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Discussion Starter #1
I am building my railroad using the Richard Smith system of elevated 2x4 platforms. The area in my back yard that is the sight of my railroad has a very steep drop in elevation. From the high end to the low end 50 feet away there is a 6 foot drop. I plan to make a large portion of the railroad level and my platforms will be elevated from a low of 6 inches off the ground to a high of 3 feet off the ground. I plan to have a logging operation in the lowest area with a Bachmann Shay and Heisler pulling log loads up to the highest portion where the saw mill will be located. What is the steepest grade I can use with these engines that can pull at least three log cars and a caboose up from the tree cutting area to the saw mill? Also, how do I make the transition into the steep grade from the low level platform and out of the top of the grade to the high level platform? I don't want the engine to look awkard entering and leaving the grade section. I don't want to hit the cow catcher going up the grade or push the nose in the air comming down off the grade. Any recommendations would be appreciated. I have pictures of my area but I haven't been able to post them yet. Still trying.

John
 

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You can probably get away with some pretty steep grades, but I think the practical recommendation by most is 2-3% grades. It sounds like you need to rise 2 1/2 feet in a 50 foot run. That would be a 20% grade is you tackle it in a straight line! (3% grade means a 3 foot rise in a 100 foot run). Depending on your track plan, you may still have room for lesser grades if you do some meandering around with a loop or two to gain elevation. As far as the transitions from level to grade, they need to be done gradually (0 to 3% over some distance). So, this means you need a bit more track length for the transitions.

Edit: Did the calculation wrong; 2.5' in 50' is only a 5% grade.
 

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John
I'll start the ball rolling with some thoughts on your questions.
1) how steep can the grade be: Common carriers avoided grades greater than 2 or 3% but real logging railroads used grades as steep as 10% though something in the order of 5-7% max would be much more common. The B'mann shay is a powerful locomotive - I saw it pull 28 loaded cars up a continuous 4% grade for 150 feet at Dave Goodson's (TOC's) (Kirkland WA) on a rainy night when I visited. My own two shays have never faced quite that test put easily pulled 10 cars up a 4 per cent grade uncompensated for a 4 foot radius curve. I have no doubt that your shay will handle in a breeze 3 or 4 cars (or even more) up grades as steep as 10%. I cannot comment on the heisler but it too should pull a similar load.
2) getting from high to low: The real logging railroads used switchbacks in these situations and I think that would be your best bet as well. It makes for interesting operation and at the same time, helps keep grades within bounds. switchbacks are not generally popular with large scalers as many are addicted to a continuous run in a circle but Ric Golding's Kaskaskia Valley Railroad (Carlyle IL) features several switchbacks.
3) vertical transition curves: Avoiding a vertical transition curve is essential in building the grades. Your shay is well suited because it has a switchers footplate well clear of the rails as opposed to the traditional spoked pilot. The usual approach is to build an easement into the vertical curve. I am sure our engineering friends will show us a calculation but my approach is seat of the pants. To build a 6% grade, I take the first four or five feet top and bottom and gently slope the grade to make it continuously steeper. This is readily done using a solid roadbed or the ladder system (advocated by Richard Smith) provided that the roadbed or ladder rails flex (be careful as the ladder is a stiff truss!). Now install risers (or grading stakes) at the height required for the steepest part of the grade with at least two or three in the transition curve area top and bottom. Flex the roadbed into place and screw it down securely. I use a solid roadbed made of 2x6 pt for things like this. I start the roadbed piece on the flat before the grade and spring it into position across the risers. Voila, a vertical transition curve.
Regards ... Doug
 

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Doug has covered the basics quite well so just a small addition in case you are using ladder roadbed with the benchwork....



One advantage of open frame benchwork is you can easily install risers to raise the grade of the track. It will require a bit more work cutting and fitting the hardware cloth and landscape fabric. For the transition from level to grade attach the roadbed to risers and the risers to the benchwork joists with clamps or screws. Set track on top of roadbed connected to the existing track below and run your engines up the grade. If their pilots hit merely lower the risers down until they clear. The grade shown is approximately 2%.
 

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A 6ft. rise in 50ft. translates to a 12% grade! That's very steep! You're going to have to halve that just to run anything more than a car or two and that will still be about as steep as you would want it! Is there a way to "loop" it so the grade is less?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Does a switchback have a switch track at each end of the track run. I am envisioning a straight track that drops at a 4% grade and passes a switch that has a lead as long as the train. Then I would throw the switch and run the train backward down a parallel track at the same 4% grade and pass another switch that has a lead as long as the train. Then I throw that switch and proceed down the last leg of the final parallel track running down at a 4% grade to my final destination. That would give me three times the length (about 100') to drop the required distance. Is my awkard description about what a switchback would look like and work correct?

