Really Big Garden Trains

Backyard Trains You Can Ride

Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains

Every so often a Family Garden Trains reader will ask me why I don't talk about backyard trains big enough to ride on (or in). Ignorance can only be a defense so long, I suppose, so I have started asking people questions.

One thing is certain, While you can put together a very nice "normal" garden railroad without robbing your kids' college fund, a train you can ride and the track and roadbed to support it will cost you much, much more. And room is an issue, too. Don't expect to squeeze much "railroading" into a half-acre lot.

Some common scale/gauge combinations are:

ScaleGaugeComments
1:12 (1" on the model corresponds to 12" on the original)4.75"The most common among hobbiests. Also common in Live Steam circles. There is some commercial support. You ride on, not in, these trains.
1:8 (1" on the model corresponds to 8" on the original)7.25" or 7.5" Fairly common, especially in Live Steam circles. There is some commercial support. You ride on, not in, these trains.
1:4 (1" on the model corresponds to 4" on the original) 14" or 15"Used by a number of theme parks and live steam clubs. There is very little commercial support, but there are a few custom manufacturers. Children may ride in some of these trains. Adults who could still squeeze into a Ferari or Vega can too.
1:2.35 (1" on the model corresponds to 2.35" on the original) 24"Used by theme parks, generally custom built, unless you're lucky enough to come across a railroad from a park that has closed. Because the theme parks that used these trains were attempting to make them seem like "real" trains, they often scaled the cabs and coaches large enough to ride in.

I have posted lists of resources here several times. Unfortunately, there are few folks interested in making trains for this target market, and not enough buyers to keep them in business. So the list is always out of date the next time someone asks me about this topic. I would recommend googling Live Steam Clubs in your area. Even if you don't want to use real steam locomotives, their members may be aware of resources in your area.

In addition, here are a few links that were working of July, 2013:

A company that used to make trains for this purpose is Riding Railkits. They are no longer in business but they've left their web page up for reference.

Several folks I know started with a used amusement park train - but they're usually in really bad shape and need a lot of expensive repairs.

Please let me know if you find any resources I can share here.

Best of luck,

Paul D. Race


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