2009 - Year Zero.

Planning the railroad, and origins of my Stonehedge Railway:

(why "year zero"? because about one actual hour of construction was done on the garden railroad in 2009! and it was filled back in and not used..so really 2009 was a "planning year" only..actual real construction did not begin until 2010..so 2010 is the real "Year number 1" of the railroad.)

As I type this, it is March of 2009, and no actual construction has begun on my railroad! but plans are underway, so I thought I would get a webpage up and running.. (I love making my webpages! its a hobby in itself!) There are actually two Stonehedge Railroads! the first is the Stonehedge & Shadypines Railroad, built by my Dad, Richard Lawrence. The railroad was begun in 2001 and is still in progress! click below to visit my Dad's railroad:


The "Stonehedge" name comes from the rock gardens in my parents yard. My Dad began building rock walls and ponds in the mid 90's..very elaborate stone walls and walkways through the shaded yard.

Before the railroad even existed, these walls and ponds were being built. One day my Mom jokingly said the garden should be called "Stone Hedge", (a play on words of the well known "Stone Henge" in England) The name stuck! and when the railroad began, it became the Stone Hedge and Shady Pines Railroad.

(actually, it was the "Lawrence & Stone Hedge" railroad originally, but briefly..
early equipment was lettered that way..but that name didnt last long and it has been the "
Stone Hedge and Shady Pines" for the majority of it's existance.)

My Dad's railroad started in 2001, but at that time, I was still a single guy living in
apartments! but its now 2009, I got married to the lovely Miss Debbie in 2005, and we now have a house and a nice big yard! Construction on my own Garden Railroad can now begin.

I am going to call my railroad the Stone Hedge Railway, since it gets its inspiration from my Dads Stonehedge & Shadypines Railroad. My Dad also drew the Stone Hedge Logo.

His original hand-drawn logo for his railroad:

My adapted logo for my railroad:

I asked my Dad if he minded if I borrowed the family railroad name..he said sure! no problem..So now there will be two Stone Hedge garden railroads.

The first vague ideas for the railroad began in 2007, when I started playing around with placement and trackplan ideas for the railroad. Deb and I also want to build an ornamental pond, with goldfish (and frogs), and the railroad is incorporated into the pond design.

At first I planned to build the railroad down the fenceline in the backyard:

The big green circle represents the canopy of the big Oak tree.
the black dot next to the swingset is the Oak tree trunk.

That railroad, if built, would have been in two sections.. one section incorporating the pond, (the left-loop in the diagram above) which would be the landscaped "garden railroad" portion, complete with plants, scenery, buildings, waterfeatures etc..This would be incorporated inside a "block wall" about 1-foot high, so that the entire pond area is slightly raised above the lawn. The track would 1-2 feet high around the pond..

The second half would be a raised "live steam" portion, (the right-loop in the diagram above) on simple timber supports. It would do a 90 degree turn in the corner of the yard, then do the second return loop by the big swingset, everything apart from the "pond portion" would be on raised timber supports..like this:

Thats Chucks's old railroad in Oswego. (click the photo to visit)

The yard naturally slopes downward slightly, so the tracks on the "pond end" could be about 1-foot off the ground, and down at the far end, it could be about 4-feet off the ground! (to incorporate a live steam bay) while the track itself remains level! perfect!

This plan was the first rough-draft..the nebulous idea through 2007..

But the following year, 2008, after planting some Hydrangeas, which I hope will get very large and bushy, and actually building my wife's swingset!

I scaled back the trackplan..the big raised loop (the opposite end from the pond) was unnecessarily large..all that extra track and extra timber for the supports equals lots of extra $$$..and it had to be squeezed in fairly tightly around the swingset..not an ideal plan..

So I drew up a new plan..still keeping the 15' diameter loops, but making better use of the space:

This was better! and the fence itself could be the support for the entire back length of the raised "live steam" portion..

I laid out some rough spraypaint markings last summer, just to get a feel for the design:

The two spraypaint ovals represent the upper and lower ponds, with the stream connecting them, and the outer white line represents the outer block wall.
The garden hose is the track.

