A train ride at a child’s birthday party or other events with many children and adults is sure to be a hit and great fun. Many different locomotive models are available for a small area, such as the trackless riding train, ideal for suburban backyard use.
Backyard railroading may use a genuine steel track to detachable, portable, or even permanent tracks. In this article, I’ll cover everything from miniature backyard steam trains to electric and diesel-powered engines, and I’ll also offer you some pointers, tactics, and answers to some frequently asked questions about backyard trains you can ride.
Brief History Of Trains
The word “train” comes from the French word “trainer,” which means “pulling.” The engine, or locomotive part of a train, pulls all other compartments over a rail track. Before steam locomotives in 1804, people used rail tracks to move wagons by horses.
Toward the end of the 19th century, trains were the most widely used mode of transportation. Trains’ speed and affordability are the two primary reasons for their widespread acceptance by the general public. Diesel and electric locomotives took the place of steam engines on trains by the early part of the twentieth century.
Despite the revolutionary technological advancement of other modes of transport like air, road, and water, people consider trains the most convenient way of transportation.
How Do Trains Work?
Trains carry people and goods from one place to another. However, there have to be railway stations at the starting and ending points of the journey. Railway stations should have the infrastructure to facilitate smooth stopovers for trains. People and goods get on and off the trains at the railway stations.
The first part of the train is the locomotive, which acts as the engine to pull other compartments of the train. All the rail coaches of a train share the same design of metal wheels that need to match perfectly with the rail track.
The locomotive and all other compartments of the train are interconnected. However, there is a buffer between every two coaches. It helps them avoid collisions when the train stops or makes a turn.
Types Of Trains
Depending on the necessity and advancement of technology, different types of trains run in various parts of the world. Shown below are some typical examples of rideable trains.
Toy Trains: As the name implies, the size of the train is comparatively smaller. However, the functionality of this train is just like an ordinary train. You will find these trains in the amusement parks. Besides, some hilly areas use toy trains for passenger carrying. The lightweight body of toy trains enables them to climb hills.
Bullet Trains: The fast pace of this type of train is the reason for the name- bullet. In most cases, people use bullet trains to commute between different cities over a long distance. Bullet trains use electricity to accelerate their movement.
Cargo Trains: This type of train only carries goods in freight cars. Instead of passenger compartments, it pulls big containers full of different commercial commodities. This is the most cost-effective means of transporting products.
Metro Rail: Big cities have metro rail systems to carry passengers from and to different parts of the city. Generally, this type of train can carry many passengers at a time. They are very convenient for low-income city dwellers.
What Scale Of A Train Can You Ride?
“Scale” for a model train means its relative size compared to a real train. The distance separating a track’s rails is called the gauge. A standard rail track has a gap of four feet and 8 1/2 inches.
The gauge of ridable miniature trains varies between five inches and 15 inches. In most cases, you have to raise the tracks of the trains with smaller gauges above ground level. Generally, portable train tracks have smaller gauges. You can set up these miniature trains in your backyard on special occasions. Both you and your young ones can have fun on the mini-trains in your backyard.
How To Construct A Ride-On Railway in Your Backyard?
Below is a walkthrough of constructing a backyard railroad. The process is easy to follow, and you do not need any special skills to accomplish the task; maybe some basic woodworking skills will help.
Step 1: Make a Proper Plan
First, you have to specify the area where you want to set up the ride-on mini train in your own backyard. You have to make sure the land is flat to build a miniature railroad and avoid future accidents.
You also have to determine what inch gauge you will use for the train ride. Standard gauge sizes are five inches and 7.25 inches. A bigger gauge means better stability for the mini train. Moreover, you need to ensure an adequate power supply for the train. Check if you need permission from any local authority to set up a garden railroad in your own backyard.
Step 2: Choose a Trackbed
You must install a trackbed for your mini train to keep the track in place when the train moves over it. It works as a mediator between the ground and the rail track. Trackbeds play a crucial role in draining water from the rail track and stopping vegetative growth.
Two prime components of the trackbed are ballasts and the geotextile fabric. Ballasts are the stones you need to put under and around the rail track. A wise way to keep them in place is to build a block paver as a boundary. Geotextiles are finely knitted plastic sheets that ensure water drainage. It also prevents vegetative growth on the track.
Step 3: Clear Your Backyard
You need to clear the train route to set up rail tracks after determining the path of the rail track. First, make the land along the rail route as even as possible. You should measure the whole rail route and ensure enough room for the train coaches throughout the rail route.
While measuring the space of the whole route, make sure that nothing will hit your head or any other region of the body when taking the ride. You may sit on the mini train and measure the amount of room the actual ride will need.
Step 4: Set up the Right Track
You have the option of using aluminium, steel, or concrete for the rails. On the other hand, you can use hardwood, softwood, or plastic as the sleepers of the mini train.
