Editor's Note: In 2003, Family Garden Trains posted a detailed description of a promising new way to build complex garden railroads. Bill Logan, a Columbus, Ohio area architect, had helped the Columbus Garden Railway Society build a public display railroad at the Franklin Park Conservatory, in Columbus. Bill spent a great deal of time working out a new way of building reliable roadbed that could be customized on site and fit nearly any plan. Pete Wine, of Media Moments photography, took many photos, and Paul Race write a detailed Easton Town Center in Columbus.
In early 2006, Bob Zajicek contacted Paul with several questions about using this method, and Paul asked Bob to take notes and photos as he began his project. The photos Bob took in the shop are especially worth showing, as they may give you some good ideas for doing the "indoor" portion of this process.
If you contact us with any questions, we will forward them to Bob. The rest of this article is in Bob's own words using photographs Bob or his son took in Bob's shop and back yard.
|I'm a little sore but here are a couple pics of our activities over the last couple days. The first is the HDPE after Jeff (our son) and I unloaded it off the delivery truck and stacked it under the deck Thursday afternoon.|
|Then we brought it into the shop on Saturday.|
|Here is a shot of the material with a ruler across to show a slight dip that occurred in the center of each piece. [ed: I believe this occurred because of the way EPS(r) brand lumber was extruded at the time. Since then EPS(r) tells me they have invested a small fortune into a new machine that eliminates this problem altogether. That said, Bob is very precision-oriented. He decided to plane the material to make it absolutely even before he started cutting it up, a step that should not be necessary with the new EPS(r) lumber.]|
|We started running it thru the planer to get it flat across the top and bottom. Jeff was on the outfeed end and did all the stacking while I fed the stuff thru. This went pretty quick (about 3 - 4 hours) even though we made two passes per side, or 1,500+ linear feet. We took off about .070" per side total and emptied the collector just twice.|
|Also a picture of the dust collector before we emptied it out the first time. What a mess that was, mainly because there was so much static in the air. The HDPE shavings just wanted to stick to everything.|
|A picture of me today ripping the sides off.|
|Also a shot of the collector hood I built just to suck the chips off while sawing. It really cut down on the mess a bunch.|
|A shot of the dust collector can after about six pieces where ripped. We filled six 45 gal bags today just ripping this stuff. We spent probably more time emptying out the dust collector than ripping the stock. I've never seen anything like this stuff from a chip / shaving creation standpoint. I can't even begin to imagine the mess this process would make in a garage with just a bench top saw.|
|Finally a shot of me after we were done for the day. Ripped 39 pieces..
about 312 feet of road bed. A lot of work, but it really turned out
I am *very* impressed with this material, and think it is going to make a fantastic roadbed system for our railroad. I can't wait to crosscut the blocks and begin screwing the ladders together.
|I filled almost 2 1/2 five gallon buckets with those 1" wide blocks. About 560 plus 80 more of the 2" splice blocks. A lot of blocks... they look good enought to eat almost. :-)|
|Here is a shot of the jig I designed and built to space and clamp the blocks along
the rail to form one half of the ladder. The Jig includes a piece of ½" X12" X 48 MDF for the base, ¾" MDF for the rear fence.|
I finished up 40 of these half ladders, or enough to make 320' of roadbed.
This work goes faster than you'd think, just a bit mind numbing after a while.
|These are the clamps I fastened to the jig to keep pressure on the blocks while drilling. The left clamp is open right is shut. The over center cam makes clamping the blocks to the rail a one second deal. These must be clamped before drilling or you'll get a gap at the joint, in my experience.|
|I drove about 640 odd screws over
two days. My Panasonic drill came thru with flying colors..
only had to swap the batteries three times.
I could almost do this in my sleep after about 200 or so. :-)
|Almost done... I ran outta spacer blocks at 35 sections.. or 280'. Not bad for essentially a day's work.|
We've had 3- 4 weekends of rainy wet weather, so the completed half roadbed sections have been stacked under the deck since I got them all screwed together early last month. Saturday I decided to just screw together 90d of arc for a 20' diameter circle just to see how it would go.
I drew 5' of arc on several sections of poster board taped together to use as a pattern. I bought in a 8' section clamped it to my bench, and bent it to conform to the pattern. Those Quick Grip Irwin clamps really worked well in this application. I have six and a dozen would really speed things up. Anyhow, I screwed on the opposite rail and repeated the process three more times. I wound up with about 16 lineal feet of roadbed. Took about an hour and a half to do, although the last section went a lot quicker than the first.
Would be nice to do them all this way, but I don't think that's possible. With two people I think it wouldn't be too difficult to bend them as you go and screw them together on-site, so to speak. With one person, this task is fairly cumbersome on uneven terrain.
What I'm thinking of doing is laying down a garden hose to follow the path I want the track to take, then transfer that to a poster board pattern. Then I can take the pattern inside and use it to bend and assemble the sections as I did before. I think I could probably do 3 eight foot sections with half of one sticking out on each end in my shop. That's a total of 32 feet potentially.
On the other hand, there's a window five feet off the opposite end of my bench. I could screw it together, run the assembled end out the window, and probably do the whole thing that way. :-)
BTW, I was able to borrow a digital inclinometer... boy, this thing is slick. It gives you the grade %, degrees, etc.. instantly. I'll probably still use my 4' stick with the bubble level taped to the center when I'm installing the roadbed tho. Old habits die hard.
Well, I managed to get about 32 feet of HDPE roadbed snaked thru the garden yesterday. I just got down on my hands and knees and went for it. A 50' section of garden hose is what I used for a 'pattern' and tried to make the roadbed follow it. It worked out a lot better than I thought it would have too.
I also used a couple of 2'X 4' sections of plywood to support the roadbed while it was bent into the shape needed. I'd clamp it on one end, bend it, then clamp it on the other. The bend over just four feet was pretty moderate, so not much clamping force was needed. I got a 35lb barbell weight and used that to 'anchor' the plywood so the roadbed would stay put. Probably a pretty primitive technique, but it worked fine. With help, I'd do it differently, but working alone it went OK.
I guess I'll mark the hole locations with white spray paint. I've got a 3" auger bit and a 1/2" Milwaukee drill... shouldn't be a huge problem makin' the holes. I think the roots from the trees in the woods are going to be the biggest headache.
I'm hoping to begin 'staking' the roadbed down this weekend after I add a couple more sections to it. I think going 'through the woods' is going to be tough, but I'll just take it as it goes.
Note from Editor: Bob's narrative stops here for now, although I know he made much more progress. Still, the shop details are so helpful, I wanted to get this article uploaded even though we don't have the "finished railroad" photos. Hopefully, Bob will have time to send me something else before long. When he does, you'll see it here.
Best of luck,
Note: Family Garden Trains™, Garden Train Store™, Big Christmas Trains™, BIG Indoor Trains™, and BIG Train Store™ are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications (www.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 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically
For more information, please contact us