Progress on the Triple O

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Posted by Ray Dunakin on Thursday, April 16, 2015 3:22 PM

Nice progress, the layout is really taking shape! 

 Visit www.raydunakin.com to see pics of the rugged and rocky In-ko-pah Railroad!
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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Monday, April 20, 2015 2:42 AM

Aloha Everyone!

We have now trained our guns on our mountain / tunnel complex.  After learning the intricacies of workig with paint, glue, and enthusiastic children, I abandoned my plan of carefully washing the concrete and foam to blend harmoniously and chose, instead a brown that reasonably matched our lava rocks as base for all exposed concrete.  We then glued some rubble at the base and practiced our washed to provide some geometric and color transition (Out of sight...great place to practice!). The end result looks a bit like this:

Today we stacked, but did not glue, the tunnel "caps."  We also started to experiment with stone placement.  I am weighing the merits of using left-over bits of cinderblock to form a core around which to place the rocks, as is my geologic engineer:

 

The other challenge will be making the face of this look like something other than cinderblocks.  I have concrete rubble I can glue to the face to at least make it look rough.  Unfortunately, I did not leave enough distance between tracks to sink thinner pieces of rock to extend outward from the portals.  Foam will simply not stand up to the wear and tear on this line!

 

Finally, you'll note the "Easter Bunny" apparently rides a LGB rail bus....

Thanks agains for providing a venue to keep me honest on this project!

 

Eric

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Thursday, April 23, 2015 1:46 AM

Today we glued concrete slabs and hollow tile in place to form the cap of the tunnel walls and the core of the mountain.  It looks like an abandoned industrial site for the moment, but it already adds a sense of the trains "going somewhere."  This is what lies ahead:

  1. Sort our lava rocks to see how we can best use them.
  2. Stack the lava rocks.  I will probably use mortar to hold them in place rather than "Liquid Nails" for cost and aesthetic reasons.
  3. Soften the corners by gluing on debris, chiseling away at them, or planting things.  From reenacting, I've learned trying to hide something too hard can make it stand out.
  4. Fill exposed seams.
  5. Paint / wash exposed concrete.
  6. Fill voids with dirt and plant our mountain top forest!

I envision this will take a few weeks, working as best we can between professional and family obligations.  I am trying as much as possible to keep the job an "all hands affair," too, which is guiding my approach as much as my available time and funds.

My oldest daughter was the photographer today, so pictures will be forthcoming if they add to the narrative and have an absence of her trademark thumb.

Eric

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Posted by Ray Dunakin on Thursday, April 23, 2015 7:44 PM

Mortar is definitely the best choice for cementing rocks together. The Liquid Nails doesn't work as well on irregular surfaces.

I don't know if they're available in Hawaii, but there are concrete pigments you can add to mortar to make it blend with the rocks. 

 Visit www.raydunakin.com to see pics of the rugged and rocky In-ko-pah Railroad!
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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Thursday, April 23, 2015 11:36 PM

Ray,

Thanks.  I will pick up the mortar next week, and I will look for the pigments at that time.  It'll save me the paint and keep everyone a bit cleaner!

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 12:56 AM

Ray,

Mortar and die are on hand.  Professional and family obligations brought work to a near stand still; however, we have sorted the rocks and all is staged to proceed.

Sorry, but no photos this time. Our photographer neglected to note company policy that no photos may be taken of siblings choosing to gandy dance in the buff, so our latest efforts will be stowed for future, private use to embarass a teenaged version of said gandy dancer!

We did make another nursery run.  Herbs are making good stand in for trees (and really making CINCHOUSE's cooking pop!).  Lower growing plants, however, are not doing as well.  My theory is the direct sunlight for most of the day may be frying them.  We are working with the local nursery to find suitable ground cover.  Overall, the greenery that did thrive is helping to make things look a bit more like a garden and less like an abandoned quarry.  A progress to date shot is in order.

Oh, no permanent structures yet.  I lack the time, none would survive the kids, and we have too much heavy landscaping yet to do.  They will be next year's project.  Maybe.

On the technical side, I did experiment with some quick disconnects from Radio Shack to make hooking up the power supplies easier.  Ultimately, I may move to heavier gauge wire and stereo jacks to make it really plug and play, but we are still determining how we want to control the trains (trackside?  lanai? ), so that can wait.

The tracks have been outside long enough to usually require some buffing when we first get the trains out (2-4 times a week!), and things usually run pretty well.  Curiously, the trains run better after the tracks have been powered up for 20 minutes or so.  I've identified a few areas that are problematic, and I'll probably start soldering key sections together.  A few cracked ties where the LGB track clips hold the sections together suggest I ought to use short pieces of wire soldered to each track to allow for thermal expansion.

