"Answers to the most frequently asked questions" 






Over the last couple of years I have received a number of questions from people interested in building their own Garden Railway. I have compiled a short list of the most frequently asked questions and their answers.

1. Where do you buy your track and rolling stock...?

There are many excellent garden railway suppliers available on the internet. I have used just two, Dragon G-scale in Swansea (Wales) and LGB-Station in Germany. Both suppliers have a great range of garden railway equipment 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 all cost...?

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 budget.


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 hot days. 



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 curve.


9. Do 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 okay...!

It's also safe for pets...! (get off that building)

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Copyright 2007-2010  Barna