Sunday, March 18, 2007

I admire the old railroad builders

For the last couple of days, I've been working at "my" Nantahala. If you do a Google search on Nantahala today (try it) you'll probably find something about the outdoor center and whitewater rafting. Back before Fontana dam and lots of leisure time Nantahala was a depot and a siding. This was the last place westbound trains could stop for coal, sand and water before taking on Red Marble grade. In places Red Marble grade exceeds six percent. In steam days sometimes you'd see two steam locomotives on the front and a third pushing behind the train, all to get 8 to ten cars up and over the grade.

On my railroad I was forced to change geography a bit. My Nantahala is at the top of my hidden "loops". Trains disappear at Bushnell to reappear at Nantahala.

In the old days the railroad builders sweated a heck of a lot more than I have rcently at Nantahala. I made a slight miscalculation. My Nantahala is 66 inches off the floor and over my workbench. When it came time to build the turnouts for the area (which I build piece by piece, rail by rail) I had to get up to that level and work. I built a sturdy box to stand on that would also holds a sturdy step stool. Getting up and down required being careful. One misstep and a concrete floor will catch me. I also learned that whenever I climbed up to my "work perch" invariably the tool I'd need next was down low. So "great inventor mind" designed and then I built a "tool caddy" that works to hold tools high enough for Nantahala and the upper level and not be too high for the lower levels. It's a work in progress- sort of. It started off just to hold a soldering pencil station. But if you know me, you know that's not the end. Now it has an attached power strip, a place to hold by Dremel tool, various screwdrivers, a shelf for small tools which holds trays for various jobs; I even built a brack to hold an extra work light.

So a small job turns out to grow.

Now Nantahala east turnout gave me fits- naturally it required the most stretching and leaning. Finally got it so that a train can go through without derailing. It will be in test mode for a couple of weeks before scenery. I was making tiny adjustments (thousandsth of an inch at times) just so the wheels don't "pick the points." As usual the electrical gave fits too since I was getting a short that was the devil to locate.

But I have to admire the old railroad builders. I was just fighting my basement and my bad planning. They were fighting real mountains, rattlesnakes, and nature. At least I didn't have rock weighing tons to move. Black powder might have been fun for a short while though.