Example of G scale model train locomotive, SD40-2 My son's G Scale SD40-2 posing on the mountain.

Families and G-Scale Model Railroads

This is for all parents out there planning or working on a garden railroad with their kids: advice from a dad who made a few mistakes along the way.

Garden Railroading Requires Planning Some work is best done by experienced modelers

I’m a detail-oriented person. I like things a certain way, as I’m sure many of you do, too. I’m not quite a rivet-counter, but I sure lean that way. I imagine our family garden railroad having a strong industrial theme, with much of the same bleak, utilitarian atmosphere that Peter Jones created on his Compton Down Railroad. (What an inspiration he is to me!) An article about Peter can be found on GardenRailways.com. There's also a download for his last column, "Final Scribblings", that he wrote for the magazine.

The trouble is, I’m not the only one involved in my our garden railroad. My two sons, both pre-teens, have a typical boy's love of all things railroad and are a big part of why I became involved in this hobby. (It will transform from a hobby to a lifestyle when my wife and I begin wearing overalls and communicate via radio headsets. No offense to my fellow enthusiasts with such gear.)

Family and garden railroading This is the way to enjoy garden railroading. Sitting in the dirt. Truth be told, this is not our family's layout. This was taken at an annual model train show held at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes, California.

Now that I’ve established that others in my family should have a say in the railroad, I’ll tell you where things went wrong, and hopefully show how you and your family can enjoy building and running your railroad together.

Planning Is Adult Work

To some extent this is true. Neither of my sons has a full grasp of the mechanics, physics or logistics involved in the planning stage. I’ve tried to teach them these important lessons, but I’ve usually come away upset and frustrated because they wouldn’t pay attention.

Suggestion #1: Teach in small bits and know when they’ve had enough. Its just another part of parenting.

Plan as necessary, but ask for their help occasionally to keep them involved and engaged. Their input is important too. Be sure and make your requests reasonable for their skill level and ability.

Its important to set them up for success as soon and as often as possible. There’s plenty of time away from the railroad for them to get the hard knocks of life.

Another consideration is budgeting time for family involvement in the railroad and separate time for you to take care the work that is less team-oriented. Perhaps this time can be spent doing the math, making the critical measurements, and welding of bridges. Certainly if your family is up to the task, invite them to help.

Suggestion #2: Use your time with the family to work on things you can all participate in and budget separate time for yourself to take care of specific tasks.

Family and garden railroading Such a great shot of fun with trains.

Patrick Kalscheuer has been involved in garden railroading for years. Together he and his sons planned their small backyard layout with many twists, loops and bridges. It's an industrial-themed motif with a modern diesel lineup.