Monday, July 28, 2008

How I built the extension on timber supports

Unlike the majority of the railway which has been built on raised beds, the extension down the side of the garden has been supported on wooden baseboards. These have been positioned in an existing laurel hedge which was cut back to accommodate the line. Ultimately, the hedge will be trimmed to frame the baseboards.

As with all my postings, I am not professing to be an expert, but hope that others who are planning for build a garden railway may benefit from sharing in my experiences - even if it's to say, there's no way I'll do it like that!

Stage 1 - Cutting back the hedge
The laurel hedge had been there for years, planted to act as a screen between the garden and the belt of woodland beyond. Originally, this hedge was overshadowed by the dense foliage from overhanging trees and laurel seemed to be the only hedging plant which would tolerate these conditions. However, last year one tree blew down and three trees were felled after a series of storms and so it might be that other more appropriate hedging plants could be used as laurel leaves are somewhat over-scale.

To accommodate the railway I decided some drastic pruning was needed. I did this in late spring when growth seemed to most vigorous. Probably, it should have been done during the late winter or early spring. However, the hedge seems to have survived and plenty of new shoots have appeared on all the stems which have now been exposed to daylight.
I cut a 'shelf' into the hedge about two feet from the ground and, where feasible, I left stems towards the rear of the hedge at around seven foot, to act as a screen from the woodland. I had thought of erecting a seven foot high fence, but it seems a pity to spoil the natural view with a stark fence.
Stage 2 - Planting the posts
Having decided roughly where the line was going to go, my next task was to put in the posts to support the boards on which the line would run. I decided to create the baseboard in stages so I could make adjustments as I went. Using the existing railway as a baseline, I dug holes approximately one foot deep and three to four feet apart along the line of the railway.
The next step was to cut a post to the required length. I used a builder's level to match the height of each new post with its predecessor.
Using the line as a guide, I marked off two sides using a tri-square to ensure the top of the post would be square and cut it using a decent saw ( a Stanley Jet Cut panel saw). I've learned it's worth investing in decent tools. In the past I have tended to buy the cheapest I could find, but almost ways regretted it.
After positioning the post in the hole I checked again to see if its top was level with the preceding post. I've found it's better to keep checking than regret it later. With a few posts I had to adjust the height by digging out a little more soil or filling-in. Once happy, I then half-filled the hole around the post with stones and rubble which was then tamped down.
When landscaping and gardening I tend to put any stones I dig up into a bucket and store them for occasions such as this. I also tend to accumulate chunks of broken bricks and concrete slabs which can be therapeutically smashed up with a hammer. Alternatively, when these sources run out, I have been known to buy the odd bag of gravel.

Next, I mixed up a fairly stiff mix of concrete - four spade loads of mixed sand and gravel to one of cement (see How I made the platforms - if you need more guidance on mixing concrete).

This mix I then shovelled in around the post to the top of the hole and used another spirit level to check the post is upright.
The final step was to smooth off the top of the cement with a trowel. I tend to angle the cement up the post above the soil line. This is on the assumption that this will help drain rain water away from the post and prevent contact between the soil and post which encourages rot. I have used this method on fence posts erected over 15 years ago and have not, as yet, lost one to rot.
Of course, you could use 'Metapost' bases to save all this trouble . However, I prefer this more labour-intensive approach as it is cheaper, I do not intend to move the line once erected and - I just love mixing concrete!
Stage 3 - Fixing the baseboards
Before cutting the boards, I loosely positioned each plank in place and placed the track on it temporarily to ensure the boards were in roughly the right places. I use flexi-track so I can tailor my own curves and so can make adjustments if the boards are not quite right. If you are intending to use set track pieces it would be advisable to lay the track out on the ground before digging the holes to ensure the boards are in precisely the right places.
As can be seen, I used the wheelbarrow as a temporary support while I manoeuvred the boards into the right places, before then marking out precisely where the board(s) needed to be trimmed to fit together.

After sawing, the boards were positioned and checked again by loosely laying the track. Sometimes, further sawing was necessary to improve the angle between the boards. On some of the bends, extra fillets were needed to support the track. Where boards joined on top of a post, the boards were screwed directly on to the post. Where boards joined between posts, a section of board was cut to support the join and clamped together while being screwed.

For the copper mine and station sections, the baseboards clearly needed to be wider. Here two posts were erected and a cross-member was attached to support the boards.
Here, we can see the baseboard which will eventually support the mine sidings. As can be seen, each track conveniently occupies six inches, so three six inch boards provide precisely the right width needed for the three parallel tracks. The right hand track will provide a hidden link to the interchange siding at Beeston Market station to enable full and empty ore trains to change places (see How will the garden line be developed?).

After all the baseboards had been completed, they were given a liberal coat of dark brown wood sealant to improve durability and also to help them blend more into the background.
I was in two minds as to whether to cover the boards with roofing-felt. Whilst I can see that it keeps the worst of the weather off the boards, I have concerns about pockets of damp getting trapped underneath. However, I decided to give it a try. As I already have some boards laid without felt, it will be interesting to see which last the longest.

