Garden train

garden train is a model train that moves in a garden . The width of the most common track is 45 mm but there are tracks ranging from 32 mm to 185 mm (the latter size being provided for trains on which one can sit).

Depending on whether the trains represented are ‘normal’ track trains ( 1435 mm at scale 1) or narrow gauge trains ( 600 mm at 1000 mm at scale 1), the scales vary for the same track width (see section on ladders ).

It may also be networks made at larger non-model industrial spacings (400 mm, 500 mm or even 600 mm tracks for larger gardens). In this case, the scales are often more approximate and the construction of rolling stock more artisanal, with engines with thermal engines or steam locomotives realized in self-construction by their owners.

Historically, the development of garden trains was mainly done from 1968 with LGB (German) equipment representing metric track trains on a 45 mm gauge track, hence a scale of 1:22, 5.

The installations must meet the constraints of an outdoor installation, in the rain and the sun, with sometimes gullying or movements of ground, as well as corrosion on metal parts. Anti-UV additives must be incorporated in the plastics under penalty of destruction in 2 or 3 years. Leaves and all kinds of objects settle on the tracks, animals nest in the tunnels.

The environment

The outdoor facility takes full advantage of the real nature, with plantations adapted to the small scale and often water bodies, torrents, waterfalls or rivers with a functional water flow that can be crossed with waterworks. art on the scale.

Buildings give life to the decor. It is common to find areas representing different times or regions on the same network. One or more stations are usually represented, as well as a workshop and a depot. The track often has a branch in an awning or garage for the maintenance of trains and their storage sheltered from the weather without having to remove them from the track. At this scale, the material usually weighs several kilograms.

The train must adapt to the real environment of a house, go under the stairs, bypass the terraces, swimming pools.

The style

The philosophy varies a lot according to the creators. Some seek to model a rural or urban area, creating a model that wants to be as close as possible to a real or imaginary time or place.

Others aim for no realism and are content to roll their train in an almost normal garden with flowers and plants in no way reduced. The train is then more of a toy than a model and will be cheaper and easier to install.

The majority of garden railways represent trains narrow gauge (metric or smaller way), which can be located for periods ranging from the end of xix th century until today for tourist trains. They can represent work trains (mines, industries), forest trains or mountain trains and tourist trains.

In the garden trains, there is hardly any modern train available commercially. Those who want to make TGV , TER , ICE , etc. must build them completely. The period of evocation of the reproductions of the trade stops at the end of the sixties.

Having several loops and running several trains gives a lot of life to the network, especially because we do not know where the trains will cross. Having independent loops allows you to not worry about driving, trains can walk alone at a constant speed.

Many creators name their network, such as Walt Disney and Carolwood Pacific Railroad .

In height

Some prefer to have a circuit at height (from 800 to 1000 mm ), which facilitates the creation of the decor and the maintenance of the ways. Working lying on tens or even hundreds of meters of tracks is not easy. This also makes the scale larger more spectacular but the decorations need to be more neat being seen more closely. Provide a passage over or under the track or create a lift bridge.
It is not possible to get the train up or down enough to allow a passage because as on size trains, the slope is limited to around 2.5% ( 25 mm)by m). This is the terrain that must be adapted. This allows to justify the installation of many works of art or to create mountainous decorations.
Tracks are often laid on wood or concrete beams and a hedge can be grown around the track.


Initially, garden trains functioned as indoor trains, with an electrified track, varying the voltage on the track to vary the speed, the polarity to reverse the direction of travel. However, the tracks, usually made of brass are covered with oxide and must be cleaned before use with a pushed car provided for it. In addition, the continuity of the tracks is difficult to maintain and many weld connecting wires between the sections of track. Since then there are also radio controlled trains running on battery, but their autonomy is limited because consumption is important. In this case, we must face the typical constraints of the batteries related to their loading and aging. Being able to move with the drive being essential for a garden train,DCC more advanced similar to those of indoor trains. If the tracks are long, they may require several power points (every 15 or 20 m ).

