|Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains(tm)
and New Boston and Donnels Creek:
Adding a Train Shed Part 5Between 1999 and 2016, we built and operated an extensive garden railroad that was installed according to conventional methods of the time, with retaining walls and lots of dirt hauled in. Unfortunately, the dirt attracted weeds and burrowing animals. Planning a train run often included several hours of backbreaking weeding and related work. It also required schlepping the trains out of the garage, some 80 foot away.
So when we moved, the plan was to eliminate the backbreaking maintenance tasks by raising the railroad entirely, to reduce the weeding by putting dirt only where we wanted specific plants, and to reduce the schlepping by building a little train shed on one end.
One motivation for doing almost everything differently than most folks recommend was to model an outdoor railroad that the average person can operate well into retirement.
Siding ChoicesFrom the beginning, I've wanted the shed to look something like a nineteenth-century country station. For the siding, I've gravitated toward the look of board-and-batten, a typical Western look that you'd see in the East more often if the wooden buildings hadn't been torn down and replaced with bricks and concrete in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The principle is simple - you nail fat boards vertically to supports, leaving a slight gap between them to allow for expansion, then you nail skinny boards over the gaps.
Today, many panel-based "siding" solutions, like T1-11 sheets (below left), use "reverse board-and-batten" patterns, which are a lot easier to fake than board and batten, since you only have to thin out the panel here and there.
A popular manufactured product, LP SmartSide (below right) also mimics reverse board and batten.
Most backyard sheds you see use either T1-11 panels or LP SmartSide. Certainly no one would have been put off if I had chosen either product. But I wanted something that looked more old-timey. And, frankly, less like a typical backyard shed.
Not only that, neither T1-11 nor LP are as maintenance-free as their manufacturers would have you believe. (Go onto Craig's List and look at those 10-year-old backyard sheds if you don't believe me.) So investigating materials that might also require maintenance didn't exactly put me off.
The problem with my plan to use real board-and-batten is that the real old-timers used wide hardwood lumber boards. Hardwood boards like that would have cost me a great deal of money. Even pressure-treated pine boards that wide would be prohibitive in overall cost.
At the extremely low end of the quality scale, I've used pressure-treated 5/8"x5.5"x6' fencing boards (shown right) on enough projects to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. One strength is that they actually hold up pretty well to the weather, as long as you install them properly and keep them from standing in water often. Another "strength," for this project at least, is that they gray up fast, so my shed should have the weathered look I wanted quickly. If they start deteriorating too fast, I can always stain them a translucent gray to help preserve them.
I talked it over with my brother-in-law Roy Howard, a master carpenter who has built some amazing buildings. His chief concern about using cheap lumber is that it wouldn't contribute to the stability of the building like hardwood or even T1-11 paneling does. He recommended angle braces at the corners as a safety measure. I haven't done that (yet), but since I overengineered nearly every other aspect of the thing, I'm probably safe.
Another concern was that the classic board-and-batten structures usually used 8" or 10" boards. If I used 5.5"-wide fence boards, only about 4" of board would be exposed between the battens. Would that be enough to give the effect?
Then I saw a covered bridge that Roy built for a client. Though the boards were 1"-thick hardwood, they weren't that much wider than the boards I was planning to use. So I decided that the width of the boards wouldn't be a major issue.
Most pressure-treated dog-eared fence boards are only 6' long, but Lowes had them in 8' lengths as well, so length wouldn't be a issue, either.
I decided to forge ahead with the fence boards.
BTW, lots of "git-er-done" types in my areas use boards rescued from shipping skids for similar projects, so - say what you will - my fencing boards will be a step up from that. Plus these boards are pressure treated and more consistent in dimension than skid boards. But if you want to use repurposed skid boards for a similar project, don't let me stop you.
Initially I had considered using an old coal-cellar door we brought from the old house, but eventually, I decided the shed needed a more substantial door. Fortunately, we had one on hand.
When we put our old house on the market, the windows on the old steel back door had clouded up, so it looked bad. We replaced that door with a new steel door in the same configuration. Of course, the new steel door came "pre-hung," but I reworked the old, installed frame to accept the new door. That left us an old door with a new frame. We brought both to the new house with the notion that they may come in handy.
The old kitchen door had opened inward, but on the shed it would need to open outward. So I decided to turn the frame backwards when I installed it. I added a little framing around it to attach the whole thing more securely to what would become the south wall of the shed, and did a lot of skootching things around to try to make it open and close reasonably well.
As you can see, one advantage of having the roofing underlayment on by the time I did this was that I could do at least some of the work while it was sprinkling outside.
In case you wondered, the blue side used to face outward, and the white side faced the kitchen. I will probably paint at least the white side eventually - it's too bright compared to the rest of the structure.
Window ChoicesBecause I wanted the shed to resemble a 19th century country station, I had been looking for arched windows I could afford. Unfortunately, "real" arched windows that are made to put in houses cost a great deal of money. And even at that, they were all far too large for the scale of my building (about half as high and a sixth as long as the real stations I was emulating).
I had often seen fake windowframes used as decorations. Hobby Lobby sells them from time to time. But the ones that caught my eye this year were made in Mexico and sold by a vendor who comes twice a year to the big "Springfield Extravaganza" antique flea market held in the fairgrounds of Clark County, Ohio. They are made as cheaply as possible, and barely painted, so that they will look weathered, but I liked the shape. One vendor at the flea market wanted $28 apiece for these. Another vendor wanted $14 apiece. I went with the second vendor.
