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.

4 thoughts on “An initial planning exercise

  1. Craig

    What’s the total footprint of the yard? 10′ diameter is still pretty small, but for 7/8ths I think you could get away with 10′ diameter curves. 7/8th’s is certainly ‘large scale’! Handlayed track would look great and you’ve got the experience. Not being a large layout, the track maintenance wouldn’t be too much of a burden. If you are serious about a outdoor layout, you should seriously consider elevating the track above the ground. Most live steam layouts are waist high, but have little to no scenery. I can see you building something around knee to waist high and having beautiful scenery that the layout runs through.

    1. Trevor Post author

      Hi Craig:
      Thanks for the feedback.
      The yard is 19 feet wide by about 40 feet long. The location of the track is limited to the general arrangement of what’s in the diagram (e.g. – I cannot relocate the seating area or the path, or the garbage bin storage shed that’s hidden behind the dogwood in the top left corner of the picture).
      I’ve thought about raising the layout, but it would overwhelm the garden. Others use the garden too, and I’d like the railway to offer minimal visual distraction when trains aren’t running.

      1. Craig

        Even a couple inches of vertical elevation might make a difference! None of us are getting younger. I built my first outdoor layout on the ground, and the area that I enjoyed the most was the built up area that was about ankle high. Not high enough for my liking, but it was all that I could do. Kevin Strong (Tuscarora Railroad) has done a really good job in my mind of integrating both the garden and the railway.

        1. Trevor Post author

          Hi Craig:
          Agreed – none of us are getting any younger. I will likely bring up the track a couple of inches as you note, but I have to be cognizant of the path crossings and the potential tripping hazards they would cause. This is a heavily trafficked path – that’s our garage at the back of the yard, so lots of stuff comes in and out of the house this way. I do not want to bridge the path with removable bridges as I suspect that they would shortly be removed by dogs, spouse or me…
          I do like the railway Kevin Strong has designed and built – I saved his series on building it that appeared in Garden Railways several years ago, and refer to it regularly as I do my planning for this line. Thanks for reminding me about his blog. I’ll add it to the list of links on this blog.


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