Category: Disney

Thunder Mesa Limited Podcast Ep 11: Robert Kurner

Inventing a Fictional Railroad
Join me as I chat with Robert Kurner, creator of the Adventureland themed Typhoon Lagoon Railway. We get insights into the art, science, and all-around madness of inventing a model railroad prototype like Typhoon Lagoon – plus some startling late night discoveries working 3rd shift with Disneyland’s horticulture department. We also learn what’s cool about N scale, and much, much more!

Thunder Mesa Limited Podcast Ep 10: Jake Johnson & the Art of Model Railroading

The Art of Model Railroading

Jake Johnson is back for a second appearance on the Thunder Mesa Limited, and this time our conversation is all about the art of model railroading! We talk about how and when to use forced perspective, color choices for scenery and structures, backdrops, how to choose a scale that’s right for you, the detail threshold, and so much more.

Thunder Mesa Limited Podcast Ep 7: Jim Shull

Join me for a wide ranging conversation with former Disney Imagineer Jim Shull! Jim is a 33 year veteran of Walt Disney Imagineering and we delve into the highlights of his career from Mickey’s Toontown to Shanghai Disneyland. Along the way, we tackle questions like why Shanghai doesn’t have a railroad, what it’s like to be on an Imagineering team that works mostly behind the scenes, and learn about a Tomorrowland that could have been.

TML Podcast Episode 3: William Tyson

Join me for a fun and candid conversation with retired Disney Imagineer, William Tyson! From Epcot World Showcase, to Disneyland Paris, Animal Kingdom, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and just about every Disney Park in-between, William has some amazing stories to tell from a 37 year career with WDI. Listen in on how the magic was made real working with some of the very best in the business!

A Fireworks Wagon for Thunder Mesa

 

Come along as I build an O scale Fireworks Wagon based on artwork from Disneyland! Using kitbashed parts and cg texture/printed paper modeling techniques, I build a 19th century fireworks wagon to compliment Thunder Mesa's digitally projected fireworks show. I hope you enjoy this step-by-step "how to." Patreon subscribers can download the custom artwork created for this project.

Thanks for tuning in, amigos!
Dave

The Little Mining Town of Rainbow Ridge (So Far)

 

Howdy, folks! Welcome to the little mining town of Rainbow Ridge, the latest boomtown under construction along the Thunder Mesa line. Here's an inside look at the planning and construction of the town to date, and insights into the addition of Walt's Barn and Circle D Ranch. Rainbow Ridge was the jumping off point for the fabled Mine Train thru Nature's Wonderland at Disneyland, and I'm excited to be adding my own version of the Thunder Mesa layout There's lots more to do in these parts, so stay tuned for future updates on this developing area.


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

All the best,
Dave

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

Building the Big Thunder Dynamite Shack

 

Howdy folks! In today's blog and video, I'll walk you through the planning and building for my version of Big Thunder Mountain's Dynamite Shack - AKA: the "goat trick" scene! It's a fun scene I've always wanted on the On30 Thunder Mesa layout and I'm happy to share the details here.

That pesky dynamite chewing goat on Big Thunder. Locals call this scene the "Goat Trick," because if you keep your eyes on the goat while your train rounds the sharp curve, you can get a dizzy feeling like you're spinning super fast. The effect works best in the last train car.

I drew these plans based on photos and observations of the structure in both Anaheim and Orlando. The one on the ride is actually quite tiny, so I scaled mine up to O scale person size. Note the built-in sag in the roof.

A planning model for the dynamite shack. This was used to make sure everything looked right at scale and would fit in the scene. It was also used to plan the laser-cut parts that would be used to build the finished model. The side lean-to shed was later omitted for the final version.

Here are the basswood laser-cut parts being assembled. Everything was stained with an alcohol and black shoe dye mixture before assembly and the signs were created with acrylic paint and custom stencils.

Here's a nifty trick. The look of antique rippled glass was created by painting Woodland Scenics Realistic Water onto the acrylic glazing, then drying it quickly with a hair dryer.

The roof was made from 1/16" thick illustration board, trimmed with stained basswood. The shingles are laser-cut paper - a future product from Crescent Creek Models.

The entire scene was built and detailed on a removable piece of Extruded Polystyrene Foam scenery that serves as one of the access hatches for Rainbow Caverns. 3mm yellow LEDs were added inside and out, and the front porch lantern has a built in flicker.

Detailing the scene was the most fun. The goat is from a set of O scale farm animals that I picked up, and the dynamite sticks are short pieces of red wire insulation. Tools and barrels come from various manufacturers, and the Lytum & Hyde dynamite boxes were designed by me and printed out on heavy paper. These are available as a free paper model download here.

More details are visible in this overhead view, including the hidden Mickey made from gears and junk from my scrapbox. The desert plants are from Woodland Scenics, Scenic Express, Pegasus Hobbies and others.

The finished scene. Future plans are to add the Big Thunder goat sound effects with and ITT Products sound module. These can be activated by a passing train, or by pushing a button on the layout fascia.

