Saturday, September 2, 2017

Train version 0

This fall, one of my garden goals is to install the first segment of a garden train. A garden train is a model railroad that is larger than what you normally have around the Christmas tree or is the basement. Rails are about 1.75" apart with cars (rolling stock) being 7-8" tall. We are going to install the first section in one of the existing garden beds. So, instead of building a raised bed or placing the track on the ground, I'm going to put it up on small risers.
Garden train installed on our deck

Part of garden where the train will eventually go

To get some practice and try out a couple of different options, I took the simple oval track that we have installed on the deck and built a platform for it. It was also an opportunity to practice some woodworking skills which I don't really have.

The general idea is to lay the track on decking board which is up on 4x4 posts. I found some instructions online for cutting boards to go around the curves. I started with a piece of PVC board to see how it worked and because it will hold up to the weather. But the boards I had were 1x4s and the track ties are just about 4 inches wide so 4 inch boards don't work for the curves. I have a lot of deck boards for our pier so I switched to pressure-treated lumber. The first pieces worked OK. It at least made the 180 degree turn.

Turn #1

The second turn I had something wrong with the angle and it ended up much worse. I tried to trim the pieces down but that didn't work either. So I ended up taking the first turn apart and using those pieces as templates for the second turn. It still didn't work out quite right and the pieces needed little gaps to make the correct turn.

spreading out the boards to match the track

I also struggled to get the posts cut square; my circular saw blade isn't long enough so I have to make two cuts. After watching YouTube for too long, I found a suggestion for a guide. I tried building my own following the video but still couldn't get it square. But then I saw my miter box on the wall. It is a little jerryrigged but it was close to usable. 

As the pieces came together I tested it out on the deck.

This let me get the straight boards to the correct length. One of the straight segments is the PVC board with rails on the side so I could use gravel to hold the track down. 

Once all of the pieces were cut, it was time to install. I picked an area where we have recently cleared out a lot of wisteria and there isn't any grass.

First, I roughly measured out the size of the oval, cleared away leaves, and then set out the posts.

I then attached the two curved ends. By this time it was getting late so I waited until the next game. And then it rained and was wet, and then rained again. So it was a week later before I got back to connecting pieces.

Then the track went on. It took a little adjusting to make sure everything aligned. I was surprised by how uneven the connecting deck boards were. I will have to focus on that next time. Even after adjusting the height of the posts didn't really help. There is one section that really sagged. I probably need to try and get longer straight pieces and use thicker boards for the connections. I used squares of plywood to hold the boards together.

I even had to go in and add another post to hold up the sagging part. The track doesn't lay flat on the boards. 

I tried the engine on the track and it ran. It was a little rough but runs. Soon I will try out the whole train on it. But again, the rain interrupted the work.

But Version 0 is officially working. 

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