Olson & Furlow’s Place Returns to Hanging Rock

TMMC Update - July 22, 2017

I didn't have much time to work on the new Thunder Mesa riverfront this week, but I did want to catch things up on the construction and migrations of the Olson & Furlow Saloon.

Built as a tribute to two of my favorite modelers, John Olson and Malcolm Furlow, the saloon was featured in my Model Railroad Hobbyist column from January, 2017: 10 Tips for Modeling Structures With Character. While the column delved mostly into the backstory and research behind the structure, I thought I'd take a little time here to show more about how it was actually built.

The scratchbuilt structure follows my own design and is made primarily of illustration board. The base is 1/4" thick MDF carved and painted to look like flagstone, the windows and doors are mostly Grandt Line details, and the main roof is covered in laser-cut paper shingles from Bar Mills. Click through the photos at left to see it come together step-by-step.

I built the structure at the same time that I was working on the scenery around Hanging Rock and the whole thing was designed to tuck up against the canyon wall. The idea being that this place was the last surviving remnant of an old railroad construction camp and had been scrounged together from various parts by its intrepid proprietors. In my 10 Tips article I wrote:

Deep in the canyons, about halfway down the line between San Lorenzo and Thunder Mesa is the whistle stop burg known as Hanging Rock. It's a lonesome place, once a stronghold for the Indians and now a haunt for outlaws. There, on a small rise between the mainline and a weed-grown siding, stands the Olson & Furlow establishment. Part saloon, part store, the old place has a character born from its bawdy history and seasoned by the harsh climate of the desert. The adobe casita that forms most of the ground floor probably dates from the 1850's, but nobody can say for sure. The place was abandoned when Olson and Furlow took it over in 1878 and added the upper wooden story. They were railroad men who came west with the construction gangs to help build the bridges at Horse Thief and Coyote Canyons. That was backbreaking work, and so, as the story goes, they decided to go freelance and open a saloon.

I always liked that backstory, but then, for some reason, I threw it all out the window and relocated the structure to Thunder Mesa town. I must have had a good reason at the time but for the life of me I can't remember it now.

Now, one thing has led to another, and with the plans for the new River Unit well under way, Olson & Furlow's has migrated back to its original location (and backstory) at Hanging Rock. The spot it briefly held down in Thunder Mesa town will now be home to some trackside livestock pens. Appropriate, I guess, since judging by their writings, both men were/are world-class bull shippers.

Moving the structure again also reminded me that it's not really finished. There are still a few interior details to add upstairs, and lighting to add throughout the model. It was originally built with these things in mind so adding them shouldn't be too difficult. And there's much more to add in Hanging Rock too. The plans I've drawn tell me there's a mine tipple there, as well as a small freight dock and a whistle-stop depot made from an old combination car. Then there's all of that slot-canyon scenery waiting to be finished and bridges to build over nearby Horse Thief Canyon.

I'm sure there will be more on all of that in some upcoming posts. For this week, thanks for checking in, friends. Adios for now!

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