I must have subscribed to GR at a great time, as most of my issues - power, track, tunnels, ground cover, etc. - have been feature articles at some point since beginning this project!

Aloha,

Eric

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Posted by ttrigg on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 7:04 PM

A quick suggestion for your "trees". Give 'traveling potted trees' a thought. Whatever you use for your trees, potted plants are easier to take care of. I have an assortment of minature 'Cork Elms', Rosemary & Thyme (supported by copper wire armatures) potted trees. All three of these plant prefer intermittant direct sunlight. Solution: Put the trees into old fashion clay pots. Where the tree is supposed to grow, dig in a non-draining plastic flower pot large enough for about one inch of gravel on the bottom so that the clay post is at the same surface level. Now your tree is easily removable for feeding (I dunk mine in a tray full of Miricale-Grow for a 30 minute bath), trimmming (so much easier to sit in a char and turn the tree to trim the tree than all folded over on the GRR.) Since my plants require limited direct sunlight, I have three sets of them. One set in place and two sets on the covered patio. Replacement process; grab the outgoing tree at the base of the trunk and lift out, scoop by hand almost all the pea-gravel out of the plastic pot. Set incomming tree in position and backfill with the gravel just removed.

The pot helps stunt the growth of the trees much the same as with Bonsai trees. (I know I most probably spelt that wrong, apologies). Also allows branch trimming (monthly event) root trimming and repotting with fresh soil (an annual event). Deep bath watering (weekly) and fertilizer bath (monthly). 

Tom Trigg

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Friday, May 22, 2015 12:15 AM

Quick update...

Last weekend I switched to a mortar mix intended for building walls.  It was about 50% successful.  The failures, though, were rocks I tried to stick on with the mortar at the bottom of my mixing trough, so maybe it was too little / to dry / too poorly mixed / whatever.  I'll take another crack this weekend.  I am going slowly, as the amphibious assault across our pond demonstrated if it can be crawled on or through, it will be.  I don't need a wall of lava rock tumbling on anyone!

The concrete dye was a bit red, but I think it'll blend in time or easily blend with a wash.

I am having trouble with the exposed vertical surfaces.  Construction adhesive doesn't seem to work, and the mortar mix just slides down the face.  I would appreciate suggestions.

 

A few other neat points...

  1. Spousal buy-in. I overheard CINCHOUSE use the first person plural and plural possessive in referring to this project.  Score.
  2. Use for old gear.  My "dead" locomotive has new life as our "work train" (i.e. I use it to test turns, tunnel fit, levelness, etc.), which our smallest engineer enjoys freewheeling around the track.
  3. Food storage on the railroad. If you leave a gondola full of basil in the sun, the gondola will smell nice, but the basil will be useless.

I'll post pictures when progress on the mountain warrants it.

Aloha,

Eric

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 8:24 PM

Sorry for the delay.  We are making progress, but other hobbies, obligations, and weather did slow things down a bit.

We solved some of our issues as follows:

  1. We didn't try to stick rocks in places they wouldn's sit without rolling.
  2. We used more mortar.
  3. We used less dye.
  4. We switched masonry glues.  We also reserved it for the broken pieces of concrete we are hoping will camouflage some of the vertical surfaces.

Here are some of the results...

This is the "back face" of our mountain (above).  The mortar joints are obvious, but hopefully future washes will tone them down.  You can also see who we use the broken concrete to hide the hollow tile.  Our work train, my dummy 0-4-0T and the longest and tallest rollling, stock is entering the tunnel.  

This is the front face (above).  We stopped when the end of nap time brought eager, but less apt, "help" to our "assistance."  We'll pick up here when we make our next effort.

Of course, all progress came with a few stumpers.  The picture below shows some of my sticking points.

  1. How do I plug large holes between rocks?  I tried mortar, but it just ran and puddled.  I tried cementing concret bits, but it looked like, well, concrete bits shoved in a hole.
  2. How do I cover this hollow tile face?  I want this to look vaguely like a cut, so I've selected some rocks to put in the foreground (not the ones shown).  I am weighing stucco or something similar or more broken concrete slabs. I am leaning towards stucco for clearance reasons.

A couple weeks of slow to no progress are before us, so I have time to ponder the answers.

Aloha,

Eric

 

 

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Saturday, June 27, 2015 9:11 PM

Taking a break after about 5 hours hauling lava rocks and gluing debris to concrete faces...

