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Since LGB revived garden railroading with its "G gauge" offerings, toy trains that claimed to be G gauge have been available in many department stores every Christmas. At least one friend will get upset when I call these toy trains, because he sees the value in even the cheeziest of them. That said, they can be lots of fun, if you know what you're getting into and take proper care of them. Note: If you're specifically interested in garden railroading and you can afford a Bachmann or AristoCraft starter set, spend the extra money and get a good train to start out with.
But if you already have one of these or you really can only afford to spend $50 or so on a train this year and you want to get the most out of it that you possibly can, this article should help you do this. For good or ill, New Bright (shown on the bottom shelf) more or less set the standard for plastic, battery-powered trains that run on plastic track. An exception to the "New Bright and cheaper" rule for these trains is "Scientific Toys' EZ-tec" line (shown on top shelf in the photo above). A few higher-end battery-powered, plastic-tracked train sets have been made, including the following. Lionel has also recently released at least three battery-powered so-called G-gauge trains, including mock-ups of the Polar Express and the Harry Potter Hogwarts Express.
Christmas train has come out; its locomotive looks something like a real 1850s 4-4-0, if a little foreshortened.
In the past, some of Lionel's battery-powered "G-gauge" Christmas trains were made by Scientific Toys so they resembled the Scientific Toys EZ-tec descriptions above. Most of these trains use "hook" or "hook and link" couplers that are more-ore-less compatible with LGB's.
If you stick with plastic track, you'll soon learn that most brands of plastic track don't fasten together. Unlike name-brand garden trains (AristoCraft, Bachmann Big Hauler, LGB, etc.), the battery-powered, plastic track-equipped sets we described above were not actually made to be used outside.
Note About Cheap Metal 45mm Track: Bachmann Big Hauler track with the stainless steel rails is not made to hold up outside (although the trains it comes with are), so you're on your own if you try this. Track Support - Because the plastic track doesn't have big metal rails keeping it straight, you should consider mounting the track to something solid, such as the 2x6 "roadbed" described in our Simple Raised Railroad article. Consider Aluminum Track - If you plan to stick with battery power for the foreseeable future, you will have better luck over all if you go from plastic to aluminum. If you stick with plastic track, you probably won't have any turnouts, so you won't be doing any "operations" besides having the train go around the track (or starting and stopping if you have a remote control).
One thing that really gets most kids involved with model trains is a good set of accessories, such as buildings, little people, animals, street signs, etc., that they can arrange.
On the other hand, if you don't mind filing and gluing, the Colorado Structures buildings are a good inexpensive way to get started on attractive, weather-resistant structures that will look right with your trains now and with most fancier trains you might buy in the future. Because you can't leave your trains outside, consider finding a dry, reasonably temperate place to store them and a good way to schlep them in and out. For trains powered by D or C cells, I would consider investing in a battery charger and a bunch of rechargeables. Some folks running this kind of train make "battery cars" by putting a battery pack into a boxcar or something. Dave Knoch has rewired an AristoCraft 4-wheeled "Critter" diesel locomotive to run on battery power, and he uses it to pull his New Bright and EZ-tec cars. Once you get past the plastic track and the operation and control issues, all of the other aspects of garden railroading are essentially the same as they are for more expensive trains.


