Thunder Mesa Limited Podcast Ep 2-04: Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson is a professional model maker, layout builder, kit designer, and former Senior Dimensional Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. In his last appearance on the Thunder Mesa Limited, we went in depth on the art of model railroading. This time out, we delve more into the science of layout building with a focus on the hows and whys of doing things in a specific order. Plus we get Jake’s impressions from the recent 42 Annual Narrow Gauge Convention in Seattle, WA, and what it takes to build a contest winning model.

5 thoughts on “Thunder Mesa Limited Podcast Ep 2-04: Jake Johnson

  1. Hey Jake,
    Did you ever publish your methodology of building a layout? If so can you share the link with me?

    In my head I know the order of design and construction. HOWEVER, when I lead a team, club, or train show clinic I go through the process. When I’m driving home I have to pull over to the side of the road and curse spicy bombs that I forgot AGAIN a select step.

    Without being overly religious I follow the God created first, followed by Cornelius Vanderbilt. In other words first build the land. Then the track systems. Finally the cityscape.

    I could replay all three of your TMLP appearances and take notes along the way. Somewhat doable.
    The problem is that though you are inspiring….Meek is boring. Just don’t tell him. He is so sensitive.

    I must admit I like your clay modeling. Though I tried the same back in the 1960’s, 70’s, & 80’s, I’m not that talented with clay. Even my people make better rocks than neighbors. But then so do my real neighbors seem to be better as rocks.

    To avoid Claymation I have progressed to Atlas Track Planning, AnyRail, and SCARM. With it I use the vehicle and structures dimension (rounded up fat) as my plotting space holders. Then when I get to building the item, routinely it sizes slightly smaller than my track plan. In the end time for a filler.

    Lastly, about fitting separate Dioramas into the layout. I have since my first 1962 layout built all of my removable pieces with a top hat rim to the base. When installed they fit, just slightly, over the adjacent scene piece. And when I take it out to a show I “TRY” or custom build a hard wood apron. The diorama’s edge just slips into place. And extra point’s from the HO Judges.

    1. Pro tip: when trying to insult someone behind their back, don’t publish the comment on their website. Learn how the internet works.

  2. Dave: I first found Thunder Mesa Studio while researching for a project of mine involving the Calico Mine Ride. I’ve been absorbing your videos on YouTube for several weeks now, but just discovered the podcast and have subscribed to it. I’m disappointed to find the archives start at Season 1, Episode 7. Do you know of any source for acquiring the first 6 episodes? It’s frustrating to know there’s a Sam Towler episode somewhere out in the void that I can’t access.
    Thank you for what you’ve given us so far. Your videos are a perfect balance of information, entertainment, story and technique. They’ve changed my idea of what a model railroad layout can be.

  3. Sir,
    although nothing of importance, I used to correspond with Verne Niner quite a bit about the Estrella.
    He was supposed to sell me his engine #7, but forgot, after I had paid him, and sold it to someone else.
    He had to refund my payment to his surprise!
    I miss Verne, and his modeling.
    Glad to hear you two were good friends.
    You do nice rock work by the way. Got some inspiration for my new 2-rail / On30 layout.
    I’m in Prescott, perhaps I can schedule an appointment and pay you a visit.
    Phil Lebow. Central Arizona Model Railroad club

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