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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
HI,
I just moved into a new house and Im already thinking about how to build my new steam track. I think I have decided a raised track is the way to go (about 36"). I live in Western New York so frost heave is certainly an issue, what is the best way to build a track level and have it stay that way? What material should I use - pressure treated wood, trex, something else? Also, as this track needs my wife's approval any tips on how to make a raised live steam track "blend" into a garden setting would be great.
thanks,
Matt
 

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Doug Matheson in the frozen north of Ontario has constructed a railway which limits frost heave and is integrated into his garden. I hope he will chime in with pictures and methods that would please you and Niki.
Many northerners use deck blocks with pressure treated frames/decking to support the track. Little heave is usually experienced. Chuck Walters built a live steam track which we successfully ran on for several years. His article was in Steam In The Garden and photos were available on trainweb.org/gggrs. Perhaps Scot L. can chime in if they were relocated.
Ron Brown, editor of SitG in the southern tier built his railway of aluminum frames with dibond topping on deck blocks with pvc pipe uprights and has few heaving issues.
I have frames made by Eaglewings Ironcraft which I will install this spring/summer on their "spikes" which I hope will support the road bed, track and landscaping in a way compatible with western NY weather changes.
Hopefully you will find a method you can use within your budget.
Have fun,
Tom
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the info Tom and Tom! The hedge idea keeps popping up in my day dreams.
For some reason I didn't think the deck blocks would work against frost heave but they certainly are a good idea if they work - maybe even easy enough that I could handle them too! PVC is also an interesting option. Do you know how far down in the ground he put the pipe?
Right now I am thinking the top will be trex with ballast added for visual interest.
What is a good spacing between supports for a single track line?
thanks again,
Matt
 

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Matt,
You don't say where you live and it is not in your profile so I'm assuming somwhere with real winters. I believe I was the instigator of the deck block way of constructing a railway and mine has been giving sterling service for 15 years now. In three words, deck blocks work.
Last weekend I was running on a track north of Toronto built on wet clay soil using deck blocks. Even though there is still a couple of feet of frost in the ground the whole track was perfectly level.
Looking at my track just now (Ottawa Ontario) it is all in perfect shape despite temperatures that were down to -28 last month. The whole point of this system is that having built it on top of the ground there is nothing for the frost to grab onto so you can run 12 months of the year theoretically.

My advice is listen to those who have done it. There are lots of 'armchair experts' and theoreticians out there, beware! I have used PT lumber and ply and even in the 150' of back-filled section it is still in perfect condition, I think you will find wood more stable than TREX, I'm not sure that the glue for the ballast will stick to TREX though. I have about an 80' section where i have planted privet with great success but it does need lots of sunlight. In case you are wondering, my main line is 340'.

Finally, I have friend who's first railway in Texas suffered dreadful heaving problems from scorching drought after wet periods, since changing from posts in the ground to deck blocks he has had no problem.

As tey say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

David M-K
Ottawa
 

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Matt,I agree with Tom on Chuck Walters Layout.I copied Chuck's Layout and It has worked just Great Here in Michigan.Here are some Pictures of it. http://picasaweb.google.com/weltyk/RaisedTrack?authkey=Gv1sRgCND7lOqM6KSzqQE Best to watch as a Slide show.Deck blocks work Great Here in Michigan. For Me to dig holes for PVC or 4x4 the frost line is 48 inch.The deck blocks are a life Saver Regards and good luck and Happy Steaming
Bob
 

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Another advantage to deck blocks is that your heirs will find it easier to remove the layout when you pass to the great steamup in the sky and they have to sell the old homestead to pay off your outstanding balances with to Accucraft, Roundhouse, and Aster. (Or when you decide to spend your retirement in some place with lower heating bills.)
 

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Tom1,

We need a current photo with all the snow still on it!

I even used the deck blocks here in South Carolina where the frost line may get to 1/2".
 

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Bruce,The last 4 or 5 pictures are of the layout Today,First day of spring,We all know You miss the Snow.
ha ha ha
 

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This is really helpful for others of us in the NE. As Larry Mosher can attest, the north shore of Boston is basically rock with an inch of dirt atop it. Not good for drilling PVC pipes deep into the ground.
 

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The Iden Coach House is hands down the most interesting B&B at which I have stayed. Paul and Brenda Abrams are charming hosts, and a visit to Paul's workshop is alone worth the trip. The things he has made from scratch will amaze you.

Unfortunately we were there only briefly, and not when trains were running. Next time we will plan ahead.

Some pictures...


The garden...





Our Room...




The view from our room...

 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for all the help!
I showed my wife the picture of the train running on top of the hedge and much to my surprise she really liked it! I think we have a winner with that style!!!
Ok, last question (until I think of more)...
I now have much more faith in deck blocks, my only concern now is them being lifted up by roots. Will bushes / hedges / ornamental tree roots raise these blocks up?
I think its time to do a little price searching at lowes.
thanks again,
Matt
 

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Matt,I have seen Tree roots raise 6 inch thick Cement Driveways,Maples are the worst,have shallow roots
regards and good luck
Bob
 

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YES, the blocks will move... but then so do fence posts set below the frost line... ol' Mother Earth ain't the least bit stable... all things move some, some more than others. Well-set fence posts will move less than a block on the surface and that is the trade-off in not having to dig a deep hole and pouring concrete around a post.

