Going around the bend

Building a railroad doesn't look too complicated - until the building begins. Grades need to be extremely gradual. Track needs to be level and imbedded into a sharp gravel. The rails need to be prebent before they are laid if the track is to turn. And since the rails are designed as I-beams they are not bent easily.

Mainline rail is often rated at 90 lb or higher. This means each yard of rail weighs in at 90 lbs. Most theme park trains use fifteen pound rail. Because about half of our railroad is imbedded in the driveway we opted for 30 lb rail. It is overkill to be sure but I like to build things to last.

Rail road rail is bent using a special jig that hooks onto the rail in two places and then a hydraulic jack is used to put pressure in the middle which bends the rail. I custom built a heavy duty rig and then rigged our hydraulic bender to function as the pressure point. It works like a charm and lessens the effort required to form the rails.

Today Sarah & I worked together to form a 70 degree turn over about 80 feet. We first laid the curve out in chaulk on the concrete parking lot in front of the studio. Then it was a matter of working the rail to match the chalk line. It took two passes to form the rail to the curve we desired. The outside rail is formed first and then the inside rail is bent to match at a slightly tighter radius.

Since this portion of the railway is to be imbedded in the driveway I welded on the steel cross pieces rather than spiking it to wooden ties. Once assembled I chained one end of the heavy rail section to our tractor and then called on the crew to carry the other end. It is true that many hands (and a tractor) make light work.

We carried the two pieces to the rail head and then bolted them to the already laid track. By the end of the day we had crossed onto the front yard.

Over the weekend I'll add the necessary gravel ballast and tamp it all into position in readiness for the concrete pour on Monday. Stay tuned for more pictures of the rail progress.

-grampa dan