Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 7This is a followup to Part Five of our series "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR," 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 finalized plans for half of the last and lowest layer of the planned right-of-way.
If you've been following us from the start, you know that the lowest layer of the railroad will wrap completely around the right-of-ways I've built so far. However, the way it is designed, it can be built in two parts.
In this article, I began building the extension on the east side of the railroad. I can build the other extension later, since the only things connecting them will be a storage track running through the shed and a bridge across the third connecting pool.
A detail of the plan from the previous article is shown to the right. The parts of the railroad that are already built are shown in gray. The existing posts are shown in orange; the new posts are shown in brown. The joists are shown in black and the frame that will support the decking is shown in brown.
Digging Again - Last spring I bought a gas-powered post-hole digger/auger from Harbor Freight and used it to dig eight post-holes in a part of the yard that has a great deal of gravel, etc. The "Predator Gas-Powered Earth Auger" worked fine. Then. Though I followed the instructions for maintenance and storage scrupulously, it won't start now. Here's something else to know - When I gave this a low rating on the Harbor Freight web page, they deleted my review. Now you know how they manage all "four-star" and "five-star" reviews on their products. Anyway, that one is going back. (I have bought other tools from them that work fine, but sometimes you do get what you pay for.)
Fortunately, the ground where the next holes needed to be dug is just clay with very few rocks or other obstacles. I got out my manual post-hole digger and a ditch shovel and got started. The ground was so hard from the drought that after I went down a few inches, I filled the holes with water and went back later to finish, just as I had on the hole for the in-ground pond. It softened the clay enough so that the five new post holes were no real problem to dig.
Posts Installed Because our frost line is reputed to be 24" deep, I cut 4"x4"x8" posts in half and sank them into the new post holes. In the photo to the lower left, you can see that the post closest to the waterfall seems to be shorter than the others. That's because the ground is lower there. All the posts are a tad longer than they will need to be because it's much easier to shave a few inches off a post that is installed than to make one taller.
The photo to the lower right shows the hole I cut into the side of the train shed to allow a joist to reach a post just inside the wall.
Joists Installed - Next I installed the joists (lower left photo). For the most part, I attached them between new and old posts. When planning a structure like this, remember that the joists usually run the same direction that the decking runs. (The frame that supports the decking will run perpendicular to the joists, and the decking will run perpendicular to the frame.)
The maximum span recommended for a 2"x6" deck joist in this part of the country is usually 6'. I used that span on the longest joists, but I also ran the joists past the posts about 11" so that part of the frame could extend a bit farther out. You may also notice that I ran the two center joists farther back under the railroad than I "technically" needed to, just to provide a little more stability and strength to the structure.
Notching the ends of the joists isn't necessary. To me it just dresses them up a little.
By the way, getting the joists level and level with each other is the hardest part of doing this by yourself. But once you've done that, the rest of the project is relatively simple.
Once the joists were installed, I cut off the top of the posts, leaving about 4" on each (lower right photo). That would be enough to attach some of the frame bits to if I wanted to, but would allow the decking to go over them without interference. If you accidentally forget to do this until after the frame is installed, you will find yourself doing some difficult cuts or overusing your reciprocating saw.
Framing Considerations - When room allows, 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.
Note: If you use ordinary "5/4" decking you should consider running the frame boards 16" apart. Again your state may have different recommendations.
Because of having to fit the new platform around existing structures, I couldn't do the framing exactly the way I would do it for a freestanding structure. So there are several places where the frame boards that will support the decking are less than 24" apart. But of course, that just adds to the strength of the platform.
Once the frame is covered with decking it's too late to make major structural changes. So I laid out six pieces of the 10' diameter track curve I was hoping it would accommodate to be sure I had allowed enough room. The squarish part of the frame is 11' across, so there is plenty of room there. Once the decking is installed over the diagonal bits, there will be plenty of room there, too.
Eventually (when the other expansion is installed):
The little 4' circle is there because:
I realized at this point that the right side of the frame would obscure the third connecting pool a little more than I really wanted it too. And since I had more than enough space there for my track, I trimmed the framed boards there by a few inches.
I realize that a more precise planner and builder would have seen that ahead of time and avoided the "last-minute" correction. But, again, things like that are a lot easier for me to see as the structure is taking place.
Depending on how things work out when the next extension goes on, I may build a trestle to cross the third connecting pool. But in the meantime, there will be some simple plantings and mulching around the pond to make things look a little more established before the next open railroad.
The following photo shows the rest of the frame installed and ready for decking. Yes, I put the track away again before I started that effort.
A Note About Temperatures - You may have noticed that the clock in some photos is never showing a time that makes sense considering what else is going on. That's because three straight months of 90 degree temperatures have destroyed the batteries in it twice, and I'm not putting new batteries in until it cools down.
Also you may have noticed that the bird feeders I set on the railroad for the winter are still out and my nice custom buildings are nowhere to be seen. Again, even though I have protected my custom buildings against reasonable UV and temperatures, three straight months of 90 degree temperatures would have caused so much damage I would have had to repair or repaint them before my next open railroad anyway.
At this time (early October) we are still getting temperatures in the 90s, at a time I would ordinarily be thinking about being ready to protect my tomatoes from killing frosts. Please let me repeat what I have said earlier - never tell a gardener that global climate change is a hoax.
ConclusionI actually got started on the decking the same day I finished the framing, but this article was getting long enough. Plus I ran out of lumber before I had enough of the platform decked to make it worth photographing. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I hope I've given you enough information to inspire you to think "outsided of the retaining wall" for your next garden railroad endeavor.
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 Decking the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek Part 2 - Getting the next part of the railroad ready to install trains. Includes installing 2"x6" decking, vinyl sheeting, edges to hold back the gravel, and corrugated steel panels. It's not done, but it will give us another place to set up trains for our next Christmas-themed open railroad.
Click on the photo to see our status as of late 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.
To read more, or to look at recommended Garden Railroading and Big Indoor Train products, please click on the index pages below.
Note: Family Garden Trains™, Garden Train Store™, Big Christmas Trains™, BIG Indoor Trains™, and BIG Train Store™ are trademarks of
Breakthrough Communications (btcomm.com). All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are
Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 by
Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.
Family Garden Trains is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program,
an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising
fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
For more information, please contact us
|Visit related pages and affiliated sites:|
|- Trains and Hobbies -|
|- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -|
|- Family Activities and Crafts -|
|- Music -|