PROTOTYPE FOR THE FINCHFIELD & WRENSYLVANIA
If you have never
spent much time in the Smoky Mountains, you may be missing
significance of some of the things you see on the Finchfield & Wrensylvania.
in the southeast, particularly in the hills and mountain regions,
hate getting rid of anything,
especially if they contain
sheetmetal. Old cars and appliances give the kidds (of the goat variety)
and kids (of the human variety) a place to climb. Refrigerators are popular
items for holding up porch roofs. Commodes have been used as flower pots
in front yards.
you like birds?
Just humming birds and small birds like
finches. We do not keep a birdfeeder for larger birds because
we don't want our buildings' roofs
to be white.
In addition to Bingo halls, The Cherokee
now sports a Harrah's casino.
Very common in the mountain regions
of the southeast
Is the northern terminus of thr Great
Smoky Mountain Railway that is on the east side of the park.
They run a steam locomotive and the scenery
& Ruby Mine
Common throughout the Smoky Mountain and
Blue Mountain regions are tourist traps where you can pan for
gems and minerals. The region is well known for it's minerals,
but I don't know about precious gems. Tourists probably find
garnet instead of rubies as it is also red. The name Quark's
was taken from the opportunist, Quark, a character in the Star
Space Nine series.
for the Finchfield & Wrensylvania and Naming It
is a play on words of the Clinchfield Railroad and the Pennsylvania
Railroad - both of which were easy to turn
into bird names. The bird name was necessary since all the buildings
Clinchfield passes through the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains.
It was a critical railroad for carrying
Appalachia coal region in
Virginia. Both the Clinchfield and the Pennsylvania railroads had well constructed
railroads and large locomotives.
I first saw
a garden railroad in the mid '80's. There are several thousand
of these in the
US alone. There is a national convention each year and
a half dozen publications. There is a local garden railroad
club with about 140 members.
We are probably one of the first in the
nation to use birdhouses for our garden railway buildings.
The amount of dirt and rock employed definitely makes ours
one of the more elaborate garden railroads anywhere.
Garden railroading is more realistic than
indoor model railroading. Even runaway cars, which fortunately
rarely happens, are more realistic. In indoor model railroading,
someone is usually close enough to catch them. Outdoors,
if someone isn't right there when it happens, all you can
do is stand there and watch them wreck.
grapevine-like plant that was brought to the US for errosion
control. Not having any natural predators, it spreads rapidly
killing everything it covers by hogging all the sunlight.
It is said that the only way to get rid of Kudzu is to
move. Old rusting cars and appliances are frequently covered
it. It is presumed that the cars and appliances were already
National Park was formerly owned and logged by the Little River
Company. The Little River
runs primarily east-west on the north side of the park. The
road that parallels this small river was originally the roadbed
for the company's tracks. Little River donated the land for the
park. The Shay locomotive operated on this garden railroad is
a model of the locomotives used by the Little River.
Little River Company was rather resourceful having brought
a number of innovations to the logging industry.
One of them, not dared duplicated by any other railroad,
was the only swing bridge in railroading. The bridge was
basically nothing more than track dangling in air supported
a few steel cables run underneath it and the rail itself.
A few additional cables kept it from truly swinging much.
The bridge scaled
the falls on the left side at an angle of roughly 45 degrees.
This is far too steep
for any locomotive. A "Mary-Sue" steam skidder was winched
across the bridge and was then used to pull empty
Cars were released at the top and allowed to coast to a stop.
They were then coupled to a locomotive and taken to the sawmill.
Despite the fact that no log car ever wrecked, employees
did not ride the cars across the bridge - a wreck would have
almost certainly meant being crushed to death.
While there may have never been a moonshine tank
car, moonshine was popular in the mountains and is still made
by some today.
If you wander too far from the interstate,
you will find small, isolated towns that were lost in time
50-100 years ago. This is no joke. Running water is questionable.
The ONLY sign of modern civialization are the tv satellite
dishes. Outhouses are common in these areas.
