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Discussion Starter #1
I'm ready to start laying track using the plastic ladder method.
I've read all the threads on ladder track in this forum, and particularly the 4 part "HDPE Flexible Roadbed By Paul Race (with major input by Bill Logan)"
There is not much discussion of how to use this method at or close to ground level.

Is the principal the same, with a 2x2 stake every 2 feet, and the stringers brushing the bottom of a shallow trench?

Regarding the stake, Paul says not to sharpen it to stop it being pushed out by frost heave.
I live in a temperate part of the UK where the ground doesn't freeze.
The ground itself is very hard clay, and I don't think a blunt 2x2 stake could be 'pounded' into it.

Does anyone have experience to share of ladder track in these conditions?
 

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I would use 1 or 2 foot long rebar (steel reinforcing bar for concrete work) for stakes. When the steel rusts in the ground, it will help hold it in place.

-Brian
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, Brian. Neat idea!
How would you attach the rebar (always wondered what it was) to the plastic ladder.

Also, due to undulations in the ground, a few sections will have to be up to 3 inches clear of the ground to keep the grade.
So it's back to 2x2 stakes for these bits?
 

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I would just use the rebar. I use 2x2 wood for my spacer and drill a hole into those and pound the rebar through it. For a bit of spacing underneath you can slip a section of PVC pipe or conduit over the rebar. A friend of mine was building his entire layout in a very woody area with lots of roots. It would have been next to impossible to dig all the holes for the PVC pipe supports (what I use instead of 2x2 wood). He pounded in two foot rebar then slipped a section of conduit over that and then a larger section of PVC pipe over the conduit. It worked great.
I have an article on ladder support on my blog - http://www.grblogs.com/index.php/2008/12/13/ladder-track-support-systems?blog=25
Note - from MLS you will get to a 403 Forbidden page. Just click on the "bypass this message" link!

-Brian
 

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Brian, good tip about drilling a whole in the spacers for rebar. I already have a bunch of rebar so I'm going to give it a go.
 

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I did just what you are talking about. I had basically sand and soil in Fl and therefore just pounded PVC pipes in the ground, placed my center blocks over the PVC and attached the sides of the ladder. I put the ladder on top of the soil and buried the ladder in gravel--the slope made nice looking balast.

Here's a photo:
 

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Yes, my ladder will be mostly on the ground like yours. Nice job!
 

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Dr. G,

What size material did you use for the side pieces of your ladder? It looks like it's thinner than the 1x2" stuff I see at Lowes and HD.

Doc
 

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Doc,

I actually used cedar I ripped down on the table saw. The method is the one described by Richard Smith. I chose cedar rather than PVC due to cost and a concern for expansion/contration of the PVC in the summer heat in Florida. The only concern I have is rot, which is why I used an opaque stain on all sides before assembly and touched up with paint after assemble and buried the ladder in gravel rather than dirt. I am hoping for good enough drainage to keep it around for awhile. Now in all fairness, I do not expect to be in this house more than 5 or 6 years (wife wants to move closer to our offices when the real estate market rebounds), so a lifetime survival of the ladder may not be essential to me. I will keep everyone posted on how it does. So far it has been down for 8 months. The true test will be our hurricane/rainy season. I have good drainage in the beds--we shall see.

Matt
 

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Thanks Matt,

I apprectiate the input. I think I'll look into what other sizes of pvc are available. Our soil is mostly clay with lousy drainage. If I do a ladder on ground, it will be covered with stone dust which tends to retain moisture.

Doc
 

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Another question. Do any of you put something over the ladder that is on the ground? I'd like to put something over it because I don't want the ballast to find it's way into the soil.
 

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You know--great question. I did not put anything under the track, I buried the ladder in larger limesone gravel, then a fine limestone sand used under pavers (locks together better than "beach sand") and then the "cosmetic balast" which is 3/8 minus limestone sifted thru 1/4" hardware cloth. Yah lots of work, but finding 1/4 minus in ANY rock is next to impossible in South Florida, and limestone is all we got--nearest granite is Georgia or NC--way too far to bring this far south economically. I really don't mind the limestone, the FEC used to use limestone in days gone by, and their trademark in the streamliner days was a very white balast. Of course now with the heavy intermodal traffic, all the balast is granite and comes from Georgia. Kind of ironic if you think, some 30% of the FEC business is on line rock for cement--just not strong enough for balast!

My balast does not seem to dissapear, but the sand does? Probably slipping thru the gravel--but the 1/4 gravel is large enough not to float away I guess. And I have had some serious rains.

Matt
 

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Jimtyp, that is a great idea... I put in the start of my layout last fall before the snow started and ballasted it in. Now that we have had a few nice days the snow has started to melt away and as I was checking the layout I noticed that most of the ballast was gone. Sunk into the ground or whatever it just isn't there anymore so I will have to replace it.

I used the vinyl stuff from HD and cut 2" x 2" blocks to put between the side pieces every so often. I used 1/2" pvc pipe cut to about 6" as stakes and pounded those in then screwed them to the center blocks. Seems to have held up pretty well in the great white northern winter.... :) no heaves or twists that I can see at this point.
 
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