Roving Garden Railway Blog

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  • 11/25/2018 10:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BAGRS member, Mel Thompson, shares story about garden railroading with guests.

  • 11/25/2018 10:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

  • 11/25/2018 10:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BAGRS member, Jacques Verdier, points out some of his favorite features. 

  • 11/25/2018 4:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

  • 08/30/2015 7:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Now that the plants are a landscape and most of the story is complete, several BAGRS members have wanted to add lighting and other animation to the Roving Garden Railroad.  If you go back several pages in this blog, you'll find that we installed plenty of conduit and wire to 5 locations on the edges of the trailer to enable future wiring of lights, smoke units or whatever to the 12-volt battery. Until now none of the wires had been connected to the battery. What makes it easier to install these items now is an easy-access panel installed by Jacques on the side of a metal building over the battery on the tongue. At present we can throw the waterfall switch to instantly see the water flow. Same for the mine train, point to point in the tunnel. The only light at present is the campfire. In the future you can wire up some fun to an existing switch.

  • 11/11/2013 10:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    David Mease has been adding lighting, animation and other fun projects to the trailer. Here's his progress, recently shown on October 31 after dark.
    Smoke came from the general direction of town, oh my. A Ghost train came to the rescue, thank goodness. Could the arc welder in Grif's Garage be the culprit?
    Unseen by some folks, a ghost emptied the candy bucket.
    The guy in the watch tower saw who it was. A Kermit Paul impersonator. ooohhhhhhh hahahahahahah
  • 09/21/2013 6:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Here is David Mease's story about his recent conversion to outdoor large scale.

    A Simple Engine Battery Conversion for the Roving Railway at Ardenwood
    As a new member of BAGRS and new to large scale railroads this summer, I've been looking for any opportunity to learn more about the hobby. Many years ago my father was deeply involved in HO modeling and had a very large layout. Unfortunately, he passed away about a year ago and left me with a lot of HO equipment, scenery and parts. Going through all of those items reignited my interest in the hobby but I found I really didn't have the room to build a layout like I wanted.

    A few times a week I go for a walk in my neighborhood and I usually pass by Bob Ferguson's house in Martinez where he has a garden layout that circles his entire property. I caught up with Bob a couple of times and drilled him on all that I could think of to learn enough to make a move into G scale. Bob mentioned the BAGRS organization so I checked it out online.

    After signing up for BAGRS in July I spent time looking through the information on the BAGRS website and discovered the Roving Railway. I also noticed that Nancy Norris was looking for some help readying the display for Ardenwood in September. I contacted Nancy and attended a workday at her house to learn what was going on and get a look at only the second garden layout I had ever seen. Nancy had no problem with me jumping right in and doing whatever I could to get things in order for the next show.

    I decided to dedicate a day to attending the Ardenwood event to learn more and see how people reacted to the display. Nancy said they were in need of a battery operated train to run on one level of the layout. Over the past couple of months I had been selling off the HO items I had and purchasing a few G scale engines and cars. All the engines were track powered and I told Nancy I had planned to convert them to battery but didn't have anything right now. She then told me about an article she had up on the Roving Railway section of the BAGRS site discussing a simple and cheap way to convert to battery power. [See the 12/06/10 blog item]

    The article showed a simple car remote type key fob that operated a small relay switch up to 12 volts. I looked around at a few sites and found a couple of units on Amazon for less than $10 so decided to take the plunge and give it a shot since we'd need something to run in just a few days. I had attended a technical high school for electronics 30 years ago and felt comfortable modifying the engine. One of my past hobbies was R/C airplanes and I had some 8.4v and 9.6v battery packs laying around.

    The unit I selected was actually advertised as a remote dimmer for strings of LED lights. The fob had an on/off button and two buttons that controlled the voltage up and down. I figured that was perfect as I didn't know how fast the train would run under battery power. The engine I selected to modify was an Aristo-Craft FA-1 Napa Valley Wine Train. I had purchased it for about $75 and it already contained a R/C receiver and sound card but came with no transmitter or battery. This unit had a section of the top already cut open for easy access to the components so it was a no brainer for this project.

    The FA-1 also had both A frames completely broken and the powered trucks just hung by their wires. I'm a DIY guy and found that Aristo-Craft still has a decent catalog of parts for their products. I had searched their site before purchasing the engine and saw the frames were in stock for around $4 each so I ordered a couple. Replacing them was very easy after removing a dozen or so screws and clipping the leads to the motor blocks.

    This was the perfect time to hook up the receiver for battery operation. I simply spliced two common leads from the motor blocks and connected them to the spring loaded terminals on the receiver. I had found an article about this type of conversion on another site that recommended adding a diode across the output terminals to avoid some type of reverse power surge the motors can generate. They also suggested adding a 1-3 amp fuse between the battery and the receiver. I picked up these common items at Radio Shack and installation was completed in a few minutes for a total cost of under $20.

    The unit was tested on the oval of track on my patio and I found that it operated at the same top speed as another track powered FA-1. The range of the remote was very sporadic sometimes requiring that you be a foot from the unit and at other times would operate from 20' away. It's rated as having a 100' foot range. The site suggested adding an antenna by opening the receiver box and soldering a wire onto the existing circuit board antennae. I got lazy and didn't do this at that time. I figured it was all that was needed for Ardenwood and was pleased with the results so far.

    next installment: part 2 - Roving Railway Setup and Running Trains!
  • 04/19/2013 6:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
      Because of the mine on the tailgate (far right),  a couple of mom-and-pop mine portals cropped up on the wilderness side of the trailer to enhance Daniel Smith's gorgeous cribbing and finish that scenery on the 10' side gate. The Ken Aslet Crassula plant pots slide into holes during the show.