John
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Yes Richard I have adopted your system completely and will be using a ladder roadbed. One thing I have done is nail the wire screen on the bottom of the 2x4 frames in some areas. That gives me a soil depth of 5" instead of the 1.5" in the standard areas. I have a friend who is a Master Gardener in Delaware and she is going to help me with the plants. Her suggestion to increase the soil depth in certain areas will make it possible to greatly increase the plants I can put on the railroad. She also gave me some two gallon plastic pots to use for trees such as Dwarf Alberta Spruces. I plan to install a pot permanently in the framework. A second pot with soil and the plant will just be dropped into the first one. When winter comes I will pull out the tree with its pot and "Heel it in" (her terminology) so it will survive the cold weather. I also plan to put in a drip irrigation system for the major plants. I just have to learn how to post pictures. I don't know if my descriptions are clear.

John
 

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Posted By Big John on 04/05/2008 12:09 PM
Yes Richard I have adopted your system completely and will be using a ladder roadbed. One thing I have done is nail the wire screen on the bottom of the 2x4 frames in some areas. That gives me a soil depth of 5" instead of the 1.5" in the standard areas. I have a friend who is a Master Gardener in Delaware and she is going to help me with the plants. Her suggestion to increase the soil depth in certain areas will make it possible to greatly increase the plants I can put on the railroad. She also gave me some two gallon plastic pots to use for trees such as Dwarf Alberta Spruces. I plan to install a pot permanently in the framework. A second pot with soil and the plant will just be dropped into the first one. When winter comes I will pull out the tree with its pot and "Heel it in" (her terminology) so it will survive the cold weather. I also plan to put in a drip irrigation system for the major plants. I just have to learn how to post pictures. I don't know if my descriptions are clear.

John




John,

The advice to deepen the soil content by installing the screening (hardware cloth) on the bottom of the joists might make sense to a gardener but not from a durability sense. The screening will not only have to hold greater weight of soil because it's deeper as well as whatever collects on top but will literally be hanging by the screen's fasteners instead of the joists. Hardware cloth has a great deal of strength and is quite difficult to break under most ordinary circumstances but it must be supported from beneath to take advantage of its strength.

It would be much better to install the screening on top of the bencework framing and then cut out areas you want deeper and frame out the holes and install whatever support you need for each part cut out. Soil and rock is very heavy, even just a couple of inches. Add moisture content and/or snowload and you're talking serious weight.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
When I made my frames I spaced the 2x4 cross pieces 16" on center. What I plan is to install a short 2x4 between the cross pieces and essentially form a small box. When I attach the screen on the bottom side of this box the area supported by it will not be larger than 14 1/2" long by 8" wide. I also plan to have two 1"x1" braces evenly spaced under the screen running across the 8" width. These braces will be screwed to the botton of the 2x4 frame members. I could even run the screen under the entire 1 1/2" thickness of the 2x4's and bring it up the sides of the boxed in area a few inches when I nail it in place. I think this will be strong enough to support that small size pocket of soil. The majority of the platform will only be 1 1/2" deep. I will let you know in about a year how well it holds up.

John
 

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I think the best bet is to avoid transitions to such a steep grade/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/cry.gif
 

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On my layout I transition from level to 4% grade and back to level using about 2 ft of "transition" track. I kinda cheated on mine. 1st time I tested transitions on a temporary torture track, I used a single 12" section where the underside of the rails were curfed enough to allow the track to be curved vertically so I could get that transition to grade. It worked but was labor intensive but it gave me another idea. So on the current layout I simply used several short sections of track with thin wood shims undernieght to support the gradual transition to grade. The joiners naturally allow a certain amount of vertical flexibility, enough to be used for transitions. Caviet, my layout in indoors so the shims have full support of the benchwork, and my layout is small so I dont have the luxury of long gradual transitions like those decribed in other posts.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
After mulling it over I have decided to remove the ten platforms I already installed on posts and start over. I plan to remove about a foot of soil from the highest point and run my platforms down a 1% grade for the first 30 feet and then transition to a 4% grade for the last 50 feet. That should drop my last platform around 2 1/2 feet lower than the highest platform. This will bring it down to a managable 4 feet above the ground rather than almost 7 feet above the ground. I will have to raise and level the track in the areas on the platform where I need it to be level such as in my freight yard. I should have hired a better engineer at the start of this program. That's what I get for trying to save money using cheep help, an old retired engineer namely myself. I have pictures and someday I will post them when I learn how.

John
 
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