Bridge Over the Stairwell

Feb 19, 2014 by Darrell

A few years back I bought a K-Line Big Boy locomotive at an antique store in Port Hope. Since I wasn't into toy trains at the time I built a shelf and set it there for a couple of years. Eventually, I got around to buying a transformer and some track, discovering the train actually worked quite well. I figured it was time to make a layout of some sort. Since the house is quite small and there are no "spare" rooms, I eyed the stairwell, which had been begging for a track set up since we moved in nine years earlier. Two shelves built into the wall proved to be adequate width to navigate the train accross, but I needed a bridge to get from one side to the other side.

Click the images for full size pictures in the Bridge Over the Stairwell Gallery

Taking inspiration from the Colorado Street bridge in Pasadena, California, I first laid out the bridge in Adobe Illustrator. I then made tiled prints onto multiple sheets of paper, traced the design onto 1/2" MDF and cut out each bridge shape with my jigsaw. I had the arch shapes, but I needed these arches to curve as well. To achieve the bends, I used the table saw set to 3/8" and made cuts between the arches. This alone would have allowed the arches to bend, but too much so. To achieve a shallower bend and get some rigidity as well, I inserted slightly thinner splines (scraps from another job), added glue and bowed each arch to the desired width then clamped them to dry.

With new track from George's Trains in Toronto, snow and trees from Dollarama, and a last minute purchase of rolling stock from a vendor at the Toronto Christmas Train Show, I had a setup that delighted friends and family during the 2009 Christmas season. I've left it up ever since, minus the snow of course, and it has proven to be a perfect testing track for my various projects. See the project video here.

In the photos below, the last image is from a video experiment where I composited the bridge into a natural setting. See the special effects video here.