Author: Dave Meek

A Thunder Mesa Excursion Special

 

All aboard for a Grand Circle Tour thru Nature's Wonderland on this Thunder Mesa Excursion Special! Enjoy the sights and sounds along the way as we explore the Living Desert, Geyser Gulch, Rainbow Caverns, Natural Arch Bridge and more. Stops at Calico, Tumbleweed, Los Feliz Jct, and Rainbow Ridge. Apologies in advance for some unfinished scenery and empty excursion cars. Thunder Mesa is always a work in progress!


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

All the best,
Dave

Building a Miner’s Shack

Be it ever so humble

This little miner's shack was built for Big Thunder Camp and sits along the right-of-way for the On18 Horse Thief & Never Mine Ry. Made from wood, foamcore, and a few Grandt Line castings, it was a fun and relatively simple project to build. The footprint is about 16x12 scale feet (4x3"). The shack was basically designed as an elaborate lamp for flickering LED lanterns, and I'll show just how to build and install those in the photos and captions below.

A black foamcore box forms the basic shell of the structure that will be clad in wood siding. The ridge line dips on purpose for a built in sag in the roof. The doors and windows are modified Grandt Line castings. The wooden siding is coffee stir sticks from my local craft store, and I purposefully made them a little uneven. Each board was stained with a 10:1 alcohol and shoe-dye mixture and custom fit to its place the structure.

The Grandt Line doors and windows were primed and then drybrushed with craft acrylics to match the distressed look of the wood siding. The clear glazing has been "fogged" with Avery inkjet labels - a nifty trick I picked up. With the walls finished, I tested the fit in its intended location before starting on the roof. Roofing on the shed portion is black gaffer's tape, which does a good job of simulating tarred canvas in this scale. I also installed a cardstock ceiling to prevent light leaks around the roof.

The built-in roof sag was accomplished by carefully scoring and then folding the cardstock roof panels to match the ridge line. Excess material at the top was then trimmed away to match the sag. I drew lines on the roof 3/8" apart and applied the Bar Mills paper shingles with yellow glue. The smoke-jack is another Grandt Line casting.

With the structure complete, it was time to move on to the lighting. The basic materials for a flickering lantern are shown above. I purchase the 3mm yellow flickering LEDs in bulk on eBay. I like the yellow color for kerosene lamps, and flickering amber LEDs for simulating fire. On these newer LEDs the flicker is already built in and no special circuitry is required. The liquid latex is sold as Liquid Electrical Tape at the local hardware store. I used it to insulate the diodes and copper wires inside the barrel where the space is too small for tape or heat shrink tubing.

These photos show the complete lantern assembly for the front porch. A 1/8" hole was drilled through both barrel and the porch. The barrel is a resin casting from Rusty Rails. It was painted with acrylics and glued in place on the porch. The lantern pieces were painted red and assembled atop the barrel as shown. Because of the tight space, bare copper wire was soldered to the diode leads and then threaded through the barrel and porch. Thus the need for the liquid latex. A 510 Ohm 1/4 Watt LED resistor was soldered to the positive lead and then 20 AWG wires were soldered to bring power. After soldering, everything was protected with heat shrink tubing.

In the finished lighting set up, the wiring runs down through gaps cut in the foam base. One flickering and one non-flickering LED light the interior of the cabin. An interior black foam-core box was created to house the lighting and prevent light leaks, and the shack slides down on top of this black box. The last two photos and the video below show how the lamps look when illuminated. A 9v DC transformer provides power for these and other lights on the layout.

 

Flickering Lanterns in the Miner's Shack


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

All the best,
Dave

Rainbow Ridge Update

Work continues on the little mining town of Rainbow Ridge as it evolves alongside the progress at Circle D Ranch. The mainline through town has been ballasted with chick-grit, ground cover has begun to be added in the form of real dirt, and a wood plank grade crossing has been installed next to the depot. The depot itself has been refreshed with new "Rainbow Ridge" signs, and the water tank from Hanging Rock has been relocated here since I felt it better fit this scene. Hanging rock will be getting a new (read: old and worn out) water tank of its own in the not too distant future.

