|Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains(tm)
and New Boston and Donnels Creek:
Adding a Train Shed Part 1If you've been following my articles, you know that we moved in late 2016 and I spent much of 2017 trying to get the next version of my garden railroad installed. My plan was to have a waterfall with two elevated loops of track circling it for vertical interest, then a larger loop with operating capabilities about 24" off the ground. I was also planning on building a little shed-type structure on the "back" of the railroad so I could get trains running quickly, instead of having to schlep everything out like I used to.
The infrastructure for the upper two layers has been built, and we have run short trains on both of them. So as a "proof" of concept, that part is a success. I have no reason to change my design or approach when building the last, operational, layer of track.
Flooring the Future Shed - Speaking of ground-rated lumber, the place I want to put the shed is also the place I have to stand to put trains on the upper track. And it gets muddy after just a sprinkle of rain. So I considered installing the floor, like a little mini-deck, even if I wasn't going to get around to building the shed until next year. Once again, I'm counting on those ground-rated 2"x6" boards and 4"x4" posts.
Since the end goal is for the shed to look like an old-timey railroad building, putting a little 2' porch out the front and a little 1' fake porch out to each side. The decking isn't shown in the graphic to the right, but you get the idea.
More Than a Deck - But the more I went over this, the more I realized that JUST adding the deck at this time was going to make things more complicated when I did get around to adding the shed. The posts on the front of the porch really needed to be long posts that would eventually support the roof of the shed. Otherwise, I'd have to build a clumsy little extension once I got around to building the shed.
Of course, you can't stick long posts in the ground and expect them to stay where they belong until you get around to fastening them together a year, or even a month into the future. So I'd have to frame things together at least a little.
And here's another thing I would do differently next time. When I chose 8' posts for the heart of my structure last year, I wasn't considering how much vertical room I would need to add a real door to the shed, or how high the rafters would have to be to keep me from cracking my head on them all the time.
Even installing the shallowest deck that would be safe to install would take another 8" or so of vertical space. My 8' posts, buried 2' in the ground, only stuck out 6' above the topsoil as it was. Adding the deck (which a muddy winter and spring convinced me was necessary) would reduce the posts' effective height above the floor of the shed to just over 5'. Yes, I technically COULD work with that, depending on how I designed the rafters, etc., but it would be cumbersome to say the least.
Raising the Roof - I decided that in the long run, I'd be better off if the rafters were eight feet off the ground, which meant that I needed the new posts to be 10' posts, and the posts I installed way back when would need to be extended.
So a side view of the new plan is shown below. The dark lumber was installed last year. The light lumber represents the new posts and other lumber I needed to add to build out the framework I now realized I would need.
What Not to Do - Though I'm not, technically putting up a deck, I try to somewhat respect rules of deck building even of goofy projects like this one. It's generally accepted that joists can straddle a gap as long in feet as they are wide in inches. So 2"x6" boards can theoretically straddle a 6 foot empty space - the distance between my posts going left to right in the photo.
It's also generally accepted that if you're using 2"x6" decking, your deck can protrude a maximum of 12" into "open air" beyond the last support. That's called "cantilevering," and it only works at all because you're using very solid pieces of wood, and the main part of the deck is heavy enough to keep the outside "lip" from acting as a teeter-totter when someone steps on it. So I made the boards that will support the deck two foot wider than the distance between the posts. When I'm done with everything, there will be a little 1' deck on each side of the shed. No, it won't be "good" for anything, but it will hopefully contribute to the old-timey look.
The photo to right shows the ten-foot posts dropped into the 2' holes. Some scrap boards have been fastened to them about 5' off the ground to keep them vertical during the following steps. The boards that will support the deck are just leaning against the posts for now.
More About How Not to Build a Deck - if you use 2"x6" decking, you "should" have the supports on 24" centers. (18" centers for 5/4"x6" decking). Here's where I "stretched" things a bit. The decking will go on perpendicular to the supports. Which means that the decking over the open bits will actually be straddling larger gaps than that. I wouldn't try this on a deck that multiple people were going to stand on or where I was going to put, say, a piano. But the shed will only be big enough for one person at a time, and I've got a pretty good idea how much that fellow weighs.
I got away from generally-accepted decking procedures a couple of other places, so please don't use my examples for larger projects without doing further research. That said, if - against all odds - the shed floor/porch should give out, the danger of anyone getting hurt if the deck careens wildly down four inches or so to the ground is probably minimal.
The photo to the right shows the deck frame fastened together and fastened to the posts. Actually I left out a step, photography-wise. First, I fastened the frame together, but NOT to the posts. Then I used scrap lumber bits to shim up the frame on every corner until the entire supporting structure was level and a minimum of 3" above the ground (to allow air to circulate under it and to reduce the chance of it getting bumped up by frost heave). Then I screwed the frame to the posts.