This was the working plan through all of 2008, until March 16, 2009, when the plan changed! (changed, I think, for the better!)

Deb and I were walking around the yard, doing an early Spring reconnaissance of bulbs and gardens, when I noticed that one of the trees along the fence line drops a LOT more pine needles than the rest of the trees..It is the LONE Red Pine in our entire yard..and it just happens to be directly above the future location of the pond!

(My Dad's garden railroad is plagued by pine needles too! it must be fate.)

I pointed out the pine needles to Deb, lamenting the irony that placed those needles in the EXACT location I wanted to place the pond..when Deb came up with a new idea!

"What about putting the pond and railroad over in the Vegetable garden"? Thats not a great spot for the veggies anyway (not enough light)..so we went and checked it over, and a new idea was born!

The new plan:

Our vegetable garden is on the other side of the deck from where I had planned "version one" of the railroad, discussed above..We only placed a veggie garden there because it was already a garden when we bought the house..(well..sort of!)

When we bought the house in Summer 2006, the previous owners had attempted to plant a garden that spring..but I guess because they knew they were moving, they did no garden maintenance that entire season..By the time we moved-in it was late Summer, and the "garden" was one gigantic weed patch! with a few tomatoes buried back in the weeds somewhere:

All those tall plants are WEEDS! the pile on the grass is Deb's beginning attempt
to rip them all out!

The view from the deck:

By the following Spring, it was all cleaned out, and ready to become
a real vegetable garden:

I bought some nice wood fence, and we turned into a decent garden.

I even built a large cucumber trellis for the garden, with help from the guys on MLS! (thanks! )

Spring 2008

Summer 2008

So that spot has been an o.k. vegetable garden..We grew some nice veggies there in 2007 and 2008..but it really doesnt get enough light..It gets direct sun mid-day only, (the back fence of the garden is the north side, front of the garden is south) but there are tall trees on both sides, east and west sides, so the garden is in full shade all morning and all late afternoon. We have a spot alongside the garage, that faces south, which gets much better light..we have been considering moving the vegetable garden over there already.

So that brings us up to today, March 2009. Deb suggested we build the Garden Railroad and ponds on the site of the veggie garden, and I ran with the idea!

New design:

(This one is turned 90 degrees from the other diagrams.)

The only negative to the new plan is that I had to reduce the curves from 15-foot diameter down to 12'. But that should still be ok for everything I want to run.

Block wall concept, (just a random photo off the internet)
what I would like the retaining wall to look like:

Calvin helps me with measuring the old vegetable garden.
(he is always a big help.)

And Calvin on his new Log perch, surveying his domain:

The neighbors have a wild catnip patch just over the fence, we borrowed some and planted it around the log, and this year it will become Calvin's own personal catnip corner and log perch. (this is the spot that says "Calvin's log and catnip patch" in the drawing above)

Small change to the plan..I realised I had virtually no storage for trains that arent running..so I added a long storage siding along the backside of the railroad:

Thats better! it clutters up the design a bit, but I think its necessary to have that extra track in there..

I considered adding a wye at the end of the Live Steam staging bay..so trains can enter and leave the bay in both directions..but that doesnt fit well..but trains wont have to back into the bay, because the crossover creates a return loop..a live steam train could leave the bay, do its run around the line, when its ready to return home it simply runs through the crossover, then returns into the bay head-first..no need to back up.

Six total switches/turnouts on the railroad, all can be manual-throw except for the two on the curve outside the steaming bay, which will need to be remote because of their location..a turnout panel will be located at the steaming bay. Whole railroad will likely be not track powered..I will convert electric trains to battery power, so live steam and electrics can run on the same main loop, with no track cleaning required..the small independant 8' loop around the upper pond *will* be electric powered, so friends electric trains (and some of my own that arent converted to battery) have a place to run.

Electricity will be supplied to the railroad, to power the 8' loop, the two remote turnouts, the pond pump, and probably some night-time lighting.

I delibratly moved the upper pond off-center so that I can step onto the railroad to access those two electric-powered switches, in case of derailments in that back corner. That is the only corner of the railroad that does not have easy access from the "ground"..

