Large Scale Central

Micmic's (Mik inspired) Build Challenge 2024

Hi all,
Michael from Canberra, Australia here. Long time lurker, first time poster. Big fan of the work I see here.

I don’t know how well I’ll keep this going but I thought I’d try a blog on starting my own garden railway. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I might be finally in a position to maybe think about possibly creating something that has the devoning behind it to one day be a railway :slight_smile:

Anyway, for 2024 I have 2 goals toward this project: Build a building that I can leave outside for a while as a test and create a garden bed where one day I’ll lay rail. I don’t really have time to do either but it’s time to force the issue. And while I don’t have all the resources on hand (Mik inspired), I do plan on making this as cheaply as possible.

More to come but I’ve started now so it’s all downhill from here :slight_smile:

Michael (Micmic)
Canberra, Australia

Hey Michael!

Welcome. I’m pretty new here too and in the process of getting things going for my railway. This is definitely a good place to lurk and a great place to get involved.

I thought I might pass on some local info, as you are closer to many GR resources being in Canberra.

While there’s only one Australian Garden Railway Club and most AGRC members live with in 200km Sydney, they produce a magazine and meet about once a month. Worth looking into. I believe there is a member in Canberra you could reach out to see if it something worthwhile for you. There is a live steam group in Victoria. I think NZ has 6 clubs and run a national GR convention.

For the northern hemisphere crowd, “local” can have a broader definition down under. E.g. Korms “local post office”.

Your local Cockington Green :point_right: Website may be quite useful for ideas. They used to sell bits of miniature garden stock as well. Chatting with their garden team may be helpful and possibly eliminate much of deciding what will work and what you’ll need to trial for yourself as they only have stuff that works for them.

You’re probably already familiar with the bonsai collection at the National Arboretum if you want to go down that path. The crew there are quite happy to chat and offer advice. Bonsai Collection.

I’m getting my garden together slowly, but if you’re debating a pond have a look at this article written by Eric Mueller. It is a fantastic article for starting a garden railway.

I’m very very slowly following Eric’s advice (as shared by many here) just get some track down and run something! The rest will follow.

Aloha Micmic!

The best advice I got was from a gentleman named Tom Trigg, now passed, who said “Get outside and get dirty!” This was followed by another bit of advice from a recovering garden railroader which was “Get something running…get anything running!” There is something about seeing a train in motion to make you want to keep it in motion and improved the 1:13/1:17/1:20.3/1:24/1:29/1:32 world in which it is running. Finally, if you plan to involve family, may I offer CINCHOUSE’s (Commander in Chief, House) directive: “It cannot be just YOUR hobby!” I have measured success by the memories made, and her mandate has paid dividends that make me a 21st century Cornelius Vanderbilt in the memories department!

I think most of the folks on this forum took a very studied approach to their planning, and the results really show. I took a sandbox approach, laid out a general track plan in the yard, built the garden, then had at it, fixing and learning in the defined space of the garden as we went along. I documented that pretty well in a blog on the old Garden Railways forum: Progress on the Triple O.

Finally, as a fellow resident of the backside of the global supply chain, I would advise that you go with the materials at hand. The books and magazines are full of stuff that never comes to Hawaii, vendors that send everywhere but here, and materials that won’t hold up in our climate. Real railroads used whatever was most economical and got the job done, so the choice to use what is at hand is, to my mind, at least in the spirit of the prototype! The same for rolling stock and locomotives…the LGB STAINZ in hand from the local thrift story actually doing something in your garden is a LOT more satisfying than waiting for shipping on the iron horse you really want to be less than a mortgage payment. So, if you see it locally, GRAB IT, run it, and enjoy it. You can always modify it later.

Now, “Get outside and get dirty!”


Thanks guys. Appreciate the welcome.

I’m taking the difficult road so running may be a little off for me. I’m wanting to model NSWGR, 1880+. Unfortunately, there is nothing much rtr so I’ll be designing stuff myself. Thankfully I have my new prusa mk4 to help me with printing and I’m ok with Tinkercad and Fusion. It’ll be a process but then part of my enjoyment is just building things.

