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This is where you can learn all about the ongoing construction of Sparky's Back Yard and the Split Rock City Railroad


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Sparky's History of Garden Railroading
Electric trains go back a long time.  Back in the days of cavemen, the cave kids used to push rocks around.  Then somebuddy's dad invented a rope made out of weeds, and those cave kids figgered out how to tie several rocks together and pull them around with a long piece of that weed rope.

Then one of those cave kids made a noise that sounded like "Train," so that was the word that they used fer millions of years to let others know that they were going to play with their trains.

Then somebuddy discovered how to use a sharp rock to carve pieces of wood to look like a more sophisticated rock, and eventually when another cave scientist invented wheels, they came to be able to make little sticks with wheels, and then pretty soon they had lots of them, all tied together and pulled along behind, and they still called it a "Train."

Then another scientist was watching one of the cave kids play with his train, and he got the bright idea to make some wheels that were big enough to put under a box made out of sticks, and that was the invention of the wagon.

After millions of years, and a lot of refining of those first cave kid trains, we arrived at what we now know as lecktrikal trains, but, of course, it took a lot of clever inventors to invent motors and tracks and a lot of other inventions.

And eventually, some feller even invented some train tracks and other things that would work outdoors without rusting away, and even the garden railway, or G-Scale locomotives and cars are made to get a little bit of rain on them without getting ruined too bad.  One time I even saw one of the other garden railway guys who had a little snow plow that throws snow off of the track, jest like on the reel railroads!

Sparky's back yard header

Click here to hear the locomotive

This section will chronicle the construction of Sparky's back yard and the coming of the railroad and timely founding of Split Rock City!
(NOTE: Jim wrote this description of what went on in those early days, cuz he knows all the details, even though I helped with a lot of the dirt work using my wheelbarrow and wagon).  --Sparky

We moved into the home after its completion in March of 1996, andEmpty lot before there was even a house on it thus started the lengthy process of transforming the blank back yard into a usable yard.  The picture at right shows the vacant lot before any construction was begun.

The first step in the back yard was to remedy the 5 foot drop from the basement back door concrete slab to the southeast corner of the lot.  A loader was hireDrawing of tractor that leveled the yardge portion of the back yard to about 42 inches below the level of the basement.  Two truckloads of gravel were added to the driveway to help stabilize the mud problem resulting from the smallest of rains.

(NOTE: Us guys didn't approve of that loader, cuz it said "CAT" on the side of the dirt lifter thingy). --Sparky

Then a series of drainage hoses were installed to prevent washouts at downspouts in both the front and back yards.  This was a project requiring lots of trenching and hundreds of feet of flexible drainage hose.

After that began the process of building retaining walls to provide a patio area for viewing of the finished yard at some future date.  A pallet of landscape timbers was ordered, and they were cut to length and screwed to a framework of 6 x 6 posts and landscape timber rails.  The finished retaining wall looked great!

We decided to have a pond installed, rather than mess around with renting cranes and tractors, we hired a pond company, and the steps involved are shown below in pictures.  Several weeks after the water was changed the first time, we put in $2.00 worth of goldfish.

After a couple of weeks they disappeared, so several weeks after that we got some larger goldfish, figuring the first ones were just too small and didn't make it.  The instant the new fish were introduced into the pond, the others came racing out from beneath the ledge.  Apparently something had scared them and they went into hiding, and now with some "Big Guys" to protect them, they joined in and became active again.

Sparky's Backyard Photo Album

Blank back yard looking north
The back yard looking northwest

Picture of back yard looking southwest
Back yard looking southwest

Blank back yard looking west
Back yard looking north

Beginning of wooden retaining wall
Beginning of retaining wall

More of the wooden retaininng wall
Further construction

Finished wooden retaining wall
Finished wooden retaining wall

Picture of pond laid out awaiting large boulders
Pond laid out awaiting big rocks

Unloading big rocks in driveway
Unloading big rocks in driveway

Getting more big rocks from semi trailer
Getting more rocks from semi

Setting a big rock in the yard
Setting big rock in yard

Moving the dead log out of the way until needed
Moving dead log out of the way

Picture of the completed pond
The completed pond just finished

OOPS!  The finished retaining wall still looked great, but it was decided that it wouldn't support the weight of the brick pavers we had decided to install on the area next to the house.  Added to the fact that when the wood eventually rots out, it would be a serious and expensive proposition to replace, it was decided to replace all the wood with cement retaining wall blocks.  We selected Versa-Lok Blocks, which weighed in at 82 pounds each, and would surely support any amount of dirt and paver bricks put behind them.  It took about 8 pallets of 36 plus 55 cap blocks for the steps and retaining wall.

The pavers in the circular and fan patterns are manufactured by Pavestone and are called Plaza Series.  Click here for more information from Pavestone:  Pavestone Plaza Series Pavers 

Sparky's Retaining Wall and Brick Paver Project

Beginning of steps built solid with retaining wall blocks
Start of solid block steps

Steps completed except for cap blocks, and start of retaining wall
Steps and start of retaining wall

Retaining wall continues up and out
Retaining wall continues

Nearly complete retaining wall
Nearly complete retaining wall

Start of circular paver bricks
Start of circular paver bricks

View of finished pavers showing circular and fan patterns
View of pavers and trestle

Close shot of finished pavers, showing Fan Pattern
Pavers in fan configuration

Finished yard construction near house.  Time to start laying out railroad.
Finished wall and pavers

I Almost Forgot...
Little railroad in the front yard
The old folks had to do a lot of work in the front yard, cuz that yard was jest an empty space, so they put in a lot of little short retaining walls to hold the flower beds in, and then they decided to put in a little garden railroad there.

They ran it a few times, but since there was so much work to do in the back yard, and a lot of vacations that we all had to go on, there hasn't been no trains running up there in that front yard garden railroad fer probably 4 years or more.

After the garden railroad in the back yard is finished, then this one will get started again.

The East Side Steps
Finished planters and steps on the east side of the house
After building a fence on both the west and east sides, the old folks built some steps and flower retaining walls along the east side of the house.  The back yard is 10 feet lower than the front yard, so it took a lot of retaining wall blocks and step blocks, I think I counted about 14 pallets of them.

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With all that heavy work completed, now it's time to get started laying out the
route for the track, building trestles, etc., etc., so go on to the Next Page!

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