My father-in-law brought in a chipper that I used to shape some of the hollow tile and to remove straigh edges from non-loadbearing parts of the tunnel.  We added some wire to the one long flat face in hopes that this will facilitate covering it with stucco or concrete.  Those gaps in the rock where lava stone meets hollow tile, however, continue to stymie me.  Is there a foam I could inject into them?

I figure we are close to running a wash over everything, filling in the hollow areas with potting soil, and then adding some plants.  That will bring the hill to life and soften the remaining angles.  After that, I will clear the remaining construction material from back half of the dog bone and take a "pause" as we ponder the next step. That will include tinkering with the track plan (free) while we try to resolve an issue with our little pond (not so free) and solder a few rail joints (mostly free).  

I'll try to get pictures up when that flat face is covered in concrete and the whole is ready for a wash with some earthtones.

 

Aloha!

Eric

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Posted by Ray Dunakin on Saturday, June 27, 2015 11:16 PM

PVT Kanaka
How do I plug large holes between rocks?  I tried mortar, but it just ran and puddled.

 

Sorry I didn't see this sooner, but if your mortar is runny and puddling, it's too thin. Add more mix, less water. Be advised though that the thicker it is, the faster it will set, especially in hot weather.

 

 Visit www.raydunakin.com to see pics of the rugged and rocky In-ko-pah Railroad!
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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Sunday, June 28, 2015 10:31 PM

Thanks, Ray.  We'll take another crack at it using your suggestion.  Might be a week or so before we get the chance, though.

 

Eric

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Posted by ttrigg on Sunday, June 28, 2015 11:18 PM

A quick add to Ray's advice. Keep the batches SMALL. When I was working on the stonework for my waterfall I used a dog food can as a scoop for the motar mix. Two scoops, a bit of die, a touch of water. This gave enough to place two stones. The slight variation in color in each area added to the believability of the color.

Tom Trigg

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Thursday, July 16, 2015 12:09 AM

Tom and Ray,

 

Thanks for the tips!  I used your advice today, our first opportunity to do some work since our summer travels.  We worked in small areas, letting each layer sort of set while we moved on to the next hole.  I still have some mortar that is a bit too red, but, by varying the dye amount, it did help with the looks. A few washes I I hope will tone things down. We will apply similar techniques when we make our next big push.  It is nice to have pressure from the family to amke spend more time on a hobby!  I have photos, and I will upload some shots of the progress when shortly (I hope!).

 

You'll note i use "we."  I continue to make sure that the kids are involved to the level they wish to participate, which helps get that family "buy-in."  It has led to some interesting pruning and a bit of extra clean-up, but that is OK.

More generally for those from Arizona who may stumble across this post, I wanted extend my thanks to the folks fo the Tucson Garden Railway Society for their demo railroad at the Tucson Botanical Gardends and the various clubs at Scottsdale's McCormick-Stillman RR Park.  Lots of inspiration for the clan!

 

Aloha,

Eric

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Thursday, July 23, 2015 1:30 AM

We packed the dirt into all the spaces in the rock work yesterday.  Tomorrow, it is off to the nursery!

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Sunday, August 23, 2015 9:22 PM
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Posted by BluPete on Saturday, September 12, 2015 11:33 PM

Love all the updates on the Triple O! I am in the first steps of building a GRR, trying to convince the Checkbook Holder that this is something to start now , not 5 years later when it will be harder to bend over. would love to try a raised roadbed , but too much mature landscaping and a pool prohibit that idea. Keep up the pictures and I hope more show their GRR here.

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Monday, September 14, 2015 1:50 AM

BluPete,

Glad to hear you are enjoying our progress! You might add "educational value" to your sales pitch, as the project has led the kids to some basic engineering solutions as they troubleshoot stalls and derailments!  Big Smile

Since my last post, I raided the box-o-tracks to add some sidings, as I want to add the concept of switching their play, whether it be Barbie dinner trains, lego transport, or grill-side beverage delivery.  Naturally, we have had torrential rains (Good for the basil, not so good for the newly planted sedum!), so proof of concept will come later.

Our next project is the gorge.  I have plent of left-over lava rocks, but I need to figure out how to excavate the gorge without risking the rest of the bed collapsing inward.  A cash diversion from the Triple O to the FORD FOCUS, however, has given me time to ponder this next step!  Pictures will follow as the project gets underway!

