Bay Area Garden Railway Society

Roving Garden Railway Blog

  • 10/30/2011 8:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Imagine you’re back in third grade and you’re reading The Boxcar Children with everyone else, even the lower and upper grades.  Questions arise about the four homeless kids no one knows in the depression-era, one-horse town. Town folk assume they took the train into town. In the first chapter we find they’re hiding out because they want to stay together. Soon they find an abandoned boxcar and begin an adventure of resourcefulness and fun amid the day-to-day needs of staying warm, fed and healthy.

    Then you find out that the story of The Boxcar Children is modeled on a Roving Garden Railroad and it’s coming to school after everyone has read the book!  There will be a newspaper, just like in the old days, to help you find the story on the model railroad. Best of all, real model trains run around the countryside of real little trees and a real waterfall. BAGRS member and Montara teacher, Linda Herbert, has arranged it all.

    Now imagine you’re able to help set up the Roving Garden Railroad and watch the expressions on the kids faces as they figure out the scavenger hunt and try to see where the mine train goes after it’s inside the tunnel. Don’t you want to know how the story ends? Dads and moms will want to know what BAGRS is.

    Yes, you are needed to help finish some scenes with figures and signs. And you are needed to help put together a two-page newspaper.  The school is in Montara, CA, just south of Pacifica and 2 miles north of Half Moon Bay airport. The date is early Friday, November 18, 2011. You’re all welcome to help with a pre set-up work party at my house. Call or email for date and time. We will accommodate if you need a weekend party. 

    Nancy Norris


  • 07/21/2011 11:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One of the cool aspects of meeting new garden railroaders is learning a few new tricks. The Roving Garden Railroad has attracted its share of innovative ideas, many of which have been implemented and displayed at our recent West Coast Regional Meet. One such innovation came from Tony Cullen whom I met at the San Leandro Historical Railway’s open house last year. Tony wanted to see the trailer and had his nephew drive him and his wheelchair down from Sacramento to one of our work parties. He was anxious to show us his invention, something I’d never seen before. The train was average, but all eyes fell on a little old railtruck hauling crates of squawking chickens, which scooted along on the tracks just in front of the loco, seeming propelled by magic. I wanted one. My version is a bargain Bachmann handcar, whose motor gears had been broken: on the rear bumper Eric Moe mounted a powerful magnet in reverse polarity to another one on the front of the loco. See photo. Now on the same loop two engines “share” the track, but only one needs to be powered. It’s fun to see the handcar drivers bobbing up and down trying desperately to outrun the engine, which always keeps a safe distance.

    I can relate to those handcar drivers. Keeping the Roving Garden Railroad going has been a part time job for me. The second photo shows the work of many BAGRS members who have been great to work with, but now we need to show the trailer. It’s a huge responsibility and I need help, especially with some late summer/fall venues. Without more investment from BAGRS members, I’m sad to say, we’ll have to chalk it up to an interesting lesson in what our members don’t want to do with their time and find a buyer for it. The idea was to get the “word” out to the general community about our hobby. Maybe the time isn’t ripe for this venture, a good idea, which needs a more invested crew, more like a full-scale railroad with all the people necessary to make it function safely and still have fun. I’ve had many people give me ideas about what I should do. Do you have any ideas on what you can do?

  • 06/27/2011 11:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Getting ready for the National Model Railroad Association Convention, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have helped with the BAGRS’ Roving Garden Railroad. So many BAGRS members have come long distances to pitch in, and the fruits of your labor are growing in the mobile garden that we usually call “the trailer”.  The regulars, such as Terry Hurley and Edward Van Pelt, keep plugging away when no one else shows up, so their commitment along with the necessary random helpers has produced an incredibly unique project that BAGRS can be proud of.

    Even though the geodesic scenery wasn’t finished and painted at the annual meeting, this outreach project attracted a new helper, Seth Abrahams, who was more fascinated with the way the trailer sides close up then in the garden aspect. He has welded detailed bridges and structural gizmos, so that setting-up/closing-down time is shortened and safer. Wait 'til you see his ingenious stanchions, which we discovered (see photo) are much needed around children. My sister saw that it could use mock-mountainside skirts to hide the trailer hitch, so she’s sewing them as I write. “Build it and they will come” seems to be working for us. But, we need you, too, even if one time, because it may be your addition that attracts the next hobbyist.

    July 5 and 6 Terry and I will take the outreach trailer to Sacramento to participate in the NMRA Convention to attract new members into our club and into the hobby. Frank Lucas is our only relief, so far. You can help (and go the show). We also need a new/used market-type canopy -- have you got one you’re not using? Please call me, Nancy, at 925-408-9402 or email to climb aboard.

  • 05/29/2011 9:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Visitors to KidFest Memorial Day weekend in Concord check out the Roving Garden Railroad. Thousands of people, many of them very young train enthusiasts, walked around the layout asking questions and trying to make the train move with fingers. We definitely need stanchions or cones with ropes. The trains ran well and the plants looked happy, too. We got a nice little write-up and photo posted on an online Concord news blog at

    Our next event is July 5 and 6 at the NMRA Convention where we'll be running trains outdoors in front of the Convention Center. How's that for a California intro to model railroads? We'd love to have you bring a battery operated train or live steam train to run on the Roving Garden Railway. We need manpower/tabling, too, to schmooze with show goers.

