Yes, the book has only 95 pages of content, but there are hundreds of great ideas, tips, and examples shoehorned into this small package.
How to Design and Build Your Garden Railroad won't tell you everything you need to know, but it will get you started well, and it will start you thinking about a lot of possibilities that would not have occurred to you otherwise.
A Good Collection of Great Articles - Jack Verducci's New Book- June 26, 06
When Garden Railways magazine needs to publish the "definitive" article on any landscaping-related issue (and many other kinds of articles besides), they contact Jack Verducci. And demand for Jack's expertise doesn't end when those articles are published. Reprints of Jack's articles are always in high demand. A few have already been reprinted along with reprints from other authors in the collection Garden Railroading: Getting Started in the Hobby.
If Kalmbach ever enticed Jack to publish one book with everything he knew about garden railroading, all of the other garden railroad writers and editors would need to think about changing careers. But we can all relax; instead of really mining the depth of Jack's experience, Kalmbach simply republished a collection of some of Jack's most popular and most useful Garden Railway articles (with a new introduction that beginners will find very helpful).
If you're a fan of Jack's articles and you want the best single collection you're ever likely to see, track down a copy of How to Design and Build Your Garden Railroad . If you don't know Jack's work at all, you need this book even more. (Notice I was able to avoid the "cheap shot" of saying "You don't know Jack.") Yes, the book has only 95 pages of content, but there are hundreds of great ideas, tips, and examples shoehorned into this small package.
That said, simply combining excerpts of a few dozen exceptional article into one book doesn't necessarily turn the collection into a "how-to" manual. Readers expecting a single "narrative" that will take them from total ignorance to a complete, attractive and reliable garden railroad in many simple steps will be disappointed. In fact, the book leaves out a few things it would be helpful to know, or that you would expect to be there based on the table of contents. For example, the chapter on "Structures" doesn't explain how to choose, acquire, build, paint, or detail structures. But it does explain how to make structures seem like they belong in their settings and how to use plants around them effectively. And those sections are insightful, important, and unique in current print offerings. To me the greatest omission is Jack's great articles on trimming dwarf conifers that Garden Railways published in the summer of 2002. Of course a newcomer wouldn't know what he or she was missing.
Several topics that are included could benefit from more detailed step-by-step instructions. If memory serves, articles that originally contained such steps seem to have been truncated to fit into the book, so that only the final product is shown, accompanied by general tips. The experienced landscaper or model railroader wouldn't be daunted, but the total beginner might be. At least one of the articles (on casting a viaduct bridge), not only breezes over steps, but also presupposes knowledge that most garden railroaders don't have, much less beginners.
Astute readers will notice that a few of the photos are redundant - Jack had used the same or similar photos to illustrate different articles (which isn't a problem in a magazine, where the articles are published months apart). Unfortunately, the uncredited editor of this collection didn't bother to go through and replace the redundant photos with new ones - frankly a shame in a book that has limited "real estate" anyway. Another problem that isn't a problem in a magazine is that only one major approach to building and raising roadbeds, or to landscaping in general is shown throughout the book. In the magazine, an article on Jack's approach is followed by an article showing Kevin's approach, and so on, but that doesn't happen here. And while Jack's approach is practical and frequently leads to amazing results, it may not fit the needs of all prospective garden railroaders.
Fortunately, these minor problems are reduced to insignificance by the quality of the book's content. Most of the articles in this book are among the best ever written on the various subjects; just having them together in one place (uninterrupted by advertisments) is worth the price of the book to anyone serious about their garden railroad.
Other topics that are addressed (and generally illustrated with fine illustrations) include:
In addition, most of the photographs are of railroads that Jack has built. So they illustrate Jack's excellent landscaping skills, and above all, his aesthetic sensibilities, which more of us should learn to emulate. Jack's introduction stresses the importance of each railroad conforming to a basic vision, or as Jack calls it, a "theme." Beyond that, Jack's landscapes look like they belong in their settings; his railroads look like they belong in the landscapes; and his structures, bridges, and accessories are appropriate for the setting and for the railroad.
This book would be a great companion volume to Marc Horovitz and Pat Hayward's Gorgeous Garden Railways, another book that is strong on aesthetics (although it is silent on methodology.)
How to Design and Build Your Garden Railroad won't tell you everything you need to know, but it will help you get started off right, and it will start you thinking about a lot of possibilities that would not have occurred to you otherwise.
Update for 2008: For some reason, this book is no longer available through Amazon. I know I had a hand in getting sales off the ground, but I can't believe they went through a printing this fast. As of April, 2008, you can still get the book through your local bookstore, directly from Kalmbach, or through this link .
For more books about garden railroading, please check out our Garden Railroading Books, Videos, and Magazines page.
Please let me know if you have any feedback, and have a great summer,
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