A reader writes:
I've wanted to have a garden railroad for a long time. I have the yard space, and now that I'm retired I have the time. I came across your site while researching track plans, and your articles have been a great place to start. Looking forward to your newsletter. Thanks!
Still confused about scale. Is "G" the correct scale?
Thanks for getting in touch. Looking forward to seeing your progress. In case you couldn't tell, I DO recommend raised railroads, especially raised platform railroads, for folks who want more running time and less bending over or crawling around on your knees to weed.
To answer your question, "G" is not a scale. It's a gauge. The track is 45mm or 1.775" between the rails. It was LGB's interpretation of a century-old track gauge called Gauge One, which was 1.75". In fact, some folks insist that "Gauge One" or "One Gauge" is the "correct name."
LGB's earliest trains were models of "meter-gauge" trains, real-world trains that ran on tracks with one meter between the rails. Technically that would make their Euro trains 1/22.5 the size of the real-world prototypes. You could make the claim that 1:22.5 is "G Scale," if you wanted to, and some folks do.
Companies that make US-style trains have used other scales.
Models of US narrow-gauge trains that ran on 36" tracks tend to be 1:20.3, 1:22.5, or 1:24. 1:22.5 is the most common, due to the former popularity of Bachmann's Big Hauler starter sets (now discontinued). Folks modeling little logging railroads, etc., often gravitate toward Bachmann's Shay and Climax locomotives, which are 1:20.3 in scale (also more-or-less discontinued). One outlier is Hartland Locomotive Works, which is closer to 1:24 (recently discontinued, sorry).
Models of US standard-gauge trains that run on 56.5" tracks tend to be 1:29 or 1:32. AristoCraft (no longer made) is mostly 1:29, as is the current line of USA trains. MTH's garden trains (discontinued in early2021) are 1:32. Piko (still made and growing) tends to be in the 1:32 range as well. Trains from Accucraft are usually somewhere in between.
Confused? Don't be. They all run on the same track. Moreover, almost ALL buildings and accessories for garden trains are about 1:24, and almost all figures are in the 1:22.5 range. So if you were to visit most garden railroads when the trains were put up, you would have NO IDEA what scale trains they preferred.
I have 1:29 trains I like and 1:22.5 trains I like. Generally I run one scale or the other, depending on my mood or the time of year. (Most of my best Christmas trains are 1:22.5, for example.)
Some folks might get twitchy if I ran both scales on the same day, but none of my non-hobbyists visitors would notice at all. I have a few pieces in other scales that I use for special purposes as well.
In other words, buy a train set you like and get started.
Hope that helps,
Family Garden Trains