The garden is a unique and wonderful place to have a railway. It really is worlds apart from being squirreled away in the spare room or garden shed. Natural lighting brings a variance not seen on indoor railways, and indoor layouts tend not to like the rain! This isn’t a problem with a large scale outdoor layout; in fact, part of the fun sees how well things run in conditions that vary considerably. G scale will quite happily run in the rain, even snow. All that is needed is the top layer of snow scraping off the top of the rails to ensure power can reach the loco pickups. It offers wonderful opportunities for photography with ever-changing conditions.
The wonderful thing about outdoor Garden layouts is that family and friends of all ages can get involved and have a great time. The marriage of trains and gardening makes it FUN for everyone! G-Scale Trains also are the most tolerant and user-friendly of all of the model trains currently manufactured. But beware, you will suddenly find yourself with a host of new friends! The outdoor model railroad is perfect for entertainment during cocktails and horderves. Guests will love the open environment. Plus fresh air, and the soothing hum of the large G-scale trains. That operates on nearly 10,000 square feet of land.
Naturally, a garden layout requires a different type of maintenance than an indoor tabletop railway. But this is not a problem – garden lines are typically simpler than their indoor counterparts. So there will usually be less pointwork to worry about.
Plants are usually an integral part of a garden layout, and dwarf varieties and pruning are often used to keep them in proper proportion. Some go so far as to use bonsai techniques, though this can be very time-consuming for large areas. Buildings are also often used in a garden railway, though they must be constructed to withstand the weather. Train stations and freight depots are popular, some even building whole towns trackside. The loco shed is a commonplace to store a locomotive (or the whole train) when not in use.
Other geographic features are used, such as a small pond to represent a lake, rocks for boulders or tunnels through “mountains” or under stairways. Tunnels can be a particular challenge because of everything from cats to raccoons and more like to hide in them, particularly to get out of the rain or heat, sometimes even to sleep, nest, or hibernate. A derailment inside a tunnel can also be permanent if careful planning is not done to ensure that it can be reached by access panels (trapdoors) or at arm’s length from either end.
At its most basic level, a garden railway works like an indoor railway, including turnouts and turntables. However, special considerations must be taken for everything from sunlight and water to dirt and leaves, and even wildlife. The distance covered also means that electrical resistance in and between sections is much higher, and electrical power will tend to drop off at the far end. To eliminate this power issue, some are rigged to use RC car parts such as rechargeable batteries. Others even use live steam and run as a real steam locomotive would. The steam can be generated from various sources, ranging from the messy solid pellet (i.e., methenamine) or stereo-type fuel, through clean-burning butane gas, to prototypical coal burners. Live steam is particularly widespread amongst 16 mm scale garden railway enthusiasts.
Many trains also have digital audio onboard, so they sound like a real train. They can also use Digital Command Control or other similar systems, though dirty outdoor track can cause less of a problem with signal than with simple DC power. This is because DCC puts the full voltage on the rails at all times. There are many benefits of DCC when compared to DC analog systems.