One-Evening Retaining Wall

Posted on November 23rd, 2014, by Michael Rountree

This weekend I have been working on finally ballasting the remainder of the yard tracks in Winchester. As I was doing so, I found spots where I needed to add some ground goop. And then, I came across this:

A place where I need to insert a retaining wall. Can’t goop any further until I get that retaining wall built and set in place. So, time to build some cribbing!

I started by cutting out some scrap cereal box cardboard to a rough shape that fits.

This will serve as a backing, with all the cribbing built on top of it. The next step was to stain a bunch of stripwood, and cut it into two sizes. The long timbers are cut to match a tie length, and the short ones are a bit under 1/4″. I just eyeballed the short ones, so there’s some random variation to them.

The stain is just water and black india ink, with a little bit of dark brown Rit dye.

Then, I started building by laying a continuous horizontal strip down, and then gluing intermediate ties on top of that. The short pieces represent the ends of ties that would be sunk back into the retained earth, and they go between rows.

It seems tedious, but I did all this assembly while watching a movie, so this represents 2 hours of work. When that first layer of ties was done, I went back and laid in another row alternating over those. As it turns out, I could have cut the short ones about 1/16″ shorter and just foregone the second layer; next time that’s what I’ll do.

Then, it’s time to add some rocky soil backfill between the timbers. I just dusted in some dirty brown ballast mix (a blend I use for industry sidings) and spread it as evenly as possible with a makeup brush, with the goal being not to hide any of the timbers. Then, I used an eyedropper to wet the whole thing with alcohol, and drizzled in some thinned ballast glue – just the same methods as I’ve been using to do track ballasting.

Finally, I could set it in place and build up the goop around it, as well as mound up some more of the dirty ballast at the top and base of the wall, and do the typical ballast gluing procedure on that. In this shot, things are still wet, but you get the idea of it.

Hope this inspires some of ya!

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  1. Josette Gerking Says:

    This is a excellent blog, would you be involved in doing an interview about just how you designed it? If so e-mail me!

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