Decking the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 2This is a followup to our article "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 2". These articles have been written in conjunction with other construction and planning articles that tell the story of our "new" railroad in chronological sequence, beginning with planning efforts in early 2017.
Then I started the decking, which will run perpendicular to the frame. But I ran out of lumber quickly. Back to the store.
As mentioned in the article Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 3", I had determined that ground-rated 2"x6" boards would give me the most robust decking solution. As a result, my platforms look a lot like decks before I line them with vinyl sheeting, attach a border, and dump gravel and dirt on them.
Once again, if you plan to use typical 5/4" decking boards for this part of the project, your frame boards should be 16" apart or less. In some parts of the country, this will save you some money, but I can't get ground-rated 5/4" boards around here, so 2"x6" it is.
If you've been following all along, the content of this article will seem familiar. Why? Because the platforms I built in 2017 have worked out exactly how I hoped they would - something that almost never happens for me. They are stable and very easy to maintain, and most of the plants I selected for them are filling in nicely. So I'm going to keep going the way I have been unless something even better occurs.
Allowing for TrimmingAs I ran the decking, I let it stick out a few inches extra, so I could smooth it to the final shape with a simple saw cut. This is especially important on the diagonal parts, as you can see in oval on the right side of the following photo.
Also, I wasn't too picky about how far the boards protruded under the upper platform, shown in the oval on the left side of the photo. Those ends will be hidden once I trim out the gap between platforms, and it's not like anyone will be standing there.
TrimmingAs I mentioned many chapters ago, I deliberately chose odd angles because I wanted the railroad to feel more "organic" than simple geometric shapes would have allowed. The frame for this platform more-or-less echoed the shape of the platform above it, and I could have simply followed that outline. But I chose instead to have a slightly different shape, so I added a dull "point" at the very front.
Getting Ready for DirtscapingEven though this lumber is technically rated for constant ground contact, I want to protect it a little, and to keep my dirt and gravel from falling between the cracks. So I stapled sheet vinyl over it and trimmed the edges. Yes, you've seen this before, too. As mentioned earlier, the vinyl is from a company that buys up used billboard vinyl and repackages it so it only costs a few cents per square foot. Both orders I've received were misprints that were never used, so that's even better, but your mileage may vary.
By the way, it doesn't matter if there are holes or if the patching is "patchy," since I have to poke holes in it for drainage anyway.
Next, I installed trim boards around the edges. These are pressure-treated fencing boards, split in half lengthwise. I fasten them so that the bottom edge is flush with the bottom edge of the decking material.
That allows the top edge to protrude about an inch or so, enough to keep my gravel from pouring over the edge. Full disclosure: this material is not ground-rated, and it does break down in a few years if it's exposed to contant moisture. Since I'm only using pea gravel near it at this time, I hope it will hold up longer.
In many of our photos you can see that this material on the parts we installed in 2017 grayed up so quickly that it's barely noticeable once it's installed. Railroad gardener extroardinaire Paul Busse once told me that the railroad ties he liked to use were so "ubiquitous" that people barely noticed once their attention was drawn to the trains and accessories. The same thing is true of those landscaping blocks many people use.
Filling the GapsBack in 2017, I used corrugated steel panels to fill the vertical gap between the top two layers. I had researched several other materials, but they would have been cost-prohibitive, and I had the steel panels left over from another project.
At the time, I was thinking of making the whole railroad even more rustic than it wound up being. But the truth is, the steel panels blended right in, and I doubt anyone noticed them once I had dirt, rocks, plants, buildings, and trains in place.
As it turned out, the "weather clock" was ticking on this project and I wanted to get something into the vertical gap between the new layer and the middle layer. I calculated that I had just enough of the corrugated steel left over to fill that gap as well. (I know, the "realists" are cringing," but it really does fade into the background once everything else is installed).
The steel needs to be fastened top and bottom, so I cut three pieces of scrap lumber and aligned them directly under the frame pieces above them. That way, when I cut the sheet metal into strips I could screw it in place.
