Friday, October 30, 2009

Groundbreaking for the Ponderosa Lines!

The deed is done. I am commited to our backyard garden railroad of the future. The young driver from Landscape Connections backed up his truck and unceremoniously deposited 2.5 tons of malpais (dark volcanic) rock and 4 yards of fill dirt (technically referred to as screened fill), all of which now decorates part of our front yard next to the driveway. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there seems to be something slightly bizarre about paying good money for dirt and rocks. But we do, mainly because most people don’t have the equipment to trudge through the forest and dig the stuff out themselves. So we pay for earth.

When I visited the company on Tuesday morning to confirm what I wanted, I was told that the driver would likely bring a forklift on a trailer to drop off the pallet of stone, separated from the load of fill dirt. No forklift arrived this afternoon, however, and with amusement I spied the dump truck that did show up. They had saved me some money (for which I genuinely thanked the driver) by not hauling in the forklift. Instead, the driver had stratified the load with dirt on the bottom, flat stones in the middle, and boulders on the top. Can you guess what happened as it spewed onto the ground? The result reminded me of the so-called American “melting pot”. It really didn’t matter, except it will provide me with yet more exercise – something I have been lacking this week. Each stone and grain of dirt needs to find its way to the site of the future railroad’s terminus, approximately 70 feet away from its current location. A small rail yard at one end of the railroad will be placed on a slightly raised, level bed of earth, for which this delivery is destined. I had hoped that the truck could back up our rather steep driveway and dump the load near our side fence gate, but no luck. The driver was visibly skeptical about crushing our driveway and, perhaps more importantly, not tipping the truck over with a precarious, angled ascent. The good news is that I need not shovel out Linda’s side of the driveway, which may have provided a mountainous obstacle between her car and the garage. Underneath the existing pile, however, is a buried stone retaining wall, the condition of which will remain a mystery until it is excavated once again.

Future posts will provide a conceptual overview of the emerging Ponderosa Lines. Up until today, the thinking and planning phase has been free of charge. One exception was the small purchase price for some basic track planning software, which I would highly recommend – called AnyRail. With all of the competing brands, it required the time of a small geologic epoch to just choose one. I promise to provide readers with a history of this relatively inexpensive phase of the project. Now it’s time to shovel and haul. Who needs weight lifting when you have a 5-ton pile of earth in the front yard? My creativity was also stimulated, particularly with devising a variety of ways to move this stuff. Why not invite members of the Flagstaff Model Railroad Club to help haul it in, and in exchange I would donate some HO-scale equipment to the club? How about if I disassemble the fence to allow the now-absent forklift to take it back there for me? In the end, it will be me and my will power that will accomplish the task. We’ll see how long it takes for the neighbors to notice. I’ll have to take a break tomorrow, of course, for the Penn State game against Northwestern.