  • 03/30/2011 8:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Showing the trailer at the annual meeting gained a new worker bee. Seth looked at the front of the lower track and knew he could build a half-circle, collapsible, steel bridge to connect the  two gates that fold down to the ground.  The goal is to be able to  travel with the two halves of the semi-circle on the outside of the trailer. When arriving at the show destination we'll assemble them onto the front by mounting them onto the trailer tongue. With this system no matter how sloped the parking lot we show in, the front lower loop will be at the right height. No legs are needed. Check out his progress at 
  • 01/25/2011 8:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    This side of the trailer looks like it's about to be operated on.  You are looking at the trailer side which has been raised to make the side level while we work on it. Triangular plywood gussets support the road bed. We now have the geodesic scenery made and we'll begin applying the sections of the fake rock to the trailer side to make the cliffs. At the same time the roadbed half loop in front needs to be attached to the side so a mounting system needs to be fabricated. Same for the rear of each side.

    Our goal is to have trains running on this loop by February 26 at the annal meeting. We sure could use your help. This may be your last chance to work on this historic layout.
    Contact with times that work for you to help.

  • 12/29/2010 3:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    After two weeks of making geodesic scenery (fake rocks) for the trailer side gates, we can easily say, we need HELP! Our technique is in need of an expert's touch. What you see in the photo are sections of scenery placed on the trailer. Some of them were very difficult to take from the molds. You can also see that we have more space to cover. If you can give us a hand, we'll feed you and say nice things about you. If you want to help with other things, like building roadbed of wood or covering track with fake gravel (polymer sand) we'd be happy about that too. Anyone?
    On the bright side the trees and groundcover are very happy, the water feature still flows and the trains still go. This beautiful 10-year-old tree was donated to BAGRS trailer by Don Herzog of Miniature Plant Kingdom.

    Happy New Year!

  • 12/08/2010 9:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The December 8th rock making clinic has been postponed until Wednesday, December 15th due to rain.  If you'd like to come to the clinic, please email to get on the list in case the day is canceled again.  Ray Turner will show us how to apply Bragdon molds and resin onto the trailer sides to look like this!

    Check out:
    For thorough instructions and a complete list of stuff we need.
  • 12/06/2010 8:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For this project we wanted a train with a simple, inexpensive control system capable of operating on no-powered track. The solution we adopted uses a 9.6-volt NiMH (nickel metal hydride) rechargeable battery available from Radio Shack and other sources. This battery fits into the engine cab and operates our small LGB locomotive for over four hours on a single charge. The battery uses a standard hobby connector making it easy to install a fresh battery when needed.

    While there are many radio-control throttles available on the market, we did not need speed or directions control for the display layout train.  A small ON/OFF radio-controlled receiver with relay similar to those used for automotive alarms gives us the ability to start and stop the locomotive with a small remote control. Our remote control is catalog item number RC-10 from All Electronics Corp., This firm sells manufacturers production overruns and surplus inventory so we can’t guarantee that this particular item will be in stock in the future. However, similar remote controls are designed to operate on 12 volts DC, but the RC-10 receiver works on the 9.6-volt battery.

    Figure (photo 1) shows the circuit arrangement. The mating connector used to connect  to the battery is also available from Radio Shack. Since these batteries can deliver a high current when short circuited, we included a resettable circuit protector, sometimes called a polyswitch, to protect the battery. This circuit protector is available from All-Electronics as item #CPX-100S. A two-amp fuse could be substituted for the circuit protector.

    The locomotive motor must be disconnected from the normal connections to the wheels and current pickup sliders. For our LGB locomotive, we removed the gearbox bottom cover plate and the removed the sliders and brass strips that carry current to the motor leads. This disconnected the motor from the rails. LGB locomotives include small sockets on the cab rear that connect to the motor brushes. We used these sockets to connect the output of the remote relay (battery positive) and battery negative to the motor.

    Now, pressing the remote’s ON button operates the relay and makes the locomotive go forward at full speed. Pressing the OFF button releases the relay and stops the locomotive. In our case, the locomotive speed is fine with the 9.6-volt battery. If the speed were too fast, we could have inserted one or more silicon diodes (All Electronics #1N4001) in series with the motor leads to reduce the voltage by 0.7 volts for each diode.

    Kermit Paul

  • 12/02/2010 11:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Hello BAGRS Roving Garden Railway volunteers,

    Next Wednesday, December 8, 9AM, weather permitting, we will start applying Bragdon's resin rocks to the 10' trailer sides. Please go to the link below to do some reading homework so the whole, very complicated, procedure isn't a complete mystery. There is a lot of reading on the steps, videos to view and a list of materials.

    Check out:
    For thorough instructions and a complete list of stuff we need.

    Edward is donating a quart kit of resin and other supplies that come with the kit and I am donating everything else but what's on the list below. Unfortunately, we have no funds left to buy some of the materials needed so we will have to work with what we have. I am asking you to look through your cupboards and donate anything from the list that you can spare.

    2. Cast Satin™, white, odorless polymer casting resin. - Bragdon Enterprises.
    4. Petroleum jelly (grocer) or mold release from TAP plastics, or silicon spray- grocer or hardware store
    5. White gloss spray lacquer - hardware or paint supply.
    6. Plastic drop cloth or tarp - hardware or paint supply.
    7. 3/16” thick poly bubble wrap in sheet or roll - packaging supply.
    8. Fiberglass bug screen - hardware supply.
    11. Disposable gloves - paint store
    12. Stir sticks or plastic spoons - grocer.
    13. 1 oz. plastic measured disposable cups. - restaurant or party supply.
    18. Hot glue type glue sticks - Bragdon Ent., hardware or craft supply.
    22. Black powdered tempera paint. - art supply.
    23. Rubbing alcohol (optional) - grocer.

    This will be the first of several such clinics, so if you want to make it to another let me know and I'll try to schedule you into a date that's good for you, but come to work, not just watch. Lunch around noon.

    Rain date is Thursday, Dec. 9 and the following Wednesday if Thursday is also a wash. I'll send updates. Email me if you want to get on the list.

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