A Quick Stop at Rainbow Ridge

Arriving from Los Feliz Junction through Tunnel #1, an ore train makes a quick stop at Rainbow Ridge to pick up new orders before heading on to Thunder Mesa.


The Problem with Facebook
This post is part of an ongoing attempt to relocate material from Facebook to this website. Unfortunately, Facebook continues to engage in a wide variety of highly unethical practices which I have no desire to support. If you are a fan of my art and/or modeling, please follow them here. I will be posting much more here in the days and weeks ahead, and much, much less on Facebook. Registered users can leave questions and comments on posts so please, join in the conversation!

All the best,
Dave

Rainbow Ridge Clarion

The first structure built for the new town of Rainbow Ridge was the Clarion newspaper office. My pal and business partner Jake Johnson had some of the pieces laser cut based on my plans and that made construction of the fancy false front much easier. I did my best to match the colors and signs based upon photos from 1960's Disneyland, and the upper section of the false front is made from layered paper, with realistic printed wood textures and the graphics recreated in Photoshop.

Since the structure is designed to sit up against the backdrop, it's only about an inch deep. However, I did install LED lighting and hinted at some interior details. The window curtains are made from unpainted HO scale paper corrugated roofing material, and the curtain rods are dress pins. The front porch is painted and textured illustration board, and the roof was shingled with Crescent Creek Models paper shingles.

Fun fact, this building from Rainbow Ridge still survives at Disneyland (or at least a very close facsimile of it does) as the Gold Nugget Dance Hall above the Big Thunder queue.

Follow along with the photos to see how it all went together.


The Problem with Facebook
This post is part of an ongoing attempt to relocate material from Facebook to this website. Unfortunately, Facebook continues to engage in a wide variety of highly unethical practices which I have no desire to support. If you are a fan of my art and/or modeling, please follow them here. I will be posting much more here in the days and weeks ahead, and much, much less on Facebook. Registered users can leave questions and comments on posts so please, join in the conversation!

All the best,
Dave

The Little Mining Town of Rainbow Ridge

Rainbow Ridge was the approximately 5/8 scale mining town that once served as the backdrop and marquee for Disneyland's Mine Train thru Natures Wonderland and Pack Mules attractions. The colorful little western buildings were not accessible to the public, but that didn't stop them from fueling my imagination as a kid. The Mine Train closed in 1977 to make way for the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but some of the Rainbow Ridge structures were preserved and repurposed for the queue of that attraction.

In December of 2018, I decided to model my own version of Rainbow Ridge on the Thunder Mesa Mining Company layout. The town of Thunder Mesa was already heavily influenced by Rainbow Ridge, but I wanted a version of the town that was more faithful to the 1960's original. This series of posts follows the progress of that project to date.

The first step was to design the structures. I used vintage photos from my collection, and scaled the models up to full 1/4" scale based on known dimensions like the relative sizes of doors and windows. The buildings are designed to be built in shallow relief since they will sit right up against the backdrop.

The next step was to prepare the site. I made some changes to the backdrop and added a new spur track off the mainline. Using the structure plans I had made, I built paper and cardstock mock-ups of all of the structures and arranged them on a foamcore base. Since Thunder Mesa's depot was being replaced by a new Grizzly Flats/Frontierland style station, I also made plans to relocate the original depot to Rainbow Ridge where it would fit in well with the smaller sized buildings.

Some Grandt Line balustrade railing was added to the depot platform to keep little folks from falling into Coyote Canyon, then the lights were hooked up again to bring the depot to life.

With the structure mock-ups, new spur, and depot in place, I had a good feel for how the scene was coming together. Next comes some fully built shallow relief structures to replace those mock-ups. Stay tuned!


The Problem with Facebook
This post is part of an ongoing attempt to relocate material from Facebook to this website. Unfortunately, Facebook continues to engage in a wide variety of highly unethical practices which I have no desire to support. If you are a fan of my art and/or modeling, please follow them here. I will be posting much more here in the days and weeks ahead, and much, much less on Facebook. Registered users can leave questions and comments on posts so please, join in the conversation!

