Friday, March 14, 2014

Building Big Thunder Saloon: Part III

Click here for part I of this series.
Click here for part II of this series.

Here's my Big Thunder Saloon, all finished and photographed outdoors in the brilliant Arizona sunshine. In today's post I'll cover the wiring for sound and lights, the interior details, roof and finishing touches.

Right side rear view.

Left side rear view.


Lights and Sound

Nothing brings a model structure to life like the addition of lighting and sounds. For the Big Thunder Saloon I used an #HQ640 Honkey Tonk sound module from ITT Products. The lighting effects are achieved with five separate LEDs; two, 5mm yellow LEDs for the interior, and three 2.5mm yellow flickering LEDs to represent lanterns on the facade and under the eaves of the side porch.


A simple black box was created from illustration board to hide 1.5" speaker and wiring. The speaker was mounted to the side wall with 3M foam tape. The main power bus comes in from beneath the floor, a red wire for positive and a black for negative. Keeping the polarity straight is important when working with LEDs since they are polarity specific.

The ITT Products sound module fits perfectly in the attic. It was wired according to the manufacturer's instructions to run as a continuous loop. Both the sound and lights are on the same circuit so everything will be powered from the main power bus. 

The wiring from the two flickering lanterns out front runs through the wall and into the attic. Every LED must have its own resistors when wire in series.  510 Ohm 1/4 watt resistors were soldered to the positive leads and black wires soldered to the negative. I also doubled up on the resistors to lower the LED's output a bit. To see how I created the lanterns themselves, check part II of this series.

As the final course of logs was being added, another 2.5mm flickering yellow LED was installed within the framework of the side porch roof.

Two, 5mm yellow non-flickering LEDs were installed in the saloon's ceiling to provide interior lighting. The ceiling is 1/16" thick illustration board and snugs down between to the top course of logs, preventing light leaks.

With leads and resistors soldered into place, everything was isolated and covered with electrical tape to prevent shorts.

With the sound module, speaker and all of the lights in place, there was a real bird's nest of wiring to try and fit under the roof!

Here the speaker is wired to the sound module, all of the red wires are soldered to the positive bus and all of the black wires are soldered to the negative bus. Easy peasy.

To finish up the wiring, the main power bus from beneath the saloon was fitted with a mini plug, with the female end leading to the layout's lighting and effects panel where a 9v transformer supplies the power. This makes it easy to unplug and remove the structure from the layout if necessary. Heat-shrink tubing keeps everything tidy and the white dots keep the wiring polarity aligned.


Interior Details

The saloon's interior is visible through the front doors and windows so I wanted to pack it with detail. The Honky Tonk sound module gives the impression of a raucous Saturday night with a piano, banjo and laughter from the crowd. I did my best to make the interior details match those sounds.

I found this nifty laser cut piano kit on ebay. It does a great job of representing an 1880's era Steinway.

Just about every saloon in the Wild West had at least one tasteful nude behind the bar, as well as the famous Anheuser Busch lithograph of Custer's Last Stand. Interior signs and paintings were mocked up in Photoshop and printed out on heavy inkjet presentation paper.

The interior has a total of ten figures. The banjo player is from Woodland Scenics. The bartender and gamblers are from Grandt Line. The piano player is from People Scale. The bar was created from basswood planks and three Rusty Stumps barrels. The mounted buffalo head is from and HO scale critter.

The poker table was created in photoshop and the bottles on the bar are carved graphite pencil leads.

The view through the front windows.

The view through the front windows.

The side porch was finished off with some old white metal castings from my scrap box, a Banta Model Works wooden chair and a broom from Wiseman Model Services. The roof is painted and textured illustration board.


The Roof and Final Details

The roof of Big Thunder Saloon needed to be both removable and sturdy. Here's how I built it from Illustration board.

A very convincing illusion of weathered wood can be created with illustration board and watercolors. Wood grain is scribed into the surface with a fine-toothed razor saw and individual board are delineated by scribing every 12 scale inches with a sharp hobby knife.  Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue watercolors are mixed together to create varying shades of warm and cool grays. The color is then applied with a soft brush, varying the tone here and there to enhance the illusion of woodgrain and individual boards.

Roof panels and rafters were cut from illustration board and only the parts that will show were painted. The rafters were glued in place on 24" centers with Aleen's Tacky glue. This made for a very rigid structure.

The roof was finished with Bar Mills laser cut shingles. I chose a weathered warm gray to contrast with the dark browns of the saloon walls. The smoke stack is a Grandt Line casting with guy wires made from music wire. The roof was weathered with brown, black and gray chalks and then sealed with a light spray of Testor's Dullcoat. The roof simply sits in place atop the structure and is easily removable so that wiring and interior details can be accessed. 

With the roof completed, I moved on to the rock and dirt area on the right side to do a little landscaping. Full strength matte medium was brushed over the entire area.

Real dirt and rocks from Sedona, Arizona were sprinkled and pressed into the wet matte medium. More dirt was added and a little rubbing alcohol held it in place while more diluted (1:1) matte medium was drizzled over the top.

Once the matte medium dried, an assortment of high desert plants were added: tall grass from Woodland Scenics, Spring flowers from Scenic Express,  a prickly pear casting, and my own special recipe Manzanita bushes.


The Finished Model

Big Thunder Saloon was a fun and rewarding build, definitely my most complex model to date on the TMMC and I really enjoyed putting it all together. Here it is in its new home on the layout with the wiring hooked up and the power on.

At home on the layout. There are still lots of structures to be built in Thunder Mesa Town.


Here's a quick video showing the lighting and sound effects.


Friday Updates

There are a lot of projects underway on Thunder Mesa these days and I'm  going to do my best to post a new update at least once a week on Fridays. Please don't hesitate to add comments or questions below. Thanks for checking in. Adios for now!
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