Sadly, I have yet to find many photographs of a well-established, attractive garden railroad using plastic track and battery-powered New Bright or similar trains.
I hope this article gives you some ideas and helps you get thinking about Do you have any new finds, techniques or recommendation you'd like to add to our information?
Update for June, 2009 - Since I posted this article, I've received followup tips-and-tricks from two readers. You can use these tips to add directional switching to nearly any battery-powered locomotive.
Some of the notes below were actually received while I was still working on this article, but I included them to show the different approaches and interests people have for these trains. I would REALLY like a section devoted to both aluminum and plastic track and simple methods to convert inexpensive small engines to battery power. Although I have moved up to metal track, I still use my plastic track to run my Bachmann Circus Train on our garden retaining wall!
Incidentally, I noted that this Christmas (2007), Newbright was again selling their inexpensive $34 sets, battery operated, with quite a generous amount of track. First I found out that New Bright and Scientic Toys Track are not compatible, the joiner is on the oposite side. I sold the New Bright and track and caboose on E-bay for enough that the Scientific Toys were essentially free.
While the weights really do make a huge difference in keeping the Scientific Toys Mogul on track, I've found (in my experience) that it's more important to take the flange off the center driver. I was wondering if you could update the toy train garden railroad article with 2 newcomers to the hobby you havent discussed yet. Buddy L, Heritage Express - These have been known to be made as track and battery-operated variants.
Newquida Remote Control Trains - This is a relatively new train brand offered almost exclusively at "Hammond Toys" in Utah. Also a correction: The Echo loco is in similar size to a LGB or Bachman model but due to is small, thin cab it looks smaller. Choose from the Hoboken Station Train Play Set, Puffer Billy Scooter Train Play Set, Bobangi Zoo Safari Train, Madagaskasr Monkey Train, and the Alphabet Soup Express Train.
All you need is Adobe Reader 5.0 or later to view and print pages from your PDF eBook download. It is an educational tool and is considered an important contribution to a child's development. One is that most of them are not nearly as sturdy or weather-resistant as true garden trains. People who buy a $50 set to "try out" garden railroading are almost always disappointed for the same reason that kids whose folks give them a $50 guitar to "try out" never learn more than three chords - you can't make a $50 train look, run, and hold up like a real model train any more than you can make a $50 guitar sound and play like a real musical instrument. Though Scientific Toys' boxcars and gondolas are undersized and the track is still plastic, their locomotives and cabooses come closer to the height and width (if not the length) of scale trains, and they tend to be sturdier.
You can see that one follows the "Narrow Gauge," "Old-Western" tradition of most of the other photos on this page. Although none of these are great models, they are in the better-than average category for battery-powered trains.
Most of the trains we're discussing in this article come with curves that make a 48"-diameter circle, so you should be able to reuse the same roadbed if you convert to metal track in the future.
If you can go to wider curves as well, such as 8' or 10'-diameter, you will be surprised how well your trains run on it.
Then they figure out a plug-and-wire system so they can just charge one unit (and have one in reserve) to run all of their trains.
If you do, especially if you can come up with how-to descriptions and photos, please get in touch. Again, please get in touch if you have any suggestions or questions for any of our other contributors. I have converted about 5 engines so far (rather crudely, since I am not an electronics guy--far from it), and they all ran.
I do recommend using an inexpensive Aristocraft (or similar) engine at the front end, followed by a battery box car, rather than trying to make do with the very inexpensive engines that come in the $29 sets.


If a person is REALLY on a tight budget, you can build quite an empire for very little money.
The ST mechanism doesn't have the side to side play that better three axle drives have and on the tight radius plastic track, there's a lot of stress on the chassis, which pushes the front driver to walk over the outside rail.
All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 by Paul D. Beyond the educational virtues, coloring sessions allow us, the adults, a little peace and quiet while the boy or girl enjoy coloring.
Another is that they're frequently given to children too young to operate the train properly without supervision.
Many of these trains including brightly colored plastic wheels with shiny paint on the spokes and rims.
However that has not kept many people from attempting to use these sets (or pieces from these sets) outside. There is a Harz 2-6-2 locomotive, ICE train (branded as "TCE"), The new rugen bogie passenger car (branded as "TB", In 3 different colors), A Rhb box car, a 2 pack of german bogie gondola cars and a tank car (there were ones branded as "SHALL" a while ago but have seemed to disappeared). Not to mention the result: coloring pages for preschoolers are proudly presented at the nursery, kindergarten or even grandma and grandpa's living room!
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And the most damaging, they are often put away with the batteries inside, so that important parts have been eaten by acid the next time you get them out of the box.
I agree that aluminum track (which I have finally converted to) has the BIG advantage of wider radius curves, altho a lot of us who have a limited budget also have a limited amount of space to work with, so sometimes we have to settle for very tight curves. The coupling system and the tender and freight cars are direct copies of the Bachmann Big Hauler equivalents. The eBook also contains detailed instructions on how to make perfect wood wheels using a hole saw.
If you like to completely remove your website from our search engine index, please follow the instructions below, "Remove from Index". One BIG advantage of most plastic track systems is the way each piece locks together with the next one. I've done this on four or five of these locos and it works better than adding weight (IMHO). They hold up well but the sound and wiring in the locomotive has been known to die after a few hours of service. You'll notice that lumber, patio stones, and dirt cost the same whatever kinds of trains you are running. The loco is bigger than most g scale locomotives but with a smaller cab, it can fit into scale. And if you prefer, we also provide an online resource for ordering quality wood wheels at a low reasonable price in small quantities. Combining plastic with aluminum or brass is also an option, which I had to do in order to have a crossing on my layout. I used plastic track for more than ten years in California weather, never painted it, and most of it is still quite usable. It is not difficult to tie the two together, and even different brands of plastic track can be linked together by making a special piece which puts one type of track on one end and the other on the other, with the two spliced together and mounted on something like bender board to keep it all lined up.
That said, ANY train that runs can be fun to use and can be made more fun to use with a little extra effort.
These definitely have the look of a proper G scale train and I certainly recommend them too.



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