All the best,
Dave

Glittering Ore inside Rainbow Caverns

Here's a fun special effect inside Rainbow Caverns: Magical "Neverlandium" ore will sparkle and glow in a rainbow of colors as cars pass thru shafts of UV light. I borrowed this wonderful idea from an acquaintance WDI. The effect pays tribute to the UV reactive rocks that were once exhibited at Mineral Hall near the exit of Mine Train thru Natures Wonderland at Disneyland.


The Problem with Facebook
This post is part of an ongoing attempt to relocate material from Facebook to this website. Unfortunately, Facebook continues to engage in a wide variety of highly unethical practices which I have no desire to support. If you are a fan of my art and/or modeling, please follow them here. I will be posting much more here in the days and weeks ahead, and much, much less on Facebook. Registered users can leave questions and comments on posts so please, join in the conversation!

All the best,
Dave

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

In the overhead view, I worked on the creek area to the right of Walt's Barn, adding rocks and ground cover. The second photo shows a new section of split rail fence between the Circle D and Thunder Mesa's mainline, and some new greenery along the creek as well. The next shot is the first train to come through these parts in a long time. Paint, glue and track ballast are tough on electric trains so all of the track needed to be cleaned and fine tuned before trains could run again. The last photo shows the remainder of the ranch property real dirt ground cover, blending the base of Walt's Barn with the rest of the scenery. Now I can finish the stock pens and start thinking about the log cabin that will sit at the base of Thumb Butte.

 

Operating Turnouts

In true narrow gauge fashion, all of the switches on the TMMC are thrown by hand. I extend the switch point ties on the Peco turnouts with scale 6x8s, and use N scale Caboose Ground Throws and a simple wire linkage to move the points. Here is a video of the ground throws in action at the Circle D and Calico sidings.

 

A Work Train Passes the Circle D

Engine #8, R.H. Gurr, heads up a short work train passing the Circle D en route to Thunder Mesa.


The Problem with Facebook
This post is part of an ongoing attempt to relocate material from Facebook to this website. Unfortunately, Facebook continues to engage in a wide variety of highly unethical practices which I have no desire to support. If you are a fan of my art and/or modeling, please follow them here. I will be posting much more here in the days and weeks ahead, and much, much less on Facebook. Registered users can leave questions and comments on posts so please, join in the conversation!

All the best,
Dave

Stock Loading Chute at the Circle D

Today the Circle D got this new stock loading chute, scratchbuilt from scale lumber. I still need to build the rest of the pens.


The Problem with Facebook
This post is part of an ongoing attempt to relocate material from Facebook to this website. Unfortunately, Facebook continues to engage in a wide variety of highly unethical practices which I have no desire to support. If you are a fan of my art and/or modeling, please follow them here. I will be posting much more here in the days and weeks ahead, and much, much less on Facebook. Registered users can leave questions and comments on posts so please, join in the conversation!

All the best,
Dave

Ranch Gate and a New Bridge at the Circle D

The rough hewn style of the Circle D's new ranch gates is loosely based on a gate that once stood at Disneyland's Big Thunder Ranch. The logs were done with dowels, toothpicks for the sawn branches, and Crescent Creek Models Scale Stucco to create the bark texture. The back of the sign has a very small inside joke. Folks at the Circle D also needed a way to get across Coyote Canyon so Thunder Mesa construction crews built them a simple pony truss. The scratchbuilt 40' span is too lightly built for trains, but just fine for horses and wagons.


The Problem with Facebook
This post is part of an ongoing attempt to relocate material from Facebook to this website. Unfortunately, Facebook continues to engage in a wide variety of highly unethical practices which I have no desire to support. If you are a fan of my art and/or modeling, please follow them here. I will be posting much more here in the days and weeks ahead, and much, much less on Facebook. Registered users can leave questions and comments on posts so please, join in the conversation!

All the best,
Dave

How to use Crescent Creek Models Scale Stucco

 

New from Crescent Creek Models! Scale Stucco is a heavy bodied acrylic modeling paste ideal for recreating stucco wall finishes in miniature. In this video, Dave demonstrates the techniques for using this product to achieve a realistic stucco finish. Scale Stucco is available to order now in the Crescent Creek Models shop.

Scale Stucco – All Scales