Getting Started

Having made the decision to build my own backyard train using plans from 1965 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine, my first research project was to determine where to put the track for the train to run on.  The plans call for a minimum radius of thirty feet for the curves (a tighter radius would tend to make the train derail), so I had to have at least sixty feet between the two sides of the oval (assuming a simple track pattern of two 180 degree turns with a straight run between them).

I finally settled on a location that would take the track bed through some wooded area for half the run (dodging the larger trees that I don’t want to clear), and in a clear area for the remainder.  But the track area is not level, so the train will have to be able to pull a grade.  By measuring the vertical drop from the high side to the low side, and calculating the linear run of the track, I figured that the grade will be about 3.8%.  This is pretty steep for a train, so I don’t know if the engine will be able to climb a grade this steep.

The only way to know for sure is to build the engine, lay some track, and run some tests.  If the engine can handle it, then I’ll just lay the track on the ground.  If not, then I’ll have to figure something out.  I could reduce the grade by trenching the high side, or by elevating the track on the low side with trestles.  But I’ll deal with that problem later, if I have to.

So, at this point, my goal is to get the engine chassis far enough along that I can run some hill tests before I can start building the track.  But to get a running chassis will require the completion of the engine frame, wheels, axles, and bearings, drive motors and drive train, and some sort of remote control device so I can stop it before it runs off the end of the track.

By the way, this project brings entirely new meanings to common phrases in my lexicon, such as “train wreck”, “off the rails”, “light at the end of the tunnel”, and “add the bells and whistles”.