Your Picture Taken with a Real Cherokee Indian
The same souveigner shops and tourist traps still entice you to
stop in and have your photo taken with an Indian. Whether that Indian is a bonafide
Cherokee Indian Chief is another matter.
Apples are grown in the mountains. Roadside
stands selling apples cheap, cider, and every conceivable
jelly are very
a Live Bear"
Black bears are common to the Smoky Mountains.
Many of the souveigner shops and other tourist traps had
caged bears for you to see and entice you to stop in. The
bears were not well cared for and the cages too small.
This practice is now forebidden.
Rock City is a tourist attraction in Chattanooga,
Tennessee. It was common for barns in the mountain regions
of the southeast US to be
red with black roofs and "SEE ROCK CITY" painted in giant lettering on the
on how the trains are controlled.
One of the locomotives
uses Sterno to boil water and actually uses steam to propel the
locomotive. It uses the same type of radio control as used on
The vast majority
of the locomotives on the F&W use DCC - Digital Command
Control; primarily for the sophisticated sound systems
available for it. The
track has a constant 18V of AC on it to power the trains.
The radio throttles send commands to a box called a command
station. These digital commands are then superimposed on
the track power. Computers inside the locomotives interpret
For the technically minded, the track
power is 18 Vp-p square wave AC at about 8.3kHz. This is
then pulse width modulated with the digital control signals
by the command station. The command station receives radio
signals from the throttles in the 900MHz band.
Grab that beer* in the last car and stop
It is tough
to have trains running for the Januaury show. Even if not
will have it
open for you to view. Weather may also inhibit us putting
out buildings and people. You won't waste your time coming
as our HO railroad is also on display during this show. We
are also open for G-Day usually the third weekend of June.
We do not keep
the buildings and people out. Also, the track frequently
gets covered with leaves, sticks, and stones. So we cannot
easily show an operable layout other than shows. You will
see a static layout with only the landscaping and bridges.
When visiting please keep the
following in mind:
be reminded that the Hatfield and McCoy fewd was for real. Coming across someone's
still or fighting cock farm is hazardous to one's health
even today. Stray children should watch for stray bullets. Unattended
children should watch for unattended bullets. "Where
does that trail lead?" "It goes to my daddy's still,
but it doesn't come back."
rocks are loose. DO NOT let
your children touch anything. They
could fall and break toes. Do not let your children use my
stone arch viaduct as a foot rest. If you knew what that
bridge cost, you might be tempted to kill your own kid
and I don't have a funeral car - yet.
We are very proud
of the weeds we grow. We have the largest variety and bountiful
crop in the Metroplex.
Weeds are free for the picking. Bags
to take them home will be provided on request.
Everyone is encouraged to take one home as a remembrance of your visit to the
Finchfield and Wrensylvania. If you plant it, this can be the beginning of your
very own garden railway!
will be paid for each bug you kill. Mass
murder is strongly encouraged. Alternately, you may take
them home alive. This is another way to start your garden
*Proof positive that a garden
railroad can be
We are still
looking for a still and a mobile home. Have you seen one?
Here is a list of some of the buildings on the F&W.
Cabins (heavily weathered, "rustic," aka falling
Bed & Breakfasts
Christmas themed buildings
Gem & Ruby Mine
Halloween themed buildings
Hanger for airplane
Real Estate Office
Small Town Homes
Except for weeds,
we can kill any plant. Even supposed hardy plants, we can
kill them off after a year or two of diligence. Some people
plant the little plastic signs with their plants so that
they know what works. For us, they serve two other purposes.
Obviously, they serve as an indicator of what didn't work.
Also, they serve as a sort of tombstone in memory of those
gave their lives to our black thumbs.
N ow that we have a few years to see plants
grow in size, we find that there are actually only a few
plants that meet our requirements. Some of those requirements
we didn't know we had until this year! Those requirements
should spread and reroot
as they spread. We have found thymes do a poor
of rerooting as they spread.
