The First Attempt at a Garden Railway – Part 3

My garden railway was starting to actually look like a railroad. It had a layout that was now embedded in lovely gravel and wound its way through my backyard. However, it was a little plain. I was given a book for my birthday that went into many different ideas for backyard trains. As I looked through it and studied it, one of the things I realized that trains are all about going places. One of the ways a lot of other model train builders made their trains look like they were going somewhere was through the use of landscaping…and tunnels. The landscaping I wanted to do right so I decided first things first, tunnels would be built.

Tunnels are great things. They are not only cool to see a train go through, they also give the impression of leaving one place and going to another. They also create interesting visual centerpieces to look at. With this in mind, I decided to start figuring out some tunnels for my Santa Fe train.

Flower Tunnel

Mr. DAPs Garden Railway - First Attempt - Santa Fe Train
Mr. DAPs Garden Railway – First Attempt – Santa Fe Train

The first “tunnel” that I put together wasn’t actually a tunnel at all. Instead, it was a grate that I had around that I had propped up with four wine bottles and grown herbs on top of. For the train, I stuck with the four wine bottles as legs and then added a big pot of flowers on top of it that hung over beautifully. This created a colorful overhang for the train to travel through. It wasn’t a permanent thing but it was fun while I figured out how to make some more permanent tunnels.

Building Cinder Block Tunnels

Mr. DAPs Garden Railway - First Attempt - Cinder Block Tunnel Foundations
Mr. DAPs Garden Railway – First Attempt – Cinder Block Tunnel Foundations

For the more permanent tunnels I decided that first and foremost they needed to be strong. I had quite a few rocks laying around the edge of a garden that looked horrible in that place but would look great to build a mountain with. However, I didn’t just want to pile rocks on top of my trains. So instead, I used cinder blocks as a foundation and put some pavers on top for the ceiling of the tunnels.

Mr. DAPs Garden Railway - First Attempt - Rocks Go Atop the Cinder Blocks
Mr. DAPs Garden Railway – First Attempt – Rocks Go Atop the Cinder Blocks

Once the basic structure of the tunnels had been built, it was time to start hauling rocks from the front yard to the back yard. The idea behind this was to cover as much of the cinder blocks as possible. Then, once all the rocks were in place I could plant some foliage into the center of the cinder blocks and these plants could grow out and cover both the cinder blocks and rocks and create a more natural and colorful look.

Retaining Wall

Finally, I added some pavers around one end of the train where I had some runoff issues as the garden wanted to bury the track when it would rain. I used some basic plastic stakes to help keep the pavers in place against the hill that wanted to move them.

Next Phase

The next phase would be to actually build the garden around this garden railway. However that wouldn’t be happening quite yet. Instead, one of the dogs decided that the garden railway would be a great place to start digging. After fighting back and fourth for several weeks (maybe even months), I decided that this was a losing battle and that things would have to start over. The second attempt was a LOT more successful than the first. However, I learned a lot from the first attempt that really did help me when I went back a second time. It also gave me a lot of ideas for the future of my train as it continues to grow in the future.

I was pleased with how the first attempt turned out. It was especially fun to watch right before dusk as my little Santa Fe train would snake its way around the yard and through the tunnels. The best part was watching the headlight head into and then out of the tunnels and light the way.

What do you think of my first attempt at a Garden Railway? Do you have a model train (bigger or smaller)? What would you like me to write about next with my railway: my ho-scale train or the second attempt with the g-scale railway? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Make it a GREAT day!

  • Mr. DAPs