a matter of time until corrosion, gunk, and wiggling cause the rail joiners to stop working.  All that being said, my climate is much milder, with freezing and thawing obviously not an issue!  I would defer to a local.

 

Continuing with rail clamps, I have used over-the-joiner and on-the-rail.  I purchased  the over-the-joiner by mistake, having been told that, in time, they, too, become dirt traps. Two years later, they are working out OK.  They are much, much easier to install, too!   Were it I, and were it not too late, I would defer to the experiences of people with more mature railroads than I have.

 

In closing, this is really going to be a thing of beauty!  Thanks for letting us ride along with you on this process!

 

Eric

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Saturday, September 26, 2020 8:34 PM

Greg,  I'm using R3 curves.  Do you think the S-curve will be an issue?  I have straights in between groups of two R3 sections except for the one spot in the middle.

Thanks Eric.  I also ordered them not knowing there were two types.  I may clamp both rails on curves and alternate straights since I'm guessing curved sections will be more likely to come loose.

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Sunday, September 27, 2020 8:32 AM

John,

it really looks great!

I will say, as a general rule, to put at least 1 small straight section in between the curves on an S curve. The relieves stress on couplers, and improves tracking on cars. If you cut the straight behind the S curve ( hacksaw), you can use the short piece you just cut in between the S curves.

Also, on hook and loop couplers, be sure to " double hook". They usually come with hooks only on one end. Make sure to install on both ends.

Paul

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Sunday, September 27, 2020 9:27 AM

Good morning,

That all makes a lot of sense.  So you're saying to cut one of the 12 inch sections and position a 6inch section between the curves in the "s"?  I think I can fit that in without an issue if that's the case.  If not the engineers may have to blast some more of the mountainside away.

I was actually wondering why they only had one hook per car/engine.  I ordered a few extra hooks to add on.

Thanks for all your input guys.  It's really helpful for a newbie getting his feet wet in GR.

John

 

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Sunday, September 27, 2020 11:41 AM

Hi John,

 to clarify:

I guess it was difficult to see in the pictures. I had thought the straight piece was a 4 footer....

if that is 2  one foot straight sections going into the S, remove one 12 " straight, and start your curve a little early, then take that 12" straight and insert it into the S between the two opposing curves. You will not need to cut anything.

I must say , it really looks like you've done your homework on roadbed construction.

This is gonna be great!

Paul

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Posted by Greg Elmassian on Sunday, September 27, 2020 11:50 AM

There's a simple rule, you need a straight section between opposig curves. That straight should be the length of your longest car, at a minimum.

This will make a huge difference, to the point of being able or not able to run certain cars.

Clearly if you run short cars this track is short. If you want to run 80' streamliners or 60-90 foot rolling stock like auto carriers, etc. you can see you need longer track.

If you run short cars, and all couplers are truck mount, normally you can get away with no straights, but do not forget your locos, since most are body mount.

So, many people go out and buy a Dash 9, or SD70 and are upset when they don't run well/derail.

 

Greg

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Sunday, September 27, 2020 1:46 PM

John,

 when I started with G, we had just returned from a trip to Colorado, and I was attracted to the amount of G gear offered with Colorado road names. But that didn't stop me: I bought anything and everything in G. Eventually, I calmed down, and settled on a narrow gauge theme. Even my Swiss and Austrian models are narrow gauge.

Have you decided on standard gauge models, narrow gauge, a mix, or any combination there of ? You don't have to decide right now, but I was curious if you have any central theme in mind?

Paul

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Sunday, September 27, 2020 5:41 PM
Looking at rolling stock online, I see a lot of nice looking 14-16 inch cars I’d be interested in.  The only longer one I’d consider is the LGB 4075 drovers caboose, but Piko has a shorter one that will probably look better with my shorter engine.  I tried putting a 12 inch section between the s-curve and it fit with enough clearance.  However, any longer and I’d have to build out my retaining wall further.  I may consider this after reading Greg’s post though.
 
On a side note, the track in the pictures isn’t set in place, only for judging clearance.  I still have to finish leveling the roadbed side to side.  When I ran my gondola over it I noticed how the imperfections of the roadbed caused the rails not to be even and the car wheels would slightly lift off the track on one side in a few spots.  I’m sure this will be resolved after I level it out.
 