2. Plants should not reproduce
itself on other parts of the garden railroad. This makes
3. Flowers are desirable.
4. Annuals are not highly desirable, but do reasonably well..
5. Dense growing plants are desirable. These help keep
out weeds and control soil
erosion on the very steep
sides of our garden railroad.
6. Complementing a forest theme is desirable.
7. Avoid really fast spreaders.
8. Avoid tall growers.
9. Does not
get woody as plant grows. Woodiness prevents us from
plant back and having it look
nice. You end up with a brown thing with no leaves.
We also found that some of the plants only spread
downhill from where they are planted.
Virtually all the
plants only grow in the spring and fall in our area. While
well watered by our drip irigation system, they still seem
to spend the summer just surviving.
are falling out of favor on our railroad. They spread,
but they don't reroot. We need something
to hold the ground together and as the plant grows. It needs
to reroot so it can acquire more water for the larger plant. We
also found thymes seems to die out, especially near the middle
after a year or two. So pay
special attention to creeping mazus and erodium below.
Creeping Mazus: Spreads, reroots, flowers purple,
low growing, doesn't mind the "reduced" (in Texas, reduced
is a relative term) sun, and likes the heavy watering needed
for the dwarf trees.
Dianthus: We think we are going to like this
one. Spreads and reroots. Looks like 1" tall
grass with flowers.
Erodium (Stork's or
Crane's Bill): Dense, maroon or pink flowers, slow, 2-4" tall.
Great around the pond. Too tall to be near trees, figures
We like this hard-to-get plant, but they frequently die
mysteriously. Available at many nursuries, but not every
dense. Annual, but keeps coming back in our area, white
or purplish flowers,
in isolated places or to cover a square foot or more. Height
makes it inappropriate near minature trees, people, and plants
listed here. Available at home improvement stores.
Dwarf Albert Spruce:
Seedlings available about 4" tall.
Will eventually be 4' foot tall in about 10 years. Bummer.
Still, this is the all time favorite of garden railroaders.
Not recommended for our area due to heat, but our drip irrigation
helps them survive the summer. Some nurseries can order large
ones for you. Buy small ones mail order from nurseries like Miniforests
by Sky. Since trees don't spread, you will need
a lot of them. Roughly speaking, they cost about $1 per inch
of height. Buy a few large ones and buy the rest small. We
have 236 trees.
Wooley Thyme: Dense,
1-2" tall, slow,
downhill, dull, fuzzy, dark green complements forest very
well. A popular snack with insects so use Sevin dust. Available
at nursuries selling thyme herbs.
Thyme: Moderately dense, 2-3", moderate growth.
Good along creeks or to cover areas up to a few square feet.
This is the largest ground cover that I think should be used
on a garden railroad. I prefer not to use it near trees,
buildings, or figures. Available at nursuries selling thyme
Box Hedge: My wife can trim these to look like decidous
trees. Available at home improvement stores.
Cedar: Bonsai varieties
do well and work with forest theme. These
trees are free. About
a dozen a year just show up! Unfortunately, the birds
frequently plant them right next to the tracks. The
ones that are a few years old are clearly going to be too
are pinching them back in the spring trying to retard their
growth. When they get too big, we'll turn them into
Hydrocotal: This is like clover.
Some people consider it a weed. It looks like scale Kudsu.
Very dense and low growing. You can buy it, but our local
nursery lets us dig it out of their sidewalk cracks for free.
This is quickly becoming our favorite plant.
Clover: We are trying something
new in 2005. We are encouraging certain weeds to grow. A
few varieties of clover are dense and low growing. Looks
fine to us!
Weeds: Dense, do not
require watering or fertilizer, immune to bugs, fast spreading,
free of charge,
delivered right to your home, self-planting, no tilling,
mulch or expensive soil required. Poison Ivy is especially
hardy as it is immune to Round-Up and other defoliants. Most
We have the most abundant and largest selection in the Metroplex! We will be
glad to share ours with you!
We have other plants, but these are the only ones
I would use if we started over.
