Family Garden Trains,
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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains(tm)
Real-World Railroads to ModelMost of the trains running in gardens today are models of some real-world train somewhere. To many garden railroaders (especially those who "graduated" from indoor trains), part of the fun of garden railroading is choosing a real railroad for inspiration, then choosing equipment and other options that would be at home on the real railroad.
For the first few decades of model railroading, many of us had to compromise, as only a handful of models were available. Nowadays we have many more choices. Most people who want to model most kinds of railroads can find at least some of the pieces that would help them effectively model the railroad they want to represent. (To see some of the locomotive compromises I made early in my garden railroading career, click here.)
The biggest choices now facing most garden railroaders include:
Using a Railroad PrototypeOnce you've decided on a kind of railroading you want to model, you may look for individual railroads for inspiration. Some other railroads, though, aren't as well represented on the store shelves as others. Nickel Plate, for instance. You could buy equipment from other lines and repaint them for your favorite, of course, but a USRA-style Mikado, as beautiful as it may be, is not a Nickel-Plate Berkshire. So if you have your heart set on a particular railroad, you may have to decide what level of compromise you are comfortable with.
Finally, even if you settle on a particular railroad, you can choose whether to attempt to replicate it in every possible detail or simply use it as inspiration to guide your overall direction (and specifics where reasonably possible). For my railroad, I try to use Pennsy-style equipment when possible, but it's not always possible (or affordable). Most of my locomotives, cabeese, and passenger cars are labeled for Pennsy, too, so you might think I'm modeling Pennsy. But I can't, really - not enough equipment is really available. To adjust for the "compromise," I use the fiction that the New Boston and Donnels Creek is a shortline attached to the Pennsylvania's Western Division (which did have a reputation for running a hodgepodge of stuff compared to the Eastern Division).
Two of my friends, Denny Lamusga and Wil Davis, like Great Northern. They both use models of Great Northern when available. But neither Denny's "Garden Northern" railroad or Wil's "Buckeye Falls" railroad runs exclusively Great Northern models.
Issues of compromise aside, many garden railroaders (and almost all indoor model railroaders) will tell you that looking to specific real-world railroads for inspiration makes your projects more fun and believable.
Other InformationMost mainline railroads have been well-documented in print over the years. As an example, I have more Pennsy-related books in my collection that I can ever do justice to. Many kinds of resources have also been offered for narrow gauge modelers, although not quite as many. I'll try to provide examples of both at the end of this article.
In addition, when I stumble across a kind of railroad that hasn't been documented to death, I'll try providing information here. Here are a few articles about railroads that you might not read about anywhere else.
*A common carrier was a railroad that was in the railroad business and not just in the business of supporting another industry, as Carnegie's coal trains used to support his steel mills. Once such monopolies were broken up in the U.S., a "common carrier" was supposed to make all of the railroad's services, passenger or freight, available to all customers at the same rate - if you owned a railroad and a coal mine, you were supposed to charge your coal trains the same prices as everyone else's. Click the back button to return.
Reference BooksHundreds of books about railroads have been published over the last century. If you get to train shows you may find some that are out of print and still very useful for ideas or authenticity. The examples included below were available at Amazon when we went looking, but many more are "out there" if you take a look. Please contact us if you know of an especially useful resource that is still available to the general public.
Books about Standard Gauge Railroads -
Books about Narrow Gauge Railroads -
Books about Industrial Railroads -
Books about Traction (Electrical) Railroads -
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