Yard Art Notes–Train Oriented Yard Art

Click to enlarge, use back button to returnLast spring I had the outside of my house painted. The only train related problem was that my layout in the back side yard ran right along the side of the house. (See Repainting the Cliffs of Insanity).

This proximity meant I had to tear down the layout.


Click to enlarge, use back button to returnAfter painting the house, the summer 2013 project was to abandon the back yard to the dogs and build a patio in the front yard. Secondary objectives were ease of maintenance and reduced water bills. So the entire front lawn went bye-bye. No more mowing, drought tolerant plants added and more driveway.


55-overview3This spring I really started missing the railroad and decided some train oriented yard art might make sitting on the new patio sans layout more tolerable. The impending wreck of the Soggy Bottom Express, a wreck frozen in time was the result.



55-trestle as yard art

The trestle and covered bridge is from my old layout and instead of stepping over it in the storage yard I figured I’d just plop is down in the new front yard as a visual focal point or at lease something to look at. (See Building Trestles for your Garden Railroad



55-add holes to undercarriage for wireBut the trestle looked pretty forlorn without a train on it. But how to create an impending wreck and keep the engine and cars from falling off the trestle in a stiff breeze? Well, having grown up on a chicken ranch I know there are not many problems that can’t be solved with bailing wire. I removed the covered bridge and raided my scrap box.

Picking out a broken Scientific Toys engine and some rolling stock from my scrap box I started off by drilling some holes in the undercarriages of each car.

55-thread wires through undercarriage

Threaded some stainless steel wire through the holes and I figured I could secure them to the trestle and at least they’d be wind proof. But being as the cars where from the scrape box there were other issues. The passenger car and the caboose were missing a rear and front truck respectively.


55-leveling cars in covered bridge

This was solved by putting the rear and front of the cars up on blocks made from scrap wood. To get them level required  some additional shims on the caboose block.




Click to enlarge, use back button to return

Next was placing the cars on the trestle, with proper spacing (no trucks, no couplers)  with the wire threaded through the trestle so that each car can be secured in the right spot.



Next was securing the engine. But the engine is completely off the end of the trestle so some type of support was required.

55-engine support-1

Using a heavy gauge bendable wire, and some pliers and elbow grease, I fashioned a “U” shape on one end that matched the front of the loco and of a length that would allow me to stick it in the dirt for support for the front end of the engine. The support was then wired to the front pilot wheels so it would not slip backwards.


55-engine support-2

At the rear of the engine I wired each side of the rear axle to the trestle and secured the engine to the tender which, in turn, is also secured to the trestle.




55-3 bridge componentsNow it was time to reinstall the covered bridge. The covered bridge is made up of three separate pieces that interlock, a right and left side and the roof. A lot of popsicle sticks went into its construction. (See Building a Covered Railroad Bridge).



55-adding bridge pieces-1

What makes the missing-trucks-cars-up-on-blocks work is that these two ends are hidden by the covered bridge. Here you can see the first piece of the bridge installed. The sides were sized as a pressure fit between the cross bars of the trestle and the trackwork.



55-adding bridge pieces-2

With both sides installed you can’t see the blocks or the lack of trucks/wheels. The roof has notches in either end for the walls and holds everything in place.




55-jumping figures-1Last was dealing with some simulated danger by having a engineer and fireman bailing out of the engine as it goes over the side!

The fireman has leapt out and snagged the top of the trestle but the engineer has taken that first step that you’ve heard about and it really is “a doozy”!

55-overview2Both figures are wired to the trestle and engine respectively.

That’s it! A terrifying moment with the impending wreck of the Soggy Bottom Express frozen in time.



Please leave comments or suggestions and let me know about your projects!

(Originally posted 3/07/2014)

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One Response to Yard Art Notes–Train Oriented Yard Art

  1. Richard Green says:

    Love your website. I wish I had more time than just the end of the month to find out how to build my garden railway properly. I’ll hurry and get the PDF’s downloaded if I can find them. How can I contact you once I begin my projects in case I have a problem?

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