BUILDING THE RAILROAD
On August 21st, 1999 the golden spike
After four years
of every single weekend that it wasn't raining and was at
least 52 degrees, the railroad was completed. Having never
built one before, and new to the Texas weather and soil,
more than a few things were learned along the way. The F&W
is the largest in the area and the most three-dimensional.
There was no way everything could be foreseen nor what the
solution needed to be. In a way, it was good that it took
several years to build as lessons were learned before more
mistakes were made. Here is how it came to be.
This garden railway uses the half-baked
method of design and construction. The
railroad was not fully designed when started and has changed course many times
during the construction. I am not good at visualizing the fully finished
product. So many things were done enough that I could visualize the next
step. The decision to make a metal viaduct and so many metal bridges as
well as their type was not concieved until a native Texas tree started dropping
grapefruit sized "bombs" on the railroad. This
approach to design has worked very well as the final result has always been much
than the original idea.
it Looks Good at Ten
If it looks good at ten feet, leave it alone! Many
the tone for the
F&W. If anything looked "too good," it would look out place. We
therefore have intentionally avoided fine detail no matter how much the
temptation. That also helped speed things to completion!
Details on the otherhand,
like people, fences, appliances and such, are being added
as these are the things that bring a layout to
| Indoor Yard in Garage
I can drive
all my trains into a yard in my garage. This greatly
increases the convenience of using the railroad. It
contains about 125' of track that runs along the long
wall of the
garage. It is encased in plexiglass to minimize dust and has flourescent
lighting so I can see what I am doing. All this is located under shelving
in my garage. It has five tracks and can hold seven trains. I open
the back door, turn on the power, and out of the garage goes a train - until
it hits a twig or something. Oh, well, you can't have
everything! Once the yard exits the protective shed, the track is surrounded
by a second layer of plywood making the rail essentially flush with the floor
making it possible to walk on the track. |
| Metal Bridges
The metal bridges have
become a signature feature of the F & W. While
they lack the fine detail that would be present on
a real steel bridge, these are very convincing nonetheless.
That's good because I couldn't get my hands inside
them to apply finer detail nor paint them. The few
that where painting was tried, were restored to natural
is 40' long. There are 15
towers. It took a full day to
build one tower. The entire steel viaduct
and arch bridge took four months of solid weekends
to build. The aluminum is held together with
stainless steel hardware.
To make real
concrete footings, small
plastic pots that you buy plants in are inverted
have their bottoms
is poured into them and then the flower pot is
Lava rocks, hiding red
cement, covering stones hopefully will do a
good job of keeping the weeds to
an absolute minimum. Weeding inside the towers
is tough and in the winter, when plants are slow growing,
things like Round-Up simply don't work. Pre-emergent
weed products like Preen are laughed at by weeds even
when the ground is completely covered with the stuff.
All of the bridges
are custom designed for their location on a computer.
Getting the Rough Sawn Look
trestle and the covered bridge, were given that home-crafted,
rough-sawn look by intentionally
ruining a cheapie saw blade .
teeth on a circular saw blade were bent. Teeth
around the blade were bent
in the opposite direction in an attempt to maintain
blade balance. Kerf is greater than 1/4".
Surveying the Right-of-Way
heights accurately was a challenge. Running a line from
a central reference location is thwarted if the desired end point is below
the current surface or there is something taller in the way.
A "water level" is
a clear hose filled with water. It is attached to two
stakes at the points
you wish to measure. The water will be at the same height
at both ends of the hose. Measuring down from the water
to the ground, you can then determine how much higher or
lower the second point is from the first point. Mark the stake
with a piece of tape and leave the stake in the ground.
The reference point, which was the top
of the patio, is now moved out into the yard. The hose
can go around trees, shrubs, mounds of dirt, whatever.
As long as there are no air bubbles in the hose, the system
works. Getting the air out is difficult. So once all the
critical points were determined, I switched to using a
higher tech tool - a digital level.
