Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What A Year

All apologies for not posting in nearly 8 months. Who would have known that the day after my last post that we would see the most destructive day in Alabama history to the wrath of tornadoes? Who knew that a job was really not worth waiting for like it was hyped up to be? How could anyone prepare to lose two dogs? It all happened in 2011. One of the most debilitating occurrences was the demise of our digital camera that I used to snap photos of the garden railway and life in general abstract.

Things are looking up now! An imminent business venture launch, a new puppy as well as an awesome new digital camera all point toward things spectacular in Twenty-Twelve! Merry Christmas and here's to a prosperous and creative 2012!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time For An Update!

My apologies for not being a better blogger!  Since the last post, I have been busy working on the railroad as well as traveling for career interviews and having successful cervical spine surgery.  Like what John Lennon once said, "Life is what you're busy doing while you're making other plans."

My new career position starts eminently, so the first phase of the garden railroad had to be completed.  I am glad to report that it has been finished nicely!  Here are a few photos of the layout.
The L&N U25B along with the help of a FA-2 pull a fresh load of Alabama coal.   

Tribute to Japan  The L&N coal train pulls beside a Japanese Maple,  Acer palamatum dissectum 'Tamukeyama', and a cast concrete pagoda.

Here is how the layout looked before the patio stonework was extended (near the fire pit), and before the proper grading of the track work was completed.  The grade was set not to exceed 2 degrees to allow for easy train travels.

Here's a bird's-eye view of the lower pond before the track was laid.  Koko is happy to inspect the quality of the 650 gallon home of koi and goldfish.  The fish see her and swim into the safety of the four hide outs which are stepping stones set over bricks and block.  This was a cold morning.  Note the frost on the grass in the background and the sheet covering the sugar snap peas and silver queen corn shoots in the straw garden behind the Japanese maple.  The filter in the left side of the pond is home made.  Why buy a $200 filter when you can construct one yourself for under $20?
Bear Gone Fishin'  A big fan of fish, Bear watches over the pond at the point where phase one of the railroad meets phase two.  A bridge modeled after a bridge that currently crosses Buck Creek in Helena will join these two sections.
Here is the 350 gallon top pond spilling over new stonework into the miniature version of Buck Creek.  This pond is deep in order to keep the water temperature cool during the hot summer days.  No fish are in this pond but toads love it and there are many tadpoles to prove it.  Cue up the Barry White tunes!
Next to the top pond, the track of phase 2 will travel through a tunnel on its way up the hill and around to complete the loop that was started in phase 1.  There will be a vignette depicting the legend of John Henry who proved that a man can beat a machine when he puts his life on the line to do so.  Much more than a legend, John Henry is real Alabama history.
More to come soon!  Until then, don't forget to Stop, Look & Listen.  You don't know what you just might miss!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Building the Grist Mill

A 1/25th scale 1950 Chevy 3100 Pickup from Maisto sits next to the mill.  
Under construction for the garden railway layout of the Acton and Helena line is a mill inspired by the John Wesley Hall Grist Mill located at Tannehill State Park in McCalla.
Board and batten siding covers the long side of the mill while lap siding covers the gables.
The model structure is composed with basswood and stone.  The stone was secured to the structure with weatherproof construction adhesive and then grouted with tile grout to complete the look of fine stone work.  The roof is covered with tar roofing paper before scale tin roofing is applied.  The wheel of the mill will be mounted and hopefully functional.  Solar-powered LED lighting will illuminate the interior of the mill.  A custom-poured concrete slab will serve as the base of the model and flues will be attached.

Progress on the Pond

In the doldrums of winter, there is little time to work outside on the garden railroad layout.  Between episodes of sleet, freezing rain and occasional snowflakes, a lot of progress has somehow been accomplished on the new pond and waterfall.  Natural stone has been mortared upon a liner that covers a concrete block frame of the pond.  The 300+ gallon top pond is deep enough that it could be used as a hot tub.  It was designed to be deep in order to keep the water temperature reduced during the hot summer months.  That's difficult to conceive on such a cold day.  The lower pond holds about 650 gallons and is supplied by water from a rain barrel on an automatic refilling system.  About 1500 gallons of water is recirculated every hour through the ponds.
Koko checks out the recent work, dreaming of hot days where she can dive for sunken golf ball treasures.
The waterfall comes to life as the spillway portion of the upper pond is completed.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pulling Coal Through Falling Snow

Merry Christmas from the Cahaba and Acton Lines of the L&N. Spending time with family and friends has been fun, but this load of coal can't wait. Even snow showers won't slow down this FA-1 diesel from hauling a few more loaded hoppers down to the junction to hook up with the rest of the train.

Although the track hasn't been set on the garden railroad, this simple vignette was staged for the wonderful photo-op that mother nature provided on the day after Christmas. The locomotive and two-bay hoppers are from Aristo-Craft. The evergreens along the track are two of the Dwarf Alberta spruces that were featured a few days ago. They are still in the plastic containers in which they arrived.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Dirt Work

Working on the railroad can sometimes take time, especially around the holidays.  Building a stacked-stone retaining wall allows the action of the railroad to be elevated to the water level of the pond while bringing the action of the railroad closer to the eye of the audience.  Raising the railway action also separates the garden railroad from insidious Bermuda grass, which is an aggressive scale replica of kudzu.  The less maintenance required for the railroad, the greater the time to enjoy it.  Aging knees and backs also like having the action elevated!

Thirteen 40' Tall Living Christmas Trees

Thirteen 40' tall spruce trees in time for Christmas?  Well, in 1:29 scale, they are 40 feet tall.  Each of these beautiful miniature Christmas trees is actually a Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca 'Conica').  These are very popular items for garden railroad themes due to their true conical evergreen appearance, flexibility and availability.  A one-gallon size will set you back around $8 each, however the key to successful yet affordable garden railroading is to never pay full retail.  These were purchased back in August from a DIY retailer for $1 each.  They were puny and suffered from a lack of daily watering.  They bounced back strongly with a little love, regular watering and placement in an area of the garden where they did not get direct sun when it was still hot or direct exposure to the first heavy frosts or a spray from a marking dog with a lifted leg!  These will be planted in a random group to replicate a natural evergreen forest.  Many towns across the American south were founded upon evergreen forests, especially along the L&N railroad. Brewton and Evergreen, Alabama are a couple that come to mind.