    To the right of the cribbing a metal bridge, only 4" wide extends from the cribbing to the tailgate. Most medium size trains don't fit through here, so we'll need to widen both rear bridges. Anyone who would like to help can contact Nancy Norris for our next work party.
  • 04/19/2013 6:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BAGRS members (l to r): Glen Simpson, Larry Silverman, Richard Johnson, Jerry Fogel, Nancy Norris.

                                                                        We set up the Roving Garden Railroad for a two day show at the PCR convention in Dublin April 5 and6.
  • 04/08/2013 2:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Plant List for the Roving Garden Railroad

    San Francisco Bay Area, California, USDA Hardiness Zone 9


    Sweet alyssum (seedlings crop up near town)

             Lobularia maritima ‘Easter Basket’


    Short-needled cedar (leaning tree on mountain pointing to town)

             Cedrus atlantica var. (Zones 7-9)

    Pygmy deodara cedar (growing out of mountain featherrock)

    Cedrus deodara ‘Pygmy’ (Zones 6-9)

    Green Globe false cypress (street row behind town and left of portal)

             Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Green Globe’ (Zones 5-10)

    Kosteri dwarf false cypress (right of waterfall)

    Chamaecyparis obtusa (Zones 4-9)

    Dwarf false cypress (shading old boxcar)

    Chamaecyparis var. (Zones 6-9)

    Japanese cedar (behind the doctor’s garden)

    Cryptomeria japonica ‘Tenzan Yatsubusa’ (Zones 5-9)

    Swane’s Golden Italian cypress (flanking grandfather’s fancy mansion)

             Cupressus sempervirens ‘Swane’s Golden’ (Zones 7-9)

    Shimpaku juniper (leaning over old boxcar)

    Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’ (Zones 3-9)

    Dwarf Alberta spruce (behind old boxcar camp)

             Picea glauca ‘Conica’ (Zones 4-8)

    Lacebark pine (park tree right of grandfather’s mansion)

             Pinus bungeana (Zones 4-9)

    Dwarf Japanese yew (base of mountain behind old boxcar)

             Taxus cuspidata ‘Nana’ (Zones 4-7)


    Rupturewort (behind town on lower hill)

             Herniaria glabra (Zones 5-10)

    Mother Lode creeping juniper (mountaintop)

             Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’ (Zones 3-10)

    Dwarf mondo grass (behind old boxcar and under rosemary tree)

             Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’ (Zones 6-10)

    Stonecrop (left of newly painted boxcar)

             Sedum sp. (Zones 3-10)

    California blue-eyed grass (left of waterfall)

             Sisyrinchium bellum (Zones 9-11)

    Elfin thyme (park grass and mountain meadow)

             Thymus serpyllum ‘Elfin’ (Zones 4-10)

    Page 2. Plant List for the Roving Garden Railroad

    SHRUBS and TREES (non-conifer)

    Trost’s Dwarf birch (deciduous tree center of town)

             Betula pendula ‘Trost’s Dwarf’ (Zones 3-9)

    Kingsville Dwarf boxwood (low shrubs in front of mansion)

             Buxus microphylla ‘Kingsville Dwarf’ (Zones 5-9)

    Dwarf English boxwood (right of post office)

             Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ (Zones 6-8)

    Korean hornbeam (deciduous tree right of train passenger shelter)

    Carpinus coreana (Zones 5-9)

    Ken Aslet crassula (in pots sunk into side gates)

             Crassula sarcocaulus ‘Ken Aslet’ (Zones 9-11)

    Miniature pine tree (succulent by portal near fancy house)

    Crassula tetragona (Zones 10-11)

    Littleleaf rockspray (apple trees near greenhouse)

    Cotoneaster microphyllus ‘Thymifolius’ (Zones 5-9)

    Japanese euonymus (yellow-tipped shrub behind town)

    Euonymus japonicus ’Ovatus Aureus’ (Zones 7-11)

    Prince Rupert lemon-scented geranium (right of portal below greenhouse)

             Pelargonium crispum ‘French Lace’, (Zones 9-11)

    Contorted Japanese cherry (deciduous tree next to greenhouse)

    Prunus incise ‘Kojo-no-mai’   (Zones 5-9)

    Dwarf pomegranate (deciduous tree corner left of newly painted boxcar)

    Punica granatum ‘Nana Emperor’ (Zones 7-11)

    Si miniature rose (front of newly painted boxcar)

             Rosa sp. ‘Si’ (Zones 5-10)

    Tom Thumb miniature rose (left of newly painted boxcar)

             Rosa sp. ‘Tom Thumb’ (Zones 5-10)

    Prostrate rosemary (corner above mine)

    Rosmarinus prostrata (Zones 7-11)

    Snowrose (behind Grandfather’s mansion)

    Serissa foetida (Zones 8-10)

    Seiju elm (deciduous tree lining street behind town)

             Ulmus parvifolia ‘Seiju’ (Zones 5-9)


    White appleberry (on front post right of town)

    Billardia longiflora ‘Alba’ (Zones 7-10)

    Needlepoint ivy (front post left of town and on back lattice)

    Hedera helix ‘Needlepoint’ (Zones 4-10)

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