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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains

About the Owner/Author/Lead Editor

My name is Paul D. Race. The photo above is from me recovering from a day of letting kids run trains on my garden railroad. This took place in the year 2000 and is described in the Archives section of the Family Garden Trains(tm) site. My beard's gone white since, but it gives the general idea. It also explains the animals on the roof of the building in the photo.

I am a professional writer and a part-time folk and gospel singer. I am also a former youth minister and college professor, with advanced degrees in Bible and Writing. You'll note that none of these skills have anything to do with tools, building, excavating, carpentry, or anything of the sort. So the overall message of the New Boston and Donnels Creek pages is that it doesn't take specialized knowledge or skills to create an attractive, reliable, and above all enjoyable garden railroad. In other words, if I can do it, you can do it. In fact, the New Boston and Donnels Creek pages started in late 1998 before the Family Garden Trains(tm) pages, as a way of encouraging fellow beginners. The Family Garden Trains(tm) name and pages came in 1999 as readers began asking for more information and I realized that the site needed better organization.

Why Family Garden Trains(tm) Got Started - I bought my first Large Scale train when modern garden railroading was in its infancy, and there were few folks nearby to learn from, so I figured a lot of stuff out on my own, making more than my share of mistakes along the way. That said, once I had a short list of things I knew would work and a long list of things that I knew wouldn't work, I began publishing what I had learned to help other people. Since about 2001, I've been recruiting other hobbyists and industry professionals to help me review and error-check my articles; in cases, when I've come down on one side of a potentially "controversial" issue, I've invited folks who felt the other way to express their opinion, and incorporated their comments into my articles as well. That is why, although my name is listed as author on most articles on the Family Garden Trains(tm) pages, I often use the first person plural ("we") to describe decisions that have been made.

Become a Part of It All - I don't have a huge sign-up sheet, or chat rooms, or a pay-per-vew membership requirement or anything like that - I don't have the time to keep track of such things. But I do want to make Family Garden Trains(tm) at least reasonably interactive:

  • I want your comments and feedback on each article, whether I wrote it six days ago or six years ago. If I need to change or add something in the text of the article, I will do so, and give you credit. If you send information that is nice to have, but doesn't fit into the article itself, I'll add it at the end of the article.
  • I keep a sort of blog expressing current concerns about the hobby or the web site in general, and sometimes about more general concerns as well. If you send an appropriate response to any of my "blog" articles, I'll append it to the article.
  • You may sign up for our mailing list to be notified of occasional news and announcements.
  • You may contact me me with any questions about the hobby and I will try to answer them.
  • I publish questions and answers that I think will apply to more than one person in the Letters to the Editor page.

In other words, when I say I want to hear from you, I'm serious.

Why You Should Be Encouraged by My mistakes as Well as my Successes - This goes back to the "if I can do it you can do it theme." I'm more dangerous than Tim Taylor with most tools, I'm from the "measure six times and still cut it wrong" school, I don't work well from plans, and I don't follow instructions well (a sad confession for someone who writes instructions for a living). Once I get away from the PC and out of the realm of ideas into the real world, I need lots of visual cues. When I'm planning something, I need to visualize things to think them through, which makes it really hard to plan something like a landscape or garden railway "from the ground up." Sometimes I go out and just stare at the dirt pile, trying to figure out if I'm doing things right, if I'm getting the result I'd hoped for, or whatever. This may explain my arguably silly approaches to things, like stomping around in a circle to tamp down the "roadbed," or "installing" a pond mostly on top of the ground then dumping dirt around it. When it works, I tell you about it. When it backfires, I tell you about it. When someone else tries the same approach and gets entirely different results, I tell you about it.

Even when I'm working with something as precise as a model, I usually try all the "right" ways to do something then stumble on a silly way of doing things that works better for me.

In addition, I don't have a local hobby shop that carries this stuff, so I never get a chance to try anything before I buy it. I also try to keep my total investment at any given time under a certain amount, which means that when I see something I really want, I make room for it in my budget and house by selling something else. So my purchasing habits are probably a little unusual, too, by a lot of folks' reckoning, but I'd rather have a few things I was happy with than a bunch of stuff that doesn't really do it for me. (For more ideas about buying and selling garden railroad stuff, see my Primer article, Where to Buy Garden Railroading Stuff.)

