Update on the Thunder Mesa Riverfront

Building Fowler's Landing

 

The little mining town of Thunder Mesa sits along the banks of the Rio Frontera, where steamboats up from the Sea of Cortez still deliver passengers and cargo. Follow along as I build the docks at Fowler's Landing and the colorful headquarters of the Western River Expedition Company.

For the new riverfront scene, a 10" wide addition was added to the layout in front of Thunder Mesa Town. This replaced a previous roll-away river module that simply took up too much space and blocked access/viewing of the town and future engine service area. I decided that I really want folks to see the models and scenes that I so laboriously build! This decision made for a narrower aisle, but I believe the trade off was worth it.

Here it looks a little like it snowed down along the Thunder Mesa riverfront, but this is the next step in building the scenery along El Rio Frontera. Sculptamold is applied over and around the foam pieces to add texture and blend things together. After this dries overnight it gets a coat of the scenic base color.

Skipping ahead, here's the final look of the rockwork after painting with acrylics. The process is to apply a scenic base color (raw sienna in my case), then use a diluted black wash to bring out the shadows and details. Then, gradually lighter and bolder colors are lightly brushed on until I'm satisfied with the look.

As is my usual practice, I built a cardstock mock-up to make sure everything I had planned for the scene would fit. The white card is the footprint for a 50' river steamer.

The docks were Scratchbuilt in place with dimensional basswood, dowels for the piles and good old coffee stir sticks for the decking. All of the wood was distressed with a razor saw and stained with an alcohol/shoe dye mixture prior to assembly with carpenter's glue. The stairs down to the lower dock are from Grandt Line, while all of the "rope" is #8 crochet thread in a natural color. Grandt nut/bolt/washer castings were used on the joists and sway braces and other details come from various manufacturers. The stair balusters and upper deck railing were made with fancy wooden toothpicks. Just in case anyone is foolish or drunk enough to fall in the river, I added the Western River Expedition Co. life ring. It was created in Adobe Photoshop and printed out on heavy paper. I then used a very fine emery-board to round off the edges before adding the scale rope.

Naturally, crews need a way to get freight from the riverboat dock to trackside and vise-versa. I scratchbuilt this armstrong jib crane with some Crow River, Berkshire Valley, and Grandt Line details. The winch line is elastic thread.

With the docks themselves just about finished, I began work on the Western River Expedition Co. building at Fowler's Landing. It was Scratchbuilt using some laser cut walls I had lying around from another project. The battens were individually applied, then I started adding some color, weathering as I went. The design, layout and colors of the structure were all chosen to compliment the depot scene across the tracks. Setting the structure at a 90º angle to the depot acts as a framing device to help bracket the scene and focus the viewers attention.

Doors, windows and trim were added (most modified Grandt Line castings) before starting on the roof. I used real cedar wooden shingles over an illustration board base, and the distinctive cupola was built up from scale basswood and flashed with real copper strips. The gingerbread roof trim was leftover from my depot build, and the various signs and posters were all created in Photoshop.

Some final details were the crossed oars on the upstream side and the nautical looking jib above the cargo doors.

Like most of my structures, Fowler's Landing has lights. The interior is illuminated by a single 2.5 mm constant yellow LED, while the exterior lamp houses a 2.5mm flickering yellow LED. The lamp itself was built from a doubled and rolled up piece of Scotch Magic Tape with parts from my scrap box. To keep the structure removable, it's a simple press-fit on a rectangle of foamcore attached to the wooden dock. 12V DC power comes from below the dock (and the layout) and is distributed via some very handy dollhouse wiring tape. A mini plug and socket for the porch-light keeps the structure removable. Proper polarity for the LEDs is maintained using color coded wiring (red for +, black for -). All of the window glazing is fogged using Scotch Tape so the interior and wiring does not show when the lamps are illuminated.

With the structures complete, I began adding more details on and around the docks. Looks like Old Bob's got a big catfish on the line - even though the water hasn't been poured yet! The figure is by Arttista with scratchbuilt fishing pole. Just downriver from the docks, Tom and Huck's raft is pulled in close to shore in yet another nod to the Disneyland inspiration.

And that's it for the build of Fowler's Landing! Next will come the 50' river steamer that will be the true centerpiece of this scene. After that, I can actually finish modeling the river itself with epoxy resin. Stay tuned!


Thanks for following along, amigos. Registered users can leave questions and comments below so, please, join in the conversation!

All the best,
Dave

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