The red oval indicates a supporting member I installed last year which fortunately, I didn't have to remove this year when I added the deck. However the green oval indicates a supporting member I would subsequently have to remove, because it would eventually interfere with the third, lower level of trains I plan to install. You'll notice it's missing in future photos.
Framing Out the Shed - This photo shows the extra bits I installed to raise the existing posts to the same height as the new posts. It also shows the lateral 2"x6"s I installed to support the future rafters.
I wanted to get this done to stabilize the new posts as quickly as possible. Also, if you don't screw this lumber together soon after you get it out of the store, it will warp, especially if it's exposed to the elements.
It may be easier to see the new bits I added if you compare this photo to the side view near the top of the page. Please note that if I had used 10' posts last year, I would have saved myself some extra work extending those posts this year, and had a more solid installation. Just a hint for anyone else trying the same sort of thing.
I would be laying the deck perpendicular to the supports, which is easy except where the posts get in the way (and there are six posts). Between some of the posts, there would be no place to fasten the decking to. So I added a few little boards (shown by the green circles) to give support there.
In addition, I wanted the front edge of the porch to protrude at least a little from the porch posts. I couldn't cantilever that part like I did on the side. So I added two more layers of 2"x6" to the front edge (to the left in the photo).
The middle layer was scrap wood, so it cost me nothing. The outside layer was a single board, since it would be visible from the yard. The decking will still protrude out over it by a couple inches.
Decking At Last - The photo to the right shows the first part of the decking installed (the boards at the left are just lying there waiting to be used). There are many good resources for this subject, so I won't bore you except to say that I finished the deck after I took this photo and immediately cluttered it up with other stuff, so I'll get a photo of the whole thing later.
If you've noticed the "back end" of the decking going off at an angle, that's because it follows the shape of the table over the that part of the deck. Once the next layer of railroad is installed, you won't see this, but in the meantime, I think it gives a better appearance. And gives me someplace to stand when weeding that part of the railroad.
At the moment, the decking is protruding out by about four inches. That's to allow a margin of error. When I'm all done, I'll take it down another inch or so.
ConclusionOnce again, I have confessed to not being a genius, just a person who keeps trying stuff until he hits the right combination. I wasn't going to build the shed this year, but as it turned out, I have the thing framed out already. I could let it stand the way it is another year, or I could start assembling rafter trusses.
Once again, the raised parts of the railroad are 100% functional and almost zero maintenance, so I'm counting that as a success, and a "proof of concept" that will let me proceed with the larger, lower railroad I intend to build around this one.
In the meantime, I've gotten a lot of interest about using this building technique from people who want a raised railroad without having to haul in tons of dirt. I've put together a page showing how I designed the top, smallest layer of my railroad with only four posts supporting it.
One day, I will try to put the information above together as a whole 'nudder article.
As always, if I've helped you get any ideas at all for your next garden railroad construction, I will consider the time it took to document all of this time well spent.
Best of luck, all,
Enjoy your hobbies, and especially enjoy any time you can spend with your family in the coming season.
Proceed to "Adding a Train Shed Part 2" - Adding rafters to the frame of the in-progress train shed. Now it's starting to look like it might actually be a structure and not just a crazy collection of posts.
The way we got the rafters and ridge board up wouldn't work for everybody, but it worked for us, and hopefully will help other folks to "think outside the box" - literally in this case.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of July 14, 2018.
Return to "Waterscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek Part 1," our article on getting the top two layers of the waterfall on solid footing and getting the third layer framed. After we finish decking and dirtscaping the third layer, we will probably add a washbasin or something for the water to flow into, then add a pump to get the waterfall flowing. No big pond until next year at least - too many other projects.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of June 13, 2018.
Return to "Dirtscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 2. - Adding barriers to keep the rocks, dirt, and plants where they're supposed to go, placing platforms and running wiring for buildings, adding rocks, dirt, and plants to the upper level of the railroad.
Click on the photo to see our status as of June 1, 2018.
Return to "Adding Raised Roadbed to the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 2" - Trimming the corners off the roadbed on the upper layer and cutting the pieces that will support the curves on the middle layer. We need to get the upper two tiers of the pond installed before we totally complete this step, so the article doesn't quite show the finished product. You'll see it later as part of other articles.
Return to "Adding Raised Roadbed to the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 1" - Sorting out our priorities for the spring and summer of 2018. There a lot of little chores we really should get done before we start on the next big addition. Click to see our plans as of February 27, 2018.
Click on the photo to see our status as of February 20, 2018
Return to "2018: Springing into Spring on the NEW New Boston & Donnels Creek RR." - Sorting out our priorities for the spring and summer of 2018. There a lot of little chores we really should get done before we start on the next big addition. Click to see our plans as of February 27, 2018.
Click on the photo to see our status as of February 20, 2018
Return to "Dirtscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 1. - Putting edging around the existing "layers" of the new railroad, and beginning to add gravel and rocks. There were a few test runs, but we got stopped early by bad weather before we could dump the rest of the rocks, gravel, and dirt, much less plant the plants we hoped to get in before snowfall.
