I wondered what it would take to get a private train in my backyard, and discovered that there are a number of options.
The first thing I discovered was that the trains can be powered by either real steam engines, gasoline engines, or electric motors. Steam engines are the most expensive and potentially hazardous, so that was not an option for me. I didn’t like the option of a lawn mower engine, either, as it would sound like, well, a lawn mower, instead of a train. The electric motor option seemed to be the most cost-effective and practical solution.
The second thing I learned is that there are a number of options for the size of the train, which is related to the width of the track. Popular track width options for backyard trains are 7 1/4″ and 7 1/2″. This is the distance between the two rails.
And the third and most important thing I learned is that these trains can be very expensive for a casual hobby.
So I looked into possibility of building my own train instead of purchasing one, and came across a video of one such train that had been built by Keith Mills of Mills Apple Farms in Marine, IL. His train locomotive was built using plans from a 1965 issue of Popular Mechanics, along with some of his own modifications and enhancements.
So this is the path I chose to pursue toward my goal of having a backyard train. This website is my journal of a project that I’m sure will involve rewards and frustrations, progress and setbacks, and unforeseen problems and solutions. If you’re interested in building your own train, or just want to watch while I build mine, feel free to drop in from time to time to see how the project is progressing.