Large Scale Central

Trackwork and Wiring

I live in Northern California (Pacific Grove) and am looking for some help with track laying and wiring of a new garden railroad at my home. Is anyone available to consult with me on assistance (for a fee of course) in the near future? If so, please email me below so we can discuss offline more.

[email protected]

Thank you,

Ed Rodriguez


I would approach your local garden railroad club.

Eddie Rodriguez said:

I live in Northern California (Pacific Grove) and am looking for some help with track laying and wiring of a new garden railroad at my home. Is anyone available to consult with me on assistance (for a fee of course) in the near future? If so, please email me below so we can discuss offline more.

[email protected]

Thank you,

Ed Rodriguez

Have you looked at the current issue of GRNews? There are people in the Bay area (e.g., Nancy Norris) who specialize in setting up garden railroads.


You will not find a better bunch of folks that here on LSC. Answers to questions are plentiful and best of all free. Do not be afraid to ask any and as many questions as you like. Someone, or more than one someone will provde an answer.

To assist in getting answers, tell us a little more about where you are and where you are heading with your railroad. Will it be a simple loop to watch trains run around or will there be operations involved? Are you planning a modern mainline pike with big diesels or a smallish short line or narrow gauge with small motive power and short trains? The more you are willing to provide, the better the answers will be.

I will step off into my basic starter advice. Being as you already clarified that you will be running track power, I recommend a minimum of a 10 amp, 18-24 volt power supply. If you are looking for an all in one package, you can’t go wrong with a Bridge Werks unit. They make several different ones, you would need to decide which one might be right for you. My alternative suggestion is a Meanwell 10 amp 24 volt switching poer supply with an external controller. One that is quite popular is the Revolution Train Engineer trackside unit. My club has several of these and they are very reliable.

Layout design - the larger the diameter of the curves the better. Space of course will dictate size here, but bigger is better. Switches is the same recommendation. If you have the space, a wide radius (10 foot diamtere) or No 6 is the best bet.

Track, is a whole topic of itself. Aluminum track is the lest expensive of the three major options. For outdoor use it is the least robust of the three materials, subject to damage if you have mother naure’s visitors with sharp hooves. Although aluminum is a good conductor it also oxidizes the quickest and aluminum oxide is not a good conductor. Electrical connections (track joiners) will be a maintenance issue to keep the elctrons flowing. Brass is the next choice, and I consider it the best. It is middle of the three materials in cost, is middle in durability and still a good conductor. Joiners will stay reliable longer. Brass will need occasional cleaning (a scotchbrite on a sanding pole works well) but is not over burdonsome. Stainless steel is the costliest by far and in my opinion does not offer sufficient advantage over the others to justify the cost. Stainless will nearly never need cleaning, and is the most durable. But is is the most difficult to work with. Requires heavier than model work tooling to cut, will not take standard electronic solder for electrical connections and is probably the least available material.

A trip to the bookstore to purchase “Garden Railway Basics” by Kevin Strong would not be money wasted. He covers most all of the basic questions beginners have and frequently has an opinion on which is best and why.

Welcome aboard this ‘crazy train’.

Bob C.


Thanks Bob,

It will be an SP in the 60’s (all diesel) with 2 tunnels and three bridges with about 250’ of track around my yard. I have completed/purchased the following:

4 storage tack yard with access door is built in my shed.

Purchased Sunset Valley Code 250 Brass track and rail bender

Have 23 assorted freight cars

3 bay window cabooses

1 SD45

1 SD40

1 U25B

ALCO PA 1 and B

2 F3A and 1 F3B

I have the book by Kevin Strong but want to make sure my trackwork and wiring will be flawless. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again!

Good choice of railroad, the SP, always been my favorite, I love the Blackwidow paint schemes and even the new Bloody Nose paint scheme that followed. Back when Aristo-Craft first came out I repainted a set of FA and a FB to the Bloody Nose paint scheme, plus repainted around 12 rolling stock cars to SP and Cotton Belt road names, all repainted and decaled. I later sold these to my railroad buddy of 35 years, he has passed away now and he only ran then one time, they are all in the original boxes and his wife has them. She has talked about selling his collection and said she would let me know when the time has arrived to part with them. When the time comes I will probably help her dispose of them, I don’t think I want them back as I have too much stuff myself and I don’t really need anymore. I’m a model painter and they are very nicely done, 1st class job.


When you bend your rail, don’t go any tighter than 8 foot diameter.

I also run SP. BTW, this is all done using track power.

Thanks Todd, I’ve seen your layout before, very nice work! Is your track wired for DCC? If so, how many connections? Wire size? Control system?

No, simple DC track power. The layout is wired as 21 blocks (IIRC) and each block is addressable by any of three “Cabs” (three Train Engineer wireless, track power units) with a common ground that is also common to the lighting, turn-outs (21), and accessories. The common ground is connected to the track in seven places, so there are 28 track feeds (14 gauge malibu) over the ~600 feet of track. Also, the control panel has a built in reversing unit for each of the three Cabs and all sidings have diode protection. There are also various places along the mainlines that have diode protection and this lets me run point-to-point between any two opposing sidings or those spots along the main line.

For example, if you watch the video, the green railbus runs from the siding at the lake to a point along the mainline where it picks up passengers. As long as I have a particular switch on the panel engaged, the railbus will not proceed beyond this location where it picks up passengers to go to the lake.

But, all sidings also have electrical interuption if their turn-out is not set to the siding position. So the railbus can go to the lake, I can throw the turnout back to the mainline and the railbus will park. Then I can flip that panel switch to let trains run along the mainline if desired.

Track power is very powerful if you have knowledge of basic electricity and use a bit of wiring creativity.