Paul, I like the D&RGW road name.  I’m going to go with that for now, but if I see another road name I like I’ll most likely add it on.  My garden railroad buys old equipment from larger railroads to save money so I can mix it up.  As far as narrow vs standard, my 2063 LGB switcher looks to be narrow gauge (wheels are set in rather than more flush with the side of the engine) and I like that look.  The 4000 series LGB cars look to be a good match.  Am I right… any experience with those freight cars?
 
As far as Eric's advice goes, are any of you on here from the northeast or similar climates and have any input on rail clamps?
 
Thanks,
 
John
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Posted by Postwar Paul on Sunday, September 27, 2020 6:29 PM

John,

you're off to an excellent start! One reason for asking about your direction will have an effect on your track. Narrow gauge tends to have smaller equipment, and track standards are not nearly as demanding. You can appreciate how a train of streamline passengers cars would tend toward requiring pristine trackwork. Narrow gauge modeling is much more forgiving!

I'm a narrow gauge nut for days....( and everything else with flanged wheels, for that matter).

The LGB 2063 is actually a model of what was at one time the Durango yard switcher. It's a real engine, from the 50's.I think it may be up at CRM now.

I am not sure what is meant by LGB 4000 series. Any of the traditional LGB stuff will run on R1, you'll have no trouble with R3 curves.

One last thing:

my first garden railroad at the old house, in place for 12 years, went through several realignments. I wasn't completely satisfied until my " Phase 4" track plan, 8 years in!

" Home wasn't built in a day"....

Paul

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Sunday, September 27, 2020 7:04 PM

Paul,

Good to know that the roadbed doesn't need to be perfect.  Forgiving sounds good to me.  I stumbled across some stuff about the real DRGW engine and it had a cool backstory.  The drive rods are what originally caught my eye since most diesels don't have much action like steamers.  

The 4000 series freight cars I was referring to are just the numbering... like the 4061 gondola I already have.  Seems like they all have 4 axels, truck mounted couplers, and are about 16 inches long.  Are most LGB cars narrow gauge?  It would make sense since their European trains have the same look.

 

John

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Posted by Greg Elmassian on Sunday, September 27, 2020 7:47 PM

I would caution about "doesn't need to be perfect"...

on prototype railroads, this is certainly true

On our G scale, it depends. For example the inexpensive Bachmann big hauler is notorious for derailing the pilot. All kinds of "fixes" have been used, testimony to the issue.

Inexpensive locos tend not to have sprung drivers and can derail more easily.

Also smaller locos can be lighter and have more difficulty.

I have a heavy steamer, and it runs through track that lighter locos or ones with unsprung drivers derail.

So, it depends. Definitely LGB tends to be able to run over rougher track, aided by quality materials and the deep flanges.

 

So, I would strive for perfection in your trackwork. I say strive, not accomplish. Make it as smooth and level (across the rails) as you can. You will be rewarded with more reliable running, longer trains, and just more enjoyment.

 

Greg

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Sunday, September 27, 2020 10:17 PM

John,

 

Scale and Gauge.  Someone once told me "G" stands for "Gummi," which is German for  rubber!  LGB nominally bases things off of meter gauge track then, for cost reasons, uses bits and parts for its 3' gauge American stuff, US and Euro standard gauge stuff, and Euro .75 meter stuff!  Figuring out where you want to go will, as Paul suggested, save you money!  To my eye, all LGB's narrow gauge stuff looks good together, especially if you don't have gear "cross the pond!" Not that I would ever be guilty of running D&RGW 3' gauge coaches behind an Austrian .75 m gauge locomotive Whistling

 

I cannot echo Greg enough regarding track.  My track floats because, like Paul, I felt a need to tinker with the track plan (And because I miscommunicated what I wanted done to fill the garden. Different story!).  Bad electrical connections, derailments, uncouplings were my bane, and I was reaching for the credit card.  It turned out all I needed was  a cheap plumber's level and a garden trowel, and both are now part of my "train box." Things got better as the dirt and rocks settled over time, but that level and trowel are my first tools whenever I have issues!

 

Have a great week!

 

Eric 

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