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Kenneth A. Larson has a quarter century of experience in design and construction of scenery for the Entertainment Industry and Theme Parks using Computer Aided and Traditional approaches to Design. Also experience in other areas of Design.
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Garden Model Railroad

All photographs taken by Kenneth A. Larson. All rights reserved. © 2007 - 2013 .

The Garden Model Railroad and the Water Garden are closely intertwined, but I cover the Water Garden on another page. The water garden is surrounded by a low wall to keep the turtles in and run the track on top. I tried to find a track planning guide, but there doesn't seem to be such a thing. I was told to buy some track and start experimenting. The track is too expensive to experiment, so I bought one straight section and one curved section. I studied these two pieces and developed my own track planning guide. The one problem, I later learned, is the 60 inch track is really about 59 1/2 inches, so once the wall was built, the track didn't quite fit right. I had carefully laid out the wall to match the standard track sizes, not the actual sizes.


The first full year in the new house was spent unpacking and planning the landscape. I would make minor adjustments to the landscape over the years, but the only big change to the landscape was in 2008 when Building and Safety wouldn't let me build my studio the way I wanted in the back corner of the pond / railroad site so the large waterfall was moved to that spot and a smaller waterfall would be built where the large waterfall was originally spotted.


I spent the year on general landscape. I removed plants and cleared areas. I the backyard, removed unwanted plants and started preparing the site of the pond and railroad.


In the spring of 2009, I began building the low retaining wall around the water garden. I wanted the wall to be perfectly level and also comply with the railroad track standard sizes. I had to leave four sections of wall undone for a time because two sections would run over a utility trench that I wasn't ready to start, one section had a cucumber plant in the way, and a large section would remain unfinished until the end to allow better access during later construction.

I began by installing the end blocks of the straight sections of the surrounding garden wall. I used these 2x10s to level the wall.
Back corner with partial wall
Once the ends of the straight sections of the wall were in place, I filled in the straight and curved sections between.

I hadn't decided where the track was going when I started the garden.

This temporary pile of dirt was in the way so I had to cut a pass through it.

The wall is 3/4 finished, leaving a section open for access. The strip between the wall and fence is almost cleared and contoured and I have cleared more weeds within the wall. October 10, 2009.


I worked on the front yard and the only work on the back yard was weeding and gardening. I did nothing on the pond or railroad.


Since my wood working class was not to be offered after this semester, I accelerated my work on the wooden parts of my landscaping. In March 2011I started the foundation of the model railroad car barn, finishing it about June.

The floor of the car barn. Eventually there will be two storage tracks on the green area.
The walls were built like a full-size building, the studs were just shorter.
The roof being built at left and the finished building at right.


I finally dug the trench to deliver water and power to the water garden and once the trench was filled, I was able to complete the last curve of the wall. The low train/turtle wall was complete except a section 4 1/2 feet left open for access. I ran waterproof conduit from the filter structure to the car barn and ran an extension cord that would run the trains.


I had some left over concrete and figuring three feet was enough for access to the pond for construction, I added one more block and cap to the train/turtle wall. As of this writing, I haven't done any more to the RR this year. Maybe late summer.


I concentrated on the pond and did nothing on the railroad.


I concentrated on the pond but finally closed the last gap in the surrounding wall. The car barn was still filled with materials for the pond.


As I installed the green quartz for the waterfall for the pond, the stone piled on the wall for the track began to disappear. I hope to finish the pond and get back to the railroad.


Finally in January I began serious work on the track. The deck was finished except for the steps in front of the track. Since it would be easier to install the track before the step, I needed to do the track first. I started laying out the track loosely. I had to rebuild two switches because out of the box, they contained a straight section where I needed a curve. I needed to do this to two switches, a left and a right.
The switch starts curving but then goes straight. I needed a continuous curve so I started by cutting the rail at the point when the rail starts the straight section. I also had to cut a piece of curved track to replace the straight section. When finished the total length of the switch and added curve will be equal to one full curve section of track, so it will neatly replace one section of curved track.

After lining everything up, I drilled and tapped new holes in the rail to join the new section of curve to the switch, see blue arrows. It was also necessary to reattach the jumper wires to the curved rail, see red arrows.

I flipped the switch over and started plugging holes so that I could fill the voids with epoxy. I stated by scratching the smooth surfaces of the interior of the ties because epoxy doesn't stick as well to smooth surfaces. I used tape to seal the ends of the ties and Plastalina clay (oil clay) for smaller or hard to tape areas. I then mixed a batch of J-B Weld and filled the voids and waited overnight. The next day, I removed the tape and clay and smoothed off any bits of epoxy that was too high.
I added a jumper wire connecting the two sides of the new joint, just to be sure. I flipped the switch back, top side up, and drilled and inserted a number of railroad spikes that I made from 1/16 inch brass rod. This is partly the reason that I filled the inside of the ties with epoxy. The spikes would help hold the railing in the new curve. To make the spikes, I first bent the end of the rod about 3/32 inch back, then lightly hammered the end against an anvil, and cut a little shorter than the thickness of the tie. I didn't glue then in place, they seemed tight already. This switch is ready. I ran a car back and forth several times and my joint seemed smoother than the factory frog rail.

Now it was time to do the whole thing again with the opposite switch. Having learned from the first switch, I considered slight changes in my procedure with the second. I set the two side by side and considered how to proceed.

This time I decided to keep the long ties. I removed the rail and filled several of the holes with epoxy.
The two modified switches are in place. Out of the box, they would not have fit the curves.
The first two boxes of track that I had used to lay everything out had lost several of the screws and it took a while to locate the 2m x 5 mm wide head screws to replace them. I got distracted with painting the house and other repairs but finally got back to the track in mid-May.

Finished laying track in the car barn.

The packing plant foundation on May 31, 2017.

After a little natural aging, November, 18, 2018.
I got busy with other things but slowly the packing plant formed. I started scratch-building the track end at the packing plant siding, but got too busy to assemble it. I got a job so maybe I will be able to buy all the needed electrical components soon. Probably not much will happen until I finish this job.


I was busy with a job until May, then when the job finished, there was so much to do to the property in general and other jobs, I did nothing to the railroad.

Packing Plant waitng for time to finish the siding.


I had neither time or money to work on the railroad.


I had neither time or money to work on the railroad. I also had a series of medical issues.
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This page last updated: Sunday, 15-Nov-2020 13:13:36 PST

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I hope that you find this web site helpful. It started as alight-hearted alternative to my portfolio site, and then grew. This web site is for your benefit and enjoyment and I make no profit on it. For ten years it has been supported primarily from my regular paycheck as a Set Designer and there haven't been many the last few years. I can no longer run it without help. Alternative funding is needed. Only recently I tried advertising as a way to balance the budget, but it still doesn't cover the costs. A non-tax deductable donation helps cover the cost of operating this web site and may be made to Kesign Design Consulting through PayPal.

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