You can approach this subject as either 1) building a railroad and adding a garden, or 2) building a garden and adding a railroad.
For the sake of simplicity, I would recommend number 1, which is the approach my wife and I took back in 2006 when we built the Carolyn’s Creek Tie & Lumber Co. Railroad.
I spent a lot of time with railroad design software before I decided on the railroad that I wanted. The only really good space was behind our house just off of the new deck and there was also room to expand if there ever was need. There were some sassafras trees already growing there and it was not difficult to build the plan around them.
The plan called for two loops, independent but still connected by a crossover so two trains could run at the same time without constant monitoring. I also wanted a waterfall and that needed a pond to feed water to the pump.
The pond was created by stacking cinder blocks three high and putting a plastic pond liner inside. That with the addition of a trestle finished off the pond.
The water recovery system was a channel built out of bricks and covered with black plastic and filled with small round stones.
Construction was brass sectional track laid on 1×4 treated lumber. Where the rails went off the ground they were secured to treated lumber driven into the ground or supported on bricks.
There were several tunnels called for on the plans to allow the loops to cross over each other, and of course there were several bridges required. The tunnels were constructed out of flue tile laid horizontal on the ground.
Eventually these were covered with ‘creek’ rock collected from around the house to make them look like part of the mountain which occupied the center of the railroad. Tunnel portals were constructed from treated wood cut down to strips. A second small pond and waterfall was created on the mountain for added effect.
Some of the elevated areas were filled with larger rocks to simulate mountain boulders.
A small town was built at the point where the two independent loops met at the crossover. Buildings were built from scratch or purchased from online sources including ebay. People, vehicles, and other details were added as well.
The railroad has 275′ of track in the two ovals. This does not include sidings added later.
I built a sawmill for the railroad as it was a ‘Tie and Lumber Co.’ Railroad.
Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society Christmas competitions.
One of my photos also won a first prize at My Large Scale which is a tremendous resource for those of you looking for more information on Garden Railroading.
And a bridge building disaster gave the information for a short article published in Garden Railways Magazine.
It wouldn’t do to leave this subject without mentioning EnterTrainment Junction located just off Chesterville Road in Cincinnati. If you love trains, it is a ‘must visit’ destination for children and adults alike. While this extraordinary Railroad was being built, my wife and I volunteered many days building mountains, making trees and painting figures.
I built and Iron Furnace which is featured on the Railroad.
I also built a factory which is in the middle period city.
The railroad features ‘Geared Locomotives’, a Shay, a Heisler, and a Climax since these were the workhorses of the lumber era. You can still ride on excursion trains pulled by these locomotives in several places around the country.
The closest one to Cincinnati that I know of is the Cass Scenic Railway.
If you would like to view a “Twilight Run” on the CCT&L you can go HERE to view it….