When I first became interested in G Gauge Garden Railways (approximately 40 years ago) there was relatively little information available on the subject. The model railway press rarely covered the matter apart from publishing the odd seasonal article in the summer months and these were often devoted to live-steam powered layouts in 1:32 scale.
The internet was still very much in its infancy and the amount of data to be gleaned considerably less than the wealth of information accessible today at the click of a mouse or keypad button.
Not only was it difficult to find guidance but the choice and availability of locomotives, rolling stock and power control equipment was somewhat limited. The larger scale products were also expensive compared to the smaller modelling scales and the vast majority had to be imported at great expense (or so the distributors maintained).
I soon realised that the UK did not enjoy the most competitive prices. In my view it was very much a situation of “rip-off Britain” with items costing a 1$ (dollar) in the United States too easily transmuted to £1 sterling once they had traversed the “pond”. It was much the same with goods originating from the rest of Europe where LGB were the clear market leader at the time and large scale trains could often be sourced from mainland Europe on more attractive terms than in the UK (especially when the pound sterling was undergoing a rare period of strength against the Euro €.)
When I discovered the narrow range of G Gauge trains offered by most UK model retailers and how expensive it was going to be to build a layout I decided to import from parts of the world where prices were far more competitive – primarily as a result of their much larger customer base and more intense competition. Despite the massive delivery costs involved in shipping and handling from the USA (not to mention the UK VAT and Duty imposition once landed on our shores) I was still able to source my equipment for about 15 – 20% less than purchasing the identical items in the UK.
Even recently I noticed Trainworld offering the latest superb range of Bachmann Spectrum 1:20.3 Scale 2-6-0 Steam Locomotives for a bargain $599.99 each (about £485 at current rates of exchange) which are still selling here on the official Bachmann site for a massive £1,059.95 (equivalent to around £855 at current exchange rates). I cannot think of anything that justifies this level of mark-up. We are not called "rip-off" Britain for no reason.
The product choice was also much broader and there were literally hundreds of retailers vying for my business. It soon became evident that I could secure better shipping rates if the volumes were somewhat larger and after I while I began gradually increasing my orders and selling the extra locomotives, freight, passenger cars and building kits to other G Gauge enthusiasts and passing on the savings. Initially this was via the ubiquitous eBay but I eventually set up my own website called G Scale Online to avoid the heavy commission charges incurred on the auction site.
This approach was very much focused on North American outline products since, with the notable exception of Bachmann’s "Thomas the Tank" range, there are really no British outline trains readily available for the mass-market although several suppliers in the UK do specialise in producing upmarket models for the more affluent enthusiast.
Alas, after many years trading, the retail operation finally proved rather too onerous for one of my advanced years, especially after we “down-sized” to the South Coast (it is surprising how much room large boxes take up) so I have now reluctantly closed down my commercial website.
My other interest was in establishing a “one stop reference point” for all aspects relating to garden railways and this is still live at www.gardentrainsinformation.co.uk but due to pressure of work I have not been able to invest anything like as much time as I would have liked into to maintaining it. Also, in the intervening years, a number of similar sites have sprung up which are far better resourced at keeping things up-to-date so I have turned my attention to completing this manual in the hope that it will prove useful to beginners in the hobby.
This website is not intended as prescriptive but simply a guide to the topics you need to consider before embarking on the construction of your garden railway. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to approach the hobby which is meant to be enjoyable. Hopefully you will find this interactive tome will help you on your way and steer you towards some of the most helpful/informative information on the subject to be found on the great world-wide web.
Most of all just have fun!