The method I decided to adopt was to cut strips of felt wide enough to fold down each side of the boards. After a couple of false starts I eventually arrived at a technique which seemed to ensure the felt fitted squarely and crease-free.

Firstly, I measured the length of the next straight-run and cut a strip of this length, sufficiently wide to overlap the two sides of the board.
Next, the strip was laid roughly on the board and adjusted until the overhangs were roughly even on each side. Then starting from the middle of the front edge and working outwards towards the ends, the felt was tacked using 1/2" galvanised clout nails.

After that, the back edge of felt was tacked down in the same fashion, pulling it tight to ensure there were no wrinkles or looseness.

I wasn't sure at first whether to glue the overlapping sheets of felt together but realised that if I did not it would be highly likely that water would easily get in under the felt. From past experience, I know that the bitumen-based adhesive is horrible stuff to deal with, it gets everywhere! I therefore decided to tack down all the felt before going back and gluing the joins.

I made sure I left the overlaps untacked, so I could lift them up to apply the adhesive.
Once the adhesive had been coated on both surfaces with a brush I left them for around ten minutes until they were tacky.
I then pressed the top flap down and placed a weight on top to help seal the joint while clouts were tacked into the sides.
After a couple of hours I removed the weight.
I would suggest you wear disposable gloves for this job, wear your oldest clothes or some sort of overall and have some white spirit and a cloth to hand to remove the adhesive from, for example, the handle of the hammer.

Stage 4 - Laying the track
The track was fixed in place with 3/4" chipboard screws. I started from the R3 point linking the extension to the existing line and worked progressively towards the terminus. I used the same techniques for laying the lengths of LGB flexi-track which I use for OO gauge tracklaying.

Firstly, the preceding track was trimmed to provide a neat end, particularly where the track has been curved and the rails are unequal lengths. I find a junior hacksaw is more than adequate for the job.
Next, a couple of LGB rail joiners had their tails removed, by wiggling them up and down with a pair of pointed-nose pliers until they snapped off.

Next, with a craft knife, I removed the chairs from the last sleeper on track which has just been laid and the first sleeper on the next piece of track.

The rail joiners were then slipped on to the ends of the rails and the new length of track connected. A small expansion gap was left between the lengths of rail ready for the next heatwave!
As mentioned previously, flexi-track was used to allow for curves to be tailored to fit the boards. As some of the curves are quite tight a few R1 curves were used, particularly in conjunction with R1 pointwork. I would have preferred to have used R3 points but their cost and lack of availability meant that R1 points were used for the copper mine sidings and Beeston Market Station.

A quick tour of the new line .........

The junction with the existing line.

The line from the junction running behind the leylandii hedge

The line emerges from behind the hedge. The swing-bridge in its parked position in front of the hedge.

The line winds round the foliage to the copper mine sidings.

The other end of the sidings. The main line is to the right.
The 'hidden' link to Beeston Market Station is on the left.

Beeston Market Station.
The 'hidden' link on the left will be used to exchange loaded with empty ore wagons.
The plank in the middle distance is being used to test the height for the platform.

As with the existing track, all joints were bonded using copper wire loops soldered to each rail. The idea of using loops is to allow for expansion and contraction (see How did I bond the rails).
Stage 5 - Testing the track
This was done at the same time as the track was laid. I used one of the largest items of rolling stock to check clearances. I also find that running a bogie coach at speed through the newly laid trackwork gives a fair indication as to whether it's been laid properly.
Stage 6 - Wiring the track
When the original line was laid, conventional switched sections were incorporated as it was assumed that control would be through traditional transformer controllers. However, some unexpected income enabled me to invest in digital command control using LGB's MTS (see Progress Report 13 - Digital Developments). As a consequence, wiring for the extension was extremely simple - a length of 13 amp twin and earth was connected from the extension to the spare switch in the control box (see How did I make the control panel). I will retain the sections to enable me to run unchipped locos should the need arise.

At present, none of the points on the new section has been electrified. It's anticipated that eventually some of the key points (eg the branch junction, the loop crossover) will be operated through MTS control interfaces. Th rest will be manually operated, as I intend to follow the trains around to oversee shunting operations (see Progress Report 16 - Freight Operation)
The first trains roll into and out of Beeston Market Station


Carl Chapman said...

I have just stumbled across THE most helpful site for Garden Railways to date -you have done just what I now need to do (summer 2014) - to enable my long awaited track to get laid - thank you for the simple and constructive guidance about laying the track, post fixing and challenges - all of which fit my garden to a T - Thanks!

Ge Rik said...

Hi Carl
Thanks for the feedback. That was my intention in creating the blog - providing the sort of information which I'd have found useful when I was first starting-out.

Best of luck with your build in the Summer. Would be interested in seeing progress.