Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Grand Plan for the Thunder Mesa Mining Co.

At long last, here is the "Grand Plan" for the expanding TMMC. This should give a good idea as to where the layout is headed, and help to make sense of the construction updates I'll be posting. I've been thinking "out loud" about this expansion here on the blog for awhile. Some things I thought might be included, or had planned to include in the past have ended up on the cutting room floor, while other possibilities I hadn't considered found their way into the plan as it was being drawn.

Click the image for a much larger version.  Grid spacing is 12".  Overall size is 11'x8'.

The layout will operate as a simple point to point design, with ore trains coming down from the mines at Calico, headed for the mill and an interchange with the Santa Fe, Denver and Carolwood at Thunder Mesa. A daily mixed train will head up-grade in the opposite direction, carrying freight, supplies, passengers and mail from Thunder Mesa to the far-flung mining camps. An excursion train or two will also be on the schedule, taking wide-eyed tourists for a ride through "Nature's Wonderland." Continuous loop running will still be possible using the hidden cut-off track below Thunder Mesa.
It's funny, but for the longest time I had thought of Thunder Mesa as being way out in the boonies, near the end of the line and far, far from the SFD & C interchange (which was originally to be located in another town called Grizzly Flats. That town still exists in the make-believe world of Thunder Mesa, but it's aways north now and off the layout). While creating this plan I discovered it made a lot more sense to have the interchange be in Thunder Mesa itself, with the ore trains serving the "mines above" much like the real-world Gilpin Tram once did in Colorado. Once this decision was reached, the entire plan and operating scenario fell into place.

Another idea that got rejected was the On18 tram from Calico. As fascinating and fun as I think it might have been to run those tiny trains, there just wasn't enough room for it and the On30 mainline I wanted to build. So now, the On30 line climbs a steady 3% grade up to Calico and on to what had once been planned as an On18 right of way. (I still might build a separate On18 module in the future. Time will tell!)

The layout is being constructed in three separable sections as illustrated below.

The Thunder Mesa section is roughly 4'x8' and is more than half complete at this point.

The 3'x4' Calico section is the future home of an engine facility with a 36' turntable. Down below, open caves will provide views into more of Rainbow Caverns.

The Canyon section is 8' long and drops the base of the layout about 14" to provide adequate depth for the dramatic vertical scenery planned here.

The good news is that nearly all of the scenic elements I wanted to include have made it into this final version of the plan. Heading up-grade from Rainbow Caverns, trains cross Natural Bridge, a breathtaking and precarious sandstone span. That leads into Balancing Rock Canyon, a land of strange hoodoos that seem to teeter and sway as the trains rumble past. Just beyond, Indian Pueblos sit atop a high mesa overlooking the grandeur of Bright Angel Canyon. A pair of spidery bridges span the canyon itself, the longest and highest being a scale 120' and some 94 scale feet above the churning rapids of the Rio Del Barranco far below (On the backdrop, I'll do my best to replicate the views of Disneyland's Grand Canyon Diorama). Then it's on to the Calico mining districts where the line makes a graceful curve below the overhanging alcove of Calico Mt. before winding to its end near Big Thunder Mine.

For those who may be interested, I draw my plans out by hand in pencil on 1/8"x 1/8" blue-line grid paper at a scale of 1/8" = 1". The completed drawing is then scanned to a digital file and colors and graphics are added in Adobe Photoshop.

And there you have it, a Grand Plan for Thunder Mesa that should keep me busy working on the railroad for quite some time to come. Thanks for checking in. Adios for now!

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