Tuscarora Railroad

The Tuscarora Railroad is a 1:20.3 garden railroad located in suburban Denver, Colorado. The railroad is based on the East Broad Top RR which still operates today as a tourist line in Orbisonia, PA (south-central PA). Be sure to check out Garden Railway Basics , Kevin's book on building and maintaining garden railroads for information on how the TRR was built.

Location: Denver, CO

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Has Arrived, (and so has the work)

Ah, there's nothing like Spring in the Rockies. 70 degrees one day, 12" of snow the next. But despite the up and down temperature, there's no doubt that the warm days make the sap rise, and push you outside to start tending garden.

Lots of dead stuff to get out of the way. I didn't get much cleaned out last fall, so much of what's there should have been dealt with a while back. On the other hand, I'm not much of a winter runner, so there's not a ton of incentive for me to keep the line open over the winter anyway.

One tip, though... if you do get some Fall cleaning done, don't forget to bring the trashcans around to the curb. To quote Princess Leah, "what an incredible new smell you've discovered!"

The most obvious "problem" from over the winter is frost heave. I've got some issue on the Neeleyton loop because I didn't use proper rebar to hold things into the ground, instead thinking I'd save a few pennies (literally, that's what the difference was) and use the green-plastic-coated garden stakes instead. Yeah... We're not doing that one again. The ballast will have to be excavated, the track reset to the proper level, and then reballasted. Methinks my Shop Vac is in for a workout one weekend sucking up ballast.

Yeah, at one point, the bridge timbers actually sat directly on top of that brick. Nature's pretty powerful, even in 1:20.3. 


While not quite as bad, I'm going to have to reset this section, too. Don't know if it's just ballast subsidence or if the track has raised up.

On the structures front, there's some areas of concern. First is the Blacklog station. 

I noticed midwinter that the door had fallen in. That didn't really concern me, since I knew it was just lightly glued in there in the first place. However, when I went to take a good look at it, I noticed the Fiberock panels I used for the frame of the building had begun to deteriorate. Bear in mind these walls were out in the garden with nothing protecting them for two years, often completely buried under the snow, so I was pretty confident in their ability to withstand the elements. However, on this particular building, the siding is peeling away from the frame, and the interior looks questionable. The other buildings done with the same stuff look okay, so I'm hoping it's an isolated incident. I really don't want to have to rebuild this station. (On the other hand, I'm trying some new stuff that--if successful--will change what I use for the frames. It's a styrene/foamcore material, so the buildings would be much lighter, but that's what anchors are for.)

Here's my water tower--same Fiberock frame, it's solid. Hopefully it stays that way. (I still need to replace the spout with a proper one, though. )

I've got lots of roofs to fix, though...


In fairness, I fully expected some of these roofs to be temporary. I used masonite, which is decidedly not weatherproof. But I needed to get something in place quickly for last year's Garden Railway Convention, so it was quick and cheap. The "tarpaper" tape was equally quick and cheap. It did the job, but it's time to do something more permanent.

In the "you get what you pay for" department, if you're going to use safety tread tape for your roofs (and it admittedly looks pretty darned good!), use the expensive stuff from Home Depot, not the $3/roll stuff from Harbor Freight. 

It shrinks! (The "good" stuff is on the back side of the roof. Yeah, it's peeling, but the surface it was glued onto is not exactly smooth. I'd call the 1-800 number to complain, but I'm pretty sure I'd hear "well, idiot, what did you expect for $3/roll?" Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess... (I've also got to redo the decking on the platform. Warp city. I'll probably just rip it off and use Precision Products plastic veneer sheet instead. I don't know why this stuff warped like it did, but I know the plastic won't, and I can paint it fairly realistically; at least realistically enough to where you won't be able to tell from more than a few feet away.

Speaking of $3, here's why I don't like spending more than that on my plants:

Boxwoods tend to be hit-or-miss, as do dwarf spruces and--in truth--many other plants. I buy them at Lowes and Home Depot, where they have a 1-year guarantee. That way if they die, I can return them (assuming I can remember where I put the receipt. If--for whatever reason--I can't find the receipt or they die after the one year period, I always buy them on sale, when they're between $2 and $4 per plant. I don't like seeing any plant die, but I watched too many $40 - $50 shrubs from the local garden centers shrivel up and die, and they didn't come with guarantees. I maybe have a dozen plants on the railroad that cost me more than $10 each. Watch the sales and go cheap. You can do very well with not a whole lot.

Truth be told, it looks like I only lost a half dozen plants this winter, which is probably my best winter yet in terms of things coming back.

Speaking of things coming back...

Most folks consider mums to be annuals. If they are, they're apparently self-sewing, or I've got mutant mums. This is 3rd-generation. I'm not going to argue.

One thing I will argue with--though it's akin to yelling at a brick wall--is GRASS!!!

Why is it that my lawn has dead patches galore, but I can't keep the darned stuff out of the flippin' garden??? Do I just have to cover the entire back yard with tracks? (Okay, I'd do that in a heartbeat if I could, but my couch isn't terribly comfortable for sleeping.)

While it sounds like a lot of work, it actually doesn't take too long to start to get things in shape. A little cleaning, it begins to look sharp. (That's last year's unharvested carrot crop in the pile in the middle.) I actually had trains running today while trimming back some of the encroaching vegetation. That was followed by a relaxing evening watching EBT #1 quietly glide around the railroad in the soft light of my strings of party lights that hang from my fence. (Sorry, I didn't get photos.) I've got a few trouble spots in terms of areas in dire need of more ballast, but that's par for the course. 

Now, if I could have only finished all the projects I wanted to get done over the winter...