Ok..a few hours after I made plan 3b above, I changed it again!
I dont like the three tracks along the "back straightaway"..it throws off the feel of the design..bad Feng-Shui or chi or something like that!   it just "feels wrong"..
the two-track mainline is just much more pleasant.

so another change:

Thats better! "Calvin's log and catnip patch" will have to be moved forward, but I dont think he will mind! it will be very easy to move..

Here is a panoramic photo of the site:

(click on the image to open full-size)

Next step is doing some precise measuring to see how many wall blocks I would need, and the cost involved for different types of retaining walls.. click here for some thoughts on making your own blocks! something I might consider
if its significantly cheaper..

And thats where things stand as of March 2009. I might begin building some of the wall this year, (im planning to look for used blocks on craigslist and "freecycle" before I start buying them new).. but I don't expect major construction to begin yet..Im procrastinating on purpose because of the job situation. I work at EK, where for the last 15 years I have been under a pretty much constant layoff threat..I keep hoping things will improve, but 2009 is looking like it could be a bad year, and the odds of losing my job are actually higher than ever..so im hesitant to start a major project if the money supply might be going totally dry this year..If that happens, the garden railroad will fall right off the list..so im going to wait things out a bit longer..

If things do actually settle down, I will probably begin construction for real
in Spring 2010.

- March 25, 2009

First stakes in the ground..

I put stakes in the ground marking the center of both loops..
then a stake marking the lower edge of the wall, closest to the gazebo..
I was planning to use the "upper right corner" as the reference point (baseline) for the elevation of the track..track about 6" above ground in that corner, because thats the high point of the whole area, then use that baseline level to mark out the rest of the railroad..
well..after setting up the water level for the first time, it turns out there is
a problem with that idea! 
Because that makes the wall at the far end of the loop 38" high!!
much higher than I wanted to build..you can see a white string in these photos, marking a horizontal/level line from the corner to the post:

thats too high..too high of a wall, and would require a ton of fill dirt..

So..minor change of plans!
instead of using the upper right corner as the reference point, instead I am going to use the lower edge of the wall as the reference point...im going to make the wall 28" high, then mark out the rest of the railroad from that point..that will require a small cut in the upper right corner! digging down a bit below grade..but thats ok, not a big deal..I will dig out the "grassy seating area" slightly so that a retaining wall can still exist in that corner..lower the ground a bit.
I have a few videos I plan to upload! I will post them in a few days..
about the wall..as I said, initially I was thinking if building a block wall...but I think cost is going to kill that idea..the blocks would cost about $600..while I can build a wood wall for under $200..yes, the wood wont last as long, but sometimes compromises are necessary..
reading through Shad's wall thread, there are some great photos of wood walls!
here is Bob's wall from that thread:
Bob's wall pic 1.
Bob's wall pic 2.

thanks Bob!

(I also saw a similar wall in front of the cat's vet office in Spencerport..im going to take some photos)
I could build a wall like that! and it wouldnt have to be as tall as Bob's wall...Im only going "4 planks tall" maximum..the majority of the wall would be even lower..

I could build a wood retaining wall, with 2X8X8's..making each plank about 7" tall..so the retaining wall for the entire railroad will be between 7" tall minimum (one plank) to 28" tall maximum (4 planks tall)..the majority of the wall will be inbetween those two extremes..

I posted some questions about this kind of wall in my Stonehedge MLS thread.
New drawing, with some wood wall ideas:

- July 22, 2009

Its now mid-summer..
Four months after the I posted the photos above, from March..
NO actual work has been done on the railroad! ;)
(except for keeping the weeds down in the now "vacant lot" where the vegetable
garden used to be)

Even though no actual construction is underway, the planning "in my head" has been very active the last few months..

Im now considering a radical new idea..the guys over at mylargescale.com have come up with some very interesting concepts lately, which have been slowly creeping into my brain, and refusing to leave..

"Raised outdoor benchwork" is quite common in the Live Steam world..again, check out Chuck's former railroad in Oswego for the concept: Twin Lakes Railway.

