You Are Here.
Jump to other pages.
Big Trains Mailing List.  This is a photo from Big Trains listmember Ric Golding's Kaskaskia Valley Railroad.  Click for bigger photo Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden Railroading
Large Scale Starter Sets: Begin with a train you'll be proud to runBest Choices for Beginning Garden Railroaders: a short list of things you're most likely to need when starting out
Large Scale Track order Form Sturdy buildings for your garden railroad.
Large Scale Christmas Trains: Trains with a holiday theme for garden or professional display railroads.Free Large Scale Signs and Graphics: Bring your railroad to life with street signs, business signs, and railroad signs
Garden Railroading Books, Magazines, and Videos: Where to go to learn even more
Collectible Trains and Villages: On30 Trains and accessories designed by Thomas Kinkade and others
Written by Paul Race for Family Garden Trains

Big-Trains - the Original Garden Railroading Mailing List

When LGB trains reinvigorated the Garden Railroading hobby, resources were few and far between, misinformation was everywhere you looked, and many of the early pioneers of the hobby were separated by hundreds of miles from each other. So, the few people who knew how to use the Internet before the World Wide Web came online figured out ways to find and talk to each other online. One of the earliest and best resources was the Big-Trains mailing list, whose members included experts of all sorts and a growing number of newbies who gradually became experts in their own rights.

For those of you who think the Internet started in 1995, a mailing list is a pre-web way to support interaction between people with similar interests. When you sign up for an e-mail mailing list, you agree to receive e-mails from anyone else on the list. To send comments to the list, you e-mail the list-server, which forwards your comments to all of the other subscribers. If you reply to someone else's comment, you can usually choose to e-mail the person directly, the whole list, or both.

Eric Schnoebelen has maintained the Big Trains mailing list since the early 1990s. For several years, the Big-Trains mailing list helped to fill a serious vaccuum in accurate information about the hobby:

  • Most local hobby shops were fountains of misinformation.

  • Although Garden Railways magazine was a valuable resource, folks who had questions couldn't always wait until Marc got around to publishing an article on the subject.

  • Most clubs were in their infancy, and often hampered by misinformation themselves.

  • The books on the subject were not always helpful - one was largely a refitted "indoor" railroading book with photos of LGB trains where the HO trains were before.

One Place for Good Answers - In this vaccum of reliable, useful information, the Big Trains mailing list stood out as a source of legitimate, timely, real-world information and advice. I found my way here when I was still in the "clueless newbie" stage. I learned quickly that I could ask a legitimate question and get several thoughtful answers, all of which were worth evaluating to see which approach was best for me. As the list grew and as new members gained experience, we began helping the next generation of "newbies."

Attempts to Settle Big Questions - We also discussed difficult subjects like scale and gauge ratios, coupler height standards, and flange depths. In some cases, those discussions got a little heated. But generally, the problem was either misinformation or folks coming at the same issue with different needs and agendas. With the help of many Big Trains members, we collected and published the facts that nobody could argue with. On matters of personal preference, we generally agreed to disagree agreeably. In a few cases, the major manufacturers paid attention when we were able to achieve consensus on some topic. As an example, getting manufacturers to label the scale of their products was largely the result of several years' efforts on the part of Big Trains members.

The Big Trains members also have helped develop resources that answered some of the hard questions once and for all. Several of us, including some manufacturer's representatives we pulled in to make certain we had the facts straight "sweat blood" over the contents of articles such as "Which Scale Should I Model". By the time we were done and the major manufacturers had all approved the content as it related to their products, we had put an end to 90% of the arguments on the subject.

By now, many of the ideas from discussions on the Big Trains list have worked their way into articles in Garden Railways magazines, as well as articles on public web sites such as Family Garden Trains and Large Scale Central as well as articles on some subscription-based sites such as My Large Scale and Large Scale Online. As such resources grew, the amount of traffic on the Big Trains list has shrunk - hardly anyone signs up any more and asks questions like "tell me everything I need to know about garden trains." But when a good topic for discussion comes up, folks still come up with some pretty good answers.

We're Still Here - Though the Big-Trains list is not nearly as critical to the growth of the hobby as it once was, many of our old friends from the "early days" hang out there, many new friends have joined, and it's still a good place to bounce ideas around.

There are also some "running gags" - jokes that go back ten years, such as Carl (Vic) Vogel's supposedly split personality (which rumor started because some folks knew him as Vic and others knew him as Carl). Please pardon us if we don't exactly take ourselves too seriously . . . .

So here is an invitation to join the club. Introduce yourself, and tell us what your specific interests are, than ask any specific questions you have as they come up during your ordinary progress in the hobby. If it's a legitimate question, you may get five good, but different answers, and it will be up to you to decide which answer works best for you. If you say "Tell me everything I need to know about garden railroading," you might be disappointed, though.

Big-Trains Links

If you want to learn more before you take the plunge, check out the following links:
  • Big Trains Frequently Asked Questions - This page answers your questions about what a mailing list is and what is unique about the Big-Trains mailing list.

  • Big Trains Archives - Look for old postings or old remarks by old friends. Search by field is disabled for now, but you can scroll backwards as far as you want.

To Sign Up to the Big-Trains mailing list page, please send a message of "subscribe " to

(We hope to have a form here that does this for you before long, but I couldn't get it working.)

Home Pages
Reading Index Pages
Buyer's Guide Pages
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 Railroading Big 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

Note: Family Garden Trains?, Garden Train Store?, Big Christmas Trains?, BIG Indoor Trains?, and BIG Train Store? are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications ( 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 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.
Family Garden Trains is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

For more information, please contact us

Click to see exclusive, licensed Major League  Baseball(r) train and village collections!

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

Click to see collectible  Christmas villages and trains.