Now firstly, I am a realist!.......One guarantee that most people in our hobby tend to forget about or choose to ignore, is that we are all going to gradually get physically old, that is indeed if we don't have the misfortune to die beforehand!


For many of us, that will mean living with clapped out backs and knees, and, for the more unfortunate amongst us, it may even mean having the prospect of living in a wheelchair - So, even if I have the misfortune to become a member of the last category of people, I will at least have planned in advance, and hopefully (subject to my brain, eyesight, and dexterity remaining in tact) will still be able to continue with my hobby of operating my garden railway well into old age!
Construction at ground level is the cheap, quick, and easy way to build a garden railway, but, as I've witnessed over the years, operating a ground level railway becomes more prohibitive as you get older - To me, this line of thought has been confirmed by the number of older people who, over the years have said to me - "Blimee - I wish I'd done what you've done in the first place"!...

My first three garden railway tracks were set at around 1.15 metres (45in) high, but, my experience over the years has revealed that, although this is probably the most comfortable height for a normal person to operate a garden railway, it was actually much too high for those who had previously come to watch the trains in wheelchairs - So, to put matters right, the CONSOLIDATED SHALES HEAVY-HAUL RAILWAY has been built with a new height of 0.84 metres (33in) in the main areas, so that wheelchair users can, not only watch the trains, but they can also actually prepare, drive, and dispose of their own locos from the trackside should they choose to do so......... 

 

Construction

The tools to construct the railway were as follows:
A 10 metre (33ft) Tape Measure for measuring wide areas - A 'Stout' Pick Axe - A Long-Handled Shovel (You don't want to put anymore undue strain on that already dodgy back now, do you?) - A Garden Fork - A 2 metre Spirit Level - A 0.5 metre Spirit Level - A Good Sized Square - A Sharp Pencil - A Good Sharp Saw - A Power Drill - A Power Screwdriver (We don't want any more cases of 'Tennis-Elbow', do we?) - A Hammer - and finally, a Sharp (Stanley) Knife.

There is no escaping the fact, that a fair amount of physical work is involved in the building of any garden railway, whether the finished product is either on a raised structure or built at ground level!
For the raised structure of the Consolidated Shales Heavy-Haul Railway, the following methods of construction and materials were used:

Firstly the site was carefully surveyed, the layout planned, and the location of where each supporting post was going to be was carefully decided upon - Experience from the past has revealed that supporting posts should be no further apart than 1.6metres (5ft 3in), as baseboard 'sag' may become a real problem if wider spacing is used......
For the supporting posts, 100mm (4in) square treated wooden fence posts (which are available at most D.I.Y. stores and garden centres) have been used - These have been set in one cubic foot blocks of a ready-mixed sand/aggregate/cement mix which is sold under such names as 'Postcrete' or 'Postfix' at major D.I.Y. stores.


For each supporting post, a hole was dug 300mm x 300mm (12in x 12in) by 300mm (12in) deep, and the bottom filled with 50mm (2in) of ready-mixed sand/aggregate/cement mix.

In the case of the first supporting post, it was placed on top of the contents in the hole, and then aligned and marked ready for cutting to its correct height - The post was then removed and cut to its correct height, before being relocated on top of the contents in the hole - Whilst holding the post with the 0.5 metre spirit level against it, its true vertical position was found and the hole then filled to three quarters full with some more ready-mixed sand/aggregate/cement mix - Water was added, and with a garden fork, the mix was areated to allow the water to penetrate whilst keeping a check on readings in the spirit level - The hole was then topped up with ready-mixed sand/aggregate/cement mix to just above the level of the ground (so that any water would run away from the post during bad weather), and yet more water added - Again, the mix was then again aerated with the fork for more water penetration before the final bit of water was added - The mix was then tamped down by foot before leaving it to set - As the ready-mixed sand/aggregate/ cement mix was setting hard in about 15 minutes, I had to work fast....

For each subsequent supporting post, after initially placing and aligning the post on top of the initial 50mm (2in) of ready-mixed sand/aggregate/cement mix in the hole, a 2 metre spirit level was used to find the correct height of the post with reference to the previous post, before marking it and removing it for cutting - After that, the same procedure was followed for each post.....

It must be remembered, that no under no circumstances should any part of a timber post at any time in its working life, come into contact with bare soil, as over a short period of time it will be found that the former will turn into the latter!


The horizontal 'tee' or 'ell' pieces which support the main supporting timbers, were all individually made to suit each location from 100mm x 25mm (4in x 1in) sawn and tanalised timber - They were all checked for level, before being fixed to the top of posts with five 80mm (3.5in) screws, and, where the edge of the baseboard will be more than 300mm (12 in) away from the centre of the supporting post, braced to that post with further fence posting timber............

Each supporting post together with its associated 'tee' or 'ell' piece was then treated immediately with a strong Creosote Substitute/Preserver

 

For the main supporting timbers a mixture of 200mm x 50mm (8in x 2in), 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in), and 100mm x 50mm (4in x 2in) lengths of sawn and tanalised timber have been used, some which are secondhand from my old garden tracks in Yorkshire - These are fixed to the 'tee' or 'ell' pieces using 100mm (4in) screws, and are joined together with treated offcuts of 100mm x 25mm (4in x 1in), or by metal fishplates where necessary - Again, all supporting structure timbers were treated immediately on both sides prior to assembly with a strong Creosote Substitute/Preserver……

 

The Decking was added during a dry period of weather for obvious reasons!
To take out any unevenness at the joins of the supporting timbers, 9mm marine plywood decking was laid over all the resulting upper surfaces, stopping some 12mm (0.5in) short of the edges, before being nailed directly to the supporting timbers - This left things ready for the laying of the main surface material - The decking has not been creosoted, as hopefully it will never be subjected to the effects of the weather........


The Main Surface: again, making use of the same dry period of weather, the decking was immediately covered with Green Mineral Roofing Felt, ensuring that none of the plywood was left exposed, particularly where inner corners were formed - Where two pieces of felt came together, a tight 'butt' join was used using small tacks at approximately 25mm (1in) spacings as close to the edge of each sheet as possible, so as to ensure that in future there would be no ingress of water. The felt was then attached to the sides of the main supporting timbers using galvanised roofing tacks at 75mm (3in) spacings, before being trimmed with a sharp knife at the bottom edges. I have found it inadvisable to glue the felt to the decking in any way, as it can cause real problems should any future 'bubbling' occur or any alterations become necessary, and, in any case, with the careful laying of the felt, I have never had a problem with moisture becoming trapped between the decking and the roofing felt!


Sidewalls: To tidy things up as well as to provide some form of protection for any locomotives or rolling stock, which may become derailed whilst the railway is being operated, sidewalls have been added. These were formed from lengths of 9mm marine plywood each one being cut so that when in position, the top of it was level with the top of the sleepers - Again these were treated on both sides with a strong Creosote Substitute/Preserver immediately before assembly.

 

....and finally, a set of steps was constructed to form a level crossing over three tracks to allow easy access to the area inside the 'Turnback Line' - This now forms part of the 'Gricers Bridge' crossing, which is described on the 'Overhead Line Equipment' and 'Operations & Signalling' pages.

 

Conclusion

Whilst many will see raised garden railways as being somewhat unattractive in the short term, they do provide a solution for combatting old age – Many people also see these structures as a layout in a garden rather than a layout which is a part of the garden. However, this does not need to be the case, as with some strategically planted fast growing bushes, this type of railway can rapidly become a true garden feature!