WCRR – Ballast Complete

In July we completed the basic ballast on the Woodlark Central


A small fill is seen on entering the backyard.


Turning right, the grade is 1.5% up in this direction, until the second tree where it heads down again


The bricks in the in the roadbed are every 10 feet. The railroad is graded brick to brick. The 2% down grade starts at the first brick.


Heading down grade, toward the great fill and past the vegetable garden.

Approaching the yard, on the fill, an passing the garden

The double track railroad yard. Full size railroad ties on right are being placed to hold the ballast.

Exiting the yard. The 1.5% grad starts here. The wall at left is for sitting on while watching the trains in the yard.

The 1.5 % grade out of the yard.

Completed the loop. The 1.5% grade heads toward the house and the loop is completed on the small fill. Stacks of track wait to be installed.

Posted in Construction, Woodlark Central | Leave a comment

Woodlark Central – Latest track plan

Dad made an accurate plan so that he could manufacture the track for the Woodlark Central.  This is what he is building to.

I’ve sketched the location of the shed and track to it.  The site of the shed is not 100% established.  I need to design the shed and then work with dad on the track.  The shed is to be multi-purpose.  One side for live steam and the other for garden stuff (pots, bug sprays, etc…)


May 2017 Woodlark Central track plan

I’ve been working grade the WC.  At this point, I’m 90% complete, so know the grades.  The clockwise ruling grade is 2% and the counter-clockwise ruling grade is 1.5%  I feel pretty good about these grades.  I think a steamer should be able to pull 1-2 additional passengers counter clockwise and the diesel should be able to pull 2-3 passenger clockwise (assumption is that a passenger is 150lbs…as an average weight….)

Note that the bottom part of the track plan is not 100% accurate to the graded ballast.  Dad drew the 28′ and 24′ radius curves being connected by a straight track.  Instead they are connected by some gentle curve, some 34′ radius, and some straight.  Connecting them straight would have brought the track too close to a tree truck, resulting in unacceptable grades.  Instead the track has been laid in the shallows between the house (which is at bottom) and the trees.



Posted in Woodlark Central | Leave a comment

Walnut Creek 30th Anniversary

Last fall Dad and I got to attend the 30th Anniversary of the Walnut Creek Railroad.  We had a wonderful time running the #778 on Stan Helper’s railroad and meeting other 4-3/4″ enthusiasts.  I’ve been wanting to write a really great post about the event, to emphasize the wonder time I has just not happened.  So I want to complete this post as a complement to the article written by Stan himself in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Live Steam.

In addition to thanking Stan, I’d like to thank his neighbor George Fish’s whose Walnut Creek and Southern connects to Stan’s railroad.  Together these men provided a fine venue for running trains and hosted a wonder event with family and friends.  Congratulations to the two of them and hopefully, I can attend the 40th.

Thanks to Lou Lockwood for providing the following photos.

House & Trestle

A general view of Stan’s home and the pleasant setting for the Walnut Creek Railroad.

Kids Run Too

The Walnut Creek Railroad is for kids too!

Firing 778

Dad and I fired up the #778. I made several trips around the track. On the step grades, the 778 could only pull one full sized adult

NZ Diesel

One of the stars of the day, a 1.6″ scale meter gauge NZ diesel built by Dale Gauwitz.

NZ Diesel Insides

Dale showed off the insides of his NZ loco.


Jim Schmidt ran his ten wheeler.

High Trestle

The high trestle on Georges property was exciting to steam across


The 1″ scale hand car shed is one of several structures around the right of way


Stan’s 4-3/4″ gauge clishay outside the shop building

Stan on right

The host is at right, talking with one Tim, one of the guests who brought his RS-3

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Can’t Stop Now…Grading Begins

I turn 50 this year, which means a big family celebration.  30+ people will be here in my home town, and what better to do than have a picnic and train rides in the backyard.  I proposed the idea to my dad and he bit in.  He has been working on his own backyard railroad for 15 years, and now that he is 83 it does not seem he’ll reach all of dreams.  We both agree it would be better to have the track at my house:  It’s a flatter yard and has a greater potential for sharing Ride on Railroading due to my neighbor hood, friends, and my 12 year old son (not that he likes trains).  So dad an I agreed we should try to get the Woodlark Central running in time for the party in August.  Seems aggressive, but obtainable.

Dad and I agreed to split up the work.  He would focus on making track panels and I’d focus on grading.  Then we’d target to join forces in May for the final installation…Dad started on track work last month so I felt it was time to start on grading.  To get started, ordered 4 cubic yards of Chipped Limestone with Dust.  The goal being to install the sub-roadbed of about 3″ deep.  Today was to be the first day of grading, and I must admit I had no idea what to do.  I’m sort of feeling this out.  How many times does one put a railroad in the backyard?

