The author is a writer and broadcaster who specializes in woodworking projects and has a passion for garden railways. This manual follows the traditional Haynes approach of a lavishly illustrated practical manual. Railways continue to hold a great fascination for all ages and model railways bring an interest into the home.
NAME: Garden Railway Manual, A Step-by-step Guide to Narrow-Gauge Garden Railway Projects
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Richard Blizzard
PUBLISHER: Haynes Publishing
BINDING: Hard back
SUBJECT: steam, engines, railtrack, technology, reproduction, scale locomotive, woodworking, model engineering, model making, live steam, electric
DESCRIPTION: The author is a writer and broadcaster who specializes in woodworking projects and has a passion for garden railways. This manual follows the traditional Haynes approach of a lavishly illustrated practical manual. Railways continue to hold a great fascination for all ages and model railways bring an interest into the home. Even the advanced computer game has failed to dent this absorbing hobby. The difficulty with model railways in the home is that even the small-scale electric railway sets require somewhere to set up and operate. Some achieve this by converting an attic or outbuilding and devoting hours to building a sophisticated track with model buildings and scenery. Size is always a limiting factor and running steam locomotives in any building presents many challenges and can prove very unpopular. The author responded to these challenges by going upscale to narrow gauge and building in his garden. This has become a twenty five year hobby that continues to grow. The manual concentrates on 16mm gauge live steam engines, where engines can be purchased as kits and built without any significant engineering skills. With the author’s interests in woodworking projects, this makes a lot of sense. It allows him to concentrate on the layout of track and the construction of wooden model buildings, bridges and carriages to be used with a live steam locomotive and an electric powered “diesel” engine. This is a project that most modellers are capable of and it reduces costs. Building a model railway outdoors does present one set of challenges. The track and all the associated equipment must be protected from other outdoor activities, but must not interfere with the maintenance of the garden. It is also important that everything is able to withstand weather conditions through the year, because a large track system with buildings and scale scenery is not something that can easily be removed at the end of summer and reinstalled after the winter. Making maximum use of painted wood reduces costs and provides resistance to the worst of weather. The manual includes drawings for buildings and bridges that can be made from wood. It would be practical to start with no more than basic woodworking skills and follow the drawings, photographs and advice to produce a very impressive model railway in the garden. There would be some learning as the work progresses but nothing that a modeller could not master. In the same way, the steam locomotive and “diesel” engine are relatively simple assembly tasks from kits. The most difficult task would probably be in planning the layout. Even here, the challenges are likely to be significant only if a very complex layout is considered as a starting point. Most modellers would start with something modest and then add track each year as experience developed. For someone with greater initial skills, the only boundaries would be imagination and space in the garden. The manual lays out ideas and advice in a way that is easy to follow and develop beyond what the manual envisages. The 16mm gauge track is a good practical scale that would fit even relatively small gardens. If a great deal of space is potentially available, the track can expand over several years into a very impressive system. However, this is one of those hobbies that can be addictive. A larger garden offers the possibility of a larger scale railway. From experience of a 16mm gauge track, probably building on experience of electric rail sets from childhood, a competent modeller could aspire to the light railway that is able to carry passengers and a driver. At that point new considerations come into play because there are safety issues that do not apply to a 16mm gauge system. There is also a requirement to either develop more serious engineering skills or find someone who can build the live steam locomotives and rolling stock required to carry people. One enthusiast developed a series of systems at different scales, where the passenger-carrying track followed the boundary of a very large garden and smaller scale tracks provide the impression of a huge area, by appearing more distant than they were. That required the development of considerable skill and many hours each year to develop and maintain the systems. In the same way that growing experience and confidence will allow an initial 16mm gauge system to grow and develop from the guidance of this handbook, the buildings and scenery can be developed. The author provides some very adequate designs for constructing buildings and rail structures in wood, but some may wish to develop larger structures and use different materials, basing design on the suggestions in the manual. The scope is considerable, but the starting point can be low risk and low cost as skills and experience develop.