Updated: 12/12/01

Picture Set # 1 of the

"The Move a Rock, Take a Break Road"


The name of our railroad is a play on the names of the Clinchfield and Pennsylvania railroads.

While most Texas yards have minimal contouring, we have acquired about 85 tons of dirt and rock transforming the entire back yard into our garden railway.  Because of the huge mess this created, work occurred almost nonstop any day the weather has been remotely humanly tolerable.  Did you know you can solder track when it is as cold out as 52 degrees?

This is a "running" layout.  It's too hot in Texas to operate outdoors!  Operations take place on the HO High & Xiety indoors and air conditioned.  The F&W consists of about 500' of mainline track in three independent loops.  All loops are joined by turnouts permitting all trains to run into the garage where a yard allows quick storage and retrieval of trains without taking them off the track

The trains run through four tunnels and 14 bridge systems.  Some of the bridge systems consist of trestle(s) and more than one bridge. 

For a natural appearance, dirt was dumped about where I needed it, but I decided not worry about shaping the dirt perfectly to the track plan.  Instead, the track would follow the terrain.  If a fill or a cut was needed, so be it.  This also made bending the rail a good bit more work as there are many places the track is not straight or smoothly curved as it follows the lay of the land.

If it is possible for a garden railroad to be too big, this one is close if not it.  Now that all the tracks are installed, it is already clear that keeping everything in running condition while continuing with construction is going to be a real challenge.  Hence the use of metal bridges to avoid further maintanence.  The cuts to the tunnels, where the dirt frequently oozed through the rocks, has had concrete added behind the rocks to prevent the problem.

This is the outdoor test track for the "Wiring for DCC" website.  Check out the website for DCC control of an LGB track cleaning locomotive and the Bachmann Shay with Soundtraxx sound, as well as the section on DCC in the garden for lightning suppression on outdoor tracks and turnouts.

Is that really your backyard?

Where did you get the idea for this?
I first saw one of these in the mid '80's.

Where did you get the idea to use birdhouses?
Before we bought any buildings, we saw one in '92. It was about the right size, it was already assembled and painted, had a lot of charm, and was half the price of garden railroad building kits. After we acquired the fourth one, we decided to stick with them. Now they are easily gotten at craft stores and shows, discount stores, supermarkets, and even department stores. Most are under $15.

Look! It is the beer train!
(Proof that a garden railroad can be useful!)

How long have you been building this?
It took four years to build and requires about three months a year of maintenance.

How many hours do you think you have put in on this?
I don't want to think about it! I worked on it every single weekend that it wasn't raining and at least 52 degrees.

How much have you spent on this?
See above answer!

How big is it?
It is about 35' by 40'.  It occupies the entire postage stamp yard.

How do you mow the grass?
Look carefully.  There is no grass at all.  There is no way to mow it if we had it.  So it is intentional that there is absolutely no grass.

What do you do about the weather?
Drive the trains into the garage!This is probably the most important feature of this railroad.  All three of the independent loops connect together so that every train can either go over the stone viaduct, or one of the wooden bridges via a wye into a five track yard in the garage.  This yard runs the length of the three car garage.  It can store seven trains.  The yard is plexiglass encased with lids, lit by flourescent lighting, under storage shelves - which, among other things, hold the birdhouses for our garden railroad.  The track, which obviously stays outside, endures the weather fine.  Cementing of the track and subroadbed (cement is the second most important feature)  helps the track deal with the shifting dirt and forces of expansion and contraction.  As long as nature hasn't done a serious number on rail gauging, a quick wipe of the track is all that is required and trains can be running in minutes.

The trains are pulled into a 5 track yard under shelving in the garage.  The plexiglass-encased yard helps keep dust off the train trains as well as afford protection from something being dropped from the above shelves - which obviously store the birdhouses for the railroad as well as the usual garage stuff.

What scale is this?
It's common name is G-scale and is a ratio of 1:22.5. It is not completely standardized so some of our equipment is 1:20.3 or 1:29. Some of the people and vehicles are a standard dollhouse size of 1:24. Close enough! The spacing between the rails is 1-7/8"

How did you get all the dirt and rock get here?
All the dirt and rock was moved by 10 cu. ft. wheel barrow. In most cases, it was all moved from the driveway. Some of it, the truck was backed up to the gate so we didn't have as far to go. Neither side yard was big enough to get a Bobcat through. When moving the material from the driveway, about a ton per hour could be moved.

How did I get interested in trains?
What else is a kid to do?

How are the trains controlled? Are they battery powered?
Some garden railroads use battery power. Due to the cost, weight, short running time of batteries, as well as the quality of sound systems that require a connection to the track, battery power is not used on the F-W.

The vast majority of the locomotives on the F&W use DCC - Digital Command Control; primarily for the sophisticated sound systems available for it. The track has a constant 18V of AC on it to power the trains.

This viaduct was originally to be a simple wooden bridge. But when huge ugly green things, generally called "horse apples" started falling from the trees in the fall, I decided to instead to build a steel reinforced concrete bridge clad in stone to withstand being pelted by these inedible "fruits."

Needless to say, the name of this viaduct is "Horse Apple Viaduct"

Click here to see a horse apple blocking a Mogal

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