So I'm not saying "Do things my way." On the contrary, I'm only hoping that my attempts will build your confidence to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. The best result of this site would be if you decided, "Well, if this Race guy can do it, anybody can," and you went out to your garage and got a shovel and started digging a hole.

This photo is from me singing "City of New Orleans" at an MVGRS annual picnic several years ago (since then the "white" has spread a good deal). Let me know if you want me to come to your club and make a presentation (and maybe lead the group in a sing-along of railroad songs).

To learn more about what makes my railroad work [as of 2005-2008] and what could be improved, see the following links.

Editor's Note - The following is a list of the articles I had written by the time I wrote this one (about 2005). I'm leaving it here, because it's in chronological order, while most of my indexes on the New Boston pages are in reverse chronolotical order.

Next - Proceed to our article "Refurbishing Garden Railroad Roadbed," which describes how we used cement roadbed to addressed the massive burrowing animal and weed growth problems caused by following the track-over-gravel-on-a-dirt-pile instructions of the desert-dwelling garden railroad experts and GR editors.

Previous - Return to our article "NB&DC Rolling Stock," which lists the sorts of cars I was running on my railroad in the early 2000s.

Return to our article "Motive Power, which was written in 2003, and updated in 2008. It describes the locomotive we were using most of the time to pull trains on the New Boston and Donnels Creek.

Return to our article "June, 2003 Photos, to see what our railroad looked like four years after we broke ground, and one year after the 2002 convention.

Return to our article "Layout So Far," which describes the track plan, plants, etc. of our garden railroad as of the early spring of 2003.

Return to our "January, 2003" article, which includes photo of our railroad caught in a 6"-8" snow right after running trains at Christmas.

Return to our "June, 2002 Photos article, which contains photos of our garden railroad as it was set up for the 2002 National Garden Railway Convention in Cincinnati.

Return to "What to Do When a Tree Eats Your Railroad."

To return to our article "Stress Testing on the NB&DC RR," click here.

To return to our NBDC 1998-2000 Pictures page, click here.

To return to Landscaping and Pond Construction, 1998-1999, click here,

To return to our page About New Boston and Donnels Creek" click here.

To return to the New Boston and Donnels Creek Index Page, click here

To return to the Family Garden Trains Home Page, click here

Note: Family Garden Trains(tm), Garden Train Store(tm), Big Christmas Trains(tm), BIG Indoor Trains(tm), and BIG Train Store(tm) are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications(tm) ( 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, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 by Paul D. Race.
Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.
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For more information, please contact us

Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains.
Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains

Visit related pages and affiliated sites:
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Return to Family Garden Trains Home page
Return to Big Indoor Trains Home page
Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Big Indoor Trains Primer Articles: All about setting up and displaying indoor display trains and towns. Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden RailroadingBig Christmas Trains: Directory of Large Scale and O Scale trains with holiday themes
On30 and O Gauge trains to go with indoor display villages and railroads
Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Free Large Scale Signs and Graphics: Bring your railroad to life with street signs, business signs, and railroad signs Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page Click to sign up for Maria Cudequest's craft and collectibles blog.
Click to visit Fred's Noel-Kat store.
Visit the largest and most complete cardboard Christmas 'Putz' house resource on the Internet.
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Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories. Traditional Home-Made Ornaments
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Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Learn important guitar chords quickly, to jump start your ability to play along on any song. With a few tools and an hour or two of work, you can make your guitar, banjo, or mandolin much more responsive.  Instruments with movable bridges can have better-than-new intonation as well. Resources for learning Folk Music and instruments quickly Check out our article on finding good used guitars.
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs. X and Y-generation Christians take Contemporary Christian music, including worship, for granted, but the first generation of Contemporary Christian musicians faced strong, and often bitter resistance. Different kinds of music call for different kinds of banjos.  Just trying to steer you in the right direction. New, used, or vintage - tips for whatever your needs and preferences. Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album. Explains the various kinds of acoustic guitar and what to look for in each.
Look to Riverboat Music buyers' guide for descriptions of musical instruments by people who play musical instruments. Learn 5-string banjo at your own speed, with many examples and user-friendly explanations. Explains the various kinds of banjos and what each is good for. Learn more about our newsletter for roots-based and acoustic music. Folks with Bb or Eb instruments can contribute to worship services, but the WAY they do depends on the way the worship leader approaches the music. A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.