Thunder Mesa Blog

New “How To” Video Series Launches with Scenery Building Techniques

Since I'm often asked about the scenery and structure techniques used on the Thunder Mesa Ming Company and other projects, I've decided to produce a new series of YouTube videos with a step-by-step, "how-to" focus. Welcome to the first two videos in that new series, "How To #1: How to Build Scenery with EPF and Sculptamold" and "How To #2: How to Paint Rockwork and Add Ground Cover."  These video brings together both new and existing footage to show scenery building and finishing techniques, and to answer the most common questions about how things are done on the On30 Thunder Mesa Mining Company layout. There are several more "How To" videos in this series on the way so don't forget to subscribe on YouTube. Thanks for watching!


 

Set Sail for the Skull Rock & Neverland

Second Star to the Right and Straight on 'till Morning

The HOn30 Skull Rock & Neverland Ry. is a pure flight of fancy. Now in the early development stages, this little layout will seek to answer the question of just what kind of railroad a fantastical land of Lost Boys, pirates, mermaids, pixies, and Indians might have. Most folks don't know this, but one of the more valuable ores mined in Thunder Mesa Country is the extremely rare and magical Neverlandium, a volatile, glowing mineral that can cause children to fly when accompanied by the thinking of happy thoughts. Naturally, most of this ore is shipped off to the Skull Rock & Neverland where it is used for everything from powering the locomotives to fertilizing the lush island plant growth. Perhaps this valuable ore is what first drew the attention of Captain Hook and the crew of bloodthirsty pirates who plague the island to this very day.

For the uninitiated, HOn30 (or OO9) is basically 1:87 HO scale trains running on 9mm N gauge track. It's most often used to model the 2' narrow gauge lines that once ran in Maine, but I've long been fascinated by the possibilities of this scale/gauge combination, and see it as an ideal jumping off point for something with a British flair. I've also been wanting to do something with a pirate ship - specifically Captain Hook's pirate ship. I grew up with Captain Hook's at Disneyland where it housed a tuna restaurant at its anchorage in cool, scenic Skull Rock Cove. That ship has been long gone since the '83 redo of Fantasyland and it may never come back, but I can have my own version with my own Skull Rock in a little slice of Neverland. This project will be built across the aisle from the Thunder Mesa layout in a narrow 2' x 6' space near my workbench. Much of Neverland itself will be conveyed by the backdrop, and the railroad will wind it's way along the waterfront of Pirate's Cove. Minimum radius for the curves is 9" and the grade is to be determined.

Hope you'll follow along as this project develops!

Update: Aug 4, 2019

The Skull Rock and Neverland project has been shelved indefinitely. However, we never throw anything away at Thunder Mesa Imagineering and many of the ideas from this layout will now be incorporated into the Carolwood Park project.

“Breaking the Rules” in Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine

Imagineering

My latest Imagineering column for Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine is all about "Breaking the Rules" and creative thinking in the hobby. Now available online and you can read it here: Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine.


 

Next Open Studio & Train Day: Wednesday July 4th

Celebrate Independence Day at Thunder Mesa Studio

Celebrate America’s Independence at Thunder Mesa Studio on Wednesday, July 4th! See what’s new on the Thunder Mesa Mining Company Model Railroad, an operating 1/4″ scale narrow gauge display featuring spectacular scenery, lights, animation, and sound. Then stick around after dark for an all new digital fireworks show in the skies above Thunder Mesa! Meet local artist D.L. Meek and see what’s new on his drawing board. Note that this event replaces the usual first Saturday open studio.

Plenty of free parking at the venue! Full details here.

Next Open Studio & Train Day: Saturday, June 2

Kick off the summer season at Thunder Mesa Studio on Jerome’s 1st Saturday! See the Thunder Mesa Mining Company Model Railroad, an operating 1/4″ scale narrow gauge display featuring spectacular scenery, lights, animation, and sound. Meet local artist D.L. Meek and see what’s new on his drawing board. Stick around after 5pm for the 1st Saturday Jerome Art Walk. Click here for more info!

Free parking at the venue and free shuttle bus service to and from downtown Jerome from 5pm to 8pm.

Event Calendar

Calico Canyon Unit of the Horse Thief & Never Mine Ry.

A Simple On18 Loop

This may be a case of the name of a model railroad being longer than the line itself, but I had to call it something, right? The Calico Canyon Unit of the HT&NMRy is a simple loop of 9mm gauge track about a foot below the Thunder Mesa mainline in Calico Canyon. It emerges from a mine tunnel, crosses Calico Creek on a high trestle, then passes behind a waterfall before ducking back into another tunnel. Round and round it goes, bringing a little more kinetic energy to the canyon scene. The circle is 11" radius and uses Peco HOn3o track for the visible areas, and Atlas N scale snap track for the hidden parts of the loop. Power comes from a well used Kato DC power pack under the layout.

The idea began with earlier plans for Calico Mountain and evolved into a loop inside the canyon when I started roughing in the scenery there. I started by creating a circular sub-roadbed from pink extruded polystyrene foam, and then building the canyon walls up with more foam around it. Midwest HO cork roadbed was glued to the foam with yellow carpenter's glue and allowed to dry overnight before track laying began. Using sectional track in the hidden areas allowed me to leave some rail joints un-soldiered, always a good idea since nickle-silver rail shrinks and expands with changes in temperature.

Calico Creek will cascade down the canyon in a series of dramatic falls, over and under the On18 and On30 tracks. Up top on the TMMC mainline, a new mine headframe and hoist house will be built near the backdrop, giving the illusion that the On18 tracks below are part of a large mine complex.

Progress on this little loop is tied in with progress on the larger scenes of Calico Canyon and Calico Mountain. The next big jobs will be building a mine complex trackside and all of those bridges across the canyon. Then there's the canyon scenery itself to finish and the cascades and falls of Calico Creek. In the meantime, here's a quick video of the On18 loop in action. Stay tuned, Amigos!