 

Aloha,
Eric

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Posted by ttrigg on Monday, September 14, 2015 2:49 PM

Eric

May I suggest that you start the digging process in the middle of the gorge, an area that will eventually end up "high in the air above the gorge." Dig down about 3~4 inches and experiment with different side slopes as you dig outward to the edges. When you reach the "edge of the gorge" with the 3~4 inch drop mix some of the spoils with a bit of cement or mortar mix and construct the face of the gorge for that step. Add some of you lava rock, thinest pieces first to finish that step. Then begin in the middle again for another 3~4 inch depth. Set the next layer of rock in place. You will eventually end with a step sided slope that will be firm and stable. The farther down you dig, lessen the steepness of the slope for that step. You will most likely want to chip away at the back side of all these "facing rocks", bag and save these chips for each layer, you will want them as rubble at the bottom of the gorge. If your rock have a varity of color then you may want to have color zones on the wall of the gorge with the darkest colors at the bottom. In real life, the lower you get the more rubble has fallen down the sides and the lesser the slope. At the bottom add the bagged chips with the darkest ones on the bottom of the gorge. You will probably want a section with a shear face wall, just undercut the rocks in place (they will stay in place by the mortar) and put the next layer under the existing rock to acheive the vertical face.

An alternative method: Dig to the depth you want and a bit wider. Build the gorge walls with rock and mortar with near shear walls facing into the gorge but with a somewhat pyrimid shape with a more gentle slope on the back side. then backfill to the gorge walls.

Tom Trigg

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Monday, September 21, 2015 3:44 AM

Tom,

A belated "Thank You!"  I'll get a photo up this week to show the scope of the project.  Roughly, it'll be about 2 feet wide at the end of the gorge and 18 inches deep.  I eyeballed the length at 2-3 feet. 

I have to sort my remaining lava rock, all of which is the size of small bowling balls.  Off hand, however, I believe it to be of relatively uniform color. 

Currently, I am leaning to the first method you describe.  It seems it would meet one of my preferences, which is to maintain operations in between pushes to get the gorge gouged out!  I think I could probably do the second option in a dedicated Saturday, but those are few and far between.

- Eric

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Posted by ttrigg on Monday, September 21, 2015 8:25 PM

Eric

Do NOT try to "push" through the work in one day. Several times I have done that and not been completely satisfyed with the end project. Twice I ripped every thing out and started over.

In order to maintain operations while digging out the gorge, build the deckwork for your bridges first. From your local building supply store get some 3/8" square tube steel several inches longer that the bridge will become. Probably 3~4 inches longer than both ends of the bridge. Mount them under the bridge deck under the rails. This will support the track while you take your time to build the gorge. Once the gorge is complete build your bridge abutments and any desired intermediate supports. Then build any topside add-ons, walkway, truss assemblies, and the like. This was the way I built my 17 ft timber trestle bridge. After the street car was running I spent the next few weeks constructing the timber bents to place under the bridge. In my case I built each timber bent taller than the tallest one would end up being. When I started placing the timber bents it was under the supervision of SWMBO, trimming off the bottom of each bent to fit the location that she wanted. Always remember that SHE has a more estetic eye than you do.

In case you've not seen it before, SWMBO = She Who Must Be Obeyed, CINCHOUSE.

Tom Trigg

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Friday, September 25, 2015 3:24 AM

Tom,

Thanks so much again!  I will take your advice and take this in steps.  I am really reconsidering my options, and may push off as I deal with a really irritating electrical connectivity break in my tracks and tinker with a sprinkler head merrily blasting into the retaining wall.

Part of the issue is I have to backfit two bridges, a 19" truss bridge, and 16" long x 16" high trestle into the project.  My father-in-law, who is handy, has a woodshop, and possesses a really creative bent, made both early in the project but without informing me they were in the works.  I feel compelled to shoehorn them in to honor his intent, especially as I had never so much as poured a sack of concrete until he helped me get the Triple O over the hump.

Here's a photo to sort of orient you and the rest of the community:

The plan is (was?) to have a narrow gorge that began back by those potted plants and got progressively deeper until it hit the retaining wall (about where you see the leaf), possibly even right down to the yard by removing that section of the wall.  Originally, this was to have been a second pond (slap down some concretey, seal it, voila!), but that would hide the trestle and give the wet legs the life expectancy of a mayfly.

 

I have rejected taking the opposite approach and adding a small, elevated loop as that would ultimately lead to very brief and traject flight of whatever train had the misfortune to be on that loop.

 

At any rate, I am going to use the lava stones this weekend to mark off different options - gorge, pond, dry stream bed, whatever.  I am just grateful I got your warning before committing shovel to ground!

Eric

 

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Posted by ttrigg on Friday, September 25, 2015 2:07 PM

Was not aware (I may have forgotten) that granddad was that involved. This adds a whole new light upon your sitituation. The through truss will be easy enough to put in place while you dig the gorge. The timber trestle is a different story. You may want to conference with him about construction of a pair of approach spans, if you two have not already.

