Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Quick Look Inside Rainbow Caverns


Once again, I'm back to work on Rainbow Caverns, bringing the "dark ride" portion of the TMMC to life. I'm currently up to my elbows in wiring, LEDs, and black light paint but plan on publishing a full step-by-step and how-to post in about another week. In the meantime, please enjoy this short video highlighting some of the effects in completed scenes thus far. Adios for now!

*Note: Original Disney soundtrack has been replaced by royalty free music from YouTube.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Story of Hanging Rock: Part I

As the crummy waits on the mainline, engine #6, Ollie Johnston, spots a car at Hanging Rock siding before pulling forward to take on water at the tank. Crews are always a little nervous at Hanging Rock and never linger too long due to all of the outlaw activity in the area. 


About halfway down the line between San Lorenzo and Thunder Mesa is the whistle-stop berg of Hanging Rock. There's a water tank there, and an old combine repurposed as a depot, but not too much else. In recent years, the labyrinth of canyons, caves and rock ledges have become a haven for horse-thieves, rustlers, bandits and other unsavory types. Before the coming of the railroad, it was an Indian stronghold, a natural rock fortress where a handful of braves once held off an entire regiment of U.S. soldiers. Legends of lost Spanish gold lured a few hearty prospectors to the area but they didn't find much and now their old, abandoned diggings dot the cliff-sides. The height of prosperity arrived with the railroad in the late 1870's when a construction camp was established there for bridges being built across Horse Thief and Coyote Canyons. A couple of enterprising old railway men named Olson & Furlow opened a saloon and bawdy-house for the camp workers and it still stands between the tracks today, a haunt for outlaws and the only going concern left in town. Hanging Rock is a good place for an ambush or a hide-out and most decent folks don't stay long.

Hanging Rock Depot is an old combine left over from the construction camp days. The Olson & Furlow Saloon seems to be the only business left in town.


Building Hanging Rock

With all of the mainline track now laid and a good start made on the branchline up to Big Thunder Camp, I've decided to dive right in to the scenery at Hanging Rock. As usual, I'm roughing everything in with layers of 1" thick pink polystyrene insulation foam held together with Powergrab adhesive and pins. I really want the cliffs to tower above the trains here. The dramatic sandstone ledges overhanging the track are what give Hanging Rock its name. Unlike some other scenes on the layout, Hanging Rock has no corollary at any Disney park. I wanted to do something entirely original here. Still, the scene is being designed with the same playful spirit and attention to story in mind.

Here's an overview of all of the track through Hanging Rock. The uppermost "high-line" is the branchline on a 6% grade up to Big Thunder Camp. The track is painted flat black as the first step in my track finishing process. More on that in a future update.

Pink foam was used to rough in the tunnels and cliffs around Hanging Rock. I use a hot wire cutter and hobby knives to shape the foam. The next step is to paint it tan. It's not necessary, but I've gotten into the habit of doing it as it helps me to visualize the final result. By the way, this view only shows the first half of the mesa. The second half will be built on the San Lorenzo side and include a forced-perspective village of Indian pueblos on the very top. The mesa top will be removable to allow access to the tunnels.

A defunct Bachman combine is being pressed into service as a station. So far, the project hasn't progressed much beyond a coat of primer.

I thought it worth the time to build a mock-up of the Olson & Furlow Saloon. This will be a very detailed, scratch-built structure and my tribute to a couple of favorite old narrow gauge modelers, John Olson and Malcolm Furlow.

One prominent sandstone ledge high above the tracks is known as Robber's Roost. The Hanging Rock Gang almost always keeps a lookout or two there. These great looking figures were painted for me by Tim Kulinski.

The water tank was built and modified from a Banta Model Works kit. I built it for Thunder Mesa yard but it's a little small and I kind of like it better here. It might just stay.


The next step in building Hanging Rock will be to skin the foam with rocky-textured Sculptamold and add a few Balsa Foam detail carvings. Then the tunnel portals and interiors will need to be detailed and all of the rock work painted. After that, the structures get finished and ground cover, plants and final details will be added. There's always lots to do on Thunder Mesa so I'd better get cracking! I'm happy with the start I've made on Hanging Rock and very excited to finally be adding some scenery to the long-planned expansion areas. Thanks for checking in, amigos. Adios for now!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Expansion Update and Video Log: Track Complete Through Hanging Rock and Coyote Canyon

Hooray! The benchwork, wiring and track is now complete over the entire mainline from San Lorenzo to Thunder Mesa and trains are running! Here's an overhead view from the mocked-up engine service area to the Hanging Rock and Coyote Canyon sections.


Greetings from Thunder Mesa!

I'm back from my summer break and just spent the last week finishing up track laying and wiring on the new sections of the layout. About 30' of Peco On30 flextrack was installed across the Hanging Rock and Coyote Canyon sections, and over 40 soldered connections now bring DCC power to the rails. This is a major milestone toward completing the layout expansion and I'm very happy to have it done. Check out this month's video log for more details and a first-ever excursion over the entire mainline!



Shiny new rail above Coyote Canyon. The plywood bridges are temporary and can be easily removed. They'll be replaced with detailed models after I decide just what kind of bridges I want here. The 16" radius turn-back curve will be hidden in a tunnel below the portable On18 Calico layout. The breaker box will be hidden behind Calico Mountain itself. Installing an around-the-walls backdrop here is also high on the old to-do list.

Here's the Hanging Rock section. Devil's Garden balancing rocks will be at lower left and the whistle stop depot at Hanging Rock will be at right, just before the tunnel portal. In between will be three bridges deep and narrow Horse Thief Canyon. The stub-ended uppermost track is the start of the branchline up to Big Thunder Camp.

The new Coyote Canyon and Hanging Rock sections are at upper left on the above plan. Sharp eyed viewers might notice that I've already deviated from the plan by swapping the turnout and spur directions at Hanging Rock and San Lorenzo. Things always change during construction and this just made more sense for fluid operations.

One thing I'm most excited about is the new sight-lines and deep views that are being created with this expansion. When completed, the canyon scenery in this view will create an unbroken vista nearly 12' deep. Try that on a shelf layout.


With the mainline track laid and operating well, I'll probably turn my attention to the branchline up to Big Thunder Camp next. I'm also itching to build some scenery and structures and might just dive right in to the scene at Hanging Rock. Time will tell. Thanks for stopping in for a visit, amigos. There's much more to come. Adios for now!

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Model Railroad as Themed Environment



My first imagineering column for Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine is now available to read online. Read my column and the entire e-zine here!
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