If the blocks move too much you may have to dissassemble that one location and fiddle with the length of the post there or just hack away at some root that is the cause of the shift and then put it back together, but that is possibly easier than trying to alter the length of a post set in cement in the ground.

I used to belong to the Eastern Iowa Model Engineer's club and they had an elevated 3.5" and 5" railway all on metal 4" diameter steel posts. I watched them re-set the height of some of the posts in the Spring... they had a very large hunk of lead (I think that is what it was) about 1-ft long, 6-inches wide and 4- to 6-inches thick that they set on the track over the post and would wail away at it with a 5- or 10-lb sledge hammer until it was seated back at the height they wanted. Then they'd get their Locomotives out, fire them up and have fun all day.
 

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Posted By leftyfretguy on 03/20/2009 5:01 PM

I now have much more faith in deck blocks, my only concern now is them being lifted up by roots. Will bushes / hedges / ornamental tree roots raise these blocks up?
I think its time to do a little price searching at lowes.
thanks again,
Matt

Since you are only going to have a deck block every 4 feet or so I wouldn't worry. For benchwork such as steaming areas and stock yards my legs just sit on 9"x18" paving stones let into the lawn....much cheaper and works a treat. Where the track (which is single line) runs on the deck blocks I have used 2x6 PT uprights notched at the top to support the stringers........makes for very stable trackwork. If you want to talk, call me at 613 836 6455.

David M-K
Ottawa
 

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Posted By Tom Bowdler on 03/19/2009 6:52 PM
Chuck Walters built a live steam track which we successfully ran on for several years. His article was in Steam In The Garden and photos were available on trainweb.org/gggrs. Perhaps Scot L. can chime in if they were relocated.
Ron Brown, editor of SitG in the southern tier built his railway of aluminum frames with dibond topping on deck blocks with pvc pipe uprights and has few heaving issues.

Have fun,
Tom

Posted By Bob in Mich on 03/20/2009 6:43 AM
Matt,I agree with Tom on Chuck Walters Layout.I copied Chuck's Layout and It has worked just Great Here in Michigan.Here are some Pictures of it. http://picasaweb.google.com/weltyk/RaisedTrack?authkey=Gv1sRgCND7lOqM6KSzqQE Best to watch as a Slide show.Deck blocks work Great Here in Michigan. For Me to dig holes for PVC or 4x4 the frost line is 48 inch.The deck blocks are a life Saver Regards and good luck and Happy Steaming
Bob





For reference, here are photos of Chuck Walter's railroad in Oswego, NY, which has been mentioned a few times in this thread..
sadly, Chuck's Twin Lakes Railway no longer exists..(he had to dismantle it when he moved a few years ago..)

but it was a classic! " :)

http://www.trainweb.org/gggrs/steamup/chucks-5-21-05/Chucks-Steamup.htm


Scot
 

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hi There:

Up here in the great white north one would need to place footings well below the frost line, four feet recommended, five feet for safety, for a perfect never moving track deck.

Deck blocks will of course HEAVE during the winter as the ground water freezes.
The aim is hopefully the ground will resettle the following Spring to its original lay of the previous Fall.
Keep your layout away from the house foundation as the escaping foundation house heat causes uneven ground heave.
If your yard has a lot of peat forget the deck block idea. Too much ground water absorbtion and frost heave. Peat soil has a mind of its own.
If your yard is sandy the deck block idea may work. You may only need minor post adjustment each following Spring.

Even if the posts are set at a footing depth of five feet they may still heave. This is not due to frost action at the base of the post.
This is due to the heaving of the wet freezing soil closer to the surface which grabs onto the sides of the post.
To solve this there is a foundation corkscrew product available here. The post is corkscrewed into the soil until the screw base meets a set turning resistance below the frost line.
The SECRET to this product is these metal foundation posts are sleeved with an exterior plastic tube.
This exterior plastic tube will slide up and down the metal post with each freeze thaw cycle.
The freezing soil grabs onto the exterior plastic sleeve while the interior metal post remains stationary. Never moving track bed !

So, another suggestion is to install chain link fence metal posts with the footing below the frost line AND with exterior plastic tube sleeving to protect the metal post from the
vertical pull of the surrounding frozen soil frost heave.

Incidentially, this frozen soil frost heave also " sand papers " the foundation coatings on our basement foundations each Winter.

The green hedge idea from one of these postings is great. Solves the problem of the ugly post / platform look. Add a perimeter rose bed and your wives will love it.
Chinese Elm is perfect for this. Grows fast and is really tough. You will need to trim the Chinese Elm hedge at least once a month.

Norman
 
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