Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Wishing everyone a very happy Halloween from the Thunder Mesa Mining Company!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Raildig Interview

The Marc F.Davis chuffs through Dinosaur Gap. One of 12 new photos featured in my Raildig interview.

I was recently contacted by John Cubbin from who asked if I'd be interested in doing a guest interview about Thunder Mesa. I just love talking about the railroad and sharing ideas with other modelers so I readily agreed. The interview is live online today, along with 12 new photos of the Thunder Mesa layout. You can read it at this link.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Abandoned Mine

Even during daylight hours, the old abandoned Never Mine can still be a little spooky. When a storm blows up from the desert and the wind whispers and moans through the old boards, sinister cries can sometimes be heard echoing deep within the mine. Recently, the creaky door to the shaft house has been swinging open and then suddenly slamming shut. Railroad security thinks there might be a vagrant living up there and wants to send a man up to investigate. Any volunteers?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Trouble Brewing at Hanging Rock

A mysterious stranger has come to town on a pale horse. He's inside Olson & Furlow's place with a glass of whiskey and a well used army revolver. On the cliffs above, the notorious Pequeño Brothers lay in wait. Those dark clouds must be an omen. Old scores will soon to be settled with lead and black powder and a few more bullet holes will adorn the adobe walls at Hanging Rock.

Cloudy sky added in Photoshop, all else as modeled.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Little Town, Big Changes

The town of Thunder Mesa is changing again

Once again the town of Thunder Mesa is getting a makeover. As other structure projects have gotten underway, I've been eyeing the town and seeing how everything works now that all mainline track has been completed. Turns out, I didn't really like where the depot had been located and one change lead to another until the entire town had been reconfigured.

As the layout has grown from it's original 3'x6' configuration, the little Town of Thunder Mesa has been moved and reshuffled again and again; most recently at about this time last year. As my overall vision for the TMMC has evolved, this very central piece of the puzzle has necessarily evolved right along with it.

On the original 3'x6' layout, the town was situated high up behind the mill

With the first layout expansion, the town was moved even higher up behind the new turntable. The road up to town was almost impossibly steep and I was never crazy about the sight lines this configuration offered.

In November of last year I began work on a new town module that could be built at the workbench and then installed on the layout. Once again I tried to keep the general look and feel of the town's inspiration, Disneyland's Rainbow Ridge, with the building stacked in rows facing the track. In the end I felt that, while this works fine for a theme park, it stretches credibility a little too much for what's supposed to be a real town.

Meanwhile, Thunder Mesa Depot and the Rainbow Desert Freight Lines still resided alongside the short spur where they were originally planted back in April. With a new passing siding added as part of the latest expansion, this location began to make less and less sense. Surely, the depot would have been built in the heart of town right along the mainline tracks, just as was done in countless frontier boomtowns throughout the West. Deciding at last to move the depot to a more logical spot is what lead to the latest redesign of Thunder Mesa town.

And here we are today with the depot rotated 180º and placed trackside in the heart of town. A low retaining wall will separate the depot area from the main street where the commercial building of Thunder Mesa will now curve around on a slight rise. Gone is the idea of building the entire town as one removable module. Now, each structure will be its own unit, just I had started to do with Big Thunder Saloon. 

It makes so much more sense now for trains arriving in town to stop here in front of the depot instead of having to back into a siding.

Rainbow Desert Freight Lines has moved to a more logical location too, between the former depot spur and the main road into town.

The new location of Rainbow Desert Freight creates improved sight lines flowing into the main street of town.

As for the old depot spur, this will now be home to some stock pens and perhaps a livery stable.

With this new town configuration firmly established, I feel more comfortable diving into the scenery here and finishing up some of those other structures. I'm really looking forward to replacing all of those paper mock-ups once and for all. They've done their job in the planning stage but now it's time to move on. Breaking up the old depot scene was a little tough, but the lesson here is to never be so enamored with a scene that you are afraid to change it when a better idea comes along.

Thanks for checking in, amigos. I'm juggling a lot of projects right now and there should be much more fun stuff to come in the weeks and months ahead. Adios for now!

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Work often continues until after sunset at the busy mines of Big Thunder Camp. Old Jim takes a moment to admire the view as supplies are being hoisted up from Saguaro Siding below.

Backdrop and smoke added in Photoshop, all else as modeled.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Steaming into Thunder Mesa

The Daily Mixed blasts across Big Thunder Creek behind engine #4, Earl Vilmer. The crew's on time for a change and looking forward to a hot lunch up at Cordelia's Cafe before the return trip to San Lorenzo.

Backdrop and smoke effects added in Photoshop, all else as modeled.

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