Friday, May 23, 2014

Engine Roster for the Thunder Mesa Mining Co.

A reader recently asked a question on Facebook about the locomotive names and numbering on Thunder Mesa and it made me realize that I have never really published a complete engine roster for the railroad. The roster has changed and evolved a bit over time and will no doubt continue to do so as new equipment comes available and the railroad continues to grow. For the most part, I name locomotives after the Disney animators or Imagineers that I most admire, or other pioneers in the world of theme park railroads such as Bud Hurlbut. Currently, there are five locomotives running on the layout with at least two more planned or under construction.

No. 1

No. 1  - Marc F. Davis

Wheel arrangement: 0-4-0
Builder: Thunder Mesa Mining Co.
Entered service: 1878
Notes: This unique vertical boiler, single piston steamer was built from the recovered wreckage of a steam launch and the 2-4-0 El Dorado. Placed into service in 1878 to help complete construction of the railroad. Named for the proprietor of the Western River Expedition Company.

Modeling notes: Scratch-built from spare parts on a Bachmann HO cable car power truck. Analog DC power. No sound. Click here for more on the Marc F. Davis.

No. 2

No. 2  - Claude Coats

Wheel arrangement: 2-4-0
Builder: H.K. Porter, Inc.
Entered service: 1879
Notes: Light duty mining locomotive named for the discoverer of Rainbow Caverns.

Modeling notes: Planned but not yet built. Inspired by Disneyland's Nature's Wonderland locomotives, the #2 will more than likely be built using a Bachmann 0-4-0 Porter with DCC and sound. Claude Coats was the brilliant Disney Imagineer who developed the lighting and water effects for Rainbow Caverns.

No. 3

No. 3  - Sam McKim

Wheel arrangement: 4-4-0
Builder: Freelanced
Entered service: 1879
Notes: General duty locomotive named for the first surveyor and cartographer of Thunder Mesa Country.

Modeling notes: Under construction. Inspired by the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad, #3 is a diminutive 4-4-0 that uses a Bachmann HO Richmond 4-4-0 as a starting point. Sam McKim was a first generation Imagineer and Disney artist who created the early souvenir maps of Disneyland among many other things.

No. 4

No. 4  - Earl Vilmer

Wheel arrangement: 4-4-0
Builder: Freelanced
Entered service: 1880
Notes: General duty locomotive named for the first general manager of the TMMC.

Modeling notes: Bachmann On30 inside frame 4-4-0. Inspired by the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad. DCC installed, sound to be added. Earl Vilmer supervised the construction and operation of both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Railroads.

No. 5

No. 5  - Frank Thomas

Wheel arrangement: 0-4-2
Builder: H.K. Porter, Inc.
Entered service: 1881
Notes: General duty mining locomotive.

Modeling notes: Bachmann On30 0-4-2. Needs paint and decals. Inspired by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. DCC and Tsunami sound on board. Frank Thomas was a legendary Disney animator, one of the Nine Old Men and best friends with Ollie Johnston. 

No. 6

No. 6  - Ollie Johnston

Wheel arrangement: 0-4-2
Builder: H.K. Porter, Inc.
Entered service: 1881
Notes: General duty mining locomotive.

Modeling notes: Bachmann On30 0-4-2. Inspired by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. DCC installed.  Ollie Johnston was a legendary Disney animator, train enthusiast, one of the Nine Old Men and best friends with Frank Thomas.

No. 7

No. 7  - Bud Hurlbut

Wheel arrangement: 0-4-0
Builder: H.K. Porter, Inc.
Entered service: 1883
Notes: General duty mining locomotive named for the discoverer of the Calico Mine.

Modeling notes: Bachmann On30 0-4-0. Needs paint and decals. Inspired by Knott's Calico Mine Train. DCC and Tsunami sound on board.  Bud Hurlbut was a pioneering theme park designer best remembered for creating the Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Train attractions at Knott's Berry Farm.

That's where the roster stands as of this writing. Will there be more? Probably. Even though the TMMC already has more locomotives than a mining railroad of its size would likely ever need, this modeler simply can't resist the temptation of a shiny new engine every now and again. Besides, there's not a single geared locomotive yet and I've always been a fan of geared steam! Stay tuned. Adios for now!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Building Mountains on the N Scale Pagosa & Southern

Red Mountain begins to take shape in N scale Colorado - but it still looks pink at this point.

I took a break from Thunder Mesa this week to spend a little time on my Pagosa & Southern N scale project. I first described the P&S back in January of this year, and showed the installation of a photo backdrop in February. This week we'll look at roughing in Red Mountain with layers of pink Polystyrene foam insulation.

Telling Stories

I always think in terms of scenes when planning and building a model railroad, taking special care to view everything from multiple angles. Beyond mere visual interest, I'm always looking for the best way to convey the story. Everything should flow together without jarring transitions and support the central idea of the railroad. Hopefully, when the P&S is finished, it will convey an enjoyable story about Colorado railroading in the early 1950s.

As well as helping the trains disappear from view for a moment, Red Mountain on the P&S will contain four scenes, each flowing and transitioning into the next: the west tunnel portal, a waterfall scene, the Rebel Girl Mine, and the east tunnel portal. Those are the close ups, with the overall mountain itself being the establishing shot. Altogether these scenes should help firmly establish the railroad's era and local.