There are also live steam trains , fueled by gas, or more rarely alcohol or coal, or even electricity (!) Which in this case comes from the track. These trains can be radio controlled.

There are more and more sound systems to simulate the rhythm of the machines, the bell and the whistles. These systems can be synchronized to the actual speed of the machines. We can also create ambient sounds suitable for decorations (mooing on a farm, sawing on a sawmill or various noise in a quarry).

Public exhibitions

There are some parks open to the public, usually created by enthusiasts who have made their job ref.  desired] .

  • Ardèche miniature , in Soyons ( Ardeche ).
  • The Railway Garden , in Chatte ( Isère ).


The first garden trains were born with the real railway . The first trace of known garden train is an engraving showing a train live steam scale 1/5 permanently installed in the Saint-Cloud park by Napoleon III , probably for the amusement of his son 1 .

Since there are electric trains, a number of amateurs have tried to install them outdoors. In the United States , Lionel brand trains at scale 0 (1:48) were used in particular [When?] . Since rolling stock is stored when not in use, the main problem is the track and accessories, which must resist corrosion and UV.

In 1968 , Ernst Paul Lehmann Patentwerk 2 created a subsidiary Lehmann Gross Bahn (Lehmann large trains) and started producing trains and accessories specifically designed for outdoor use. These trains, more or less scaled (1: 22.5) of German narrow gauge track 760 mm gauge trains 1 , with short and tall locomotives and wagons, offered a very different style of what is found in traditional rail model making . These trains, representative of the tourist trains and the small lines of Germanythat can be found in Europe at that time, adapted well to the environment of a garden and have had some success ref.  desired] . Over the years Lehmann has developed its range and created another series representing American style trains Far West reproducing the trains on track three foot spacing 1 . The short length of the rolling stock allows for low curve radii and easy installation.

Locomotive LGB Stainz

The first locomotive proposed by LGB, represented in their logo, the Stainz  (de) is still produced but with an improved control and a sound system. As the use is intermittent, some of the materials have remained for decades in operation ref.  desired] .

Other manufacturers, Aristocraft and Bachmann Industries in particular have then proposed more conventional trains, but at other scales (1:29 and 1:32) to use the same 45 mm track . Narrow gauge trains have been proposed at 1:24 scale. Recently [when?] , New series of 1: 20.3 narrow-gauge hardware were created by Bachmann Industries (Spectrum series), again for the 45 mm spacing . LGB’s competing producers also focused on reproduction fidelity, following the same trend as for indoor trains.

Faced with competing materials offering styles sometimes different and made in Asia at low cost, LGB has encountered difficulties. The current owner of LGB, Märklin , being on bankruptcy, the future of LGB is uncertain.

The desire to be able to move in the garden without staying in front of a fixed desk or a wired control has led some manufacturers to offer various radio control systems that differ from those of indoor trains. Smoke generators have been developed. The other accessories (sound) followed the same evolution as the indoor trains.

Märklin Maxi Garden Trains 1:32

The technique

The ways

Do not confuse scale and track gauge . In English, the track width is the ‘gauge’. The width is that between the inner faces of the rails.

  • the path of 32 mm (used for standard gauge O): rare (not provided channels for outdoor use)
  • the path of 45 mm or path ‘G’, the most common
  • The 64 mm track , Gauge ‘3’ or ‘G64’, rare
  • 89 mm (3 “1/2) track
  • The 5 “( 127 mm ) track for overlapped trains
  • The 7 “1/4 ( 184 mm ) track for the trains that we ride

According to model fidelity (which depends on the scale, see chapter below), the height of the rails varies. This height is expressed in thousandths of an inch.

For the G track, the most used rail height, because the most robust (you can walk on it), is the height 332 ( 8.43 mm ). However, as it is much higher than would be a ladder track we also find the heights of 250 ( 6.35 mm ), 215 ( 5.46 mm ) and 180 ( 4.57 mm ) for the modelers lovers of precision.

The scales

The situation is complex for historical reasons ref.  desired] .

