All Aboard Part Deux!

l have really enjoyed your comments and thank you for sharing interest in our backyard railroad. If you missed the previous post where I shared a video link of the moving trains you can find it HERE.  It has delighted me that some of you passed the link along to non-blogging rail buffs! 

I’ve had a little trouble composing these posts because had I been blogging during the construction period I would have a very different and more thorough documentary to share. There are many steps I simply don’t have photos to illustrate.

Maybe that’s okay, because hundreds of hours went into planning and building this garden railroad, and we only have time for a few photos anyway.

Long before any grass was removed or the 13 cubic yards of earth were imported and strategically distributed, Jay scoured Garden Railway Magazine, went to large model railroad shows, met with other garden railroad enthusiasts, and spent hours and hours in our own backyard, imagining and visualizing his goal. Then with a pencil and graph paper, often standing on our roof for an aerial view, he created his blueprint.

I wanted to give full support to the project, but I was reluctant, at least in the beginning, to relinquish so much of the garden.

Lots of grass

The original plan involved a relatively small, somewhat circular part of the yard. But the basic geometry involved in laying track made it impossible to configure without establishing a larger footprint.

Smaller version of layout

As Jay and our son, Jonathan, began to calculate how to accommodate the larger track pattern, the project began to grow…

Laying out the boundaries

and grow.

Close-up aerial view

I hated geometry in school, but fortunately the guys didn’t need me to help figure out the engine’s wheel base, the overall width of a track piece and myriad dilemmas related to scale and track curve radius with questions like, “what happens if I run two trains side by side?”

The track is only sold in specific lengths and shapes, and it was incredible watching the guys solve dozens of very complex design dilemmas.

Then what about ballast? Something has to hold that track in place. And power…electric or remote control?  You need charge to the track no matter what you choose to move the engine.

Looking back, it was an incredibly complex project. And once the layout was established, Jay and my father got on their hands and knees to screw in hundreds (thousands?) of individual teeny-tiny screws to set the track. It was back-breaking work indeed!

When the mathematicians began to figure out the combo double track with side-by-side large engines were going to require a more significant purchase of land, my promised water feature grew right along with the track expenditure.

You see, I had been doing my own research, scouring magazines, going to home shows, and often following my  curiosity into other people’s yards, peering over fences if I heard the faintest sound of moving water.

With the water features, we definitely needed help. We arranged for my stepson, an experienced waterfall designer and builder, to come all the way from Hawaii to work with me on the waterfall.

Then there were more questions.

What about pump sizes? Which liner will we use? Will we or won’t we have fish? What about algae? How much electricity is this going to use?

We were very happy with the end result.

We’re not the only ones to enjoy the cascading water sounds.


Almost immediately we had opossums and raccoons enjoying the refreshing water, and searching for fish. We stock from time to time, but they never last too long, and I struggle with that.

Of course, someone else likes to get up there and enjoy the view from time to time, too.

Darwin on the tracks

I hope we never have to find out if he can swim!

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