Anyway, I got started today and there’s no turning back now.  Two of my best model railroading buddies pitched in for 4+ hours too put down 50′ of ballast.  Take a look at the photos below to see what happened.


Chris and Phil leveling out the grade. The flags mark the roadbed location . Where Chris and Phil are standing will be the double track parallel to the back fence. The near flags mark the single track curving from left to right as the tracks make an arc toward the house.


This picture shows the basic process we followed. Mark the bounds of the roadbed with flags, laydown plastic weed fabric (for weeds and to minimize roadbed sinking into the soil), Add pipes where drainage is required, Set down wood formers, dump wheelbarrows of ballast and rack, tamp, repeat.


Here is the end of day finishing point. About 50 linear feet of ballast. The orange cones are right are covering the rebar being used to make the center of each major curve. The minimum radius is 24 feet.


Phil and I thought it would be fun to see what it might look like with track on it. These tracks come from a set of portable 3.5/4.75″ dual gauge track I have. It will not be the final track, but it did give me a good feel of how the track might look when we lay it in place!

I can’t believe I’m actually doing this….Having two friends join in made it easy work.  Actually, they kept doing the hard manual labor moving loads of ballast and dragging parking stops across the yard to form retaining walls.  It’s great to have good friends….I look forward to paying them back and to having them run steam with me!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Inspirational Backyard Railroad Video

This backyard railroad of Jim Sabin is on the same scale of what I dream about….

Take a look for yourself…


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blower nozzles for the 778

We had some trouble steaming the Little Engines #778 that we acquired.  My dad felt that one of the problems was in the blower nozzle holes being too big and letting too much steam escape.  I suggested that we just turn down the air, but he countered that then there would not be enough draft as the draft depends on the pressure as the tip of the nozzle.  He suggested that smaller holes letting the air escape would be better.  I’m not a fluid dynamics guys, so I may not have the conversation correct…  But my dad was, he worked for GE writing programs to calculate the flow of air across the turbine blades of jet engines (many of which are still flying today and many of his software programs are still in use)…Needless to say I accepted his statements.  Time will tell if we observe improvement on the next firing.

So how to reduce the size of the holes?  Dad proposed that we tap the original holes (#50 I think) and insert new nozzles with small holes (#70 I think).  This smaller size is more in line with the Y4 project running in one of the mags.  I turned the new nozzles.  We made and acquired tools so that we could complete the job going down the stack.  Then we set forth on the project.  All was going well until the 3rd hole.  On the 3rd hole we over tightened the tap and it broke in the hole.  No way to get it out…

So finally we conceded, removing the boiler to access the holes.  Yesterday dad removed the broken tap and inserted the new last nozzle.  He provided the following image o fthe completed work.


The fresh nozzles added to the blower.  Each is a one of a kind ,but seem to work well.  The exhaust comes out the middle in a raised area that interfered with the nozzles, preventing them from being tightened all the way down.  The nozzles are angled inward so the jets of air should go up the stack.  The inward angle occurred naturally while drilling down through the stack.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Woodlark Central #4 – How about 22 foot minimum radius

I just was not liking the short stubby passing siding on the 28 foot radius plan.  So I began to wonder if I could go smaller.  Looking through old issues of …… I found 1″ scale plans operating down to 10′ radius and #4 turnouts.   So I drew up a 20 foot radius plan with #4 turnouts.  It looked so much nicer.

In review of the plan, my dad could not say with confidence that the 4-6-0 #6 would go around 20 foot radius.  He remembered that Stokes stated 22 foot radius.  So here’s a 22 foot radius version.

Proposed 22 foot radius version of the Woodlark Central

Proposed 22 foot radius version of the Woodlark Central

The plan provides ample space at the rear for garden and trees for a view block.  The track avoids the three big trees near to the house with  gracious 28+ foot curves.  The Inglenook sidings is present for switching and the spur track goes into a shed for storage.  If I want to expand the switching, storage or add a steaming bay, there is room at the upper right corner of the plan.  I’ve always thought a steaming bay that looks like a coal distributor trestle would be a nice feature.  It would do double duty for steaming up and a small industry.

The curves are adequate for our RS3, 0-4-0, and 4-6-0.  The #300 4-6-4 and the T1 4-4-4-4 would never handle the sharp 22 foot radius.  The latter engines are more power than required for such a small railroad.

Should I ever convert to 7.5″ gauge a Chloe 0-4-2T or Fitchburg Northern 2-6-0 could handle these same curves (If I ever build my own engine it would likely be one of these two….But I doubt I ever will)

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments