"Honey, I'll be right back."
"Where are you going"?
"I need to go to Home Depot for a part".
"You were just there an hour ago"!!
"I know but I just need this one more "special" bolt to continue." (Probably not the last trip)
Recommendation #1: Live near a Home Depot or hardware store.
Self explanatory. I really don't know what I would do if we lived many miles from a hardware store. Progress would be really slow!
Wow! What a fantastic hobby!
With nearly 90% of our TooMuchFun Railroad construction completed, we thought it would be a good idea to share some of our observations and recommendations from a "beginner's" perspective. Not being an expert in anything related to designing and building a garden railroad, this new endeavor has proven many times that Clint Eastwood's quote (Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry) is right when he stated, "A man's got to know his limitations."
This series of articles reflects Sue and my recommendations and hopefully may prove to help new and "old" hobby enthusiasts avoid time consuming and potentially costly mistakes. Garden railroading will certainly "test" your limitations.
Five bridges converge over a 4-tier waterfall on the TMFRR.
Recommendation #2: Do your research. Join a garden RR club(s), read books, magazines and articles on Garden RR and don't hesitate to ask for help. Visit as many layouts as possible.
Talk with club members in your area and get input as to what has or has not worked for them. Most are more than willing to help you.
Before starting to build the TMFRR, we must have visited over 30 layouts and received great input on everything from types of construction materials to use, tips on powering trains, elevated vs. ground level layout and much more. The in-person Q&A proved to be invaluable. One of the most informative observations from our tours was seeing layouts built on a slope. Our track home backyard with its upslope to the neighbors yard was not a barrier but an opportunity (and challenge) for expanding our original thoughts for where we could build the layout. We discovered this opportunity after our initial design and construction began.
Having a sloped backyard presents opportunities and challenges
Recommendation #3: Decide to pre-design or design on the fly, AND allow for future expansion.
Having a general idea of what we wanted to build, I saw in the garden Railways Magazine an ad for a graphical sectional track layout software program. After working with the program for nearly a month with general dimensions for the layout, it soon became apparent that transferring from paper to real world application was a challenge. What looked great on the 3D software just did not translate well to our backyard. Probably more from user inexperience (Vic) with this type of software, we soon realized that for us, just getting out there and laying out a design was more our style. We also realized that by getting our hands dirty with hoses, ropes, pvc pipe and the likes, it was much easier to visualize our thought for a track plan and change ideas on the fly. For us, designing on the fly was a better method than pre-designing everything in detail before construction. Of course no matter which method or combination you choose, track grades and curves need to be adequately taken into account. In talking with some hobbyists pre-designing works much better for them. Some people are visual and others more analytically oriented so the software or architectural designing work best.
As I will discuss in Part 2, whichever way works best for you (maybe even a combination) you may want to allow for future expansion of your layout if room exists. We never thought we could build on our steep slope, yet for us that is the most spectacular aspet of our layout. We fell in love with the hobby so quickly that we had three major expansions after our initial build.
Some of the items used in our pre-design. Designing on the fly- OUR best method for building ideas.
Recommendation #4: Realize that building a garden railroad takes more time and $$$ than you first imagine.
As novices to the hobby, we naively did not realize the time it takes to construct a garden railroad. Building our overhead patio layout first was a real eye opener for us. Early in our efforts we would make goals for laying so many feet of track per day. Construction challenges routinely arose and our goal of 10 feet per day turned into 2 to 3 feet per day. We learned quickly that very little goes as planned and we did not want to sacrifice construction quality for quantity. We realized that building a quality layout is a VERY slow process and needed to learn to take in stride any amount of completion as an accomplishment and not fret over a timeline.
We also quickly realized that this is not an inexpensive hobby. Having a budget, if appropriate, is great. From our early experiences, setting up a contingency or slush fund was necessary for all those unanticipated trips to Home Depot and purchasing necessary supplies. We were also very fortunate to have met a reseller of used train items (www.bridge-masters.com) and saved a good deal of money vs. buying full retail. It would certainly be nice to win the big lottery and not have to worry about the costs of things but that's not the real world for most of us. Another source of good buys is eBay for those special items you must have for your layout. Sue has quickly become an eBay expert for knowing good prices when she sees them.
Again, these are our observations and recommendations, and may or may not have applicability to your situation.
Building the overhead layouts good practice for the garden railroad
In future articles we'll highlight some of our other "learning experiences" in this great hobby including:
Building for future expansion
Sun and weather destruction
Building to last
Access issues (especially for those of us "seniors")
Lighting for effects
Building and era-themed layout or just for Too Much Fun.
The TMFRR comes to life after dark. Avoid retrofitting by planning for future electrical work.