Garden Railroads


Garden railroads can be a beautiful addition to any backyard. They can be very rewarding and fun to build. Make it a family project! Garden railroads are designed and built in “G” scale. Theses trains are designed to run outdoors in just about any kind of weather.

Let’s talk a bit about building an outdoor layout. The first consideration for building garden railroads is the selection of an area on your property with ample space. The next consideration is the lay of the land and how your layout will fit in. Most garden railroads incorporate some elevation changes to make the layout more interesting to look at as well as operate. Another consideration is the existing trees in the area. If they are numerous and create a lot of shade you may want to consider moving the layout to a more sunny area or thinning out the trees. Garden railroads are just that, gardens. Your flowers and plants around your new layout will need a certain amount of sun to thrive.

Once you’ve selected your garden railroads location you need to design your track plan. The easiest way to accomplish that is too use small diameter electrical conduit to form the track plan. ½” CPVC will work nicely and can be purchased at your local hardware store or home supply store. The conduit comes in 10 foot lengths, which are easily assembled end to end to represent your track plan. The conduit is flexible enough to form curves and will stay put when placed on the ground.

Garden railroads should be designed with serviceability in mind. Don’t design tunnels with long runs; a derailment inside the tunnel will be a real problem to get to. Although, you can build scenery lift- outs to solve the problem. Refer to the scenery section on our website for more information on that subject. One of the most popular layout styles is the folded “dog bone”.  Both ends of the folded “dog bone” form a loop, allowing your trains to run continuously. The overall size can be adjusted to fit your area.

Assemble the conduit lengths end to end (no glue) and lay them on the ground. Move the conduit around and assemble additional lengths as needed until you are satisfied with your new garden railroads layout. Using a small plastic cup spread a line of lime on the ground following your conduit track plan. Once you complete that step the conduit can be picked up and saved for other uses.

Garden railroads, like their smaller scale counterparts, also depend on a solid foundation for smooth trouble free operation. One way to build a solid foundation for garden railroads is by using pressure treated 2x4’s, cut to various lengths which are called “piles”. Using a post hole digger install the 2x4’s every 24” on center, following the lime line. Varying the lengths of the 2x4’s allows for elevation changes in your garden railroads track plan. Fasten 1x4 pressure treated boards, cut to proper lengths, to the tops of the 2x4 piles. Use 1x4 for straight track runs and 1x6 or 1x8 for curves, turnouts and double track runs. Be sure to use a torpedo level to adjust the top boards so they are level from side to side. The radius for your curves is important. A good prototypical trouble free minimum radius, for garden railroads is 8’. All locomotives and rolling stock operated on garden railroads, will negotiate those turns just fine and will look very realistic.

Now you’re ready to attach the “G” scale track to your pressure treated roadbed. Lie down and tack your turnouts first and then fill in track second. It’s a good idea to tack everything loosely at first until all tracks are cut and fitted. Once you’re happy with your track work and final adjustments have been made, fasten the track work and turnouts with brass or stainless steel screws. Take care not fasten too tightly because it may deform the turnouts or track which will cause derailments later. It’s also good practice to use a track gauge often while laying your track work. This will help prevent trouble spots in the garden railroads operation later. You can purchase pre-formed radius track or you can form your own from full lengths of flex track. Consult your local hobby supply store or contact me here at for more information on where to purchase supplies or whatever your needs may be. ENJOY THE HOBBY!