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I had an idea to teach a Garden Model Railroad class at either the local Community College or local Rec Center. I'm not sure how much interest there would be, but I thought I should have a syllabus ready before pitching the idea to them. If you were to teach such a class what do you think should be the main topics for a beginner class? Would you offer some hands-on stuff?
 

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The original garden railroad at the Pomona Fairplex was used built by a teacher teaching his classes this stuff years ago. The students used to build the engines, rolling stock, structures, etc. as ~1:20 standard gauge (Gauge 3 track).

There are certainly plenty of topics to cover a semester including design, electronics, gardening, etc., etc., etc. If I were to teach such a class, the "lab" would be the construction of an on-site garden railroad over the course of the semester.
 

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I think it is a great idea. There are all kinds of people, especially nearing retirement age, looking for something new to fill their time. Quite a few years ago, when our club was in its forming stages, we were lucky enough to have Pat Hayward, horticultoral editor for Garden Railways at the time, as a member. She put on a slide show based on "An introduction to garden railroading" type of theme. It was advertised in the local paper, and we had quite a nice turnout. I believe we gained several members out of it as well. We have a lot of recreational type classed offered here in our community, but I find most of them quite boring. I think it would be well received. Certainly worth a try! Let us know how it goes.
 

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the main topics for a beginner class

I'd get a copy of Alan Miller's "Getting started in Garden Railroads" and copy his chapter list.
 

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To me, the value of offering a class - I teach at a college - would be in the promotion of the outcome from the class and the interest in that outcome measured by the enrollment. All of this is given that most humans have NO idea what a garden railroad acutally is.
Try this example: "What! Leaving toys outside to rust! Outside railroads are not permanent and should be brought in at night! Besides, what about people getting shocked!"

The large scale industry continues to sell to those already sold.
Maybe a class would show an interest -- only if the promotion was to those who are not already "sold."

Wendell
 

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Our club usually has a 20 minute presentation on various topics done by one of the members at meeting. We also have almost monthly hands on workshops that run about four hours on topics like air brushing, track laying and the latest was working with foam and decorating plastic accessories. A short extension type intro class/lecture might bring more people into the hobby. I have thought about doing something like that at local nurseries or garden clubs but it takes a bit of time to get a presentation together.

-Brian
 

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As an introduction I would try and show what other peope have done outdoors. Rather than try and instruct them in so many how-to's I would attempt to pique their interest by showing what can be done. Then let them ask "how did they do that?".

I think a very generalized overview gradually moving into more detailed presentations of how things were done. Nothing too intensive. A field trip or two would be most useful too in addition to photo and video presentations as well as display of some actual models in class. An introduction to the idea of "scale" would be handy. Not to nail down actual figures but to show that a full size oak leaf doesn't do much to enhance the realism of a scale scene. The fact that there are small miniature plants that can look very good with the RR might be a revelation to someone unfamiliar with the concept.

Perhaps for the last half of the semester provide a choice of several projects where the students could get some hands on training. Simple things such as hooking up an oval of track and inserting a siding, building a simple kit or improvization such as used by the fantasy crowd. Then the last class session could be a demonstration/showing of the various projects.

It is too easy when you've been in a hobby for some time to talk over the heads of newcomers. They often have very basic questions, the answers to which the experienced hobbyist thinks are obvious. Keep it simple to avoid boring or scaring off the people before they can cultivate a real interest.

A follow up class with more how-to's would then have meaning and value for those introduced new to the hobby in the first class.
 
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