Category Archives: Layout Planning

Working with a steep garden – terracing

6115480471_2f30a88ea9_bIf you have a steep garden, terracing is a great way to make your garden more attractive and useful.

Realistically, if your garden has too extreme a gradient, you’re not going to be able to run trains up them without serious problems. While you may have to make some compromises on your layout with a terraced garden, it’s better than the alternative of not doing it at all!

As these things tend to be, it can sometimes seem an intimidating project to start, especially with no previous experience. It can be useful to browse the Internet for some inspiration and see what others have done with their gardens – especially if they’ve managed to incorporate a railway.

As well as making your garden look more attractive, terracing stops rain water washing all of the soil and nutrients to the end of the garden, and allowing more than weeds to grow.

Terracing can allow you to separate more than one railway line from eachother, perhaps with different plants in each area to add extra interest.

DSC01059Depending on your timescale and budget, there are a few different options for achieving this. The more long term – though unfortunately tending to be the most expensive – is to use stone walls. You could also use wood, but you’ll be doing more ongoing maintenance.

Make no mistake, this is a serious project in terms of time – and you’ll be amazed by how much earth needs to be dug up. It may be worth speaking to a professional landscape gardner – even if just for an initial consultation and assistance with planning things. Their fee may end up saving you time and money in the long term!

Images by Lynn Friedman and Elanor Martin.

Start Planning Your Garden Railway!

The winter climate of the UK is not ideally suited to constructing railways in your garden – but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on your line 🙂

This is the time in which you should be planning out things for the future – drawing track plans, purchasing track and stock, and getting a good idea of what you need to do when the weather brightens up.

This will help you get started on building as soon as possible – and, of course, get you running your trains as soon as possible!

The Realism of Your Garden Railway

Railway modelers are divided when it comes to the decision of how realistic to make their railways.

Some base their layouts on real lines, with every last detail based on it’s real life equivalent, and meticulously copied from photographs.

Others prefer to invent a fictional location and base their line around that. This option gives you more freedom, as you can pretty much add whatever you want to the layout, without regard for historical or locational accuracy.

Personally I prefer to design layouts based on my own ideas. It allows me to decide to run steam only trains one day, and a modern intercity service the next. It also means that if I acquire a piece of scenery, I don’t have to worry about whether or not it fits in with the time period or location of the layout.

The degree to which you plan your fictional location can vary. Some modelers will write pages and pages of back story for their location, and set it in a specific time (an example would be a 1940s village in the North of England).

As with everything, how you plan your layout depends on your personal preference. You can always change your mind, after all!

Garden Railways and Pets/Animals

Something to consider when planning your railway is how any animals and pets will react to it. It is important to keep an eye on your pets while the railway is in operation, or things may get damaged – as this Youtube video shows…

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Going Beyond A Simple Model Railway Layout

Today’s guest article has been written by B. Murphy

At their most basic level, model railroad layouts are simple circles and ovals that
would fit onto a 4×6 sheet of plywood.

These simple track layouts are easy to set up and relatively inexpensive, but they
aren’t really very realistic. After all, with the exception of kids’ rides at the
amusement park, how many trains have you ever seen that just go around in circles?

The Point-to-Point Layout

Real railroads go from one place to another place. They may have sidings, branch
lines, and other subsidiary systems, but the main line starts at one point, travels to
another point, and stops.

Trains are turned around at terminals by means of extensive yards, wyes, loops, and
turntables, but the main line, whether double-track or single-track, goes from point
to point. There are switches and yards at one end, and a turnaround of some sort at
the other.

Despite the point-to-point model railroad’s resemblance to real railroad lines, it
is’nt very successful on a model railroad.

True, in some very large model systems the point-to-point plan has been used, but
in most cases the model railroad cannot possibly approximate the distance traveled
by a real railroad.

If you had the entire Madison Square Garden for your layout, you still wouldn’t be
able to duplicate, in scale mileage, a reasonable point-to-point railroad. In normal
model railroads, the train hardly leaves one terminal before it has arrived at the end
of the line.

No time is allowed for switching operations at the terminals for freight trains to
perform their normal functions, while the express is speeding from terminal to

In a good-sized layout, scenery can handle part of this problem. The express can
rush into a tunnel, where the operator stops it. He then carries on other railroad
business to his heart’s content and, when it is completed, makes his express rush
out of the other end of the tunnel as if it had been traveling hundreds of miles all
the time.

A small layout, however, cannot adopt even this illusion because a small railway has
no room for two genuine terminals.

The Out-and-Home Layout

The out-and-home layout solves part of this problem – it has only one terminal.
This is really a point-to-point system doubled back on itself.

You have a terminal. You send the train out and it travels through farmland and
forest, through villages and mountains, and finally arrives at a terminal. It just
happens to be the same terminal it started from, but you can easily pretend that it

This system gives you a little more mileage between terminals than the point-to-
point system, but in most model railroads the train arrives back home before you
have been able to do much, unless you use the tunnel or other method of hiding the
train that is supposed to be traveling.

While more adaptable to model railroads than point-to-point, it still presents many
problems except on very large layouts.

Both point-to-point and out-and-home layouts can be combined with continuous
pikes, in large layouts, to offer variety and realism—and this is precisely the
procedure used by experienced model railroaders with plenty of space.

For the vast majority, however, the continuous layout is not only best but also
essential for interesting and varied train movements. With a clever use of buildings
and scenery it can also create the many little deceptions that bring a realistic flavor
to the operation of your railroad.

About the Author:

Bill Murphy offers advice about designing, building, maintaining and repairing model
railroads at the Model Train Report website. Find out more about building your own
model railway – sign up for my free “Model Railroad Design Secrets” e-course at