I have an area of grass about 14 x 10 metres where I plan to build my LGB garden railway. What are the pros and cons of raised or ground level track? Obviously raised involves less bending, but are there any challenges or pitfalls to look out for with each method?
About 50 metres round the circumference. Definitely use yard lengths of track wherever possible, and bond all rail joints with heavy gauge wire.
Unless the garden is very level you may be able to do both, thereby eliminating gradients.
Definitely. Perhaps against a raised line: done less than well, it can look like a model railway on a table transplanted outdoors. Built too heavily it can influence the value of the garden should a house move become necessary (extreme case appeared in the news recently).
Ground level: except from a distance, you get to see a lot more of the train roofs. Unless ground is very flat and a contour line can be laid, levelling and minor embankments and cuttings could involve more work than for a raised line (and cuttings will attract leaves and debris). Possibly more cleaning required and more effort to achieve it.
For a raised line: easier levelling, less rainsplash of dirt onto track. Perhaps better presentation of trains and track against scale of shrubs and fences. Depending on construction method, perhaps less overall work.
For a ground line, possibly easier to integrate line with scenic surround, definitely easier to arrange a large expanse such as a broad goods yard.
Would raised beds be a possibility? Higher areas with planting could go well with other domestic authorities, provide places for broader areas such as stations and invite bridges and viaducts to link them. Depending on the setting, could be the best of both worlds.
In no sort of order, things to be mulled over include:
Style of trains most wanted, and the length of longest coaches and longest train. As mentioned before, limiting track radius to be used.
Most desirable operating pattern: watching the trains go by, or hands on operating a terminus?
(I used up a pad of paper before deciding on my track plan for a space something under 20ft square. Five years later I found a somewhat better one.)
Feasibility of stage by stage construction and operation? Knowing where the main line will be going, perhaps start with a small branch line? (and use up those tight curves?).
The above are suggestions and thoughts only, to be used or ignored as seems best.