Click on the photo to see our status as of November 21, 2017
Return to "Decking the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR - Decking the 'middle layer' of our proposed three-tier outdoor railroad. Prepping more track, laying out track and decking to make certain we have measurements correct, installing most of the remaining decking for this layer.
Click on the photo to see our status as of October 25, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 6" - Modifying and finishing the framing on the second layer, cantilevering, using R3 track versus all other pre-curved track formats, finalizing the track plan, why painting the track makes old and new track blend better, and more. This will be the last bit of "framing" in 2017, and it worked out well, considering.
Click on the photo to see our status as of October 15, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 5" - Spreading the billboard-sourced vinyl underlayment on the top layer. Prepping used Aristo track for (hopefully) many more years of service. Laying the first loop of track, attaching power wires with spade terminals, and testing conductivity with a Bachmann streetcar.
Click on the photo to see our status as of October, 10, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 4" - Planning and running the decking for the top layer, testing the track plan, checking clearances, prepping used track with new railjoiners, examining the vinyl I ordered to go over the decking, and more.
Click on the photo to see our status as of September 26, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 3" - Getting the frame finished on the top layer, ordering other things I'd need eventually, deciding on materials for the decking on the top layer (at least).
Click on the photo to see our status as of September 17, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 2" - Once I had the overall frame relatively solid, I hooked up the underground power lines to two GFI plugs that should be in easy reach once everything is finished. I also decided to frame out the top railroad layer while I could still access the center of the railroad easily. Because I was running out of vertical space, I reconfigured that layer. Then after I got the "core" pieces on, I changed my plan again. But the whole thing is getting easier and easier to visualize, and is getting closer to complete with every board I cut and fasten on.
Click on the photo to see our status as of September 7, 2017
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 1" - Once I started dropping posts in the holes and screwing things together, I didn't want to stop before I had the basic frame built (for one thing, the wood warps less once it's fastened in place). Now the folks driving down the street past our house (we're on a corner lot) probably wonder if I'm building an elaborate chicken coop, but that's fine with me. I still need to make a few more lumber runs and do a lot more cutting and sawing, but having the basic frame in place should make the next bits a lot easier.
Click on the photo to see our status as of August 10, 2017
Return to "Breaking Ground on the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek" - Okay, in case you wondered if we'd ever get started on the thing, we broke ground in July, using a manual post-hole digger. Well two manual post-hole diggers. But by the end of this article, we're ready for the posts to start going in.
Click on the photo to see our status as of the end of July, 2017
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 4" - Well, the rented post-hole digger fell through, so we dug our vegetable garden with a manual post-hole digger (the scissors kind). In addition, I stake out where the railroad was going to be. Twice. And tweaked the plans again. Sorry about the redo's, but sometimes just walking around the yard trying to visualize things makes me reconsider something that seemed "settled" only a few days before.
Click on the photo to see what we were considering as of late May, 2017
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 3" - We have still not broken ground. In part because we plan to rent a post-hole digger and dig the post holes for our raised vegetable garden and the first phase of the garden railroad at the same time, and we don't have enough lumber on hand yet. (If we didn't break it down into multiple trips, we'd be blowing out the shocks on our minivan.) In the meantime, we used a line level to see if the slope of the back yard was as bad as we thought it was (it's worse), and we did other site preparation, including planting a whole bunch of spruce tree seedlings to eventually give us some privacy in our side and back yard. Plus, I'm still wavering a little on the "where-to-start-first" issue.
Click on the photo to see what we were considering as of late April, 2017
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 2" - More plans. We've moved on from the 2"x6" roadbed-on-posts to a sort of "train-table-outside" plan. Our goals include low-maintenance, high interest, and high reliability. We're also trying to get around having a thousand dollars' worth of dirt hauled into the back yard. If you want to get some idea of what our planning process looks like, reading these through in sequence may help. Or it may drive you crazy.
Click on the photo to see what we were considering in early April, 2017
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 1" - If you're subscribed to our newsletter, you know that we moved just after Thanksgiving in 2016, leaving behind most of the track, a few of the bird feeders, and one Bachmann train set for the new owners. We also left behind a high-maintenance garden that we do not intend to replicate at the new place. This is the first chapter of a new chapter in our lives, which we hope will include a lot of "lessons learned." But first, some serious landscaping had to take place.
Click on the photo to see what we were considering in March, 2017
Return to the New Boston and Donnels Creek RR Page - This is the page describing Paul Race's progress and frequent rework on his own garden railroad, started on a shoe-string budget in 1998, later expanded, and later refurbished several times as issues arose. Issues that Paul hopes to avoid by building the next iteration above ground.
Click on the photo to see the home page of Paul's railroad.
Return to Family Garden Trains' Home Page - The home page with links to all the other stuff, including design guidelines, construction techniques, structure tips, free graphics, and more.
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