By the way, the electrical cords you see hanging down in the photo above are for lighting I have yet to install on the top two layers. They run between the platforms and the shed, tied in knots at both ends so I can fish them out and hook them up whever I don't have something more pressing to do. This "plan ahead" example is brought to you by a person who has done a lifetime's worth of crawling around to run, bury, and re-run 12-volt wiring in a previous life.
The distance between the platforms varies a little here and there. Even though I cut each sheet as wide as it could be to fit where it needed to go, I had to leave gaps somewhere. The top edge would be visible, so I kept the steel as flush as possible there and left the gaps on the lower edge where they will eventually be covered with rocks and dirt.
As of this publication, it is almost November and there is no way I will have this layer completely "dirtscaped" before the snows come. On top of that, I have a Christmas-themed "open railroad in about two weeks (Nov. 16, 2019 - if you're anywhere near Springfield OH, contact me for times and directions.
So this is the last outdoor construction project for this railroad this year. Considering I couldn't get started until my most recent consulting contract ran out on August 31, I don't think I did too badly, installing an in-ground pond, completing the waterfall, and building this platform.
And now, when I tell people that I plan to have the lower platform continue on the other side of the pond with another train running through the shed and across the waterfall, some of them will be able to picture it.
For now my "short-term" plan for this platform has to do with getting it ready for the open railroad. I plan to put some rocks, a few buildings and a loop or two of track in it, set straight in pea gravel for now, and get on with the Christmas decorations, etc. Stay tuned.
Keep in Touch
Finally, please let us know about your ongoing projects. Ask questions, send corrections, suggest article ideas, send photos, whatever you think will help you or your fellow railroaders. In the meantime, enjoy your trains, and especially enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks,
Proceed to "Preparing for Christmas Train Day 2019" - Wrapping up construction projects for 2019 and getting ready for our annual Christmas-themed open railroad. Includes new lighting and other features, providing a temporary home for a Hogwarts Express train, weather issues, and more. Click to go to article.
Click on the following link to see our progress of mid-November, 2019.
Return to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR - Part 7" - Installing posts, joists, framing, and decking for the eastern expansion of the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek. Although this installation was complicated by having to fit into an existing framework, the methods used could work for any raised-platform railroad.
Click on the following link to see our progress of early October, 2019.
Return to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR - Part 5" - Once the major components of the water feature were installed and tested, we decided to add one more bit of railroad proper before our "Christmas Train Day," this November. The addition, about 5'x11', will allow us to put a small train and some scenery closer to eye level for youngsters. Eventually it will be part of the larger plan that will allow us to run our bigger cars and locomotives.
Click on the photo to see our plans for the next addition, as of late September, 2019.
Return to Waterscaping Part 4. - Installing the last connecting pool, so the whole planned waterfall is complete except for dirtscaping and planting.
The process included checking the pump, extending the hoses, rescuing toads, building the platform, trimming the platform, testing the pool's location, etc.
Click the photo to go to the article.
Return to "Waterscaping, Part 3" - After seven months of crazy long work hours, I finally got some free time to continue working on the railroad. Weather permitting, I often worked all the live-long day. This article describes installing two posts that will eventually support the last connecting pool, then digging the big hole for the in-ground pond, complicated by a three-month drought that turned the ground to concrete.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of mid-September, 2019.
Return to Christmas Train Day, 2018 - After two years without our traditional Christmas Train Day (something we did from 2008 through 2015), we were anxious to get started again, even without a huge right of way to show off. The kids' trains, the extra Thomas railroad, the popcorn popper and two Bachmann Christmas trains got a big workout. And the visiting kids all loved it!
Click on the photo to see a lot of last-minute preparations and some photos of the November 10, 2018 event itself.
Return 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.
By the way, going over lumber receipts in early 2019, I couldn't believe I was still siding the train shed in late October, and managed to have an open railroad in mid-November. It is a little crazy how fast things can go together if you have a deadline and a lot of gift cards.
Click on the photo to see our progress as of late October, 2018.
Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 5" - Planning the doors, walls, and windows of our garden train shed.
Includes choosing the siding and windows, installing the door, painting the windowframes, and adding crosspieces to support the vertical siding boards.
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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