When I brought them home, I put a spike in the existing framing just so I could hang them about where they would go, and get a general idea whether they would work for me or not. I liked the look. My family liked the look. My Facebook followers liked the look. Okay, I'd figure out how to make it work.
The north end of the train shed overlaps the railroad itself, so the wall is only about 4' high at its peak. I had a small 6-pane rectangular window that I considered using - I had actually pulled it from the house we live in now when I renovated the back entrance and thought it would be cool to use on this structure. But when I held it in place, the rectangle just looked wrong compared to the windows that would go on the side.
Except for the overly bright white color, I liked the look. My family liked the look. My Facebook followers liked the look. Okay, I'd figure out how to make it work.
Preparing to SideThe truth is, I held off selecting siding material until I couldn't wait any longer, hoping something better, but affordable, would turn up. But one thing was certain, the boards would need to be supported every 30" or so. The siding was going to go up and down, and most of my framing was also up and down, so I needed to add something to nail the boards to.
In typical pole barn installations, which this construction resembled, they need to support sheet metal siding running up and down. So they nail several rows of boards horizontally all around the outside of the frame, meeting up at the corners. That would have worked for me, but I had an abundance of scrap 2"x4"s and other wood on hand and didn't want to spend a bunch more money on wood this week. So I braced a bunch of 2"x4" pieces in between the existing frame posts.
The photo to the right shows the south side of the train shed with additional 2"x4" boards set lengthwise into the frame so the siding and trim boards could be anchored to them. If you look at the "blow-up, you'll see the little pieces of scrap wood I screwed on so that the cross-pieces would be at the same depth as the post frame. The truth is, I could have avoided some of this work with better planning. So if you decide to use board-and-batten siding before you frame your shed, you'll probably figure out an easier way to do this.
In the photo, you'll also be able to tell that the post to the right of the door had seriously warped since I installed it last year. Another reason to do everything in one season if possible.
I added similar cross-pieces to the other three sides of the structure as well.
Windowframe Installation Considerations"Real" windows you buy are designed to be set into the wall, even if part of the frame seems to be flush with or protruding from the wall surface. At first I thought about trying to set these into the walls of my shed, trimming the boards around them. But I finally decided that it would make more sense to cut a gap just big enough for the open part of the window and screw the windowframes over the boards. So I did a little more framing where the windows would go so there would be something to sink the screws into besides the siding boards.
The photo to the right shows a windowframe hanging a few inches above where it will actually be installed. The angled bits of wood will give me something to screw into once the siding is on the wall. (When the siding is on and the window is dropped down to its proper place, you won't see them.)
If you compare this photo to the second photo above this one, you'll see one of the cross-pieces I added here as well.
Windowframe PaintingNot only did I need to have all three windowframes the same color, I wanted them to have a weathered look that would look right with the pine boards as they grayed up.
I lightly sanded all three windowframes by hand. The "paint job" on the skinny windows almost completely disappeared with just a couple minutes' sanding. Again, the colors had been applied lightly to look weathered, and the white had been chalking off on everything it touched anyway.
Shelia uses Annie Sloan "chalk paint" for some of her projects, and I thought the brownish-gray look of the Annie Sloan "French Linen" (below left) would make a good base for the repaint.
After the second coat had dried, I went looking for an off white that I could dry-brush over the gray to give a weathered look. As it turned out, Shelia had a dab of Annie Sloan "Old Ochre" left over from a project. It looks like faded yellow paint, but could stand in for white paint that had dulled. I dry-brushed it over the windowframes (below right).
Walling Off the "Fourth Wall"By the way, opposite the door on the shed, there was a gap below the right of way open to the area under the railroad itself. With all the wildlife we have currently living under our house's porch, I didn't want wildlife moving into the train shed, too.
By now, I had accumulated a bunch of short lengths of 2"x6" ground-rated boards. So I cut them to fill the gap in the wall.
By the way, that hasn't deterred a very determined vole from taking up residence under the porch itself. Every time I walk out to the train shed, I see a little black shadow running from the garden to take shelter under the shed's porch. As opposed to the massive groundhog that runs from the garden to take shelter under our house's porch. Along with the foxes. But that's another story.
ConclusionAs of this writing, I have the board-and-batten siding installed, and more. But this article was getting long enough. The next article will give you an idea of how things came together, so stay tuned.
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 6" - Installing the board and batten siding on our train shed, installing the windows, installing the trim, testing the "tunnel entrances," and more.
Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 4" - Choosing and installing underlayment and drip edge to protect the sheathing until I can get the final roof installed.
Now the roof is waterproof enough to get us through the next couple of months at least, maybe more.
Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 3" - Adding fascia, sheathing, and end trim to the in-progress train shed.
I thought about bringing in helpers for this part, but a reader commented on how helpful it was to see how one person could do this sort of thing by himself, so I just kept plugging away.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of September 13, 2018
Return to "Waterscaping Part 2" - Getting this year's waterscaping project done (for now at least). Installing and dirtscaping the third level of the waterfall. Installing pump and filter, adding an extra container and modifying the ones we already had installed to keep the water running smoothly. And lots of other tweaking. Includes tips about introducing fish and plants, as well as other information about water features in general that you may find helpful.
Click on the photo to see our status as of August 5, 2018.
Return 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 "Adding a Train Shed Part 1" - What started out as a simple addition of a deck to stand on when putting trains on the track got a little more ambitious when I realized that JUST installing the deck this year would require more work next year. So we framed out what we planned to be a train shed attached to the railroad. If it ever gets finished, I can easily put trains on the track at a moment's notice instead of schlepping them out from the garage.
Click on the photo to see our status as of July 9, 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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