Steel rails are more convenient for carrying heavier train coaches. You can use sleepers of various densities on the track. However, you must set at least six sleepers on each meter or feet of track.
Step 5: Test Run
The final step of setting up a mini train in your backyard is to set the coaches on the track and make a test run throughout the whole rail track. Do not forget to do the test at a low speed.
If you feel any unwanted shaking at any point during the test run, stop the train and inspect the spot immediately. Remember that any little jerk will become a huge blow when the train is full speed. For a permanent, complete train in the backyard, you should erect a train shed for the mini-train to make it last longer.
Materials & Tools for DIY Backyard Ride-On Trains
I made parts lists below of all the materials and tools you will need to set up a mini train in your backyard. It would really assist you if you arranged all of them before commencing the task.
Tools & Materials for Making Carts by Welding
If you want to make the carts of your mini train from scratch, you will need to have some welding experience with steel construction. You will need the following elements for the task.
- Drill machine
- Cutting and welding torches
- Big plastic barrels
- Circular wheel axle
- Square and straight steel rods
- Wagon wheels
- Colour paints
- Circular saw machine
- Bolts and nuts
Tools & Materials for Making Carts Without Welding
You can also set up our backyard mini-train without any welding job. For that, you will need the following tools and materials.
- Drill machine and bits
- Hex Head Screws
- Cut Washers
- Fender washers to mount seats
- Bolts and nuts
- Wood-cutting saws
- Bit plastic barrels
- Pool Noodles for covering the coaches
- Wood planks
- Wood Screws
Some Popular Backyard Train Rides
Backyard train riding is gaining popularity in many countries. The high demand for toy trains has encouraged many manufacturers to produce quality ride-on backyard trains. They are now trendy as fun for kids of any age.
Here is a list of some popular mini trains for your backyard.
Mini Ant Track Train
Your kids will love the appearance and functionalities of the mini Ant Track electric trains. This gorgeous mini train is full of entertainment features. It requires 60V of electricity to run.
There are two versions of the train. One has rail tracks, and the other is trackless, like large stock cars. The stainless steel doors ensure the safety of your children while the train runs. The train is highly customizable to meet your specific requirements and makes realistic train sounds.
Garden Track Train Rides
If you want to install a mini train in your backyard that resembles the toy trains of famous amusement parks, you can choose this mini train. The four-cabin ride-on mini-train requires 220V electricity to run.
The train coaches are comparatively narrow to fit in backyards and take up a little space. The enchanting design of the train always attracts children of different ages.
Simulated Steam Trains
If you are a history enthusiast and want to show your children what old trains were like, you can choose this mini train. However, the train does not run on steam at all. It requires 1.1 KW electricity to operate.
The locomotive releases artificial smoke at the beginning of each trip. It gives the feel of an old train. The realistic design of the locomotive and the coaches has made it famous. Moreover, you can alter the speed of the mini-train to ensure the safety of your child.
Well-Known Trackless Train Suppliers
Trackless train rides are easier to set up because they run on ordinary wheels. They are convenient for you if the land in your backyard is even. However, the driver of a trackless train needs to have more skills than a mini train with rail tracks.
Here is a list of some suppliers of trackless mini trains for your backyard.
Wattman World is a popular name in the field of trackless mini trains. They have experience in producing trackless trains for more than 20 years. Right now, Wattman has operations in 60 countries across the world. All of their trains are environmentally friendly.
Based in Canada, Wattman produces mainly three models of trackless trains. Namely, they are the Mini Express, Maxi Express, and Grand Express. The primary distinction between the models is the size and capacity for carrying passengers. All of them run on high-powered battery packs.
The elegant look, high maneuvers, and durability of all the Wattman mini trains have made them popular for decades. They come in attractive colours and designs. While running, the mini trains make sounds similar to a real train. The spacious cabins are capable of carrying kids and adults.
Backyard Train Co. LLC is a renowned producer of rideable train models. The company operates from Denver, Colorado. They try to portray the rich train history of Colorado in the models of their trains.
The company uses materials from real trains to build its backyard miniature trains. That is why their mini trains look almost like real trains.
Dinis Carnival Rides is a China-based manufacturer of different rides for kids and adults. They specialize in producing one of the finest trackless mini trains in the world. Moreover, they offer models of trackless trains for kids of different age groups.
The Dinis trackless trains are famous for their attractive lighting systems and affordability. Moreover, the design of the mini trains ensures total safety for the kids. The corrosion-resistant bodies of the coaches of the trackless trains make them run smoothly for years.
Beston Amusement Equipment is also a China-based manufacturer that can deliver quality trackless mini trains to any corner of the world. Their products are very famous for their lucrative designs and colourful LED lights.
The trackless trains of Beston are quiet and environmentally friendly. These mini trains are also famous for carrying passengers to well-known tourist spots. The design of the coaches of the trackless train enables passengers to enjoy seamless sightseeing.
