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How do you wire a garden railroad?

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Posted by emdmike on Saturday, August 31, 2019 5:04 PM

The G scale forum here is pretty dead traffic wise.  But I DO have G scale outdoors, at first ground level, now on a raised set up as I get older.  I use onboard battery power and live steam to pull my trains.  I did away with track power early on and never looked back.   Crest Revolution and Airewire make RC systems that can not only control the speed/direction, they can tie into the sound boards from companies like Phoniex Sounds and control that as well.   Live steam locomotives was my primary reason for getting into gauge one/G scale.     Mike the Aspie

Here is my railway

Here is one of my live steamers


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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, August 26, 2019 3:07 PM

Unless you want corroded track you need to clean the rails to prevent the acids from the crushed ants from eating the rails and probably the wheels too.  So just because you use batteries you still need the clean the rails. 
I let my rails go for the first summer and they were badly pitted, enough that when I sold off my G gauge stuff it wasn’t easy to sell the track even at a discounted price.  The corrosion didn’t cause electrical problems probably because of the weight.
I ended up having to resurface the rails (300’) to sell it which wasn’t an easy task even using a orbital sander.  100 grit to de-pit the rails then 400 grit to polish them.
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Posted by nycmodel on Monday, August 26, 2019 2:10 PM

The Garden Railways forum doesn't get much traffic. You are better off trying and/or When I retired I decided to build a garden railroad after many years of HO. There really is quite a learning curve. The forums and Garden Railways magazine gave me the education I needed before a shovelfull of dirt was moved. Battery probably eliminates all of the wiring and track cleaning issues but requires modification of the locomotives. I use plain old DC with a Revolutions RC controller. I used landscape wire for the feeders and ran feeders from a single point to about every 40 feet of track. The track I use (Aristo and Bachmann) has hex head screws to hold sections together and provide electrical continuity. Aristo is no longer in business. Where there are no screws I make sure to solder jumpers between sections.  6 years now and no electrical issues. Our weather is suburban NYC area with plenty of rain. Critters have left the RR alone (fingers crossed) and buildings are stored in the winter. Yes, track must be cleaned on a regular basis but an LGB track cleaner every couple of weeks and a Swiffer other times makes it a lot easier. But then I only have about 150 ft of track. Good luck.

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Posted by kasskaboose on Monday, August 26, 2019 11:34 AM

The other issue with wiring a gardening layout (not that I have it) is ensuring the wiring doesn't get damaged from rain. Yes, I know that putting it underground provides some safety, but nothing stops a critter for chewing on it.

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Posted by NVSRR on Monday, August 26, 2019 11:33 AM

Keep in mind too that you have to clean the track before anything moves. Litterally.  Track power is a pain. Plus ants and such.  Which is why large scale uses batteries.   It does allow things you cannt do i. Smaller scale.   Like working rotary snow plows. 

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Posted by fiatfan on Monday, August 26, 2019 9:11 AM

I soldered a two wire trailer hitch connecter to the track with about 2" of lead wire.  The other end of the wiring harnes is attached (witth a suitablely long lead) to the power supply.  When I run the train I hook it up and I'm ready to go.  When I'm finished I unplug everything and the power supply goes in the garage until next time.  Now, having said that, all I have is a simple loop of track around the yard.  More complex layouts will probably take more work.  Just my 2¢.



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Posted by tstage on Sunday, August 25, 2019 5:35 PM

The Garden Railroads forum doesn't appear to be very active. It might make sense to combine the two forums.

Given that it's summer for most forum members, maybe the Garden folks are spending more time outside enjoying their layouts than spending it in front of a computer.  Just a thought...

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by MJ4562 on Sunday, August 25, 2019 5:08 PM

Great question and responses.  The Garden Railroads forum doesn't appear to be very active.  It might make sense to combine the two forums. Both cover many of the same topics and more and more indoor modelers are bringing G scale inside. Possibly even combine the magazines as well.  

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Posted by mlehman on Sunday, August 18, 2019 11:27 PM

I ended up going RC. For about $100, you can get everything and roll your own: battery, controller, charger, receiver, and - most importantly - the motor controller. I used one from Pololu, which makes controls for robotics. Theirs are cheap, simple, and can take commands directly from RC.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by mbinsewi on Sunday, August 18, 2019 8:31 PM

We've thought about a large scale running through her flower beds, it would battery powered, no wires.

No experience with it, just our thoughts, if it were to be.


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Posted by RR_Mel on Sunday, August 18, 2019 7:54 PM

Been there done that, my experience didn’t go well.  One very important point that I would like to make is make sure you use varmint proof wire!!!!  Both under ground and above ground varmints!!!!  Dogs will dig it up and moles and such will eat it if you bury it.
I tried Garden Railroading and didn’t know what I was getting into.  Birds will decorate everything, ants use the rails for freeways and spiders love the new housing areas.
Most all G gauge structures say they are weather proof, well here in Bakersfield with the 110° plus sun they need to be sun proof and heat resistant, in four years most were goners.
Oh yes, I almost forgot the frogs, they would find there way in a building and not be able to find there way out, RIP frogs.
One more thing, if you don’t clean the crushed ants off the rails their body acids will eat the rails, probably the wheels too.
Second year before the extrimities got to my garden railroad, great while it lasted.
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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, August 18, 2019 7:38 PM

 Perhaps another answer is - don't. G scale is plenty big for large batteries, not the tiny little things people are trying to cram in HO. Direct radio throttles like CVP's AirWire, and decent battery packs and you don't have to worry about power feeders, track corrosion, or anything. 



Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's


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Posted by cuyama on Sunday, August 18, 2019 7:22 PM

This sister forum probably knows a lot about the topic:

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Posted by cowman on Sunday, August 18, 2019 7:20 PM

Might want to post the question over on the Garden Railway section of the forums.

Good luck,


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Posted by dstarr on Sunday, August 18, 2019 7:10 PM

First off, I have never wired, or done anything else on a garden layout.  So that what I say with a grain of salt.  But here is what I would do.  I would run a power bus made of 14 gauge house wire all around the layout.  14 gauge is overkill electrically speaking, but it is mechanically rugged and easy to find used for cheap.  I would solder everything, I would not trust those suitcase connectors to stay conductive after spending some time out doors in the rain.  I would run jumpers from the track bus to every other section of track.  If a single rail jumper stops conducting, due to corrosion, water, squirrels, what ever, the track section will still get power from the jumper at the other end.  I would make provisions to easily unplug and take the power packSleep indoors, out of the weather when I wasn't running the layout. 

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How do you wire a garden railroad?
Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, August 18, 2019 6:57 PM

We were at a friend's house last night.  He is building a new home, currently living in the guest house he just sort of finished.  While there, I noticed boxes if G scale track, buildings and trains.  He plans to set them up.

I know a lot about wiring a layout, but nothing about garden layouts.  He is a total novice.

Do people use conduit, or just heavy wire for track busses, etc?  How often are feeders placed?  What are the rails made of?


It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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