The time had come to actually start building a train in my garden. I had the train. I had the track. I had the power-pack. I had a general vision or plan mapped out on my iPad. I also had figured out where everything would be going into the backyard. Now it was time to actually get down and get dirty and build the first attempt at my garden railway.
Once home I immediately took all of my new toys to the backyard and unpacked. I wanted to know if the plan I had measured and envisioned was actually practical (really, did I do the math right). Once everything was unpacked, I laid the track on top of the area of the back yard where I envisioned the train would find its home. It looked pretty good. The shape was basically a big bone that was a bit over twenty something feet long.
After laying out the track and seeing that it would work as I hoped it would, it was time to start get digging and leveling for where the track would actually end up laying. The goal: keep the track always within three degrees of level. Once I had things generally level I got even more precise as I dug a track bed that would be filled with gravel. The track bed I made two inches deep and about six inches wide. Then the track would lay on top of that. I was able to use the level on my iPhone with a two by four to do most of the leveling as I no longer possess a traditional level.
Once the bed had been dug and leveled, it was time to fill it. I used a fairly fine gravel that I purchased at my local hardware store. It took quite a few 25 pound bags to do this. Also, I read somewhere that you don’t want to use gravel that is too round as it won’t stay in place so I made sure it wasn’t made of round pebbles. Once the gravel was in place, it was time to level everything again and see how we were doing. Thankfully, for the most part things were pretty level!
Once the bed was level and it seemed like things were good, it was time for the fun part. I laid the track and then connected it to my power-pack. This go-round I did not completely secure the track with spikes as I wasn’t sure if this was going to be the final layout (this turned out to be wise). Once the track was in place, I poured gravel on top of it and used an old paint brush to sweep it into the slots between tracks and around the track to give it some stability. This was the last big step and it did take quite some time as I was trying to do it right.
Finally, it was time to see if any of this would actually work! First things first, I put just the engine on the track. It needed to be broken in which involved running it for about ten minutes each direction at full speed. This was a bit nerve-wracking as I was worried that it would be able to handle the turns without ending up off the track. Thankfully, nothing unexpected happened and I watched as it raced around the track. Finally, the train was ready to go. I added the two cars the set came with and I had a train that was full operational.
The next step was adding in some interesting landscaping. I’ll save that for the next post however. For now, I had an operational train that could weave through the garden in my backyard.