The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

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Trevor Thompson
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The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Trevor Thompson » Sun Oct 04, 2020 10:02 pm

I am going to tell you about the extension to my railway which I have made during this last summer. As well as the further extension which I would be building now if it would stop raining for a few days.

But: I think it might help if I show you how this all came about. It isn't a logical place to build a garden railway you see.

Originally it looked like this, the railway will eventually find a home on the other side of the barbed wire fence behind the cottage.
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So let me take you back to 2007, when we extended the cottage and had a garage or perhaps it should be boat house inserted into the garden.
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400 tons were dug out here and the bit you are interested in is that earth bank behind the discovery, leading behind the cottage.

As the work progressed a retaining wall was built, and it started to look like this:
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On top of the retaining wall was quite a steep bank, and it seemed like a good idea to build a wall on top, a couple of feet high and as much to keep the soil from dropping onto the path as anything else. That wall took me about 5 years to build. It isn't as straight as it could be but it is built. By this time I had discovered the 16mm association, and I was busily building an "Idris" in the garage. So now I needed track to test it on:
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So it started out as a test track, a length of single line, with a run round loop at one end and a passing place at the other. Effectively allowing a locomotive to run to one end, run around its train, travel to the other end and repeat the operation.

Fast forward a few years and you can see the result:
IMG_0111.jpg
This end of the line has a model of the engineering workshop on the Corris railway, and a station building also based on a Corris prototype. For the other end which will I suppose develop into the "Terminus" there is a station building half built, and a signal box. However that end is still quite unfinished.

Of course that isn't really enough track to satisfy my ambitions, and last winter I built a bridge to go over the footpath, allowing the railway to continue behind the cottage:
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The bridge just lifts out. It is out most of the time because it crosses the main access into the garden. To ensure that the track always aligns properly:
IMG_0516.jpg
The stonework at each end has a cut out with an aluminium socket inserted into it. Fixed in place. Each end of the bridge has bolts "sticking out" so that they engage with the aluminium sockets. One end has 4 bolts and the other 3. So far it has always engaged accurately.

So the next post will start the extension

Trevor

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by gregh » Mon Oct 05, 2020 2:12 am

That's a great workshop building. I think most of us start with small ideas that somehow mushroom. Yours is looking great. Looking forward to the extension.
That's a ingenious solution to the lifting bridge alignment problem.
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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by ge_rik » Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:44 am

That bridge looks beautifully engineered

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Trevor Thompson » Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:59 am

ge_rik wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:44 am
That bridge looks beautifully engineered

Rik
Thanks for the positive comments! AND it isn't 3D printed!

The prototype is on the Welsh Highland Railway just south of Snowdon Ranger. That was the longest prototype I could find - and it is actually pretty close to scale length.

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Jimmyb » Mon Oct 05, 2020 5:20 pm

I do like how you have engineered the height and width adjustments, simple but effective. 🚂

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Trevor Thompson » Mon Oct 05, 2020 5:28 pm

So too the first extension:

Just to give some background and context I have produced a sketch of the site:
railway.jpg
As you can see the cottage, which is the central green box, is built into the side of a hill - like many welsh cottages. The orange block on the right hand side behind the buildings is the path on the top of the retaining wall you have already seen. The dark blue block is the existing railway. You can also see that the orange block crosses to the left of the railway and up into the garden. That is where the bridge crosses the path, joining the dark blue to the light blue.

So the extension is shown in light blue. Follow the light blue block from the bridge and you will see it crosses another orange block - another path. That is the first extension which i will show you in a minute. The rest of the light blue which continues to the left, loops around and then crosses the path again to end in the centre of the garden higher up. That is the other important factor.

The first section is level, and the extensions are all rising at a constant slope of 1 in 60. Gravity trains? I am particularly interested in modelling Welsh Slate railways. Festiniog in particular. You may already have guessed that I am focussed on making models of real things. I want a prototype. That applies to the rolling stock and the railway. So this railway has elements of Corris and Festiniog railways within it.
C9F64DCE-F6BA-4C12-B6C3-623FED0D9BB0.jpg
When we were all locked down I started digging out the bank by hand. I had already built a short section of wall to take the end of the bridge. It seemed like a "good idea".

It was hard work, requiring a pick to break up the bank, which is 75% rock, and 25% soil. Most of that rock will appear shortly!

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Trevor Thompson » Mon Oct 05, 2020 6:07 pm

As the days rolled on I kept working at it, clearing about 2/3 cu metre per day:
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The railway is going on the green bit above the path!
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You can see the beginnings of a retaining wall behind the railway. One of the advantages of doing all of this groundwork is that I will have converted a steep bank into terraces. No more risk of slipping off with a strimmer!

At the end of the section I made a set of steps turning up into the garden. So there will be another way into the garden when the bridge is in place. You can see the curved track bed which has widened out to accommodate a station, and how it crosses the new steps on the level, before curving past the apple tree.
IMG_0611.jpg
The steps have lengths of stainless axle let into them to form track. They are held apart by stainless bolts. The ends are filed and sawn down to the same section as the rail - and they join onto the real track with standard fishplates. It isn't obvious but they are concreted into the steps so you can walk on them.

The next photo really jumps forward a bit - but it shows the track bed and the station area from the new path:
IMG_0820.jpg
So I really aught to describe the track. It is basically stainless rail, fishplates and chairs from Cliff Barker. The sleepers are all cut from offcuts of Larch or old teak garden furniture. Both of these are durable in contact with soil. The sleepers in the first section have been in situ for probably 10 years by the way.

