1. Where do you buy your track and rolling stock...?
There are many excellent
garden railway suppliers available on the internet. I have used
in Germany. Both suppliers have a great range of garden railway
and provide an excellent delivery service.
There is of course eBay,
you can pick up some great bargains and some of the rarer items
but remember most items will be second hand and might have had a
hard life on a previous railway.
2. How much does it
Not as much as you might
think, I would definitely recommend buying a starter set. You
can buy a starter set for around €300. These starter sets will
have everything you need in one box, you get a locomotive,
wagons, transformer and speed controller and a small
quantity of brass track. By adding additional track to this
set your garden railway can expand at a rate to suit your
3. How do you
clean your track...?
All of my outdoor track is
Nickel plated and was available from
LGB when I starting building my railway. It was well worth the extra cost at the time as track cleaning is done with a wipe of a damp cloth.
I do have some brass track
and this will oxidize and tarnish over time, but by running trains frequently the
pick-ups on the locomotive can help to reduce this. When
the track does require a good cleaning this can be done by hand
using a Scotch pad which is a slightly abrasive sanding pad that
will remove the tarnish and dirt from the track. There are also
track cleaning cars that can be attached to a locomotive and
special cleaning pads underneath the car will gently clean the track as
it moves along.
If you have a lot of brass
track then it might be worth buying a special track cleaning
vehicle like this one. This has a pair of cleaning wheels that
rotate under the vehicle as it moves along the track.
4. What is the
maximum gradient allowed...?
Try to keep gradients to a
minimum, there is a general rule that a gradient should not
be more than 2.5% this is 1/40. It may not be possible to
achieve this, so when planning a gradient on your railway you should
take the following factors into consideration.
The weight of the train
that you intend to run up the gradient and the type and size of
locomotive that will haul it.
Will your gradient be on a
straight or curve, a curved gradient is a lot harder to climb up
and the tighter the curve the harder it gets.
My own garden railway has a
short steep gradient of 1/18 (5.5%) and it's built on a
tight curve. It's normally only used for trains heading down the
gradient but I have managed to haul a short train up
this without any problems, so much for the 2.5% rule.
5. Can you run
the trains in the rain...?
Yes the locomotives and
rolling stock will operate in
the rain or snow without any problems. However they will need to
be wiped down with a dry cloth to prevent water marks on the
paintwork. I don't like the idea of standing in the garden and
getting soaked so on rainy days I work on my buildings and other
bits and pieces in the shed.
6. Does the
track expand in the summer...?
Yes, the track will expand
and contract as the temperature changes but there is no need to
leave expansion gaps between the rail joints. If your track is
laid onto a ballast track bed, the track will be free to move
slightly as it expands and contracts.
However if you are securing
your track to the track bed I would recommend leaving the
curved sections free to move.
This image shows the track
expanding out on the curves. It can move out about 10mm on very
7. Do you
get problems with the rail joiners...?
I get a lot of questions
regarding electrical conductivity across the rail joints. If you
are using brass track I would definitely recommend using a small
quantity of graphite paste (conductive grease) on the joiners.
This paste will help to maintain good conductivity by preventing
the brass rail from oxidizing inside the joiner. Remember to
clean the excess paste from the joiner. You could solder jumper wires across
each joint, but soldering this size of brass rail will require a
lot of heat and you will need a high wattage soldering iron. You
might need to practice on some spare track to get this right.
There are some excellent
rail clamp connectors available, these will clamp the rails
together and provide good
electrical connection. This could be
expensive if you had a lot of track sections to join together.
On my own railway I ran a
two core cable parallel to the track, this cable carries the
track power from the transformer. I can now power the track from
multiple locations around the railway, thereby helping to
reduced any power problems.
8. How far
apart do you keep two parallel tracks...?
If you use set track curves
or connecting two points together to form a
crossover, then the distance between parallel tracks will be pre
set. For example the distance between an LGB R1 and R2 curve is
178mm centre to centre. If you put two LGB R3 points together to
form a crossover, then the distance between the parallel tracks
centre to centre is 185mm.
If your using flexi track
and bending your own parallel curves the distance between tracks
will depend on the longest vehicle you intend to run. Use
your longest vehicle to test the inside of the curve and use the
vehicle with the longest overhang to test the outside of the
you get many problems with the points...?
Not really, before I start
running any trains I always do a full track inspection and I
test all the points. The most common problem with the points is
the small ballast chippings getting caught in the switches.
Another slight problem was
ballast getting in under the drive and jamming the points, I
have cured this by putting a small piece of plastic sleeper
across the ends of the front two sleepers. This keeps this bay
clear of ballast.
10. Is the
track voltage safe for young children...?
Yes, the maximum track
voltage is only 24 volts DC on the analogue system and 18 volts
AC on the digital MTS system. With the digital system you may
feel a slight tingle if you put your hand across the two rails
as the voltage on the track is always at the maximum 18volts AC.
My own two children have done this many times and there still
It's also safe for pets...!
(get off that building)