Category:Garden Railways

From The Brighton Toy and Model Index
Jump to navigationJump to search

Garden Railways refers to outdoor railway layouts, and can be crudely divided into two main categories: those that can carry people, and those that can't.

At the larger scales, the distinction between locomotives designed for Miniature, Model and Garden railways can depend on context. A large working steam loco might be classed as a "model" if it's primarily for display, as a "miniature" loco if it's doing a real job of work (e.g. hauling paying tourists at an attraction), and a "garden" locomotive if it's for active private use. Bassett-Lowke's larger locomotives would now tend to be classed as being for "miniature" railways – they were sold as "garden" railways because B-L were often selling them to very wealthy people with very large gardens.

At the smaller scales, the distinction between "model railways" and "garden railways" tends to be a matter of weatherproofing – Although some gauge 1 (45mm) electric track is very sturdy, and was often produced in brass, standard "domestic" steel electric gauge 0 track tends to be considered unsuitable for garden use - steel rusts, and rusty track doesn't conduct current. Clockwork is normally not practical for large garden-scale layouts, due to the annoyance of having to continually stomp around a garden to find a loco that has stopped in an awkward location.

For the purposes of this website, we're defining Garden Railways as hardware that has been designed to be weatherproof or weather-resistant, and/or private outdoor layouts, and Miniature Railways as outdoor layouts open the the public.

People-carrying gauges

Some small-gauge railways originally built for commercial use have been put into service as tourist attractions, and tend to be referred to as miniature railways rather than model railways or garden railways, but the terminology is flexible - it depends how big your garden is!

10 1/4 and 7 1/2 inch gauge

Larger people-carrying model or miniature railways specifically designed as tourist attractions or for private recreation tended to be designed for either 7 1/2-inch or 10 1/4 inch gauge. Bassett-Lowke built a significant number of locos and rolling stock in this gauge in the early part of the C20th, and helped install lines at a number of seaside resorts and private gardens.

The last commercial "off-the-shelf" 10 1/4-inch gauge garden or tourist attraction railway system was probably the short-lived battery-powered electric Triang Minic Narrowgauge Railway (TMNR) system in the 1960s.

5-inch gauge

Five-inch-gauge is an odd category: many 5" models were built as fine-scale working "engineering" models, but never intended to be used "in the wild". However, five-inch-gauge steamlocomotives often had enough power to haul people, and could be pressed into service for a small garden railway, as long as the track was raised sufficiently high, and the seats were fitted with leg-guards.

The museum's Oliver Cromwell is an example of a five-inch loco that would have been technically capable of this, but which is so exactly detailed that it was obviously designed for display as a piece of engineering artwork, rather than to haul people around a garden track: on the other hand the five-inch model of GWR 5523 has seen a lot of active service at Hove Park (the museum's five-inch Stirling Single built by Denis Hefford was originally engineered to be steam-powered, but was left as an unpowered display model).

Smaller gauges

Gauge 1, 2 and 3

These gauges were often used for garden railways, for the simple reason that the turning circle was so great that to run them indoors with anything other than straight track needed a lot of space.


The Lehman Grosse Bahn ("LGB") system was designed for garden railways, with 45mm Gauge 1 track, but larger-scale locomotives and rolling-stock. The LGB range "normalised" this scale difference by producing LGB model locomotive designs based on those found on narrow-gauge railways, where the wheels and wheelbase would naturally be smaller than usual. Originally produced by Lehman, the LGB system was bought by Märklin and sold well in the US.

45mm track is sometimes referred to as "G Scale" ("G" for "Garden"), although this refers to the track width rather than the scale of train running on it - with LGB (or similar), the 45mm track represents narrow-gauge and the trains are proportionally larger - if the track represents standard-gauge track, the trains are proportionally smaller.

Gauge 0

Gauge 0 was sometimes used for outside layouts, the problem being that electric track had obvious problems in wet weather, and building steam-powered locos small enough for gauge 0 was difficult - steam engineering was significantly easier in the larger gauge 1.

Bowman produced a "hybrid" scale range that were optimised for garden layouts in having gauge-1-scaled superstructure (for easier steam engineering) on gauge 0 scale track for less obtrusive garden layouts.

In the 1960s, Tri-ang produced their Big Big Train range with lightweight plastic rolling stock, battery-powered locomotives and plastic track: although primarily aimed at young children, the diesel locos could be "hacked" and painted to turn them into "proper" models, after which the cheap plastic weatherproof track made them a useful basis for a garden railway.

External links




This category has the following 10 subcategories, out of 10 total.

Media in category ‘Garden Railways’

The following 35 files are in this category, out of 35 total.