The 45 mm ‘G’ track , when used to represent a normal track ( 1435 mm wide ) corresponds to the 1:32 scale.

The same 45 mm track , if used to represent a metric track, corresponds to a scale of 1: 22.5 (IIm).

The same 45 mm track , if used to represent a 914 mm (3 feet) track, corresponds to a scale of 1: 20.3.

The same 45 mm track , if used to represent a 608 mm (2 feet) track, corresponds to a scale of 1: 13.5 (or 7 / 8n2 in the US).

The 32 mm track , when used to represent a 608 mm (2 foot) track, is a 1:19 scale. 1:19 equipment, usually live steam locomotives, is often equipped for the 45 mm track . It is a ladder mostly practiced in the United Kingdom . Aristocraft , an American manufacturer, has created its own 1:29 scale, for normal track trains on a 45 mm track (instead of 49 mm ). Like its material, made in China, is relatively inexpensive and there is choice, this scale has some success but only represents American equipment normal way. The 1:29 scale allows for normal-gauge equipment that is approximately the same width as narrow-gauge LGB equipment at 1: 22.5, allowing them to be mixed without shock.

If you want to represent a modern era, you need cars and trucks. It is found at 1:32 and 1:24, this last scale being rather confidential in trains. Modellers make compromises and 1: 22.5 trains are usually associated with 1:24 props (animals, characters, cars, etc.).

There is a conflict over the ‘G’ scale designation, the NMRA originally wishing to use it only for the 1: 22.5 scale, but manufacturers wishing to take advantage of the reputation of this designation continue to use this designation for scale 1: 20.3; 1:24; 1:29 and 1:32 ref.  desired]

Table of scales

width of the track to scale → width actually used)

Ladder 1:19 1: 20.3 1: 22.5 1:24 1:29 1:32
Name NMRA 3 F 1:22 1:24 1:29 # 1
Denomination MOROP 4 II I
Way 2 ‘ 32 mm 30 → 32 mm
Way 3 ‘ 48 → 45 mm 45 mm 29 to 32 mm
Metric way 49 → 45 mm 45 mm 42 → 45 mm 34 → 32 mm 32 mm
Normal way 64 mm 49 → 45 mm 45 mm
cars → 1: 18 → 1: 24 1:24 → 1: 32 1:32

The 1: 22.5 scale used mainly for narrow-gauge equipment offers a lot of choice on rolling stock, buildings (European or American) and allows small radii of curvature, locomotives and cars being short.

The path of 64 mm called Gauge ‘3’ or ‘G64’, is used for standard gauge trains in scale 1: 22.5 starts to grow 5 slightly UK , but with only local materials . It takes very large radii of curvature because cars are long.

European and American quality material is 1:32, but it is often relatively expensive.

There are some trains of gardens 6 on a smaller scale but the maintenance is more delicate.

The ‘0’ scale on a normal 32 mm wide track is 1: 43.5 in France and the United Kingdom , 1:45 in Germany and 1:48 in the United States .

Ancillary materials

According to the scales:

  • There are characters for almost every scale.
  • For scales of 1: 13.5, 1:19 and 1: 20.3, you must make your own buildings and accessories.
  • Buildings, accessories, animals are easily found at 1: 22.5 or 1:24.
  • There are some buildings and accessories at 1:29.
  • At 1:32, you have to build your own buildings, but you will find accessories, doors, windows, etc. and there are cars and trucks on the scale.

Just like trains, objects (characters, animals, buildings and accessories) advertised as compatible ‘G’ are therefore at various scales that depend on the habits of each manufacturer.

Construction of buildings

Buildings distributed commercially pre-assembled or in kit are most commonly injected plastic. Some artisans also offer kits molded resin or cement and rarely painted steel buildings 7 .

