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weekend navvy

The Under Wood Tramway

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Hello, my name is Graham and this is my first posting here. I hope that it will be of some interest and I look forward to any comments and discussions.

 

This spring I started work on a small 16mm scale narrow gauge railway. This is my second garden railway, the last one I built on the outskirts of Sheffield around 1990. Just after the turn of the century I moved to live in a lakeside town in Wisconsin, USA. Initial thoughts to build a railway (once we bought a house) were quashed by realising how harsh the winters are here and how significant the frost heave can be. Fast forward to last winter when I pulled the remains of my 16mm parts stash out of storage just to enjoy building something in that scale again. In the process I had what might prove to be a very bad idea; what if I built a railway using dry stacked bricks set a minimal depth into the earth and just see what happens? If I have to beat a few back into line and replace loose ballast after the winter then that might prove easier than trying to repair more substantial cemented structures. We shall see.

 

The space I choose is an unused part of our property by the side of a garage and under five very large conifers. This shelters the area from the worst of the snow but will be regularly covered in "conifer drop" at this time of year. Nothing that a gentle leaf blower application can't handle though. The area was roughly paved by someone years ago which I chose to leave as I want this whole thing to have a rustic feel and it's less work for my aging back.

 

Here's a couple of photos of the space and early construction. To the left are some patio slabs and beyond that some heavy old timber all set atop brick pillars. You will see my "quarry" of various reclaimed bricks stacked high, all expense spared, you might say.

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Work continued on the first curve at the west end of the railway. Once onto the soil it was easier to level the track bed by setting the bottom brick into the ground as needed. A trowel, rubber mallet, and level was all that it took. I think the the top interlocking blocks worked well to tie the structure together visually and physically. I have also erected a metal fence panel to stop anyone walking round the side of the garage as we would occasionally do from the front of the house. Also I replanted some hostas into the space between to get some greenery started.

 

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I'm using set-track so the track pieces (in 54" and 72" circle diameter) dictated the position of the roadbed. This was actually a fun way to go and fitted with my liking for a quite industrial or temporary look. The track snaked between two of the large trees at this point.

 

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Edited by weekend navvy
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Working on and off through the summer I closed the loop on August 16th and a first small diesel ran the inaugural journey around the Under Wood Tramway.

 

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Since then I've added some more planting but the bulk of that will be done next spring. Some natural rocks are being added as I find them to make the roadbed look more natural in places. I'm finding this to be a nice height to work with. There will be some ground level track on the planned extension but I'm going to see how this all gets through the deep freeze first. My overall plan is to keep things simple to build and simple to repair. 

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One of the things I enjoy doing is making use of what's available and adapting it. That means using American O gauge items in the case of this garden railway. I stumbled across tubular 3-rail track on a shopping trip in a big hardware chain here called Menard's. It turns out that they make their own version of Lionel 3-rail track along with their own O gauge rolling stock. All at a very good price compared to Lionel. It's this track that made me decide to finally try a garden railway here in Wisconsin. The track is tubular steel with some sort of plating, matched to pressed metal sleepers using metal tabs to secure the rail. I bend up the middle rail tabs and remove the rail, pressing the tabs down flat to the sleeper afterwards to convert it to 2-rail. Obviously I'm not using track power! So far I've been surprised that the rail hasn't rusted at all. I'd like to find out what the plating is, maybe zinc?

 

For the points I experimented with a couple of old Lionel types. I found the 022 type matched the Menard's rail height although the joining pins were smaller. I modified these by removing the middle rail where possible and the bottom plate and wiring. I also cut about 1.5" off of the curved side of the point so that the exit was not so severe.

 

I originally used two of these back to back in the station yard area but the "S" curve proved too sharp for my 16mm stock to be pushed through. I didn't have room to put a straight in between the points so I scrapped that idea for something a little different, a rotary point.

 

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I came across the idea of a "rotary" point on a forum which led to a video link on it's construction so I take no credit for this idea!  It looks a little unusual but then there are all sorts of strange points out there in the history of narrow gauge railways. For me it solved the problem of pushing small 4-wheel stock into my sidings in the narrow space available. In fact it runs so smoothly that you'd hardly know it was there. One limitation is that I cannot get a train from one siding directly to the other. But I can do that with a loco as it will work like a semi-turntable. If I had enough width it could be used as a turntable. Construction is Menards rails epoxied to a 1/4" thick acrylic plate. On the underside are four steel washers which corrected the height and make for smooth operation.

 

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That looks a very promising layout.  I like your improvised use of three rail track with the centre rail removed - hope the metal parts manage to resist the weather.

 

Looking forward to seeing more photos of your rolling stock... 

 

Keep up the good work!

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Thanks, Dorkingian! So far there has been no rusting of the rails, some of which have been outside since late spring. So I think it's likely that it is either stainless steel or galvanised perhaps. My original thought was I didn't mind if it rusted so long as I got a few years out of it. Rusty rail with worn clean tops would have looked good. I'm using battery power and planning on some small steam in the future so electrical continuity is not an issue. Currently it's all under some very early snow here in Wisconsin. It looks like my "test" winter is going to be a serious test!

 

Since the earlier photos I've added one of my adapted Lionel points which will direct traffic to the future extension, and for now, a short siding.

 

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