Ride-on Trains for Your Toddler
Backyard fun activities are always good for your toddlers’ physical and mental growth. Riding mini trains in your backyard will help them improve their cognitive skills. Here are some popular ride-on mini trains for toddlers.
Vtech toddler trains have a unique design that makes them very handy for toddlers who are still learning to stand up. Children can sit on the train and drive it. They can also use it as a walker.
Moreover, the colourful design of the ride makes the mini train a sure favourite for any toddler. The built-in learning materials help the kids become familiar with the alphabet and numbers.
The design of this mini-train for toddlers resembles the famous Disney character Minnie Mouse. Driving the train is very easy for the kids because they only need to push a lever to move the train. The stop button is easy for the kids to identify.
Kids love the attractive lighting and music features of the mini train. The mini-train comes with a customizable set of tracks. The battery pack is powerful enough to make it run for hours.
Kids love to play with this toddler train because of the different sounds and lights it can produce. The mini train can also recite dialogues from the Disney cartoon character- Minnie Mouse.
The train can also make the toddler learn about different shapes and colours. The rear handle of the train protects kids from falling off. Besides, there is a bumper at the end of the train to ensure stability during the ride.
An Incredible DIY Backyard Train Project
The video below gives a sneak peek at a massive DIY backyard train project in Georgia, USA. Jeremiah Daws had no prior experience of constructing any trains. However, he started the project as an experiment for his nephews, and it worked out superbly.
Daws, J. [Jeremiah Daws]. (2020, May 7). Building PVC Track for a Homemade Rideable Train [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lehhURckxPA&t=106s
Jeremiah used plywood and PVC pipes to make a 275-foot long rail track. His backyard train set up also has a crossing and a shed for the mini-train. The train uses two 12V batteries to run. It took around six months for Jeremiah to finish the mini-train project.
The overall design of the train is basic. However, you can feel the passion and hard work that Jeremiah has put into the project. The most incredible part of the mini train project is that Jeremiah has done it without any engineering or mechanical background.
Active Online Forums to Help You with ride-on train projects
It is always good to have suggestions from experts if you have no prior experience in building or installing a backyard mini train. Nowadays, there are several online forums on every aspect of our lives to help you with advice. Here is a list of some backyard train-enthusiast online groups.
This Facebook group is very vibrant and has more than five thousand members. This online forum aims to facilitate the trade of different parts of mini-trains among its members.
You may use this public group to ask relevant questions about your future backyard mini-train project. Members of this group are generous enough to answer you promptly.
This public group has more than nine thousand members, and all of them are passionate about the railroad and trains. Some members have deep knowledge of the history and technology of trains.
Moreover, they are very open to any questions relating to trains. Being a member of the group will surely enhance your knowledge about trains.
It is yet another great online forum for beginners to understand all the aspects of trains. This group will give you an idea of the trains all around the world.
Members of this group share stories about old and new models of trains. They also love to help people with questions about trains.
If you are a fan of old-school steam trains, you cannot miss this online forum. The group has around 12,000 active members.
You can learn a lot about trains only by going through the questions section of the group. Besides, the members are very friendly to newcomers and try to help them with authentic information.
Trains are synonymous with adventure. Every child fantasizes about the diverse places a train travels to. So, having backyard trains you can ride is like keeping a part of your childhood alive in your mind.
Moreover, installing and maintaining a backyard riding train will keep your mind busy with innovative ideas. A mini-train will multiply your family’s fun activities in your backyard.
Sources of Information
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Wattman World trains. (2021, December 23). Mini Express – Eco-Friendly Trains – Indoor & Outdoor. Wattman World. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://wattmanworld.com/mini-express/
Hahn, D. (2022, February 3). Backyard Trains You Can Ride: Amazing Trains You Can Own. DIYHomeownerHero.Com. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://diyhomeownerhero.com/backyard-trains/
Jennings, C. (2021, April 23). How to Build a Backyard Train in a Few Easy Steps! 2022: Own The Yard. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://www.owntheyard.com/how-to-build-a-backyard-train/
Ride on Railways Ltd. (n.d.). Building Page 1. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://www.rideonrailways.co.uk/paul/building/page11.html
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Wikipedia contributors. (2022, February 21). Train. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Train
DK Publishing. (n.d.). History of Trains. DK Find Out. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://www.dkfindout.com/us/transportation/history-trains/
J. (2021b, May 24). 17 Different Types of Trains. LemonBin Vehicle Guides. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://lemonbin.com/types-of-trains/
Beston Amusement Equipment Co., Ltd. (2022, February 28). Buy Beston Trackless Trains for Sale – Top Amusement Train Manufacturer. Official Website for Various Trackless Trains – Bestontracklesstrain.Com. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://bestontracklesstrain.com/