Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR - Part 5This is a followup to Part Four of our series "Waterscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek Rail Road," being 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.
At the end of the last article, I had installed the last planned portion of our four-stage waterfall. Now it was time to start finalizing plans for the last and lowest layer of the planned right-of-way.
If you've been following us from the start, you know that we have installed two elevated layers and plan to install a lower layer of the railroad that will wrap completely around the right-of-ways we've built so far. However, the way it is designed, it can be built in two parts.
The only things connecting them will be a storage track running through the shed and a bridge across the third connecting pool. So I should be able to build the extension on the east side of the railroad now and build the other extension later,
The brown squares in the lower half of the drawing indicate five new posts that will support the eastern extension, which will jut out toward the house. The black lines indicate the joists, and the brown dotted lines indicate the framing bits that will support the decking.
In the drawing, I "faded out" the top part of the plan (the western extension) because I already have revisions in mind for that, but I want to get the eastern extension built first.
I call this a preliminary plan, because I know very well I will have to make minor adjustments once I have the posts in place and start installing the other bits. What you can't tell in any birds-eye view is that I may have to adjust the vertical location of the pieces as well, to make sure the train will clear the pool it's supposed to pass over, but also fit where it needs to when it eventually enters the storage shed.
Thinking Ahead, Short-Term and Long Term - When the entire lower layer is complete, there will (hopefully) be a large, relatively flat area that will support curves with a minimum 10' radius, allowing me to run my longer cars.
But when the extension shown here is complete, it should be large enough to support a 4' or 5' loop of track and several of our better-detailed buildings, just in time for the Christmas Train Day this November.
Applications For Beginners - As complicated as this all may seem, this stage of the railroad is really only an 8-post raised railroad. In the graphic to the right, the existing posts are shown in orange; the new posts are shown in brown. Again, the joists are shown in black and the frame that will support the decking is shown in brown.
In this case, the two posts that are closest to the bottom of the picture are a little less than 6' from the existing posts that the joists connect them to. I use 6' as my maximum for that sort of thing, because in most states, that is the maximum joist span for 2"x6" deck joists, and I want this addition to be strong enough to walk on if necessary.
That said, you can run the joists past the posts supporting them from 10"-12" (depending on your state's requirements/recomendations for cantilevering deck edges). That gives you up to an extra 2' of "table" in each direction.
I run the frame pieces 2' apart, since that's the maximum recommendation for frame that will be supporting 2"x6" decking. The decking will run perpendicular to the long frame pieces, of course. It will also hang out over the end a bit.
If you use ordinary "5/4" decking you should consider running the frame boards 16" apart. Again your state may have different recommendations.
The Same Plan, Freestanding - To simplify matters, I have "dummied" up a plan using the same maximum directions and eight posts for a raised railroad that could conceivably be up to 20' long and 8' wide. Again, no 2"x6" board should run farther than 6' between posts, and the framing boards should be no more than 24" apart for 2"x6" decking or 16" apart for "5/4" decking. If you are planning on having several people stand on the thing or supporting a piano or some such, I would reduce the spans accordingly. In fact, the building recommendations in some states would require you to have more joists or double the joists up into "beams."
Even more confusing, many of the plans and some of the standards call what we're calling "frame" the "joists." So when they say the joists shouldn't be more than 24" apart, they're really addressing what we're calling the "frame." And our frame boards ARE 24" apart (or less). Sorry for any confusion, but - as I said - refer to your state's recommendations for this sort of structure.
I have posted the simplified diagram just to help you relate to the way the tasks in the upcoming chapters would relate to you building your first raised railroad in your own back yard using this method. Again, it's more work up front, but you will significantly reduce maintenance in the long run.
For a quick review, the graphic to the right shows the sequence of operations for installing a free-standing 8-post raised-platform railroad. Technically, you could use the same plan to make an oval-shaped deck as well, but you'd need to attach the joists to the posts with carriage bolts to be legal in most states.
If you adjusted the design so that the joists went lengthwise and the frame went "crossways," the decking would run lengthwise, and you'd have to adjust the frame accordingly. But the sequence of installation would be the same.
Height is up to you, of course. My "lowest" right-of-way will be about 24" of the ground on the east side of the railroad. Because the ground slopes, when the lowest platform is completed, it will be more like 35" off the ground on the west side. Both are comfortable working heights for most people.
Of course, the highest platform of this railroad was built on a 4-post framework and averages 28" higher than the platforms I'm building now, so there's no set rule. That said, if I had ONLY built the top platform, I would have included some diagonal bracing to keep it from wobbling.
Sans Separate Joists - If you need a platform that is closer to the ground than our example above shows, you may be able to skip the separate joists and have just the frame attached directly to the posts, in a sense substituting for the joists. Usually this will require either wider boards (such as 2"x10") or more posts, such as the example shown to the right. This not-quite-to-scale drawing assumes that the long boards of the frame could run 6' between posts and overhang up to a foot on the end. It also assumes you're using 2" decking, which can span 24" between supports.
Also, if you do a deck that sits almost on the ground, try to find decking that is "ground-rated." Even if you're just building a deck per se and don't want to cover it with dirt and plants, most pressure-treated decking requires more ventilation than it gets if it's too close to the ground.
Again, as with all of the drawings, compare them with what is legal or recommended in your city, state, or region. We are not responsible if you build an inadequate structure and it falls down to the hurt of person or property.
What about using DekBlocks? - If you live where digging post holes is impractical, or you just want to skip it, you might find yourself considering Dek Blocks or something similar. These are concrete blocks that you set on the ground then build your framework on top. Unfortunately, this doesn't account for frost heave the way properly sunk posts do, so the framework needs to be much more solid to make certain the entire "table" rises and falls the same amount at the same time. At a minimum, you will need more joists, and you will likely need to reduce the spans of the joists. (Some of the manufacturers recommend 4' spans when using these.) But it can be done.
The following not-to-scale drawing shows how you might build one of these using the 4'x4' grid of Dek Blocks that some manufacturers recommend. Since you can't have a 6' joist span, I added another row of the Dek Blocks and increased the width of the platform by 2'.
This is just to give you a general idea, however. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Also, you can't even buy these in certain states like New Jersey, because early adopters created some wobbly catastrophes with the things.
ConclusionThough it may seem like I writing a lot about my own efforts, my goal is to encourage potential garden railroaders to think about using materials and methods that are proven to work outdoors - whether you do things my way or not. But any approach that significantly reduces maintenance and makes it easier to run trains any time you want to is bound to give you more enjoyment of the hobby. And if you enjoy it, people will notice.
That's how hobbies grow, you know, one enthusiast at a time.
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 "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 "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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