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Written by Bob and Pat Canfield for Family Garden Trains

The B&P Garden Railroad Part 1: An O Gauge Hi-Rail Railroad Designed for Outdoor Use

Bob & Patricia Canfield, Las Vegas, Nevada

Note: Technical aspects of the following text will be best understood if you first read the Family Garden Trains Primer Articles regarding HDPE Flexible Roadbed by Paul Race, Bill Logan and Bob Zajicek.

A few years ago, after an absence of 30 years, Bob’s interest in toy trains was rekindled with the purchase of a Lionel Polar Express set to entertain the grandchildren at Christmas. After using this set a year later for a second Christmas, Bob was hooked.

Bob began to acquire various Lionel and K-Line locomotives, and rolling stock from Lionel, K-Line and MTH.

In 2005, Bob, with the help of RR-Track software, began to design various layouts for use in the garage. Whatever was designed had to be stored in a way so as not to interfere with vehicle parking and other garage storage.

The January 2006 issue of O Gauge Railroading (OGR) Magazine had several articles on Modular Railroading clubs and modular design. As a result of these articles, Bob was convinced that the answer to his design was to build his dream layout in modules that, when not in use, could be conveniently stored.

After Bob spent many months developing a modular, folded Dog-Bone design with two mainlines, multiple elevations and turnouts, Bob’s wife and her sister Eileen asked Bob, “Why don’t you build the layout in the back yard?”

By the end of 2006, Bob and Pat had agreed on a conceptual design for the B&P Garden Railroad. The B&P would be an O Gauge, Hi-Rail design, approximately 65 feet wide, and, on average, six to eight feet deep, with a waterfall, river and lake. Principle railroad operations will be controlled with the Lionel Trainmaster Command Control System. Bob is in charge of track design and construction, and Pat is in charge of all plant and shrub selection.

Bob and Pat had a long and positive history using Trex (plastic/wood sawdust) decking materials. Consequently, Bob, using Bill Logan’s HDPE roadbed design, built test sections of roadbed using Trex (See Photo - 1). Although the results were satisfactory, with Trex, Bob and Pat decided that HDPE lumber might work out better. In January 2007, the B&P purchased 60 HDPE 2x4x8' Redwood boards through Lowes from EPS Plastic Lumber, Elgin, Illinois (See the EPS website for ordering instructions).

Bob's railroad is a shallow figure eight with two mainlines and many sidings.  It also incorporates a return loop, which is a lot easier to wire in 3-rail O gauge than it is in any 2-rail setup.

Click for bigger photo.Using RR-Track software, Bob developed a two mainline, over and under Figure-Eight design, with a reversing loop for each mainline, and a minimal switch yard primarily intended for re-railing and derailing of locomotives and rolling stock (See Figure - 1). The layout will utilize 14 turnouts and approximately 560' of Atlas Nickel Silver track. The B&P will utilize HDPE Flexible Roadbed, elevated between 24 and 33 inches above ground level.

The Waterfall Goes In

A Filtrific pond-less waterfall system from Berkey Supply Online was used to provide the infrastructure for the B&P’s waterfall, river and lake. Bob began work on “Canfield Falls” and “Lago Miele” in February, completing the Filtrific installation in May 2007.

Click for bigger photo.Click for bigger photo.

The HDPE Arrives

Click for bigger photo.The HDPE was delivered direct from EPS in February. We noted that each 2x4 was flat enough to avoid the preplanning step taken by Bob Zajicek. [Note: EPS Plastic Lumber upgraded their milling equipment soon after Bob Z. got his lumber, so that hasn't been a problem for anyone who has ordered since. - ed.] Also, much of the B&P will be elevated above ground by methods other than the HDPE center sections noted in the original Paul Race and Bill Logan article (e.g., brackets on concrete block-walls, 1.25" Schedule - 40 PVC pipe, etc.). Consequently, Bob increased the amount of roadbed possible by increasing the number of 3/4" stringers cut from many of the HDPE 2x4s from two to four. Currently the B&P has sufficient cut HDPE material for approximately 560' of track.

Assembling the Roadbed

Click for bigger pictureClick for bigger photo.

Using Bob Zajicek’s photos as a guide, Bob developed a four-clamp jig to speed the process of attaching HDPE one and two inch blocks every six inches to the 3/4" HDPE eight foot stringers. Bob spent approximately 12 hours and used more than 1,100 No. 6 x 1-1/2" stainless steel deck screws to complete enough eight foot sections to provide 560' of roadbed.

Click for bigger pictureTo increase roadbed rigidity, we have experimented with a variety of glues (including one claimed to be formulated for HDPE) for use with all roadbed screw joints. The greatest strength has been obtained with Gorilla Glue, and its less expensive (almost) equal, Elmer’s Polyurethane Glue. Both are available at Home Depot. We understand that this limits the redesign flexibility noted in Bill Logan’s original HDPE design, however, we have concluded that, with proper RR-Track planning, the improved rigidity is worth the trade off. Therefore, all screwed HDPE joints are also glued.

About Our Curves

Unlike many garden railroads, all curves will be preset at either 45" (O90), 40.5" (O81) or 36" (O72) radiuses. Bob designed a 45 degree, 40.5" radius jig on which all HDPE roadbed curves will be initially formed (See Photo - 7 1). The two mainline tracks will be 4.5" center rail to center rail. This will be maintained by using Atlas 072 turnouts, cut to 19.5 degrees (requires removal of approximately 1-3/8" of the turnout’s curved track and ties). We hope to have a photo of that jig soon.

Next Steps

To date, the B&P, at best, has been a part-time effort. The next step for the B&P is to begin installation of roadbed, wiring and track. This is to begin in earnest in September 2007. Our goal, and our promise to our grandchildren, is to have at least one mainline operational by Christmas 2007.

We are providing this preliminary information and photos, to encourage and assist others, as we have been encouraged and assisted by the published work of those before us.

Sincerely submitted by,

Bob & Patricia Canfield

Las Vegas, Nevada

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