Origins of Garden Railways
Despite its relatively recent association with LGB (Lehmann Gross Bahn), garden railways were first popularised in England as long ago as the early part of the 20th century using tin-plate models on Gauge 1 tracks (of which more later).
The origins of garden railways go back a long way and broadly parallel the development of full-size railways from the mid to late 19th century. Early railway pioneers are thought to have built scaled down models in order to help secure financial backing for their ambitious and sometimes hairbrained plans.
These primitive replicas would have probably been quite large and be demonstrated outdoors if powered by steam. Wealthy individuals would commission craftsmen to recreate these model trains for their own pleasure. In time manufacturers saw the potential for producing unsophisticated steam engines and rolling stock on a larger scale for the ‘mass market’ and toy-train makers sprang up, especially in Germany and to a lesser extent the UK, to meet the newly created demand.
I those days there were no published standards to follow which resulted in an uncontrolled myriad of incompatible scales being adopted by individual firms and no conformity over track gauges.
It was not until 1891 that the Märklin company, founded in 1859 and based in Nürnberg Germany, created new standardised scales and gauges, of which Gauge 1 (1¾” or 44.5mm); Gauge 2 (originally 2½“ but reduced in 1909 to 2” or 50.8 and has since fallen into disuse) and Gauge 3 (2½” or 63.5mm), were subsequently accepted as international standards.
The Last Broad Gauge Train
All of these scales were large, expensive and often just too big to be used indoors by the majority of potential customers so some manufacturers diverted their attention to producing trains to a smaller scale and gauge. This became popular as Gauge 0 (as it was 1¼” and thus smaller than Gauge 1) and this soon overshadowed the larger gauges.
However, in the garden Gauge 1 was still the preferred choice with UK enthusiasts and had many adherents (but not so in the US where it was less popular and became largely obsolete) but it was not until the appearance of LGB on the scene in 1969 that widespread interest was regenerated.
When LGB (Lehmann Gross Bahn - the "Lehmann Big Railway" in German) auspiciously emerged on the scene in the late 1960’s with a German variant of the old Gauge 1 (normally 1:32 scale) using the same 45 mm (1.772”) gauge track but adopted for trains modelled on European (and later American) narrow gauge prototypes in a rather unusual scale of 1:22.5 they successfully rekindled interest in the hobby.
In Europe this scale is often more accurately referred to as Gauge IIm (one metre width narrow gauge). Metre gauge being the most common narrow gauge found in Europe although there are many other variations as there are in many other parts of the world (see Module 3).
Although 00/HO scales were fairly well established in Europe by this time Lehmann’s innovative market move in 1969 eventually proved highly successful and led to a resurgence in popularity for large-scale trains around the world.
G Gauge is also used extensively in the USA to reflect standard gauge operations but is equally appealing for mining, logging and other narrow-gauge roads (where LGB proved so popular). The vast North American continent encompasses a huge range of diverse climates which create additional operational problems that we are unlikely to experience as a regular occurrence in the British Isles and any advice in this manual may not adequately address these issues which is why further research for your particular location is so essential.