One of the more popular articles on this site is my Building a Covered Railroad Bridge, originally published way back in March of 2011. When I build it I had no idea if it would last a few weeks, or few months. It’s held up very well for at least 5 years (so far) with only the need for replacing the occasional popsicle stick and some reinforcing for wind.
The roof was created with missing boards and only a few shingles to hint at great age, dilapidation, neglect, etc. In the above picture you see the roof before it was aged and treated with motor oil (a great wood preservative for your outdoor projects).
However, the roof as originally designed was somewhat delicate and while in the shop for some cleaning was knocked off the bench and suffered extensive damage. That left me with just the modular sidewalls for my front yard display.
Not a great look and so soon I started thinking about a new roof for the covered railroad bridge.
Since I did the abandoned and dilapidated look, I thought I’d try my hand at a roof that one, was substantially more substantial, and with shingles covering the roof completely.
Using a crossbeam support salvaged from the original roof I created a new jig for building the new crossbeams.
The new crossbeams had twice the supporting members and in addition to Titebond III glue these were all pin-nailed for added strength.
The new crossbeams were mounted to the salvaged central beam that runs the length of the bridge.
It’s difficult keeping everything square so many different types of spacers were used during the popsicle planking phase. Another tricky part was keeping just enough wiggle room so that the roof easily lifts off the supporting walls.
Triangular pieces were glued in between the supports cut from the same material as the horizontal cross pieces to attach the central beam which tied everything together.
The crossbeam at each end was covered with a thin plywood veneer and many, many popsicle sticks were glued in place. A dab of Titebond III at each end secured the planks in place nicely.
In the original I meticulously sawed each popsicle stick end with a small hobby miter and craft saw. This time I took the much faster approach of cutting the popsicle sticks with wire cutters. Much faster with passable results.
This project required a lot more than just a handful of shingles. Being cheap, I crosscut strips from a cheap redwood fence board. Then using an old chisel I whack the strips into 1/8th inch (or thereabouts) pieces cutting then across the sawn side of the fence board.
After the first row you only are able to glue the top edge and lower middle of each shingle so don’t be stingy with the glue.
A damp paintbrush is useful to clean up leaking glue as you go. Just be sure to keep the brush well rinsed so the glue does not set up on the brush.
For the peak at the top of the roof I made an inverted “V” out of the thinner coffee stir sticks and stuck that down on the central beam.
Then I filed one edge of top most shingles again allowing them to form an inverted “V” when glued in place. When you apply the 5-foot rule it looks quite good. After 24 hours in our 90 degree weather I gave the shingles a coat of polyurethane sealer and let dry another 24 hours
The ends I planked with coffee stir sticks for a more delicate look and edged the end with more coffee sticks. The stir sticks get a light coat of gunk to start the weathering process. Popsicle and coffee stir sticks take many days to react to the iron acetate as opposed to redwood so be patient.
Next I flipped the roof over and gave all exposed surfaces a coat of 30 weight motor oil. I’ve found that to be a very inexpensive and long lasting preservative for wood going into the garden.
I also gave the shingles a light coat of oil as well then propped up the roof so again you have an inverted “V”.
This was to let the oil run under the shingles and coat the underside of each one as best as possible.
When dry it was back to the front yard and the bridge was reinstalled on the “Wreck of the Soggy Bottom Express”. The completed bridge and patched side walls give it a much less “abandoned” look but still quite rustic.
So a new roof on an old bridge. Several weekends of work but most of the tedious tasks were moved indoors to provide TV and air-conditioning making this summer project more doable and enjoyable.
Please leave a comment about your projects!
(Originally posted 8/7/2016)