Not even two weeks ago a major problem brought the traffic on the Chesapeake & Tenleytown Garden Railroad to a stand still: one of the retaining walls had collapsed during the night, leaving the track dangling in mid-air in places.
Roughly five years ago Brad and myself constructed this "elevated" part of the railroad in order to alleviate the four foot grade difference the trains had to tackle. The locomotives just could not handle the steep, natural incline on our property and were wearing out their gear boxes at an alarming rate. It did not help matters that around that time LGB, Aristo and other G scale locomotive manufacturers started using plastic gear boxes instead of metal gears.
We used standard retaining wall blocks. Two walls were erected about two feet high and a bit over 18 inches apart. The ensuing space was then filled with number 57 red gravel. I find that size gravel perfect for holding the track in place.
One of the interesting bits about the retaining wall blocks is the fact that they are just stacked and not held together with mortar or some such. There is a "lip" on the bottom and back of each individual block so they will not slip if positioned properly on top of each other. And of course therein lies the rub! A proper foundation is paramount, as is the correct angle of the blocks being stacked on top of each other. I can only say that I am surprised our handywork lasted as long as it did.
Not having learned our lesson, we decided to repair the damage ourselves. Big mistake! After having spent most of a Saturday in a futile attempt to rebuilt, we finally gave up.
It was time to call in the professionals!
Well, they did show up last Friday. What had taken Brad and myself several days to built some years ago, these guys did in a little under five hours: proper foundation, angles and all. The next day I was able to get at least one of my tracks operational again.