The digital level displays grade
as a percentage! Can be moved along right-of-way before grading
Then go back and grade
wish I had used much more of the stuff from the beginning. Our Texas
clay soil shifts and not even my rocks stay put causing periodic avalanches. So
I fix these problems by putting cement behind the stones and cementing
The creek and waterfall
are completely cemented in to prevent erosion and to prevent
water leaks. This
worked much better than using rubber pond lining.
Most importantly, rebar reinenforced
cconcrete it is the only way to go in making your sub-roadbed. The
magazine articles make this approach look difficult. It is
actually the cheapest, easiest, and most robust way to go!
use forms if you want to, or just pour the concrete into
a trench. Compared to stone and pressure treated lumber,
is still cheaper. If you want forms, use Homasote precut
purpose from your local home improvement store. Just smooth as you go. Put
a piece of wood on top of the concrete and check with your digital level to set
the grade. Next weekend, lay the track and
ballast. I wish I had done it this way from the start.
Cement and Chicken Grit
Ballasting has also
been a problem. The expensive
chicken grit keeps settling and leaves keep getting betweeen
and under the ties. A leaf vac can't get the leaves that
have lodged themselves under the ties - especially
the wet ones! Once again, cement is the answer! Mix about 10% gray
or black portland cement with chicken grit. Pour chicken grit over your
track. Use a "Jordan Spreader" (wisk broom) to clear cement and grit off
of the inside edges of rail and smooth out. Now the trick
that makes this work: Using a spray bottle like you get at Home Depot or
an empty household cleaning products bottle, soak. You can also use a pump
sprayer or a garden hose nozzle with a mist setting. This
cement off the top of the chicken grit. On real sidewalks, they call this
aggregate . With no settling, the leaves do not get
between the ties. If you have a thick ballasted area or cement sub roadbed,
you can easily walk on the track.
Piers in Pond
Fooled you! My simulated concrete
piers have fooled more than
one expert modeler. They are 1/4" plexiglass covered in "speckle
paint." Real concrete piers would be too heavy and ruin the pond bottom.
over the speckle paint protects
plexiglass panels are held together with aluminum (scraps from the bridges) and
steel hardware. Large holes - beneath the water level - made them easier
to assemble and give the fish a place to hide. A small hole on the top,
and now under the through-girder bridges, allows air to escape so the
piers could sink.
The stone arch bridge and viaduct are steel reinforced,
bridge covered with scale cut real stones by Stoneworks www.rrstoneworks.com The
stones were glued on with Liquid Nail Floor Adhesive - which has the same color
as the stone. After the arch stones were glued on, the coursing stones
were glued on from the top down following the inclined top of the bridge. The
held most stones in place instantly.
This viaduct was originally
to be a simple wooden bridge. But when these ugly green
things, generally called "horse apples" started falling
in the fall, I decided to instead to build a steel reinforced
concrete bridge clad in stone to withstand being pelted
by these inedible "fruits."
Needless to say, the name of this
viaduct is "Horse
Code 250 "scale"
rail and ties with wide radii seemed like a great idea. Not
it Texas! The temperature and shifting
soil shear the scale spikes right off. It has turned
into a maintenance nightmare. Now that LGB and AristoCraft
have larger radii, use their track.
To attach wires, use liquid
flux and solid, silver-bearing solder. Liquid
flux cleans thoroughly and leaves no residue. More reliable
connections faster! Solder with a little silver is used for
a stronger, low
corrosion connection. The liquid flux from H&N Electronics works
so well, I have seen people, besides myself, get excited about the
The F&W has it's own logo. All
decals on the F&W have been made on an Alps printer.
This printer uses a variety of ribbons that can do white
metallic! Decals on structures that remain out all
the time, need to be coated with Rustolieum clear
similar to keep them from washing away. The coated ones have been holding
up well for several years now.
and River System
The waterfall and river are an engineering feat in themselves.
