Building A Garden Railroad
Perspectives and Recommendations from a Beginner!
Part 2 of 3
By Vic and Sue Thies
Operators of the TooMuchFun RR (TMFRR)
Just came back from another trip to Home Depot. I think they feel sorry for me making so many trips that they wanted to give me an orange apron as a gesture of “good will”!
In part one of this series, Sue and I discussed several preliminary observations we discovered while getting started in this amazing hobby.
Part two reflects several recommendations for deciding what type of layout to build and avoiding pitfalls and costly (time & money) mistakes in present and potential future construction.
Recommendation # 5: Building an era-themed layout or just for Too Much Fun
After visiting numerous layouts, garden railroad shows and conventions, one of our first “decisions” we needed to confront was “what do we want to have our RR represent”? Did we want to model a specific era or a certain geographical area? My vivid memories as a young boy growing up in Los Angeles County was visiting the Union Train Station with my dad and seeing all of the diesel locomotives and trains from the 1950s. I would as often as possible, try and see my dad’s train pass through Alhambra, CA on his way to Albuquerque, NM (his regular route). I can still remember how excited I was when he had the chance to wave back to me. I certainly had to incorporate those memories in our layout if possible. He worked on the Santa Fe RR and one of my favorite consists is our AT&SF RR freight train.
Memories of my childhood, Dad and the Santa Fe RR
(The pond removal and building the Utah Mountains on the slope
were added a year after this photo –plan for expansions –see rec #6)
We also fell in love with the Peanuts, Disney, Warner Brother’s LoonyToons and a variety of “other’ make believe trains that our collection would eventually include.
LGB made several “propeller” powered whimsical flyers, which have proven to be amazingly popular with both young and old.
Snoopy chasing a foe! Kids love these propeller driven flyers!
Our TooMuchFun RR is an eclectic variety of themes, eras, scales and areas. From the mountains of Europe to western towns of America to the medieval castles of mythical times with dragons and knights, the TMFRR works for us. For others, modeling a specific era or area works best for them. Like a friend of ours once said about wines, “whatever wine you like is the best wine for you” I like that philosophy for building “your” layout.
Mythical castles and dozens of scenes reflects the diversity of TMFRR’s themes
Recommendation #6: Anticipate and prepare for possible future expansion.
The TMFRR of today covers most of our backyard. We certainly did not anticipate having a layout this large, but as our love for the hobby grew and we contemplated about the possibilities of building on our slope area, the limitations of not initially planning for future expansion proved to be challenging. Not having enough stubbed out electrical conduit and drip mist tubing and easy access to potential new areas, necessitated a great deal of retrofitting and creative methods of designing new areas. We expanded the layout three additional times from what we originally planned. Our last (and final? – we did an additional one making four total additions!!) expansion proved to be our most challenging yet most rewarding. This all took place because of the purchase of three used buildings for which we had no place in the existing layout.
The Koi pond was removed in 2012
As our layout was expanded, retrofitting for elctrical and plumbing proved to be challenging
Here’s a partial list of what we would do differently from the outset if “we had only known”!
Big mistake using 3/4 inch conduit
Suggest using 1 - 1 1/2 inch conduit
Building on the slope has its challenges – easy access is critical
(We need to fix that – a future project!)
Documenting your efforts with photos & schematics pays off down the road
In part 3 we will look at recommendations including;
Avoiding sun and weather destruction
Lighting for effects
Minimizing electrical issues for dummies (me)