The track layout at this station is a bit odd. I will explain why! It is based on the track layout at Tan-y-Bwlch in the early 1870's. ( I told you I like a prototype). It is just a mirror image of an illustration in Volume 1 of Boydes book.

The cross over was linked to the Ffestiniog practice of marshalling goods wagons between loco and coaches. It enabled the train loco to shunt the sidings and then go back to its train. It also allowed an up train to pass a down train AND a gravity slate train to hurtle through the middle! Most odd, but it had to be modeled.

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Trevor Thompson » Mon Oct 05, 2020 6:24 pm

Continuing with some details of my track over the path:
IMG_0581.jpg
here you can see the stainless embedded roughly. The three way point is also shown.

and a detail of the connection to proper track:
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While I am the first to admit that narrow gauge railways didn't invest in complex pointwork, I wanted to keep this station as long as possible in the minimum space. So three way points seemed acceptable to me! A hand built straight 3 way point:
IMG_0564.jpg
and the same on the curve:
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Finally my latest type of ground frame, which incorporates an over centre spring to try to provide positive but light pressure to hold the point closed in either direction:
IMG_0589.jpg
That brings us near enough up to date. You will find more on the bridge and water tower under 3 D printing.

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by LNR » Tue Oct 06, 2020 12:29 am

Great work, I do envy the fact that you will have great background for photos on that bank. Don't envy that ground work though, still it appears as though formations will stay put. Looking forward to more.
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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by ge_rik » Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:55 am

It's clear that "Beautifully engineered" doesn't just apply to the bridge - your whole railway has been constructed to enviably high standards.

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Trevor Thompson » Tue Oct 06, 2020 12:15 pm

Thanks for the kind comments!

To bring you right up to date:
IMG_0894.jpg
I have finished the retaining wall behind the railway. Todays task is to start to level the terrace above it - where the wheelbarrow is lying. That will enable the gardener to plant the terrace. I envisage plants flowing over the retaining wall. We will see! Finishing off the edging between the railway and the footpath can wait for a while. I am keen to make the rest of the track bed.
IMG_0895.jpg
So looking the other way you can see the two sets of tracks crossing the steps. That shows the height that the trackbed has got to climb to make the ends meet. Bit of a risk hoping I can align the two ends accurately as they get nearer, but that upper step wouldn't wait. So the track bed from here on will be gravel boards set onto the ground, and I intend to work both ends at once. We are about to head off past the electricity pole and towards the small tree beyond the pole. That is where I hope the loop will fit.

So it will be a while before I add to this again - but I will in due course.

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by philipy » Tue Oct 06, 2020 12:47 pm

Looks fascinating. What is the actual level difference between the two tracks/steps, it looks to be something around 750mm?
If so, at your 1:60 gradient you'll need a straight run of around 45metres, plus a bit more because of the curve on the gradient, but I'm sure you'll already have done those calcs!!

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Trevor Thompson » Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:13 pm

philipy wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 12:47 pm
Looks fascinating. What is the actual level difference between the two tracks/steps, it looks to be something around 750mm?
If so, at your 1:60 gradient you'll need a straight run of around 45metres, plus a bit more because of the curve on the gradient, but I'm sure you'll already have done those calcs!!
The difference in level is 570mm. So at 1:60 I make that about 110 ft of track. I figured the advantage of working both ends is that as one end got lower with every length, and the other got higher it would sort of be obvious when the height difference would fit into a circle. As in 3/4 attached to the upper end and 1/4 going the other way to connect to the lower.

The garden is wide enough to cope with it whatever works out! Of course a 10 ft diameter circle could be 12 ft or whatever was needed when we get there. My wife just gets a bigger pond in the middle!

Just as an aside I know that you are not recommended to build a railway with this sort of gradient. However my battery locos all cope with the gradient effortlessly, and the only live steam loco which I have finished also copes. It obviously won't pull as much up the slope - but It seems acceptable. Anyway all the slate railways have steep gradients and as a "model" of a slate railway surely it should have a gradient!

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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Hydrostatic Dazza » Wed Oct 07, 2020 3:23 am

Marvelous stuff :thumbright:
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Re: The Railway in the Valley of the Mill

Post by Trevor Thompson » Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:00 am

So were off! The second extension is started.

Yesterday we levelled off and planted up the terrace above the first extension:
IMG_0903.jpg
and I laid out the first parts of the extension. I have decided to lay the concrete "gravel boards" onto concrete pads. the gravel boards are 6 ft long and 6 inches wide. It is the most reliable way I can think of making sure they are all correctly lined up and at the correct angle. At the same time I am trying to avoid the heavy groundwork which the rest of it has entailed. I have calculated that top of the foundation needs to 70 mm below the level of the rail top. and I have hammered stakes into the ground so the tops are at the correct height. The stakes are 3 ft apart. So firstly my lashup to get a longish spirit level with a small spirit level taped on at the correct angle:
IMG_0900.jpg
That is the top crossing and the formation set out to follow the contour, at 1:60 downwards.

And the same thing from the lower crossing with the stakes laid out leading upwards at 1:60 past the apple tree again following the contour as best as I can:
IMG_0902.jpg
So I need to make shuttering and cast foundation pads around each stake.

More to follow as it happens!

Trevor

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