Constructing the shed/workshop in the garden



All our rolling stock has to be kept somewhere: keeping the coaches under tarpaulins in the garden is fine in summer, but, having spent a lot of time and effort building them, we were worried that they'd get damaged over the winter. So, we decided to build a shed to house it all - coaches, locomotive and track. I'd also hankered over having a workshop as well to do repairs, and, hopefully, to build (at least one) other locomotive in. Thus, we decided on a shed 4.1m x 3m (external), giving 4m x 2.9m internal. This is wide enough for 3 tracks 0.7m apart - sufficient for 6 x 6' long vehicles. There will be another 0.75m spare width on one side, to store the track in and also have a good-sized (6' long) bench.


Preparation and base

We decided to make the base about 3.3m x 4-6m, so that the shed would point directly at the place we were going to make a new gateway to take the stock in and out of the garden. This would hopefully make getting the stock in and out of the garden much easier than it had been. The triangular section at the back of the base also provides room to store the platform I built using old pallets scrounged from builders skips (well, you can't have a train without a platform..). I found the highest poin t using a long length of wood and a spirit level, then ordered the shuttering - 100x25mm rough sawn timber, in 5m lengths. As the slope on the ground wasn't too bad, I decided to have the base level with the ground at the high side and be proud of the ground at the lowest side. Thus, I sunk the shuttering right into the ground at the high side, and built the other 3 edges round and level with it by digging out as appropriate. Then, I dug out the inside of the resulting base to suit. Next, I went scrounging f rom skips again (I always ask permission from the owner, and I've never had a no yet. It's amazing what you can salvage from skips…….) for hardcore, and filled the base to about 2-3" from the top.

The base for the shed - 3/9/2001

Next came the track. I wanted to have rails sunk into the floor, so that you wouldn't trip over them. I made mine from 25x25x3mm angle, obtained in 6m lengths from a steel stockholder. I built the lot as one unit in order to make it more rigid and also ensure that the tracks stayed the correct distance apart even when concrete was poured into the base. So, I had a unit with 3 x 7.25" gauge tracks, 2'3" apart, and 4m long. I put tie bars (again of 25x25x3mm angle) at the ends and in the middle (these were about 5'3" long), but later added gauging bars midway between these, when I found the whole thing was still a little less rigid than I would have liked. The whole thing is held together with 6mm bolts. To make this easy, I made a track gauge first, with a spare piece of angle. It was then relatively simple to clamp the angle together in the correct place, and drill with an electric drill. I fixed 25x25 square timber on the inside of the rails to allow a gap for the flange to fit into. Then I fixed the whol e thing FIRMLY in place, using bricks and whatever else I could find to hold it firm and level. Then I hand-mixed a bit (about 100kg - a 25kg bag of cement and 3 x 25kg bags of sand) of mortar to fix it there. The idea was that it would need to be firm because it would likely get hit by the barrows of concrete, and we wouldn't have time to sort it out on the day.

The base for the shed with rails in place- 8/9/2001

Then came the concrete. I got it from a firm (Mixamate) who will mix it for you at your site, and lend you nice strong barrows to shift it with, and will wait (but not forever….) while you shift it. The other advantage over getting ready mix dumped on your drive is that, given notice (when you book the load) they will quite happily mix a bit more if you need it (in 0.25 cu metre multiples). I calculated that about 1.5 cu metres ought to be enough to fill it, but on a base this big, even an extra inch in depth is another 0.5 cu metres of concrete….. In the end, I needed 1.75 cu metres, which filled the base almost exactly. It sounds easy, doesn't it, but don't forget that concrete weighs about 2.5 tonnes per cubic metre - so I shifted about 4 tonnes of the stuff. It also goes off (builders term for starts to set) in about 2 hours, so you've got to work quickly. I did it ALL myself - but I wouldn't recommend it - GET SOME HELP, even if it costs you a bit.. Try to tip it where you need it and spread it as you go. Also, before the stuff arrives, set up a tipping plan in your head - on the day you'll be working so hard that you won't have time to think. I decided to fill in between the tracks first, then between the rails, then the side panel (from the back to the front) and, lastly, the back of the pad.

The base for the shed completed - 16/9/2001

Building the shed

Lastly came building the shed proper. What I did to design the shed was to look at the way sheds were put together - visiting garden centres etc. will help. They're actually very simple - a basic frame held together with a few nails, then panelled over with whatever you want (125mm shiplap is usual). I decided on 50x50mm timber for the frame as the shed's so large - commercial sheds differ in their frame thickness, cheaper sheds generally use thinner wood. Rough sawn timber is fine for this. I drew it all out, then added up the quantities, and priced it up to get the best deal. The only drawback you'll find is that the 50x50mm can be cut into almost any length you want - but I couldn't find a timber yard that would cut the shiplap (which is also the most expensive part) to length. Therefore, find out what length they sell (5.4 and 5.1m are commonest), and calculate carefully what you need. Remember to allow a cutting allowance, and add a bit on for wastage.

Then, I started building panels. I did the easiest (but also the heaviest) first - the back one. The frame was nailed together using 4" nails, then carefully made square by measuring the diagonals and holding firm with a piece of scrap timber nailed over one of the top corners. Then I started boarding it up - and you soon learn how to knock nails in quickly !! Then I built the far end and front. Next, I assembled these three sides, and built the front on to it. I did this because this would make up for a ny slight inconsistencies in the panels or the base. Lastly, I fitted the roof truss, and boarded the roof in, and felted it. And that was it. It really was simple.

The completed shed, 3/10/2001

Then came the big day - moving the rolling stock in. This was a great day - I felt really proud to have given it all a good place to stay and I can't help going for a peep inside everytime I go into the garden. My partner and kids think I'm mad - but that's no change…..

Doing what it was built for - housing the rolling stock

Next came the wiring - I put in 2 lights and sockets over the bench area. This was pretty straightforward stuff, with plenty of suitable places to attach the cable to.

Lastly, I have to build the bench.

Out of interest, quantities/times to build the shed were:

Dimensions (external)

4.3m x 3m

Time to build rear panel

3 hours

Time to build end panel

3 hours

Time to build front panel

2.5 hours

Time to build door panel

2 hours

Time to build doors

4 hours

Time to build roof truss, roof and felt

7 hours

2" nails


4" nails


20mm felt nails