Garden RGS Construction – Part 3

Building the Matterhorn “table” section

At the high end of the railroad, the elevation above the ground makes it prohibitive to build a retaining wall, so I am going to use a table to elevate the tracks.

Matterhorn table plan

Conventional construction of two 10-foot long, 2-feet wide sections. I’m using treated lumber for everything structural. I got “deck” screws designed for treated lumber: coated with something.

Assembling a frame
Table section in place

I used a string level to set the grade to 2.5%, which is a 3-inch rise in 10 feet.

Setting the grade
Hitting the bubble

I used Urethane foam post mix instead of cement. The way it tended to gush out into a hole because the bag was “floppy” was a problem. In the future, I’m going to get the Urethane in gallon bottles and mix what I need.

First two sections set

The angled sections were difficult, but having an accurate CAD drawing with accurate angles made it doable.

Getting the offset right

Labeling the cuts helped to keep all these similar angles and wood pieces straight. Even with all that, I cut one piece 1-inch too short and had to re-cut it.

Note the various angles

The last two curved sections are read to secure in place. I wised-up and used stakes pounded into the ground and screwed the table sections to them instead of “floppy” boards and clamps.

The three “curved” sections

I covered the frames with 1/4″ hardware cloth, stapled in place.

Hardware cloth installation

I ripped a treated two-by-four in half at a slight angle to form side-rails that will keep the soil and ballast on the table.

Side rails

I used a heavy, professional-grade ground barrier on top of the hardware cloth to provide drainage and keep the soil in place.

Ready for Track!

Next time: Building turnouts and track.

Dry Stack Stone Retaining Wall

I have a path in the back near the railroad that is below ground level on one end. I built a dry stack stone retaining wall with the native basalt I had dug up throughout the yard. First I established a string line to define the edge, and picked the “best” stones for the foundation. They should each be large and extend from the line to the back if at all possible. Each foundation stone must be on a level base so that gravity works to hold it in place.

Foundation stones

The wall is built up by finding stones that “fit” as closely as possible on the stones beneath. Try to use stones that cross a boundary rather than creating a “vertical seam,” which weakens your structure.

Building the wall

Don’t be afraid of break rocks to fit better, though I did reduce a couple to useless chips with the sledge hammer. It took some time, but I am happy with the result.

Finished retaining wall


Sunday, February 24th

A heavy, wet snow began falling in the afternoon. Sometime after dinner (yay!) the power went out. This is unusual, but not a huge concern as it typically comes back after an hour or two. We retired to bed for the evening.

Monday, February 25th

I woke in the wee hours, as usual, and the power was still out. I looked out the window, and it was dark all over town and the snow was still falling. I carefully went downstairs to use the bathroom, and gaze at the rare snow covering everything. I was looking out the window at the end of the living room just as a huge spruce branch crashed down on our carport, making a very loud noise. Karen called out “Are you okay?” I replied “That wasn’t me. A limb crashed down.”

I went back to sleep until about sunrise, just as it was light enough to see. Branches and trees that accumulated snow had come down. I later learned that this was true almost everywhere throughout the county.

Spruce branch piercing the carport roof.

About the time Karen came downstairs, with the power still out, I realized that we needed to get a fire going. The inside of the house was 55 degrees. Our vivarium pump and heater had stopped, and we were concerned about the fish. We also needed a way to heat water so we could have COFFEE. I dressed in winter clothes and boots and made the trek to gather some wood stored under the carriage house, which was dry. I shortly had a roaring fire going which began to warm the living room. We left the rest of the house closed, as there was no way we could heat the whole thing.

During this time there was a lull in the snowfall. We shoveled the driveway and tossed the large tree debris to the side so that Karen could drive to the street, which had ruts from vehicles enough that the car could be driven. She returned after about 45 minutes with COFFEE from Dutch Bros.

Shortly after she returned it began snowing hard, again.

About noon, I put a pan on the stove and we made grilled cheese sandwiches. The room had warmed to about 65 degrees.

Making lunch on our wood stove.

Our power returned about 3 p.m. We and the fish were happy. Our cat couldn’t care less.

Tuesday, February 26th

Roseburg was pretty much completely shut down. We spent some time assessing the situation in our yard. There was a lot of damage to shrubs and trees. Some were completely destroyed.  

Small cedar tree laying down on the patio. Sad.

The snow stopped falling in the afternoon. We cleared the driveway again. We went to my workplace and found that our offices (in the basement) had “flooded” with about 2 inches of water.

Wednesday, February 27th

We hunkered down, as power was still out in most areas around us, and both of our workplaces were still not operating.

Lots of branches that were broken and fell.

Thursday, February 28th, Friday, March 1st

I went to work to assess the damage. The carpet had been removed, leaving the tough glue that held it down. There were blowers and dehumidifiers running. It was really loud, and I stayed for about half of each day.

Not much was accomplished other than just assessing the condition of equipment.

Most of this Privet is now on the ground. I ended up taking this completely out.

Monday, March 4th

The next week we began a long, long process of replacing damaged equipment (mostly UPSes that lived on the floor) and getting the workplace functional again for our staff. We moved out of the basement about the beginning of June.

Garden RGS Construction – Part 2

Survey and Layout

Now that I have gotten closer to civilizing the yard, I started to lay out the garden railroad. I started by putting in stakes every 20 feet to correspond with my plan. Using ground marking paint, I painted lines between those stakes.


Here, the yard is more under control, and I have added rocks along what I think are the retaining walls for the garden area. I also have stakes in key track points: the limit points of curves and points where the track crosses the grid.

Key track locations and walls marked

Building Paths

The rocks/retaining walls also delineate the area where I’ll build paths. This requires leveling and grading the ground – and I’ll do it all by hand. (This is my exercise program!) I decided that I would attempt to make all paths at least 4 feet wide, so two people can easily pass one another.

Lower path under construction

Upper path from “top” end

Upper path from “bottom” end

For the paths, we got a pallet of flagstone. This is from Idaho, and has some great natural colors of gray, orange and rust. (Notice that our native basalt is various shades of dark gray, and pretty boring looking!)

Palette of flagstone

I believe that I can use just sand as bedding for the stones on the upper path, because the ground is pretty good. The lower path is very much clay (black mud), so I will have to add about 1 inch of gravel to prevent the stones from being push into the ground when walking on them during the rainy season. Edit: Ha ha. Not so much. A day after I watered the path to settle it, it was as squishy and soft as the lower path. Gravel everywhere!

This is all an experiment to see what works. Nothing will be permanently cemented in place, so the garden is changeable. We want to be able to grow something between the stones, such as Irish Moss, so I’m leery of using too thick a gravel base.