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Repairing walls, cutting posts to length, more grading

May 17, 2008

It was pretty discouraging to hurt my knee last summer. Aside from the injury there was the insult of having done it while gardening of all things. I was in the bed of my pickup, lost my balance and fell out, and landed awkwardly on my left heel, hyperextending my knee. Hurt like a son of a bitch, but even worse was the realization that I had lost an entire summer's worth of train building.
End of sob story - the knee has fully recovered and I'm back digging in the woods!

I try to not set milestones for building this thing - I'm concerned that if I set such time-based goals that I'll be disappointed when I inevitably miss them. No goals = no worries.
But this year I'm going to set a goal: completing the Big Cut. It'll be a stretch, but with some good luck and good weather I might be able to do it. And finishing the Cut would be HUGE... it's grown to become the most challenging part of the entire layout.

When I set the posts for the retaining walls, I used temporary boards across the top to keep them plumb. Now that I have all the posts set for the 1st half of the cut, I can trim them to a uniform height of 68" above the dirt grade. Why 68"? Because that's the height of the shortest post :)
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Cut posts, looking downgrade:
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The freeze/thaw cycle has caused the sides of the cut to erode against the incomplete retaining walls. In some spots, large rocks have caused the poorly braced walls and posts to tilt inward:
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Lesson learned: In the future I'll work on shorter wall segments (maybe 20' instead of the 150' shown here), finishing them completely (including backfill) before moving on. It'll move more slowly but will pay off in the end as I'll not need to go back and repair things.

The worst offender is a big boulder that weighs a literal ton:
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To get the boulder out I had to cut the retaining walls with a chainsaw then work the boulder downhill with a digging bar. I had hoped to move the boulder clear of the wall to be able to rebuild the wall, but this is as far as it wanted to move. Again, the thing weighs a ton.
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The posts have been straightened. Only took about 4 hrs... less than I had expected:
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Looking back downgrade.
Notice the horizintal braces on the outside of the right-hand posts - I'll leave these in place until I backfill the walls to prevent the walls from shifting again.
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Here's the current end of the cut with all the walls fixed, posts cut, and top-pieces installed. I'll use an excavator to extract those boulders - they're far too heavy to move with manual tools.
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This is the beginning of where I'm thinking of making a tunnel. If I do make a tunnel I'll build a 2nd weight-bearing structure outside the retaining walls; the cheap posts I used are too weak and widely spaced to safely support even a shallow roof.

Now that the walls are all fixed, I can return to setting the final grade.
I had a great idea: Install small blocks on all the posts that the "grade boards" can rest on when I screw them in! Sounds like a simple idea, but it'll save me a bunch of time.
This pic shows a block at the bottom the left-hand post and a grade board (with gutter) on the bost beyond it.
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