But those kinds of railroads are generally quite spartan, by design, because they are meant to be "live steam only", which is fine..but there is really no way to "landscape" such a railroad, with plants, groundcover and structures.

Some builders have combined the "Raised live steam track" with some sections of "ground level" running, which can combine both the "live steam track" and a more traditional "garden railroad" in one system..check out Don's Place to Run Trains for that idea.

Thats a fine idea..but only if your landscape is suitable for it..that works well for Don because he naturally has that small hill to accommodate the raised "steamup bay" section..(actually, it was Don's hill that influenced the whole railroad!) but such an idea doesnt fit in my case.

In my case, I want to make a "raised garden railroad"..raised from between 1 foot to 3 feet or so,  in different parts of the railroad..the "traditional method" is to build a retaining wall, out of stone, "retaining wall blocks", wood, railroad ties, whatever..then dump in a LOT of fill dirt to make your level area behind the wall..then lay tracks and do your planting/landscaping..

This "building of the retaining wall" has really been the primary "problem" for the early planning stages of my railroad..what to use for the wall? and cost is a definate factor..

Lately, a new method has emerged..a radical idea when first introduced, but it has been gaining ground..

Raised Platform Garden Railroading..

Imagine your typical "indoor" layout..the HO scale model railroad in the basement..with wood benchwork holding everything up off the ground.
now..move that benchwork OUTSIDE!

Sound strange? read on..

Richard Smith of Oregon posted a very detailed builders log of his raised Port Orford Coast Railroad..built on raised benchwork! check it out:


Tom Bray then posted some photos of his railroad, using a similar concept:


hmmmm..could I use these techniques for my railroad??
the idea is really growing on me!

NO fill dirt needed! this could be a huge benefit..
I havent even figured out how much fill dirt I would need! a lot..
but with this new method..the area underneath the railroad is simply open space..
the placement of my railroad would have open chainlink fence on the east and west sides..air can simply flow straight through underneath..ventelation would be great. but because its chain-link on three sides, no big critters should be able to get in.. (like possums or raccoons, who might enjoy such an enclosed area under benchwork) but the placement of my railroad, with the fence, should avoid that problem..

only major drawback I can see.. not as much opportunity for landscaping and planting.. but in my case, with my particular trackplan, I dont think thats a big deal.. because much of my railroad is "track only"..the only areas that would be "planted" are the inside of the loops, with the ponds..and the far corners.
anywhere I want to make a planted section (under this new system) I could simply build raised planters..boxes with dirt..plant my plants in those, and provide some drip irrigation or soaker hoses perhaps..

yes, it will require more benchwork and lumber than the "traditional" method..which makes it more expensive in that area..(before, the only lumber needed was for the retaining wall itself) but perhaps having no need for fill dirt will even out that extra cost for lumber..perhaps even making the railroad cheaper overall..

so..picture this.. track is supported on a raised roadbed.. perhaps using deck blocks right on the ground (which are known to be stable in this environment..(no frost heave) or perhaps not using the deck blocks, and just put the posts straight in the ground..

Perhaps PVC tubing for the upright posts (none of this will be visable when the railroad is finished, so it can it be ugly! durability and cost can outweigh aesthetics with this system...actually, aesthetics of the support system can be a non-issue! which is a big deal for me..I dont want to see ugly benchwork!)

Some wooden roadbed for the track, similar to Tom's railroad here. or perhaps the PVC spline idea..(PVC spline might not be practical in this case..because I will need to attach the "ground" to the track roadbed..so it will need to be somewhat wider than the track.)

Then tie the roadbed to the edges of the layout, using Richard's idea of metal mesh with mulch or gravel on top, water simply drains through..