Building Mountains With Foam

Just as on Thunder Mesa, I'm using 1" thick pink Polystyrene foam insulation board to build up the base for landforms on the Pagosa & Southern. It's a fairly straightforward process that can be a tad messy and a little time consuming. I tend to think of it like sketching, laying down loose lines and basic forms that will underlie the finished scenery to come.

I started the mountain by building a simple foam box, taking care to allow plenty of clearance for the trains. The top of the mountain will be removable for access.

Polystyrene foam is easy to score and snap using a straight edge and utility knife. That works great for straight cuts but a hot-wire cutter is needed for curves. Power Grab construction adhesive was used to cement everything together.

About halfway through construction and the waterfall and mine areas are starting to be defined.

A view with the mountaintop removed for access. It's a snug press fit that simply lifts off. The mine structure is an old model that is holding the place for the yet to be built Rebel Girl Mine.

A few more layers of foam and the roughing in of Red Mountain is complete.

The mountain also serves as background for this scene looking up Wolf Creek Canyon.

That's about all I had time to accomplish this week. The next step will be finishing the mountain and other scenery forms with Sculptamold and maybe a few plaster castings. Then it's on to adding some color to those pink mountains majesty. Thank's for checking in. Below is a video tour of the layout so far. Adios for now!

Friday, May 9, 2014

More Expansion Progress

Across the aisle from Thunder Mesa, the Calico section is starting to take shape.

Although this past week was busy with 1:1 scale projects out in the real world, I was still able to carve out a little time for work on the railroad. With the new plan for Calico fixed firmly in mind and the power tools still in hand, a couple of enjoyable afternoons were spent finishing up the benchwork and roadbed for this corner of the layout.

Following the new plan, 1/2" plywood sub-roadbed was installed atop risers of 1x3" pine. The flat area at left will be home to the Calico mine, a major shipper on the TMMC.

Midwest HO cork roadbed was laid down along the track center lines and cemented in place with yellow carpenter's glue. The thumbtacks are handy for keeping everything aligned while the glue dries.

After the glue dried overnight, spackling paste was used to fill any gaps.

The final step was to sand everything smooth with a sanding block. The goal is to have a nice, even surface for track laying.

Ready for track! The large gap in the roadbed above the curved benchwork at center will be home to a dramatic trestle, completing the reverse loop. In this view you can begin to see how the tracks will weave in and out of Calico Mountain.

Here's another look at the plan for Calico. Note the track elevations and location of the trestle bridges.

Next up I'd like to tackle the remaining benchwork for the Canyon section, then I can start laying track and actually get to run some trains up the grade to Calico! Looks like I won't be putting those tools away anytime soon. That's about it for this week. Thanks for checking in. Adios for now!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Aerial Views and Expansion Progress - May 2, 2014

Changing Plans

The nice thing about plans on paper is that they are easy to change.

Last Friday's post on Knott's Calico Mine Train inspired me to go back and take another look at the expansion plans I have for the TMMC, and especially at the corner Calico section. To be honest, I was never fully satisfied with the plans for that corner and taking a fresh look at Calico had me wanting to incorporate more of the look and feel of the Knott's original in my layout. To that end, I spent a couple of days figuring things out and now have a revised plan for the Thunder Mesa expansion.

The upper lefthand corner has been completely reworked with a much more spectacular presentation of Calico Mountain, its waterfalls and dramatic trestle. Now trains will pass in and out of the mountain on multiple levels, much like the Knott's attraction, and a reverse loop will send them back toward Thunder Mesa. Gone are the engine shed and turntable once planned for this corner, but the long spur up to Big Thunder Mine still remains.

On the left is the old version of Calico with its engine shed and turntable. A functional scene but not one that really captures what I'm going for. On the right is the updated plan for Calico, a scene with much more bang for the buck and the added interest of a reverse loop. I was sorry to loose the engine house but it's easy to pretend those facilities are just over on the other side of the mountain somewhere.

I've had to give up a wee bit of aisle space with this new scheme but the trade off in scenic potential should be more than worth it. A 3% grade still brings trains up to Calico, and the natural bridge, balancing rocks, deep canyon and Indian pueblo are largely unchanged. I did change the size of the Calico section from 3'x4' to 6'x4', and this in turn now makes the canyon section 5'x3' instead of 8'x3'. It just seemed to make more sense to have two medium sized sections.

Construction has officially begun on the Calico section, with the benchwork already completed and the 1/2" plywood sub-roadbed well underway. And that bring us to this month's aerial views.

Last month: April 4, 2014.

Today: May 2, 2014. 

Here you can see the new 6' length of the Calico section and the beginning of the 3% grade.  A cutout in the benchwork marks the future location of Natural Bridge. Calico Mountain will occupy most of the far corner and should make a nice balance with Baxter's Butte.

In the next section of benchwork, the scenery will plunge dramatically as the trains cross Bright Angel Canyon on their way up to Calico. With any luck I'll be able to get that built later this month and can start looking forward to running trains through the new sections. Stay tuned! Thanks for checking in, folks. Adios for now!
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