Success! Woodlark Central’s first run is a party…

On August 18th 2017, the Woodlark Central ran for the first time!  My 50th birthday reunion celebration was a success.  My son, nephew and others all ran the trains and made trips around the track on the hand car.  There were no trial runs, the engine had not even been down on the tracks.


Six months of work on the railroad has culminated in a successful lap around the track. Now time to Explain the throttle to Nick and Justin.

Obtaining success was not easy.  For the prior 4-6 weeks my 84 year old father worked 6-8 hour days refurbishing track and building the two turnouts.  In the last 1-2 weeks, he and I installed the remaining 120 (of 230) feet of track.  I took Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off work to prepare for the celebrations and complete the track.  Here are some key activities in the final week (photos follow the list)

  • Wednesday Aug 16th – Installed all the track and got all rail connections completed.  The loop was in.
  • Thursday Aug 17 – Dad came over again,
    • We put the screws in for all the rails (He did most of this work)
    • Completed the cart to a level of completeness
    • Got the cart stands started and tested, identified a few problems
    • 1am – Hung the hoist in the ceiling of the garage.  Family was sleeping had I fallen off the ladder it’s quite likely no one would have found me.  This was no small achievement, holding 6′ long steel tube over my head and screwing it in within lag bolts.  I did go to bed happy that was over.
  • Friday Aug 18th
    • Honey do list – My wife was planning the “party” and she had a honey do list for me.  She is a planner and not a procrastinator.  No having something done stresses her out, where as it motivates me.  We are opposites.  Needless to say in her frustration, on Thursday she set the following mandate “You can not play with trains until all of your part tasks are complete”.  It was this mandate that motivated me to hang the hoist on Thursday night.  Here is my party list
      • Edge Driveway and all side walks (normally she would help by sweeping, but do to my procrastination, I had to do it myself)
      • Mow the lawn (I rushed through the back yard on Thursday evening…).  I helped my son do the front yard
      • Setup and ice the coolers
      • Setup the tables in the backyard
      • Setup the tent (Dad helped with this)
      • Put table cloths on the tables (Dad did this too)
      • Mulch the mound – This was my idea, I wanted the back yard to look good and the mound behind the sitting wall was weed covered and terrible.  I went to home depot at 8am to get the mulch (and to get a few things required to complete the locomotive cart/stands
      • Setup concrete bench – This request had been dropped, but my wife had asked for month or two before.  The bench was from the house she grew up in and reminded her of her mom (passed).  So, wanting to gain back a few bonus points, I decided to set it up.  It is in front of the mound, another reason to mulch the mound.  The top of the bench weighs over 150lb’s.  It was a good 20 minute struggle between the bench, me, and the wheelbarrow.  In the end, I won the wheelbarrow survived, the bench was setup, and my back only hurt a bit more.
      • Added two flower pots (purchased during the Home Depot run) to spruce
    • Whiffle Ball Field – Months prior, I promised my son we’d have a home run contest during the party.  Both he and Nick like baseball, so it seemed like a good part activity.  Add to that my Bothers and Cousins always play sports when were younger, we all like hard healthy competition.  So a home run derby seemed like a good idea.
      • My son mowed the lawn
      • I then mowed base paths and infield even lower
      • We put up/built the fence (orange construction fence from Lowes, garden stakes and zip ties).  Charlie had drilled the holes in the garden stakes two days earlier.  I good way for a 12 year old to learn how to use a drill press.
      • FYI:  The fence was about 70 feet from the home plate and in our neighbors yard (I have good neighbors)
    • Trains
      • Dad arrived around 2:00 (one hour before the guests were due)
      • He helped with table cloth and such
      • He enlarged the holes in the stand from 1/2″ to 3/4″ using a drill I’d purchased while making the morning mulch run to Home Depot (the bit was the real reason I had to go to home depot.  Mulch and other things were just a decoy)
      • People started arriving at 3pm as we worked on the stands
      • 4:30pm raised the cart into the stand
      • Rolled the #91 from it’s stand to the cart (smiles from my dad an I)
      • Lowered the cart with #91 on it to the ground (smiling bigger)
      • Rolled cart with #91 out of the garage (big smiles…this is going to work)
      • Maneuvered cart into the side yard and down to the back yard
      • Maneuvered the cart over the track
      • Propped up one end and connected the spanner track from the cart to the rails
      • 5pm  rolled #91 down the spanner track and forcibly onto the rails
      • 5:30pm I took the first ride around the track
      • Dad took the second ride around the track
      • Success!
      • Time to take my shower….It was 90 degrees I had been working hard all day, time to clean up as I was the one being honored.
      • For the next few hours the kids rode the trains around the track.
      • 8:30pm #91 made back onto the cart and into the garage!  Complete success!

