Trains.com
You have 7 views remaining.

Home / How To / Large Scale Layouts / Garden railroad inspired by Union Pacific and the Big Boy locomotives

Garden railroad inspired by Union Pacific and the Big Boy locomotives

By Jens Bang | August 23, 2021

Visit the modern-era Snake River Railroad

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories and more.

Model freight train on a curve
Model train on Model train on a garden railroada garden railroad
A long Milwaukee Road freight consist out on the mainline of Jens Bang’s Snake River Railroad in Idaho. Broad expanses and sweeping curves characterize this impressive line. Photo by Marc Horovitz
Model train on Model train on a garden railroada garden railroad
Model train on a high trestle
A USA Trains Hudson takes a long string of Aristo-Craft heavyweight cars across the high steel trestle, seen here at its highest point, perhaps 12 feet tall. The scratch-built bridge has been in place for many years. The 56-foot-long structure was created based on a single photo. Photo by Marc Horovitz
Model train on a high trestle
Model passenger train on bridge
The passenger trains crosses the Crooked River Bridge. This structure is modeled after one in Oregon. Supports are cast concrete. Douglas fir and ponderosa pine trees, collected as seedlings, will eventually create a small forest along the banks of the river. Photo by Marc Horovitz
Model passenger train on bridge
Two model freight trains on a curve
Two freights meet near the north end of the line. Locomotives are a mix of scratch-built (by Grant Minor), USA Trains, and Aristo-Craft. Photo by Marc Horovitz
Two model freight trains on a curve
Close up of model diesel engine
Grant Minor, a friend of and collaborator with the author, heavily rebuilt these Lionel GP20s. The pilots and almost all of the roof details were scratch-built. Photo by Marc Horovitz
Close up of model diesel engine
Two model diesels on a high trestle
USA Trains and Aristo-Craft diesels cross a model of the old Spokane high steel trestle. The third engine, a U30C, was built by Grant Minor. The bridge has been in place for many years. In the background is the second loop. Photo by Marc Horovitz
Two model diesels on a high trestle
Model train on a truss bridge
The steel truss bridge spans a deep gully. It was assembled entirely with screws and nuts on a purpose-built table. Photo by Marc Horovitz
Model train on a truss bridge
Model freight train on a curve
A grain freight snakes through the wooden Riley Creek bridge, built by Grant Minor. The author loves winding trains, hence the S-curve. Photo by Marc Horovitz
Model freight train on a curve
Long model train on a garden railway
 
Long model train on a garden railway
Model train on a wood trestle
 
Model train on a wood trestle

 

My garden railroad, the Snake River Railroad, is named after my interest in the Union Pacific. This has been my favorite railroad ever since I saw the Big Boy.

The 200 by 300-foot railroad is shaped like a mirror image of Idaho, because of large Ponderosa pines in the backyard. There are two separate loops. The first, around 550-feet long, was operational first. The second750 feet were added about 12 years later. It is now connected to the first loop. There are approximately 300-feet of storage tracks.

Trains on the Snake River Railroad are mostly Aristo-Craft and USA Trains, with additional scratch-built rolling stock. Engines are primarily USA Trains GP-38s fitted with Northwest Short Line’s replacement wheels. I have three Aristo-Craft SD-45s that I’ve fitted with USA Trains motor blocks. I also run a USA Trains’ Hudson, which I liked the instant I saw it. It pulled 77 cars up a steep grade (a section of track that no longer exists). The Hudson is the most impressive and dependable engine I’ve ever had.

Trains are powered by a pair of Crest power supplies with 10-amp controllers that provide 24 volts. If you keep the needle of the ammeter away from the 10-amp mark, everything works fine. I feed power to the track every 30 feet or so using 1,500 feet of 12-2 outdoor lighting wire.

I use prototypically wide, sweeping curves, which are necessary for running long trains with body-mounted Kadee #820 couplers, closely coupled in a prototypical manner. Over time, I discovered that truck-mounted couplers will not work. With trains of 50 to 60 cars, if the locomotives hiccup just once, there will be a derailment. Cars with body-mounted couplers won’t derail as easily. For the most part, trains run without problems, but problems do mysteriously happen when I’m not looking.

Now that the railroad is nearly complete, the only real problem is maintenance, ballasting, constant track cleaning, weeding, and more ballasting. With the exception of time, frost heave is the greatest force working against the railroad. But that’s railroading!

2 thoughts on “Garden railroad inspired by Union Pacific and the Big Boy locomotives

  1. Very impressive. Having so much track, ballasting the whole thing must take 1000# of ballast. When I built mine, it was 440 ft of track and used 1 ton of ballast to finish it. But I also had a full operating switch yard including to scale shops and a steam up area. Yours is so large, the trains seem to get lost in the wide angle pictures. I love the grandness of it with trains seeming to come from some far away place. Congrats, it’s magnificent.
    Richard C.

You must login to submit a comment