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A Portable Railway

I have made a portable railway that is configurable. This railway came about mainly because of the confluence of two things: the loss of my Garden Railway; and the need for our small group of live-steamers to have a railway for public use. The first discussion concerning the live steam group was in March 2012; and in the summer of the same year it was decided to sell the house where the garden railway was located.

In November 2013 I moved to a condominium - no garden. I did a lot of preliminary portable railway design, without commitment, and I enjoyed that, and I took my time over it. But the nagging fact was that I was increasingly driven to the conclusion that I must make a portable railway, because without a railway I cannot run trains in the way that I want. Thus, two years later, in June 2015, after much anguished foot-to-foot hopping, I made the decision to go ahead with construction. This was a difficult and big decision because of the many practical issues to be handled; so many of these being not railway oriented, for example, storage and transportation.

I am writing in August 2019; and the project is complete. I am pleased with the result: it satisfies my objectives and is a fulfilling accomplishment, despite having taken a large chunk of time. Interruption from the future (May 2022): actually, further "minor" clean-up tasks took another nearly three years. But this picture Rocky Mountain Train Show, April 2022 really does mark a significant end point.

What has been made is rather more than a railway; really it should be thought of as a set of components from which railway configurations can be built - think H0 train sets. Parts of the project have been in use for some time - the first train was run in early October 2016 - and there has been only one significant problem that required rework. That problem was resolved by replacement (in many places) with a different purchased component.

However, some practical issues remain: storage and transportation still are not properly resolved; and the question of where to erect a railway in order to use it has turned out to be more difficult than expected. I was planning on outside use more than is practical; the main concern being the wind that sometimes comes off the Colorado mountains; followed closely by the intense high altitude Sun. Inside use is financially expensive.

But, the railway is here. I, and the local live steam group, use it. Here is one configuration in use at the 2018 Denver Maker Faire. The trains both are gauge 1, hauled by Roundhouse locomotives. The outer (right) track is dual G1/G3; the inner track is dual G0/G1; the junction leads to the inner track steamup siding.

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The overall objective of this description is to present something informative and interesting. What follows are links to descriptions of various facets of the railway. These range from early objectives, through paper study and design, problem solution, and construction, to the end use: running trains in private and public settings.

Some descriptions of early activities are taken essentially verbatim [links have been changed] from earlier descriptions of the railway, which are out of date, and may be superseded in other sections. These early descriptions are left as they are because they are part of the history of the development of the project.

This will be adequate reading for most people. This description is about what has been done, but mostly omitting information about how things have been done.

Technical Details
This section is for the technically curious. Here are links to various sub-sections covering topics from the mathematics of transition curves, to how modules are glued together.

Early Considerations
This links to a description of the Portable Railway from July 2013 to August 2015, which covers both the period when the project was a paper study only, and early manufacture of prototype and production modules and legs. Sub-pages describe the mathematics of transition curves; the very important project objectives; early railway conceptual design; early hardware concepts; computer modelling; and early production of modules and legs. In this description, the Production log fell by the wayside during production, due to the amount of actual, repetitive, work being done; there was not a lot a new material to write about. However, there is a loss, which is information about changes to the Manufacturing techniques.

Maiden Use
The railway was first erected and used in October 2016. This section shows images of that day.

This is a self-standing guide, not requiring other reference material, which is directed at what is needed for erection and operation of the railway.

Latter Days
Beginning in November 2021 four straight main-line modules were made. This activity used-up parts lying on the workshop shelves; extended the exhibition oval; and also was used to experiment with construction materials. Some documentation was completed, recording the existence and purpose of jigs and fixtures used in railway construction.

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last-modification-date: 25 May 2022