Then build an outer "finished wall" to create the edge of the railroad..again visable in Tom's railroad. This could be connected to the roadbed for support, but now the outer wall is not a "retaining wall"..there is no dirt behind it, only open empty space. It doesnt have to be nearly as strong as a retaining wall, it wont be as wet, (no contact with constantly wet earth) which should make it last much longer..I was thinking I could have the bottom of the wall rest in a trench of gravel, so it would have no contact with dirt at all..then maybe finish off the edge with a row of small stones, softball sized stones, like this:

(thats my wife's raised flower bed..imagine the wood wall directly behind the stone edging..I actually have a good source for small round stones like that.. a local farmer has a field he will let me collect from! he wants the stones out of the field, I want the stones! its a "win-win"..every spring he will let me collect a truckload for free, before he plants.. they are literally "cobble stones"..small rounded glacial erratics.."cobble stone houses" were once built with them around here...the stones arent useful for building a wall, but they are good for edging.)

Ponds can now rest right on the (real) ground..and build the wire mesh "railroad ground" to meet up with the edge of the pond. (im now considering only one pond, not two..one pond in the right loop, and perhaps a large roundhouse in the upper-left loop!)

The small-ish pre-formed plastic ponds dont have to be buried..they can simply rest on the ground, (use a bed of sand, to protect from punctures) but you dont have to "back fill" the sides in with dirt..my Dad's pond has been running this way for 10 years now, rock walls simply hide the edge, but the rocks dont actually support the sides of the pond: (get photo of pond to put here)

I dont have any drawings yet to try to illustrate this "Raised Platform Garden Railroad" idea..so im sorry if some of it doesnt make any sense..I think im going to build about 10 feet or so, as a "proof of concept"..see how it looks..

Thanks to Richard, Tom and the MLS crew for these wonderful ideas!
I love the internet..

stay tuned!

- September 2009

When I began this page a few months ago, my Dad's Stonehedge & Shady Pines Railroad was still an ongoing operation..that has now changed..

After a brief illness, my Dad passed away on August 16, 2009, at the young age of 68.

Richard L. Lawrence
(August 2, 1941 - August 16, 2009)

Richard L.

U.S. VeteranRichard L. Lawrence, 68, of Van Atta Road, Waverly, NY passed away on Sunday, August 16, 2009 following a period of declining health. Affectionately known and remembered as Dick, he was born on August 2, 1941 in Waverly, NY a son of the late Daniel and Genevieve (Hill) Lawrence. He was a graduate of Waverly High School class of 1959 and following graduation he enlisted to serve his country with the US Navy. On October 15, 1965 he married Carol Kremer and together they have made Waverly their home. Dick was currently employed in the maintenance department at the Waverly Central School District. He was a life time member of the Penn-York Highlanders, a member of the Syracuse Brigadiers Drum and Bugle Corps and was an avid New York Giants fan. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Carol at home; son and daughter-in-law: Scot and Debbie Lawrence of Rochester, NY; daughter and son-in-law: Kelly and Brian Cole and granddaughter Erin Cole of Nichols; brother and sister-in-law: David and Terrie Lawrence of Waverly and nephew: Joshua Lawrence; his sister-in-law and brother-in-law: Donna and Larry Canavan of Athens, Pa; a special cousin Lynne Lowell of Athens; several nieces, nephews and cousins also survive. He was predeceased by his parents Daniel and Genevieve Lawrence.

Family and friends are invited to attend a memorial service and celebration of Dick's life on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 2 pm at the Sutfin Funeral Chapel, 273 S. Main St., Nichols. A period of visitation and time for sharing memories will be held on Wednesday, from 1 pm until the time of the service at 2 pm. Memories and condolences may also be shared by visiting our website at www.sutfinfuneralchapel.com Friends who wish may kindly consider a memorial contribution to Stray Haven, 194 Shepard Rd., Waverly, NY 14892 in loving memory of Richard L. Lawrence.

Eventually I plan to create a tribute to my Dad on my Genealogy page,
under the Lawrence section, family group sheets. I have lots of photos, Waverly in the 1950's. his Navy days, photos from my childhood, bagpipes, all my Dad's amazing ship models and artwork..all kinds of stuff about Dear Old Dad..I will link to it here when it is done!

As for his Stonehedge & Shady Pines Railroad...I knew I would someday inherit all my Dad's trains..I wish it didnt have to be so soon though..