Buildings made by amateurs can be in:

  • marine plywood
  • molded cement or fiber cement plates
  • expanded or extruded polystyrene cut and covered with a coating
  • Engraved cellular concrete (in panels or massive blocks)
  • molded resin
  • wood weatherproof ( shingles for roofs in particular)

The laying of the track

The easiest way is to lay the path on the ground. If the ground is flat it is possible but the way is likely to be irregular. On sloping terrain or simply poorly stabilized, the risk of gullying from the first rains is important. You must also be able to mow the grass and cut the plants. This can be done for a temporary installation.

Another method, close to what is done for real trains is to put ballast, often in trench on a geotextile film . Due to the growth of plants under the ballast, this is not a very sustainable method.

Most often, the track is laid on a rigid support made of concrete blocks, fiber cement slabs, poured concrete or treated wood beams, such as, for example, reformed railway ties . The installation is made in trench or height depending on the case.

The ballast is generally simulated. This can be done by depositing chippings on the track but because of their small size, chippings are often carried by the wind. Some stick it on the stand. This ballast is frequently larger than the scale would dictate. Bitumen plates are sometimes used to simulate the ballast and serve as a base for the track.

Because of the expansions related to seasonal temperature variations, the channels are not always fixed and they move on their support.

Control techniques

Three types of equipment can be controlled remotely:

  • Rolling stock and its accessories (lighting, sound and smoke)
  • Turnouts and track equipment (turntables, semaphores, etc.)
  • Accessories (lighting, sound system and various mobiles)

Rolling stock

  • Electric trains powered by the way

This is the oldest method but it is necessary to clean the track before use to remove deposits and corrosion that prevents conduction to the wheels. This can be done by hand with a scraping sponge or with a cleaning wagon pushed by the locomotive. It is also necessary to ensure the conductivity of the track throughout its course. The conventional fishplates are not time-resistant and either screwed-on fishplates or wires soldered between one rail and the next. Some also make a power supply by section of track (there are sections of tracks of 1.5 m or more in the trade). Depending on the length of the track and the material of the rails, the track is fed at one or more points by a cable called feeder.

The good conduction of the channel allows the supply with a variable voltage to vary the speed, or a constant voltage with a control signal of the Digital DCC type , identical to that of the indoor trains. A specialized radio control can control the voltage or the channel signal. The maximum track voltage is 14 to 24 V depending on the manufacturer.

  • The problems of feeding by the way led to the development of battery trains . In this case, locomotives can be ordered with conventional radio control equipment (airplane, boat or car) or with specialized train controls.
  • Live steam locomotives are often ordered with standard radio control equipment or directly on the machine. Some train remote control suppliers have specialized modules for controlling servos.

The advantage of the specialized commands is that a single remote control can operate several trains or that one can have several remote controls which can each be allocated to one or more trains ref.  desired] .

Common radio control methods

The control of switches and equipment of ways

This command is often separated from the train control. It can be local, ordered from a board or radio controlled.

In ‘DCC’ systems similar to indoor trains, it is the signal present on the track or on a line carrying the same signal that will control the switch.

The majority of switch commands are electrically controlled but to overcome contact problems related to outdoor installation, some suppliers have developed pneumatic controls 8 . The pneumatic switch or the solenoid valve is in a protected place and it is a plastic pipe that will control a cylinder actuating the switch. This imposes a reserve of air which can be a bottle of soft drink.

The supply of accessories

It is usually ordered from a table.

Diagram of control of the apparatus of ways and accessories

Sources of documentation

Related Articles

Images of garden trains on Commons
  • List of Garden Train Manufacturers
  • Railway Model Making
  • Miniature Ardeche
  • The train of Monts du Lyonnais

External links

Notes and references

  1. ↑ a , b and c Clive Lamming “Miniature Trains” Ed. Press LR group, Auray, 2007, 149 pages. ( ISBN  2-903651-40-X )
  2. ↑  [ archive ]
  3. ↑ Standard NMRA S1.3  [ archive ]
  4. ↑ Standard NEM 010  [ archive ]
  5. ↑  [ archive ]
  6. ↑  [ archive ]
  7. ↑  [ archive ]
  8. ↑  [ archive ]

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