Tom Trigg

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Saturday, September 26, 2015 12:03 AM

Tom, thanks again.  The family buy-in has been a major driver in this project.  I appreciate your understanding on the matter.

 

I took serious stock of my remaing lava rocks and positioned them in the approximate area of the gorge.  I even evaluated them for shading, as you suggested, to get that light to dark look.  I still have plenty of the broken concrete I used on the mountain project.  This would need staining in place, but that is no issue.  From a materials stand point, I think I am in a good place.

Rocks don't get up and run away, so I have time to confer with all parties to see if they want another little lily pond or a dry gorge as well as to discuss the approach spans with my father-in-law.  I'd hoped to start digging this weekend, but it seems some more research and consultation is in order.

 

In the meantime, I still have that sprinkler head to adjust...

 

Eric

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 2:10 AM

Progress!

 

  1. Bridges and Family.  How I employ the trestle, whether to span a gorge or pond, is irrelevant to its creator, so long as he can claim all "cool points."  He has volunteered to craft approach tracks as required.  Maybe he'll show me how to do it, too.  SWMBO (Im stealing that! Big Smile) will return from a ladies' getaway and will render the verdict on whether th bridges will span a dry or wet feature.
  2. Quirky Operations. I found a roll of wire in my box-o-tracks and ran some to the backside of the inner loop after observing that trains, if they make it there, slow or stop.  This helped tremendously.  I still have some flaky joints, but now I have them pinpointed.  I just have to run the math to see if rail clamps or a few longer pieces of track are the most economical answer.
  • I am enjoying the fact that everytime I get stumped by one project, I can find another that needs doing, if not several, and many of them fit the 15-30 minute intervals I can afford to spend.
  • Aloha,
  • Eric
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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Monday, October 5, 2015 12:05 AM

CINCHOUSE has spoken...A dry canyon it will be!  I had to work this weekend, so some sort of ground breaking should occur this week.

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 2:32 AM

OK, mortar mix is on hand as are some concrete dyes.  I plan to make the first dig this weekend.  I just wanted to get some quick opinions:

  1. Should I forgo the lava rock?  The boulders are quite large (bowling ball size), and I am worried I will have a hard time concreting it in place as I dig down.  I have lots of small bits of concrete rubble that have a look of lava rock, take paint and washes well, and seem easier to work with.  Will using this material make it structurally sound?
  2. How thick should the layer of concrete / rubble be?
  3. I planned to sink some bricks to provide flat, solid foundations for the approach track and a smooth surface to etch "blocks" into later.  Is that advisable?  Or is is overkill?

I have located some scrap lumber to serve as a "bridge" until the gorge is deep enough to place the trestle. The truss bridge I plan to just sit on the proposed bricks.  I think I can make this project a "go" while maintaining operations!  If I can forgo the lava rocks, I can then repurpose them to help blend the mountain into the gorge or to make another small elevate feature.

Thanks as always for the guidance and suggestions!

 

Aloha,

Eric

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Posted by ttrigg on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 7:21 AM

I for one, would think that your lava rock would give a very nice texture. Bowling ball size stones not so much. If you have the time and energy I say break out the BIG hammar and chisel, Slabs are what I would advise, about the size of your hands, wrist to finge tips and about as thick. Flat slabs half to one inch thick would make an interesting canyon walls. If you must use lava stones try to keep them near the size of the end of your thumb else there will be entirely too much cement showing. Concrete chips when well placed woud look good as well. To strengthen the walls have a thought to digging out the canyon walls a couple inches wider. Use your fill material and some cement (no gravel, no sand) and mix up to form the backside of the canyon walls. This will also provide a good place to attach your canyon stones, be they lava or concrete. I may have missed the measurement of the canyon depth, but from looking at the timber trestle bridge I'm guessing the depth to be around 10~14 inches. A depth like that should be held in place nicely with a 3~4 inch cement and fill material wall plust the 3~4 inch stone placement, I would think you would be goog to go.

The bricks. Are you talking about standing bricks on end as your bridge abutments? If so, yes. If you are talking about placing lengthwise under the track before it gets to the bridge abutment, NO. Your fill material is brand spanking new, in geologic terms, and has not finished compacting itself in place. No matter how hard you tammped it into place it will settle more over time. I would expect that in 3~5 years you will notice your fill level has dropped by as much as an inch. Adding brick under the rails will add to your long term maintenance. You will, of course need to add some balast to the rails as the ground level next to the bridge abutments falls away. 

Tom Trigg

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