The water for the falls is recirculated with a reservoir
at the end of the river. But that isn't all. The downspouts
from my home empty into the river at hidden locations. During
a rain and while the irrigation is running, excess water
collects in the reservoir. The same pump that operates the
waterfall, pumps the excess water out of my yard. All that
is required is the flipping of several valves. Should it
rain too hard for the pump to keep up, the reservoir has
The pump can suck the reservoir
dry in a few seconds. The water takes two minutes to travel
the length of the river. To keep the system running, rocks
are piled in the river at strategic locations. These mini-dams
help store water increasing the effective size of the reservoir.
They also add a babbling brook sound. To keep junk from collecting
behind the rocks, they are removed when I am not having a
The entire system is stone-lined
and cemented together. This prevents erosion from a heavy
rain and the fast moving water of a show. It also reduces
the loss of water into the ground during a show.
loose water from splashing during a show.
A float switch and a electric water valve add water to the reservoir
river is separate from the pond and is dry except during
and rains. It still
collects massive leaves. My fish cannot get to the river.
But at least with a somewhat dry river, the leaves are easier
to clean up. Note that they will still get wet and mud dauber
wasps still love them.
goldfish were 10/$1. The
me the first couple
batches would most likely die until the "biology" sets
up. Maybe if I had heard that I should not feed
them initially, I would
have had better luck with my first $2! At least what
the pet fish store and the outdoor pond store told me was
So here goes.
I do use a UV filter and a mesh filter to filter
crud out of the water - which includes leaves and mostly algae.
I use snails to eat the algae off the sides of the pond.
The only difference
between the advice these stores have given me and reality
is to use much larger of everything. For my 285 gallon
pond, I use an 8W UV lamp (kills algae), but I'm going to
a 16W. The 8W barely seems enough.
Also, I use a
750 gallon per hour pump. Again, it's barely
enough for the UV filter. Now that I've gone
to these larger sizes than was initially recommended,
I now have clear pond water instead of the mirk I had before.
The last change
probably made the most difference - the filter. Between
what I was initially sold, it is at least 10 times
greater. I have a spiral mesh submersable filter that is about
three gallons in size. It was this thing that finally got us
clear water. Smaller filters clog faster, slow down water recirculation,
and have to be cleaned more often. Perhaps the one gallon one
they sold me might have worked, but I would have had to been
religous in cleaning it at least once a week during
the summer. With the three gallon, I can go two weeks during
the summer, but notice a slow down. But at least I can go on
vacation. In the winter, I'm doing it every few weeks. I try
to wait for a warm day!
filters I have been told are much better. They do prevent
of the pump. But I have to stick my hands in the cold water
to pull it out and clean it.
have goldfish, mesquito (larve-eating) fish,
The mesquito fish and snails are supposed
during the winter, but plenty survive and they multiply like
mad, so I have no problem keeping them year around. After
the initial gold fish deaths, none have ever died. Some got
to be 3-4" in
the first season. About 6" in the second. A few
are now better than 8". Yet some are still about 3-4". Go
I'm told that
as long as the pond does not ice over solid for more than
a few days, they will survive. Since
my pump keeps the surface churned, it has never had so much
as a film of ice - and we had a several good cold spells
icing trees and streets.
A little tid-bit
of physics: No matter how cold it gets outside, it is not
possible for water to drop below
32 degrees until every single drop of that water turns to solid
ice. It can be 5 degrees out for two weeks, but as long as
the water is water, it will not be below 32.
Feeding: I have
food for when the water temp is 65 and higher. I have special
fall/spring food for 42 - 65.
But below 48, they aren't very interested in eating anyway.
Below 42, I stop feeding them - even if for a few weeks. Again,
that's advice I've gotten and it works. If they get hungry,
they will eat the algae I am told. Since their metabolism slows
as the water temp drops, feeding them the wrong food and/or
too much, will clog their digestive system and kill them.
water contains chlorine and other things that will kill the
fish. You can buy chlorine removing chemicals at Home
Depot and Lowes. I put this in 5 gallon buckets and then dump
the buckets in the pond. During the summer, I may dump in 20-40
gallons of water to make up for evaporation.
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