Charlie and Nick looped the railroad on the handcar until #91 made its appearance


Close up of Charlie and Nick.  The lack of a second track shows we did not complete the passing siding for the event.


#91 the RS3 is on the cart and in the stand. It is fastened to the board and ready to be lowered. Hoist is overhead and needs to be moved into position. A 1/2″ rod goes through the stand and the cart (the hoisting is inspired by what Jim Sabin did. Search youtube for his name to see video of his hoist setup)


The hoist is being used to lower the front end of the loco from 30″ to 15″. The hoist cable is tight as I have yet to slip in the 1/2″ rod that will hold the front end at 15″. It’s a 3 step process to lower the loco all the way to the ground.


A side view of the engine being lowered. As a short cut, we clamped #91’s travel board to the cart as it has tie downs. In the future I hope to add rails and tie downs to the cart so that clamps will not be required.  But as it is now, anyone that has a locomotive board with tie downs could probably visit.


#91 rolling out into the sun. At this point, I was all smiles as I new we had succeeded, we were going to run trains for my birthday party.


A parade! that’s what the first trip around the track seemed to be, what fun.


Dad made the second trip around. It was festive to have so many spectators.


We missed the tightening of 10 feet of screws. A pause for maintenance was required. Paul spectating, has an honorable mention in the Woodlark Central’s history. Some 30 years earlier he helped dad bring all of the track and railroad equipment from California to Cincinnati when my dad salvaged his fathers live steam equipment, shop, and track. Without uncle Paul there might not be a Woodlark Central.


Andrew speeding up the 2% grade behind #91


Andrew Charlie and the twins parade around the backyard. Dad with a watchful eye.


The parade continues


Josh and Justin at the controls

I must confess, the railroad was not flawless.  We have a few derailments and had to walk around the track.  But for a trial run infront of a crowd it was a great success.  Nothing like completing a significant accomplishment to make one 50th birthday.  Who is over the hill.

SPECIAL THANKS:  Clearly this railroad does not exist without my dad.  But my wife gets a “Big thanks honey”.   She took a leap of faith in letting me build the railroad in the backyard of our home.  I do not think she had any idea what it would be like.  Also, I know there were times this summer when she thought she’d lost me to the railroad.  At times I thought I’d lost myself….was I becoming Harrison Ford’s character in the Mosquito Coast?  Obsessed by a railroad that may never run?  Thankfully, I do not think that is me.  Instead I have a railroad that will cause me to do more Gardening (something my wife loves) and do more socialization (something my wife believes in).  So rather than become isolated I’d like to think I’m becoming more engaged.  Thanks!

My wife also gets credit for putting on a wonderful party.  Food, drink, music and great socializing for my family.  Thanks again…

If anyone cares, Pete won the home run derby.  He smashed all of us by creaming home runs high into the trees….We each got 10 outs to hit as many hope runs as we good.  The fence was 75 feet from the plate.  Sorry, no pictures.  Here are the participants and winners….

  • Pete – 7 (The champion)
  • Dave, Bill – 5
  • Mike V, Hank – 4
  • Rob, Tim, Charlie, Mitch – 2
  • Mike, Nick – 1
  • Kathy, Justin, Josh, Andrew, Sophie – 0
  • Thanks to all who participated.

A parting shot…The smiles tell it all. This is why we built the railroad in a suburban home setting, so that we could enjoy and so that kids could enjoy.

FYI:  Some photos were taken by me using my smart phone, but the best photos were taken by Terri.  Thanks Terri!

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