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A small garden railway - Advice needed

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How do, Ive been loitering on the forum for a while and thought I would start a post!

I live in Co.Durham and have been thinking of a garden railway for a few year now.

Im still struggling with what to do and trying to find inspiration, any input would be massively helpful

My garden isn't very big, roughly 10m x 10m and with a very large shed.

Ill give a bit background info to help establish what environment I'm working in.

For several years I had a decent sized pond at the top of the garden. A combination of having 1 year old now and the maintenance that comes with a pond (and at present I have a few major other projects on) meant that it had to go



So sadly this had to go, the acer was relocated to my mams, the rest was sold off or scrapped.

Here it is in Feb 2016 :(


I wanted an outside space, and therefore Im nearly finished the new section which includes a new summerhouse and small garden tool shed

April 2016


I just need to gravel the little path and add all the plants. The idea being I want the summerhouse partially hidden by nice foliage to give it a private feel.

Anyway the above shot is a bit deceiving as its bigger than it looks.

The lower section of the garden consists of raised decking which I intend to leave the same. The bottom level is concrete for general garden stuff.



Now I don't mind having a small layout, Ive been trying to think where to put one?

The massive shed will be downsized from a 20ft x 14ft 'L' shape to a 20ftx10ft normal rectangle one next year so will get some grass space back.

Im struggling to think where to put it. I have two ideas in mind so far, either this section of border,


Its roughly 3 metres long, and I could bring it out so it would be about 60cm wide, and level it with a raised sleeper bed.



Not the best shot, but this section of decking is approx. 60cm x 4 metres and largely unused. The only downside is that I want to include a lot of planting etc and would have to make some sort of bed to sit the whole thing in.

I'm not bothered about having a loop, for me the aesthetics are worth more than the day to day running.

Id like to go narrow gauge ideally and have a nice balance of plants and winding track, few buildings. Im not bothered about bridges, large station etc.

I luckily live 5 mile from beamish and like their pit layout. I'd like this kind of layout, but with a bit more greenery thrown in.

(The below aren't my images)


They have just finished a new loco from scratch Samson, handy when your mate is the Steam manager as well :)


Ideas largely welcome!

I know its small but has potential!

Its just trying to find what works best. I do have time on my hands, ideally its fine if its a few years before its up and running fully, having a little girl, I need the grass space and she'll be past the destruction age by the time its done!

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Hi and welcome to the forum.

Enjoyed reading your introduction and seeing the accompanying photos. I'm only able to reply via mobile at the moment so will return later when I have better access. I much prefer the larger keys!

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It's a shame about having to remove the pond as that would have been a perfect location for a ground level layout. I feel your pain though as my plans of having a pond were slashed when our little chap came along.

For me, if I actually wanted to run trains in that space then I would seriously consider including a loop as it's quite a small space for an out-and-back - you'll be constantly changing directions on the loco. If you just wanted it to look like a railway in the garden, then landscaping in a single line (or two) could look really good. My thoughts anyway.

Personally, the idea of having a garden railway is all about running trains so I would probably try and incorporate a dog-bone type layout - forgive the dodgy photoshopping, but something like the below. This way you can leave a train meandering around the layout while you sit back and enjoy it


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This is strange the answer I typed In yesterday has gone walkabout. so I'll repeat my self.

I would raise the track up a bit and do a loop over / through the garden by the summer house giving a more scenic look to the line and raising it out of the way of little pairs or quads of feet.

and Yes I would use the shed for the line as well, you can drive in park up out of the rain and not have to take the stock off the line...

It's a good job your council isn't enforcing the law that says no flammable buildings to be built within 6 feet of a boundary !!! :D:twisted:

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I love the idea of narrow gauge as you can run shorter trains on tighter curves. I'm sure that you have seen the TV series about the Indian Hill Railways running through Shimla. Funny little locos with three carriages running through a crowded track and tight vegetation. Good luck with it, and I look forward to seeing how you get on.

I'm not too far from Beamish myself, but to my shame I have never visited. Something that I must put right.

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You have plenty of space for a garden railway as the actual footprint for a layout is really small. We have a lot of truly awe inspiring layouts on here, but we also have some quant little layouts on the site. It really always comes down to what do you think you can live with. My layout is very minimal compared to some of the layouts, but it is very rewarding none the less.

Since you mentioned wanting to do some planting, you may want to look at some other layouts on youtube. Plants really add a lot to a layout, but the layout does not have to be at ground level to get a nice scenic effect. One of the first videos I found when I got started in this was Jules Garden railway.

My biggest regret for my railway, is not having it go through a shed. A shed provides a nice place to park trains between sessions. On my railway it is always such a big effort just to load up trains and carry them outside. I often think of redoing the railway in a better location so I can have a train storage shed.

I would suggest that you decide on a standardized scale such as OO for your track. Although it is nice to dream of building all kinds of things oneself, building a garden railway takes time; it may be worth getting some off the shelf stock so you can get running right away.

Looking at your photos I see a lot of good places where one can put a railway. I would say that a dog bone will take a lot of space up at the turns.

Why not run an oval around the permitter of your grassy area? You can build lift outs for access to keep from having to duck under it all.

Another option is to build so the railway is about a foot off the ground, in that case you just step over the layout to enter the grassy area.

Judging by the size of that grassy area, you actually have the space for quite a large railway.

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your garden is pretty big, and clearly you have some good gardening skills as the deck is nice and the new sheds are well done.

The left side there is lots of space, and along the right edge there looks like room for a nice dog bone layout. with one turn around in the flower bed by the blue shed, and the other turn around to be built on a raised table like wood structure nearer the house - but leaving enough room to walk around it.




having the layout on a raised bed is a good idea as the trains are at a good viewing level and also away from peoples feet. Anyway, that's my first idea as I think its safer to keep the children's fun on the lawn and adult fun patio area separate from the model railway rather than trying to have both in the same space.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

In my experience, it's all about the radius of the turns before anything else!

I made mistakes of laying everything out, leveling, digging etc before I worked out that I didn't have enough room for the minimum radius turns that my trains would go round.

I think Peco still have downloadable templates - print a load off and experiment, but don't try to tighten the turns further than first radius (with flex-track for example) or change levels too quickly or your trains will fall off the tracks, normally after a load of work that then needs changing!

Good luck and enjoy

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Hi webba

Like you I am going for a small garden railway. Kris came up with some good advice regarding curves and trains running successfully. I can recommend a computer railway design programme called AnyRail it has all the main gauges and most of the track manufacturers. I have used it to design three layouts so far. You can use it free for up to 50 track pieces.

Good luck with your railway.


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