After touring hundreds of garden layouts throughout many parts of the country, we were amazed by the numerous construction techniques (some better than others) people have utilized for laying track, assembling buildings, electrical work etc. We observed and took notes on what we thought might work best for us in So. California, realizing that we don’t have to account for frost heaving, snow, hail and excessive heat. Other than the occasional earthquakes, it seems like Southern California is a “relatively” easy climate and area for building a garden railroad.

The following design, construction techniques and installation methods are what seem to work well for us. We have also learned the hard way what doesn’t work well or things we would do differently in the future.

Track Installation

One of the best pieces of advice (for us) we received before any construction took place was keep track lines and loops simple and separate if we want to avoid future problems with electrical interfaces, collisions and ease of operations. The entire TMFRR track is laid on either a base of concrete, steel or redwood bridges, or Split Jaw PVC railbed.

                                                        Avoid future problems with solid track foundations

We used various lengths of LGB and USA sectional track with split jaw rail joiners replacing all factory slip joiners for many years of worry free operations and solid electrical conductivity. 

Split Jaw Rail Clamps replaced all slip joiners

Building on a slope

Expanding the layout to our fairly steep slope seemed to be an insurmountable challenge. However. After visiting a nearby layout built on a similar slope gave us fresh ideas and we soon expanded upwards. We hired a very talented local concrete sculpturing artist who had never worked on a garden railroad before (his area of expertise was concrete grottos, waterslides, ponds etc.) to construct rock walls, tunnels and a four level helix to raise the train up to the slope area. We would eventually hire him four more times as we added to the TMFRR. His work on our Utah-look mountain scene across the entire slope was the last construction project. He suggested and we added a fully functional dam to the river portion of the canyon.

Incorporating the front spill dam in the canyon was a recommendation by the contractor

The concrete construction of the Canyon Mountains
Solid construction allows for walking to the higher heights (as long as you know where to step)

Two helixes (one metal and the other concrete) allow rack and cog locomotives to

ascent or descent up to 25 degrees and 6 feet in elevation  (Photo date approx. 2012)