My Dad's two trains, "The Highlander" passenger train, and the "Work Train" have been moved up to my place..They will remain forever un-altered, and will become part of my new Stonehedge roster..My Dad's railroad down in Waverly will be dismantled, track lifted, and I plan to take as much of the stone work as possible..I plan to use many of the rocks on my new railroad, and im hoping to re-build some of the "ancient ruins" on my railroad, just as my Dad built them..

September 13, 2009.
Ground is broken, and the first actual construction begins.

As you can see from the previous page, I have had a hard time figuring out how
I want to build my retaining walls! there are several different possible methods:

1. "retaining wall bricks"
2. various kinds of wood retaining walls.
3. the whole "raised platform" method..(discussed on the last page)

All of them have pros and cons..none have stood out as a favorite..

My Dad's passing in August opened up a new possibility..all those Stone-hedges..
My Dad's railroad is going to be fully dismantled, my Mom is giving the ponds
to Deb and I..She plans to probably move in a year or two..which means the huge
collection of rocks my Dad collected over the last decade is now up for grabs..

For the next year or two, everytime I drive down to Waverly, im going to collect rocks and bring a truck load home! Eventually I can collect enough to build all my walls out of stone..re-using my Dad's stones from the his original Stonehedge & Shady Pines railroad.

I like this idea on many levels..I will re-use a lot of my Dad's stone work..moving the stone walls, which were the original inspiration for the "Stone Hedge" name, from my Dad's dismantled railroad up to my new railroad..in a way, part of my Dad's railroad will live on! And! I like the looks of stone walls better than any other retaining wall method..

Im planning to create the roadbed out of brick supports and wood 2x8's for the actual roadbed..much of the "interior" of the railroad will be open..not 100% filled in with dirt. Cinder blocks will act as much of the "retaining wall"..holding in the dirt in areas where that is necessary..The exterior stone walls will end up being "decorative" walls mostly.. not fucntioning as retaining walls..

Two large areas that originally were going to require a LOT of fill dirt, namely the two large loops:

Are instead now going to require much less back fill.. the left loop is going to hold a large roundhouse and engine service area.. this large chunk of landscape will be built on a flat board using the "raised platform" method..it will be supported on wooden legs, and will be hollow underneath.. the hollow opening underneath will not be visable though, because the stone wall will "finish" the edge..

The right hand loops will also require less wall, and less fill than originally planned, because a large portion of the loop will now be a wooden trestle, which will extend down to ground level.

After half a year of working out the details in my head (and on this webpage) and drawing out all my trackplans..On Sunday afternoon, September 13, 2009, on a whim really, I picked up the shovel and started digging..after awhile, Deb came out to take a few photos:

Mister Calvin and I dig out some soil to lay in the first track support. This one piece of concrete edging will set the "level" for the whole railroad. 2x8 lumber will be laid on top to form the roadbed for the track, and the area in front of  this section will be dug-down about 1-foot to create the "grassy sitting area" and will be lined with stones to form a low wall.

Mr. Calvin says that he would like his full title to be: "Construction Supervisor, Head Watchman, and Chief Security Officer (guarding against all dangerous trespassers, such as squirrels and birds)" and so it shall be.

Calvin grows bored and hops the fence to do a security detail..on the lookout for mice in the neighbors garden..

The first day's work is complete..perhaps an hour or so of earth moving...
two supports are in the ground..right now they are only on tamped dirt.
(I dug both slightly too deep, and had to fill back in with dirt, tamped down hard)
but I think I will remove the tamped dirt, scrape down to un-disturbed soil,
and fill in with gravel..tamp the gravel down tight, then replace and re-level the
supports..add on the wood roadbed, then see how things hold up over the winter.

A panoramic view of the whole railroad on construction Day 1. click the thumbnail above for a full-size pic.

And thats where things stand as of September 13, 2009..

Update.. that tiny bit of construction, shown above, ended up being a false-start!
because it turns out (what a surprise! ;) that planning of the railroad was not yet finished! the trackplan is being changed, yet again..

continue on to the next page, 2010, for the next part of the story:

  Continue to To Year 1, *real* construction begins in 2010!