At this stage it might be helpful (or possibly even more confusing) to  provide a little background information on real life railroads to assist you in making the right scale and gauge choice for your garden.

There are many different full-size prototype railway gauges in use across the world but they tend to fall into 3 main groupings:

Narrow Gauge Railways or Railroads  -  A "narrow gauge" is usually defined as any railroad with the rails of its tracks spaced closer together than 4 ft 8½ inches (standard gauge) in old imperial measurements.  In practice the term tends to refer to those railways which  have a distance of 3 ft. 6 inches or less between the rails (1067 mm). Narrow gauge is  a lot less expensive to build than Standard Gauge and can accommodate much smaller radius curves, which makes these railroads particularly useful in mountainous terrains. This gauge was often used for local industry, logging, mining, or quarrying and there are numerous examples still in service, many due to the enthusiasm of local volunteers. 

In the early years of railroading in the United States it was common to  find narrow gauge railroads that used track spaced at 3 feet (1 yard) or even 2 feet in Maine. Some narrow gauge railroads still exist in America  today. These include the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad which runs  through the Colorado Rockies; the White Pass & Yukon Route and even the more recent Disneyland Railroad

In the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world, a common narrow  gauge was 30 inches (2 feet 6 inches) whilst the most popular gauge in  Europe is "metre gauge", where the rails are spaced 1 metre (39.37 inches)  apart i.e. slightly wider than their North American counterpart.  France adopted a wide variety of gauges but interest in preserving old railway  lines does not appear to be as dynamic as in the UK and many have  closed for good. Some examples of industrial narrow gauge still survive  such as the Degussa Baupte 1000mm, Ciment Vicat, Briqueterie Chimot  500mm - 600mm (Marley Valenciennes), La Fabrique de  Charbon  600mm (Le Chatillonnais, La Bourgogne Profonde) . The  following lines are also thought to be still operating: CF Cappy- Dompierre, CF de Baie de Somme, CF du Vivarais, Chemin de Fer Touristique du Tarn, Chemin fer de La Mure, Le Treajn Du Bas  Berry, and Pithievers.

 By contrast Austria is blessed with a network of narrow gauge lines which are still important for com and have proven to be a popular tourist attraction such as the Mariazellerbahn,  Steyrtalbahn, StLB Murtalbahn, etc.


A more comprehensive list of Narrow Gauge lines in the UK, Europe, USA and    worldwide (with Links)  will be added as a new page or appendix at a later  date when time permits.

Standard Gauge Railroads :  are built with 4 ft 8½ inches between  the rails (1435 mm) with many countries adopting the gauge established  in  Gt. Britain in the 1800's.  This gauge supposedly originated in Roman  times as the width between chariot wheels and whilst this is probably a myth but there is some  grain of truth in that it may have derived from the need to fit a cart-horse between the shafts of horse-drawn wagons and carts. Their wider track geometry allows greater stability which achieves more haulage capacity at higher speeds. Standard gauge was created in an effort to allow easier movement of trains between countries and  to allow for standardised equipment to be manufactured. Today about  60% of the worlds trains use standard gauge and it would be impossible to list all the lines still in current use.

Broad Gauge Railroads : Which are railways which use a rail gauge of anything wider than 4 ft 8½in or 1435mm (standard gauge). In Britain  the   Great Western Railway, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, pioneered broad gauge from 1838 with a gauge of 7 ft 014 in (2,140 mm) for speed and stability.  The GWR retained this gauge until 1892 when it finally converted to standard gauge for compatibility in line with the recommendation of  the Gauge Commission established by Parliament to promote network interoperability. 

Britain was not the only country to experiment with broad gauge. Many countries have broad gauge railways including Ireland, some parts of  Australia and Brazil (5 ft 3 in or 1600 mm), Russia and the former Soviet  Republics  (4 ft 117⁄8" or 1520 mm), Finland ( 5 ft  or 1524 mm gauge inherited from Imperial Russia), Netherlands , Spain (5 ft 523 in or 1,668 mm),  and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where a gauge of 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) is widespread.

Here is a comprehensive (but by no means exhaustive) table illustrating the wide variety of common railway gauges found in various parts of the world courtesy of Wikipedia.  There is clearly a prototype for almost everything!


 The following is a partial list of gauges for railways in various parts of the world:




Country of Origin


7' 0¼"




5' 6"


  Spain, Portugal, India, China


5' 3"


  Ireland, Australia, Brazil


5' 0"


  Russia, Finland


4' 8½"


  Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria,  China, Czechoslovakia, Canada, Denmark,  Egypt, France, Germany, Britain, Holland,  Hungary, Italy, Japan, Yugoslavia, Mongolia,  Norway, Poland, Peru, Rumania, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA


3' 6"


 Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Spain, East Africa, Canada,   Ecuador, Java


3' 3⅜"


 Germany, Switzerland, Spain, India, Burma,  Kenya, Malaysia, Thailand, Uganda, Chile


3' 1½"




3' 0"


 Isle of Man, Ireland, USA, Canada (WP&Y)


2' 7½"


 Wales, Switzerland


2' 6"


 Australia, Wales, Austria, India


2' 5½"


 Germany, Egypt, Indonesia


2' 3"




2' 0"


 Australia, Fiji


1' 11⅝"


 Wales, Greece


1' 3"


 United Kingdom, New Zealand


For a far more detailed list of both common and uncommon gauges visit  Wikipedia via the following link :  GAUGES LINK

© Copyright : John Prescott - 2009