What is Garden Railroading?
The era of Large Scale model railroading, sometimes referred to as "G" scale, really began about 30 years ago when a German manufacturer, L.G.B., began producing large scale trains that could operate in an outdoor environment. Over the past 20 years, American manufacturers have joined the rush to produce a greater variety of Steam and Diesel locomotives as well as a huge choice of rail cars, representing all eras of railroading.
While the majority of layouts are placed in the garden, some hobbyists have started to build these indoors too. Another facet of the hobby is known as "Live Steam". These are scaled steam locomotives that actually are driven by steam being generated in the locomotive via a butane or solid fuel flame.
The equipment has matured recently through the digital re-creation of the actual sounds of locomotives, including the start up, "chuff" sound and stopping sequences. Remote control and battery powered units allow the operator to leave the fixed control consoles and follow the trains around their layout.
A bonus of Garden Railroading is that it incorporates multiple hobbies into a single hobby, bringing all members of a family together. Model trains can become part of gardening, model house building and clay figurine molding which adds to the reality of the layout.
So what size is "G" gauge? The gauge is the distance between the rails. The most common rail width used in Garden Railroading today is 45mm (Approx 1-3/4"). This is the smallest common system where the track stays the same gauge and the scale of the model changes.
Scale is expressed as a ratio. The ratio relates to the difference between the full size item to the model sized item. Using a 1:24 scale, a full size, 40 foot long steam locomotive would scale down to 20 inches in length. This will give you a rough idea about the size of the equipment running outdoors on this 45mm track.
Large Scale manufacturers build a variety of scaled equipment to run on the same gauge track. The following scales ( ratios ) are currently being produced for this 45mm track: 1:20, 1:22.5, 1:24, 1:29, and 1:32. For comparison, if you're familiar with the size of HO scale then 1:20 scale is approximately 4 times larger.
There are numerous model railroading shows nationwide each year and a few actually cater to the Large Scale Garden Railroad Fan. The annual Queen Mary, Long Beach CA, "Big Train Show" is a must visit and there is a National Garden Railway Convention held every year. Many enthusiasts join local clubs, such as the Las Vegas Garden Railway Society, to learn more about the hobby and share their experiences with people who have the same interests.