A New Scene for the Marc F. Davis

TMMC Update - July 8, 2017

Now that the layout has been successfully moved and I'm all settled in to the new studio, it's time to get back to work on the railroad and some other projects. Here's an update on what's been going on over the passed week.

The front edge of the layout by Thunder Mesa town is one of the first things guests see when they visit the layout. The space was originally home to Thunder Mesa Depot, but after that structure was moved during a redesign of the town, the narrow strip of layout in front of the tracks sat torn up and empty for a long time. One idea was to put some stock pens there, but those will now be built across the tracks below Castle Rock and Injun Joe's Cave. This frees up the space for a new scene featuring the Thunder Mesa Pack Mules building and a dummy spur track for displaying the Marc F. Davis locomotive, TMMC #1.

The sad truth about the one-spot is that it has always been a poor runner. It was a scrap-box special, built several years ago atop a DC powered Bachmann HO cable car power truck. Theoretically I could take it apart and add a tiny decoder somewhere to make it work with the rest of Thunder Mesa's digitally controlled equipment, but I just don't see that paying off with a better operating locomotive. The motor itself is poor and the electrical pick-up is spotty at best. So, for the foreseeable future, it will remain a static model. On the plus side, the headlight works great.

Still, I've always liked the funky, homebuilt look of the Marc F. Davis, and have long thought about building a small scene around it that might be a fitting tribute to its namesake.

Something else I've always liked is the old Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules structure that once stood at Disneyland. I did a plan for it based on old photographs (the structure is long gone), and built a mock-up several years ago with no clear idea of where it might be located on the layout. Putting that structure together with a new grade crossing and a dummy spur for the Marc F. Davis gave me the nucleus of a new scene to greet guests when they visit the TMMC at Thunder Mesa Studio.

Building the Scene

I started by building up the rounded corner of the layout with layers of 1" thick extruded polystyrene foam or EPF. The pieces were cut to shape with a hot-wire tool and then glued in place with Loctite Powergrab adhesive. Then I sanded the layers flush and glued on a curved section of fascia made from illustration board treated with a clear acrylic sealer. It's lightweight, tough, and does the job. Then I painted the corner flat black to match the rest of the layout fascia.

Next I cut a section of Peco On30 flextrack to length and then removed several of the ties to give it more of a hastily-built old siding look. This was then primed and painted, and then glued to the foam roadbed with a bead of Powergrab. This is a dummy spur so it won't be getting any power. The DC motored Marc F. Davis would burn out on the DCC powered tracks of the TMMC.

I cut a piece of 1/8" thick Masonite to size to act as a foundation for my upcoming model of the Thunder Mesa Pack Mules building. This received a wooden boardwalk/porch along two sides made from distressed coffee stir-sticks weathered with an alcohol/shoe dye mixture. A square of illustration board cut to the same dimensions was then glued in place on the scene to save space for the model when ground cover was added in the next step.

I mixed up some Polyblend Sanded Grout in a small plastic container. I measure out small amounts with a paper Dixie cup and then add water slowly, stirring until the mixture is completely wet, but not runny - about 3:1 grout to water. The color grout I use is called "Sandstone" but I usually end up painting or tinting it once it's dry. Then I half poured, half spooned the grout on to the layout surface until the entire scene, except for the track, was covered by a layer about 1/16" to 1/8" thick. Using an old paint brush, I then stippled the grout to give it an uneven, dirt-like texture. As the grout began to set-up, I used a pencil and a model horse figure to add wagon ruts and hoof prints to the road and other high traffic areas.

Turning my attention to the track, red-rock dirt from Sedona was used to ballast the dummy siding and give some variation to the grout. This was then glued in place with a sprayed mixture of matt medium and water, diluted about 4:1. As all of this dried, weeds, grass, and flowers from Scenic Express were planted in likely spots with small dabs of white glue.

Then it was just a matter of touching up the track, and setting the train and structure mock-up back in place to visualize how everything was coming together. There's much more to come on this scene, including some new figures and a humorous vignette that ties the story of the Pack Mules and the new siding together in true Marc Davis fashion. Across the tracks, new livestock pens belonging to the Circle D ranch are slated to be built. Stay tuned for that!

Thanks for checking in! The plan is to make this a new series of weekly updates on the railroad, posting each Saturday or Sunday. Let's see if I can keep it up. Adios for now!

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