Building a Back Yard Railroad
Part 2, Building and Installing Track Panels
April 27, 2003
September 24, 2003
Written by William
Continued from part 1
track panels are 98 inches long including the gap between adjacent panels. I
needed a place to build them that was long enough. So I built this bench out of
some of the lumber destined to become ties or stringers. On this workbench is a
template, printed on my computer that tells exactly where to place the ties for
straight panels, and panels for 38, 40, and 100 foot radius curves
(actual template can be viewed here). In the photo on the
right, you can see the stringers stored beneath the bench.
Track panels are
built by placing the ties on the desired pattern on the template, placing
stringers over the ties, and driving a drywall screw through the stringers into
On this template (right), straight track is in black, 40' radius in red, 38'
in blue, and 100' in green.
Track panel construction bench.
Cad drawing of tie layout. Click to enlarge.
|Editor's Note: Bill chose to use stringers below
his ties to add stability in his track bed which is prone to excessive frost
heaving. Frost heaving is where the ground buckles over the winter months
leaving the track bumper in the spring. Heaving is more server in areas
where you have very wet soil and very cold winters. Most cold weather
climates do not experience server enough heaving to justify the expense and
additional work that installing stringers would involve. In those areas,
you can level your track with a little track maintenance in the spring.
A stack of track sections (left) 8 feet long. These have a 40 foot radius.
All track sections are built on stringers.
Once the track sections are completed, the next task is to lay track. Most
individuals and clubs prefer to have the rail already laid on the panels. But my
rail order never came. Because I used stringers, I could lay track even with no
rail and solve the rail issue later.
The first and most labor intensive task is to grade
the roadbed. This is complicated by the presence of rocks, roots, old buried
building materials, etc. New Hampshire is called the "Granite State" for good
|Editors Note: Grading the road bed consists of removing
high spots and filling in low spots. Many folks remove a layer of top soil
and vegetation along the entire width of the right-of-way. You may wish to lay a
weed barrier cloth mesh before placing the track.
|I was always afraid of encountering a
rock that was too big to move and too difficult to go around. We did find one
that couldn't be lifted, but we managed to roll it out of the way.
You may need to remove quite a bit of soil or borrow it from another location
to create a fill.
Then the sections are placed on the earth and fastened together using short
stringers. Having the ties on stringers elevates the track off the ground. Then
ballast is poured onto the track and between the ties.
Working all day means only completing 40 feet of track. It's going to be a
|Editors Note: If you choose to use wooden ties like Bill
did, you will need to pay special attention to drainage along the right-of-way.
Even if you use pressure treated wood, the life of the ties will be shorted if
water is not allowed do drain away quickly after a rain.
This article is
continued in part 3
photographed by William Gardei
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