As to involving the family…they’ve all opted out so far. I’ve been dabbling in HO and they haven’t shown much interest. Though, when I mentioned having a fairy village my daughter (7) perked up. When I originally had these plans the kids were babies and so to encourage their involvement I was going to have a quarry (sandpit), where loading could take place, and a port (water play area) but that was nearly 15yrs ago. Not so small anymore.


Building a Building - Test building

Because I like working with wood I opted to go for the Thirroul coal bunker. There doesn’t seem to be many photos of the original but if you search that you’ll find plenty of models of it. The original had 6 bunkers/chutes. I’m only going to model 4. I’ll use mine for loco loading as opposed to transferring between coal wagons. I have plans so should be able to make something reasonable.

1/32 is what I’ve decided on. One day I might get a live steam 3801 by Argyle Works. For the moment I’ll be content with whatever I can come up with. The aim is to see if this can survive a year outside of possums, possible hail and usually -5 to +30 degrees Celsius.

So, where am I up to?

First Frame

Stack of frames

Going Vertical


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The Garden

So I’ve been in debate for many years about here I could put such an endeavor. This year we started working on our “front yard” and this now has plans to turn into something more.

I say “front yard” as technically we back onto the corner of a park off the outside of a 90degree bend in the road. I would categorise us as battle-axe (No direct street frontage) but I don’t have that in writing.

Here is my first “napkin” drawing.

It’s not tiny but it’s not huge either. For scale the red circle is approx 3.5m in diameter. I decided to draw out the real thing so wife could get the idea with as little miscommunication as possible. The 2 red lines on the right come down to another circle of the same size going around a tree. There’s enough room for a loop on the left side of the garden wall.

This plan has already been declined. However, it was noted that I could make each side wider so stay tuned. I have the coming week off so hopefully I’ll be able to get started. You can see I’ve got some rocks behind the green waste bin with the plan to dry stack. Given the slope I need to come up about 400mm on the close left and 600mm on the “out of shot” right to make it roughly level.

I’m aiming for 1/32 standard gauge with 3m (10ft) diameter curves.

More to come

Right side

Your coal bunker is looking great.
Many of us use the concept of “Mik” year round. We are always on the lookout for deals on trains and bits and pieces that we can incorporate into our RR. Building stuff is fun and even better when we can recycle and reuse. Keep it simple and keep it cheap and you will have loads of fun.

I like your layout proposal and 10’ diameter curves will allow your trains to perform and look better than on tighter track. Have you thought about elevating the track bed? It does add cost and labor but lifting the trains off the ground even just a bit will be better for so many reasons.

Keep us posted.

Hey Todd,

I thought about raising it but I’m struggling for resources currently and this is technically the front yard so the wife needs it to be prettier than raised wood. Wood is also expensive here.

Having said that, at least part of it will be at least 500mm off the ground. I’m debating making a trolley for removing trains with some kind of gantry crane on it…

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Depending on what hits your fancy, a trip to your local salvage yard may provide you an unexpected find that’s much cheaper than going to a landscaper or lumberyard. I don’t know if the the rail line between Canberra and Sydney has been upgraded, but you could ask them what they’re doing with their old sleepers. They’re only get harder to find as the railways move to concrete sleepers.


If you don’t mind collecting your own rock gabion mesh might be more to your liking. Rusted rebar mesh usually can’t be used in concrete pours and gets recycled. Individual raised gardens provide a great incentive for bridges too. So I’ve been told.


I used corten for my bed that’s in progress. It actually turned out to be the most cost effective once we calculated the cost involved. We were going to go with some besser block but the sub foundation work to ensure it would lean or dip brought the cost up.


We used hollow-tile covered in tinctured concrete to make our raised bed. We tinted the concrete to match lava rocks we got from neighbors remodeling their yards.

Our yard floods periodically, so I am very glad I took the advice to raise the bed!


Geez even first time posters are rolling me under the bus. . .Welcome

Welcome aboard MicMic. That coal chute is looking good!!

Well you will most likely hate me if I declare “Coal” as 2025’s Mik Challenge…LOL

My best 1st. advice… Throw that circle of track on the ground/grass/dirt or where ever, and get it running…

And the added benefit is that then you can apply to join the international RRR club…

I’ll second that. This was my “Just Do It” first loop outdoors. We’ve come a long way in the 22 years since then.