Category Archives: Garden Railway

The Pindal Electric Tram

I’d heard about the Pindal Electric Tram for many years, and even seen a few videos. But nothing quite prepared me for the experience…

Earlier this month, some friends and I visited Kaj and Annie Pindal to spend a few hours in the afternoon riding the delightful 15-inch gauge, ride-in electric trolley line that runs in their back yard in Oakville, Ontario.

While I could go on at length about how Kaj built his own equipment, powered mainly by motors liberated from electric lawn mowers, made his track from fence rails, switched from trolley poles to bow-collectors which he fabricated himself, and can use the railway to take the household garbage and recycling to the curb… I think a video is the best way to express the magic that is the Pindal Electric Tram.

So here it is: enjoy if you watch…


(You may also watch this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats)

Thanks, Kaj & Annie: What a wonderful day out!

An initial planning exercise

I’ve started to think about the potential for a ground-level railway in the garden:
 photo Garden-Plan-v3-web_zpscee4fead.jpeg

I photographed the garden from a deck off my second-floor home office and have doodled some ideas onto the image as shown above. The perspective is quite forced from this vantage point – in reality, the loops would be the same diameter, as indicated on the image.

As this plan shows, the line is set up for continuous running with manually-controlled locomotives. My thought would be to lay dual gauge (32mm/45mm) track on the dog-bone, with two steaming bays (one for each gauge). Alternately, I may just lay both bays with both gauges. Most of my equipment is built to 32mm gauge, but my Isle o’ Man Peveril and its carriages are 45mm. In addition, since the live steam hobby is such a social one it would be nice to have both gauges available when friends drop in.

For the same reason, I’m considering a fairly generous minimum radius, given the available real estate. As suggested in the plan, the 10-foot diameter loops occupy most of the two wide spots in the garden. I have taken a measuring tape to the garden and confirmed that these loops will just fit, although the one at the upper right will be a tight squeeze.

An 8-foot diameter loop would be a better choice, although that might limit what I can run – and I’m currently debating my choices in that regard. In addition to the attraction of building a layout that can host visiting power, my own live steam roster includes a Welsh Highland Railway 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garratt by Accucraft and a Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway 2-6-4T by Roundhouse.

Both are lovely locomotives, but both are huge. And both pose problems when it comes to building suitable trains for them to haul.

I have kits for the LMVLtR’s carriages and goods stock, but they’re frankly rudimentary. They will take a lot of work to turn into presentable models.

I’ve found almost nothing worth building for a Garratt to haul, particularly since I would prefer to repaint the Garratt into a South African Railways livery. And the Garratt’s massive presence pretty much demands a long train behind it.

Rather than build a social track, it’s tempting to focus on one prototype. For this pint-sized garden, the best match would be the equipment I’ve built for a 7/8″ scale, 18″ gauge Estate Railway:
 photo Seven8th-Estate-Stock_zps8403c804.jpg

My thoughts in this direction got a boost this week when I received my copy of a book on the Sand Hutton Light Railway – another excellent work from RCL Publications:
 photo Sand-Hutton-cover_zpsbe166807.jpg
(Click on the image to visit the publisher’s website)

For those who don’t have the book, there’s a nice capsule history with a map and more photos at the Disused Stations website. Click on the image below to visit the Sand Hutton page there:
 photo SandHutton-DisusedStns_zps4ed8af4c.jpg

I do not yet own a suitable locomotive to model an estate railway scheme in 7/8″ scale, but I’m sure something will appear when the time is right. A number of people have successfully kit-bashed 7/8″ estate locomotives from 16mm mechanisms, for example…

With tighter curves, I might be able to work a more elaborate plan into my garden – at the cost of excluding some equipment (both my own and that owned by friends) from having a place to run.

I will have to doodle some ideas for a 32mm gauge estate railway to determine whether I have anything to gain by creating a garden railway around one theme instead of a design that accommodates everything.