Getting started

The garden when we moved in (but with a temporary loop of track to get into the spirit of things)

Planning the garden and the railway

This was to be our first garden railway so we discussed at length what we wanted from the space – for both the garden and the railway.

Planning the Garden

Although the railway was going to be the major feature of the garden we still wanted the space to be usable as a part of our home. Nikki loves plants and gardening so we wanted to ensure there was plenty of space for plants with interesting levels.

Having outdoor seating – a place to sit with a drink or with friends & family at a BBQ was also factored in and comfortable for uptown 8people to gather.

Finally, a pond with fish fed by a waterfall/cascade would add the sound of water, the hobby of fish-keeping and a scenic blend between a garden and a railway.

When we arrived the garden was paved with some plant borders. We decided to really start with a blank canvas and build everything up around that. If the space had been different, we would have considered building the railway into the existing garden which would have created fun and interesting constraints (much like the real thing).

Planning the Railway


We operate on the principle of “our railway, our rules” so don’t feel the need for things to be prototyping or 100% realistic. Generally, we have models of German and Swiss Narrow Gauge Steam Teams but we knew we’re open to anything we like. On the railway side of things I knew there were a few things that were important to me when thinking about the track plan.

The first was to have at least two continuous running lines that could be left unattended so we could enjoy the garden, company with friends or a BBQ without having to control the trains but still have a sense of movement. Coupled to this, we wanted to feel like the railway went somewhere so although they were going “roundy round” they would disappear and reappear somewhere else.

Second, we wanted to railway to be raised to aid viewing but still be a part of a garden. This also meant we could run trains directly in and out of the garage (for storage).

For a while I (Curtis) was unsure about running the layout on multiple levels because of getting the gradients (inclines/declines) right but realised multiple levels aided both multiple circuits and the disappearing effect.

From a technical perspective, we aimed to have a minimum curve radius of LGB R3 (a circle with a diameter of 2.4m / ~8ft) for reliability of running (trains generally don’t like curves) but also because had the space and to us it looks more elegant.

We’re lucky to have the space we do in the garden but with G-Scale that can be taken up quite easily. We worked through several drawings and ideas together and discussed the trade-offs of different designs.

Track Planning

One of the first things we did when moving into the house was measure the space we had available to us. It didn’t require any special equipment – just a tape measure and the notes app on our phone. This gave us the ability to use a track planning software to play around with different layout ideas before we purchased the track we needed.

We use RailModeller Pro for track planning. It offers an amazing selection of libraries of G Scale track (23) including popular manufacturers such as LGB, Piko, TrainLine45 and Heyn 45mm.

When planning, we used a few different sources for inspiration and to discuss how we wanted things to come together.

YouTube was a big inspiration (especially the content on the Hornhausen channel) and we took the time to save videos of layouts we liked into a playlist. Other major sources were the Journal of the G Scale Society (a community with quarterly magazine) and the forum for both pictures, plans and discussions. Finally, we found a copy of an out of print copy of the LGB Track Plans and Technical Manual in PDF form on the Champex Linden website (scroll down).

The mocked up garden table can be seen in the background.
Nikki enjoying the sun while prototyping the layout. Note the chalk marking the proposed walls.

Together, all these sources and people gave us ideas to discuss together as a couple for what we wanted. Initial plans mostly had the railway running around the very outside of the garden in a dog bone style but Nikki suggested the large tear drop pushing out into the garden as a way of dividing up the space and facilitating the “disappearing” trains.

After several plans and iterations we started laying out track to see how the space would feel (it was also an excuse to get trains running). We had recently bough a new dining table so used the large flag box from that as a “mockup” of where the garden table would work. We also used chalk to mark where the raised beds and pond would be.


Curtis and our dog Poncho in the hole that eventually become the pond!
A view looking across the garden towards the pond from the garage after the first walls went in for the raised beds.

Laying the track

Useful Links

Rik’s Railway – Planning a Garden Railway – Rik’s site is an absolute wealth of information but this post in particular was key in helping us think about planning our railway.