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Love on Rails is a business with quality standards as well as ethical standards.  We do things right, and don’t cut corners.  It is our policy that our workers won’t drink alcohol, smoke any substances, take non-prescription drugs, use foul or offensive language, or spit on your property.  Nor will they come onto your property inebriated in any way!   Our workers will treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve and we are graciously honored to be your invited guests.  We certainly want to earn your referral.

How much will this cost?  This is not an easy question to answer as there are many factors involved. The short answer is $7500 for the smallest railroad we will build — on level ground — and does not include $2900 for an optional manually-propelled handcar.  A somewhat larger circle with two-thirds of it being elevated (trestle), and a few options like a 4’ road crossing and a handcar will add up to $17,500.  For a more sophisticated track with a varied route and lots of options like switches, bridges, a handcar, and a deck crossing, this could cost $40,000.  Of course, you’d probably want a train! So, there is no limit to what you can add to your railroad, so therefore there is no limit to the cost, either.  Some new locomotives can cost up to $30,000. There are some elaborate private railroads with miles of track costing in the millions, but these were built over many years, little by little.  As you can see, this is not a cheap endeavor, but you can start off small and build onto it over time. That said, a backyard mini-railroad is more unique, more enjoyable, and more talked about, and can be lots cheaper than most built-in swimming pools.  According to ChatGPT, the average cost for an in-ground swimming pool installation is upwards of $50,000, with yearly maintenance and operating costs about $5000 — for only 3 months of use.  Your railroad installation would most likely cost much less, and have nearly zero average maintenance costs — while using it year round.  The “cool factor” of a train on your property is through the roof!  It would make your house the popular spot for family gatherings and neighborhood parties! 🎈🎈🎈

Why 1/8-scale?  It’s big enough to ride on but small enough to fit in your yard!  See our Gallery. This scale is hugely popular around the country.  If you had a train for your railroad, you could also run your train on other public and private railroads across the country, and people frequently do this sort of thing.  There are railroad clubs with large track layouts that regularly have meets where other railroaders from around the country come with their own locomotives and rolling stock to run on their large railroads.

We use some railroad lingo on this website.  For an explanation of these terms, see our Definition of Terms page.

So, what’s involved?  Let’s start with the basics.  The minimum use of materials and labor is a simple 60’ diameter circle on flat, even ground, with half-foot tie spacing.  This means the track will be nestled into about 6 inches of ballast (which is a gravel base) extending about 18” from the rails on both sides, or a path width of about 4 feet.

But most yards are not capable of hosting the simplest layout.  For example, some yards may be uneven and need more ballast in some areas, or other yards may slope to one side and need a trestle or two to keep the track level.  Generally, variations in the ground height of less than 1 foot can be ballasted, but vertical variations in the yard of a foot or more would probably need one or more bridge sections to keep a level track.  Level track is especially important if your propulsion equipment is human-powered or if your equipment is pulling substantial weight.

Beyond the basic circle, various options can be added, such as more track sections (straight or curved), bridges, turnouts, road crossings, doubling the number of ties per foot (which is more prototypical), and such.  Each add-on, though, adds cost to the project because of the additional materials and labor involved.  If you want more detailed pricing, you can use the pricing chart below to estimate the cost.  Let’s say you had 87 feet of ground track that would use gravel.  That’s 9 sections at $270 each, or $2430.  If you also had 93 feet of trestle, that would be 12 sections at $580 each or another $6960 for a total so far of $9390.  The total price you compute with this table will get you in the ballpark, but does not include the cost of shipping the materials, equipment rental, subcontractors, or other possible expenses.

FeatureSizeApprox Price (installed)
Gravel section10ft$270
Trestle section8ft$580
Deck section10ft$820
Driveway crossing8ft$1370
Yard crossing (curve)4ft$670
Yard crossing (straight)4ft$490
Loading depotEach$1090
Pass-thru Shed3.5’x6’$1,940
#5 Turnout on groundEach$1,100
#5 Turnout on trestleEach$1,310
Railroad signEach$350
Cost of each feature

Before requesting an estimate, it would help to complete the following checklist.  ANY of these items could be showstoppers.

  • Check with your HOA that your railroad plans won’t violate any Association rules.
  • Get a good idea of where you want your track path to be, and determine if the radii of your curves will be less than 30 feet.  (See Instructions for more information.)
  • A 3% grade in railroading is very steep.  Check that your track path does not slope more than 3 inches high in an eight-foot length of track path.  Otherwise, trestles will need to be used.   (See Instructions for more information.)
  • Is this within the spending allowance?  Review the table above and add up the cost and number of each feature you’ll need.

Want to know even more? Visit our FAQ page.