The train bridge

Sorry for taking so long on this update. With my day job and home life, sometimes I don’t get the time I want to share what I’m going. The limited amount of time I get in the shop takes up most of my free time. Hopefully with smaller posts like this I can squeeze them in.

My son has gotten into trains, big time. Especially Thomas. So naturally, he has a very big collection of wooden train tracks. One of the items he has is a tower drawbridge. Here is a stock photo:

Well, I always thought it was kinda dumb to have a solid base underneath with no way for a train or a boat to go through. After I had done my other work Saturday, I decided it was time to change that. I took the bridge and a short section of track out to the shop, and started disassembling the base. It is held in place with four screws, but after those were out it wouldn’t budge. They tricked me! After some gentle persuasion the towers came free and I discovered they used a bit of glue and dowels to hold it in. Not bad construction here. Some of the paint came off the base, but it was all hidden by the tower anyway. I found the middle, and started tracing the outline of the male connector on each side. Making this a female connection on both sides was going to be the easiest thing to do and not make it look odd. I used a forstner bit on my drill press and made the holes, then used the bandsaw to complete the connector.

From here I test fit the male piece and both sides were ready to go. But there was no actual track yet, the trains would not be able to pass. I used my combination square to mark lines for the tracks. Now here is where my common math errors come into play once again. I measured from the end of the piece to the nearest line to set my router table and 1/4″ straight bit to make the tracks. But I used this measurement on the wrong side of the bit. I should have measured from either the other side of the bit, or the second line. So when I put the track back on, the lines didn’t match. I was so close to having a great project! I had to readjust the fence and make another pass so the tracks would line up. The second side came out perfect, but it looked odd. So I intentionally made the other side match the goof side to make it look intentional. The tracks are now double width, but it doesn’t affect the function. A bit of hand sanding with a used random orbit paper cleaned up the edges and everything went back together. I didn’t bother to reapply glue to the dowels, as the boy isn’t that rough with his toys.

And here is the finished product. I now see that Rockler has a bit set designed to make your own tracks, but at over $100 it’s a bit unnecessary and spendy. Individual track pieces are easy to come by, and cheap enough to not bother making your own unless you need a custom piece. Now if I start selling custom train tables and want to match it with some custom track pieces (say, the ability to have raised track extend out over the edges to expand play) then I might look into it.

(The pen is my son’s artwork, not mine)

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