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Advice and planning

Now you have reached the stage of seriously considering a move into Gauge 3, you will want to know where to start and what mistakes to avoid. This is where the experience of the Society's Members can help you avoid the pitfalls and help with your crucial decisions when planning your railway.

A few tips are listed here but you can always seek help on specific points by posting a message on the G3 Forum.
Advice on Planning

Before you start, read a few books on the basics. The Society publishes a very affordable (£9) book titled "Welcome to Gauge 3". It provides a lot of excellent information and advice, as well as many colour photos to help inspire you.


Other books worth reading are “The Garden Railway Manual” by C J Freezer, (PSL) and “Railways in your Garden” edited by David Pratt and David Joy (Atlantic)

Write down a few ideas on what you want from your railway. Do you favour a humble branch line or a main line setting?  Will you construct at ground level or on a raised structure?  Keep to general considerations at this stage.

Join the Gauge '3' Society and meet with other members in your area.  We are generous with advice and are always eager to help. Visit some Gauge '3' railways in your area to see how others have developed their ideas.  We hold a number of get-togethers around the country where we meet to play trains, chat, drink tea and generally help each other along.  You are sure of a warm welcome.


Don't be over ambitious in the initial phase or try to take on too much at once.  Start in a modest way with a few yards of track and a wagon or two.  One of the great advantages of our hobby is that you can start small and grow both your talents and your railway. Work out a budget you can afford and stick to it.  It is only too easy to visit a model shop (or Show) and spend more than you can afford and then regret it later! Having visited other members’ railways you may be tempted to expand your initial ideas.  Bear in mind that many of our members have built up a sizeable railway and large amounts of stock but this has been achieved over many years.

Going for Live Steam?

Basic requirements for Gauge 3 live steam operation

Most garden railways built for steam operation are continuous and there are good reasons for this. Each circuit of the track will require small adjustments whether manually or radio-control operated and, especially if coal fired, will require stopping occasionally to replenish coal and water. So, to the operator, running round and round does have considerable interest - with no two circuits the same. Continuous circuits also mean that axle driven water pumps can easily refill the boiler which is sometimes difficult on an end to end line.

Track levels are another issue to be considered with steam operation. If you have radio-control operation slight gradients are OK, but for manual operation it’s best to have the track level – unless you really want to chase after your loco making speed adjustments! Again, ground level operation is OK with radio-control but with manual control you really need to be above the ground – unless you like maintaining your loco on your knees!

When it comes to track,  3’ radius has recently been demonstrated for small tank locos (0-4-0) but generally for small locos 8’ is better. Larger tender locos are happier with 12 to 15’ radius depending on their wheelbase and bogie wheel to cylinder clearances – but some tank locos with long coupled wheelbases require surprisingly large radii too.  At the design stage of locos, it is sometimes possible to taper in the frames of locos to achieve greater clearances. Tight radii will also slow down a train due to flange friction requiring more adjustments to the regulator.


It is also ppossible to widen the gauge on curves but care is required not to make this excessive. Generally have the largest radii that will fit into your available space. To avoid buffer locking when shunting,  pointwork radii needs to be as generous as possible.

Steam locos need to be as accessible as possible so long tunnels are not a good idea and disappearing behind (or through) bushes can also be difficult. Don’t forget to have a steam up area that is comfortable for the operator and has areas where fires can be dropped and ashes disposed of.

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