Friday, March 28, 2014

Saguaro Siding and the Track to Nowhere

The lanterns are lit and work continues into the evening at Saguaro Siding as engine No. 4, the Earl Vilmer heads up-grade with a night train bound for Calico.


In between structure projects, I've been working on bringing a few areas of the layout up to a more finished state. One such area is a scene I call Saguaro Siding. It's the short stub of track that switches back from the Mill Siding in Thunder Mesa. Hanging 6" above Saguaro siding is the end of the High Line, poking out of a short tunnel through Baxter's Butte. Literally up in the air with no real plan, that bit of rail earned the title of "Track to Nowhere."

This interesting meeting of upper and lower tracks has gone through several revisions since the layout began. The lower spur was, at different times, to be the home of a small engine shed, then some stock pens, and still later an ore bin. The upper track was originally conceived as an automated back and forth shunting operation, then it became On18 for a short while until I finalized a plan to join the track with the mainline coming upgrade to Calico. At long last I've settled on a scene that connects the lower and upper tracks in a way that tells a story while providing some visual and operational interest to the railroad.

Saguaro Siding is a small scene sandwiched between Baxter's Butte, McKennon Arch and the Cactus Forest.



The Track to Nowhere

I had a vague idea that the upper track protruding from Baxter's Butte should be a tailings trestle of some kind, a place where the upper level mines could dump their waste rock. Inspiration struck when I realized that the trestle could also support a small loading dock and hoist to bring supplies up to the mines from the siding below.

This lightly built tailings trestle was made from 3/16" dowels and dimensional strip-wood to fit the scene. The bridge deck is scale 8"x8" bridge ties from Kappler

The loading dock was decked with coffee stir sticks and the hand cranked jib hoist was cobbled together using junk from the scrap box. The hoist line is painted elastic thread.

I wanted to illuminate the trestle scene with warm, flickering lantern light so a kerosene type lantern was built around a 2.5mm flickering yellow LED. The base is a slice from a juice box straw and the top is made from a sequin, pin head and music wire. The diodes extend through holes drilled in the crate to wiring hidden below decks.

A crate was built from scribed siding so the wiring and 510 Ohm resistor for the lantern could be hidden inside. Music wire was bent to shape and hidden beneath the walkway to bring power to the LED.  Glue and a few rail spikes hold it in place.  The wiring is invisible with the trestle in place on the layout.



Saguaro Siding

With the trestle finished, I turned my attention to the lower track, building a wooden loading dock on one side and a small shack and stone loading dock on the other.

The small supply shack was built from illustration board, strip-wood and Grandt Line doors and windows. The corrugated roofing is painted and weathered paper roofing from an old Classic Miniatures kit. The stone loading dock was carved from Balsa Foam and painted with acrylics. A 5mm yellow LED inside and a 2.5mm flickering yellow LED hidden under the porch awning light the structure.

Across the track is a wagon transfer dock built atop scale 12"x12" beams with a deck of coffee stir sticks. Another lantern was constructed on a drilled out Rusty Stumps barrel with a 2.5mm yellow flickering led, music wire and slices from a juice box straw.



Finishing the Scene

With all of the wires for the lighting hooked up beneath the layout, both the trestle and the shack were blended into the scenery with Sculptamold, paint, real dirt and rocks, and various scenery products.

A thick mixture of Sculptamold, dyed with some Raw Sienna acrylic paint, was worked in around the stone loading dock and beneath the trestle bents. The retaining wall was built in place using stained and distressed Kappler ties.

After the Sculptamold had dried overnight, the area was painted with more Raw Sienna, the primary color for most of the rock work in Thunder Mesa.

Once the paint was dry, full strength matte medium was brushed over everything to be covered with dirt and rocks. This step helps ensure that scenery material will bond to the more vertical surfaces.

Several layers of rocks and dirt were backfilled beneath the trestle bents and behind the retaining wall. Each layer was  carefully sprinkled on with a spoon before being saturated with wet-water (water with a few drops of dishwashing liquid to break the surface tension) and then cemented into place with white glue diluted 1:1 with water. For the topmost layer, I chose a darker red, broken sandstone from my collection of Sedona rocks and dirt.  This creates a nice contrast with the surrounding rocks and simulates tailings mined from deep within the mountain. While the glue was still wet, weeds, bushes, small cacti and various bits of rusty junk were pressed into the surface.

Last but not least, a ladder was constructed from strip-wood and cemented in place so the O scale mine workers could get from the siding up to the hoist platform. The figure was sculpted from acrylic modeling paste over a wire armature.

The little shack and its stone platform.

Overall view of the completed scene.

The upper trestle deck and loading dock. The jib hoist was inspired by a similar crane at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Disneyland.


Though I'll probably add a few more details here and there and junk things up a bit more, I'm happy to get this little corner of the layout to a place where it's more or less finished. Now I can look forward to the added operating potential Saguaro Siding will bring to the railroad as an occasional flat car loaded with supplies for the mines is spotted there.

That'll about do it for this week's update. Thanks to all who checked in, and an extra special thanks to those who take the time to comment. Adios for now!
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