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Track laying


If you read the earlier piece on “Getting Started” you will already know that the first thing you should probably NOT do is to immediately start laying track (even if you really, really want to!). Unless of course you are a Garden Railway ‘Guru’ - in which case you don’t need to read this!

Well, assuming you are not a ‘Guru’ the first thing you should do is to seek one out. The most obvious place to do this will be at a Society GTG and the most obvious person to talk to will be your Host. Here is a person who has actually been there, done that and most importantly, knows most of the potential problems and pitfalls awaiting you, because he’s had them too!

Here are some good questions to ask him

· Why did you build at ‘ground’ and/or at ‘raised’ level and what are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so? (Note: Does your Host prefer live steaming or battery electric power? It does makes a difference)

· Why did you decide to use these build methods & materials and would you use them again or would you do something differently?

· How much work was involved in preparing the site and was the effort undertaken alone or did you need help?

· What kind of track components are you using and would you use them again if starting over? If not, why not?

· What minimum track radius was the Railway designed to use and has this been satisfactory in operation? Note what your Hosts locomotives wheelbases are? Mainline Express or Industrial 0-4-0?

· What track maintenance do you undertake annually and are there any ways you think this could be minimised?

· How did you plan pedestrian (and disabled) access to the track and have there been any issues in this area?

· Have you undertaken any special planting or other horticultural steps that you would recommend (or avoid)

· And finally (and MOST Importantly) - how was (is) Household Management involved in the planning and operation of the line and do you have any tips to avoid problems (e.g. A Potential Fatality) in this area!

This will cover the main areas and you may be surprised at some of the answers. Given the chance, ask more than one Host these questions, some will have differing opinions. You can (as always in Gauge ‘3’) choose which path you want to walk. I’m sure you can see the drift of these questions but as a general guidance, here are three key areas to think about.

Operating Height
Live Steam Locomotives (even Radio Controlled ones) need quite a lot of attention, sometimes quickly! There are two issues here, access and convenience. Tracks designed primarily for Live Steamers should ideally provide good ‘all around the track’ access for the driver in case of emergencies or simply to assist a stalled engine. Live Steamers also need regular checks for water level and attention to the fire (be it coal, spirit or gas) Even if you are young and fit, not all of your guests will be, so if you plan to Host GTGs think about comfortable operating heights where drivers can easily see water gauges and access fires etc.

Some sloping gardens can deliver a combination of ground level and raised operation. Think carefully about the lie of your plot and measure it. You may have more ‘slope’ than you think.

Radius of Curves
You will frequently hear people ask “but don’t you need minimum 18’ curves in Gauge ‘3’? The answer is "maybe" but it largely depends on what you intend to run on your Railway (and maybe who you want to Host)

For fast, reliable running of larger Express (e.g. Pacific) type Locomotives 16-18’ minimum radius curves are advisable if you can fit them in. In an ideal world you would also ‘transition’ into the curve and for fast running fit elevation wedges. However, there are G3 Railways which host GTGs, where there are some curves of just 12’ radius and where live steam running at reasonable speeds seems to work in practice for most locomotives.

One of our Members has demonstrated his 0-4-0 Industrial Live Steam Locomotives at AGMs on a five foot diameter circle and they run perfectly well. The point is that you need to design your track to take the traffic you intend to run over it. Beyond that make the curves as generous as you have room for and to fit your design requirement.
Of course if you have a very narrow garden (or are building an Exhibition layout) you will be  looking at end-to-end running (and normally battery-electric). But here again consider the turnout curves and the traffic that will run through them.

Track Choices
The Society used to stock and sell 3’ lengths of scale brass bullhead rail, together with white metal chairs in various forms. This was the 'traditional' method but did involve a lot of work. These days, the Society does not supply track components and there are currently two other G3 'gauge' track products available to the railway's Chief Engineer. One supplier offers stainless steel (scale) rail lengths with plastic sleepers, whilst the other supplier offers a heavier brass rail section (non-scale). Both offer some turnout options. They all work and the choice is purely yours.

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