Big Thunder Camp

The dynamite shack sits on the outskirts of Big Thunder Camp, along the right of way for the On18 Horse Thief & Nevermine mining tram. It makes a nice addition to this scene, where its placement makes logical sense among all of the mining activity at Big Thunder. I'll have more on the mines there in a future update.

That's it from Thunder Mesa. Until next time, adios for now!


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

All the best,
Dave

Thunder Mesa No. 8 ~ The R. H. Gurr

The Bob

Thunder Mesa's newest locomotive is a trusty and reliable 14-ton Stearns-Heisler, circa 1895. The repainted and detailed Bachmann model is named in honor of Disney Imagineering legend, Bob Gurr. It has always been Thunder Mesa's practice to name its locomotives in honor of Disney artists and Imagineers, and If you're not familiar with Bob Gurr, you should be. He designed just about everything with wheels in the early days of Disneyland, including the Monorail, Autopia cars, and Main Street vehicles. On the Thunder Mesa layout, the R. H. Gurr wears the number 8, and has the distinction of being the first geared locomotive used on the line. Lacking a third truck, #8 has something of a short, squished appearance, and that has earned it the nickname of "The Bob" with the Thunder Mesa crews.

Heisler History

Thunder Mesa's R.H. Gurr locomotive is based upon a small, 14-ton version of Charles L. Heisler's 1892 patented design. Heisler's design featured two cylinders canted inward at a 45º angle, with power transferred via a center mounted longitudinal drive shaft connecting enclosed gearboxes between the truck frames. Outside connecting rods then distributed power between the wheels. This was a variant similar to the Climax design where the cylinders are canted at an angle but mounted inline with the locomotive boiler.

The Stearns Manufacturing Company of Erie, Pennsylvania built Heislers from 1894 to 1907, when they reorganized as the Heisler Locomotive works and continued producing the design until 1941. As befitting a locomotive name in honor of Bob Gurr, Stearns claimed that the Heisler was the fastest of the geared locomotive designs, but with the same low-speed hauling ability as a Shay or Climax.

Though a later model, Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad's Stearns-Heisler #2, the Tuolumne, inspired some of the color and design choices on TMMC's #8. The Tuolumne originally belonged to the fabled West Side Lumber Company where it wore the number 3.

 

The Bachmann Stearns-Heisler

Bachmann's On30 version of the 14-ton Stearns-Heisler is an accurately detailed and fine running model without any of the split gear issues that plagued their Climax and Shay offerings. Mine has become the reliable workhorse of the TMMC and you can see it earning its keep at most Open Studio days. I look forward to adding another to the roster at some point in the future.

For this model, I replaced the original cab with a Banta Modelworks cab kit and stained the wood cherry red. Then I stripped the factory paint and decals off of the tender and repainted it with a gloss Hunter Green, painting the cab window trim to match. I replaced the headlight with a backdated box-style headlight salvaged from an old Bachmann Porter, then built up a new load for the tender from real Utah Juniper twigs, split and stacked as cordwood. The pilots and running boards were all repainted to add realism and dull the shine. Custom water-slide gold decals where printed for me by Stan Cedarleaf, and the crew is a pair of repainted Arttista figures. The tools and details are white metal castings from Wiseman Model Services.

A Trip Through Thunder Mesa Country with the R. H. Gurr

Sit back, relax, and enjoy this video tour of the layout and some insight into the building of the R.H. Gurr.

 

I hope Bob will forgive me for naming a slow, geared locomotive after him. He would probably prefer something sleek, fast, and candy-apple red!

Thanks for checking in, amigos. Adios for now!

The Story of Crescent Creek

rainbow ridge structures disneyland

Not much remains today of the little mining town of Crescent Creek, even its exact location is shrouded in legends, rumors and tall tales.  As with most such stories, those who know won't tell, and those who tell don't know. But if half the tales are to be believed, and they shouldn't be, it was once a raucous and bawdy boomtown to rival the likes of Dodge City or Tombstone. Colorful characters like Mark Twain, Butch Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, and even the notorious Burro Bob where said to have frequented the saloons and gambling halls that once lined Front Street in this fabled "Gomorrah of the West," as at least one newspaper described it. Sadly, you won't find it marked on any map or atlas today, but if you choose to go looking for Crescent Creek, and the mountain of riches still said to be hidden there from the Lost Eldorado Mine, rest assured that it lies somewhere near trails-end, across the Rainbow Desert, due west of Thunder Mesa, but a little north of Grizzly Flats.

Still, at least two intrepid adventurers have found their way to Crescent Creek in modern times. While on an extended expedition through the wild frontier lands of the American West, Jake Johnson and Dave Meek claim to have rediscovered all that is left of the long forgotten boomtown. Following clues found in old newspaper clippings and a hastily scrawled map drawn from the recollections of a half-crazed desert rat, they at last found their way to the narrow mountain pass and abandoned railroad right of way that legend reports as the only way in or out of Crescent Creek. After months of searching and many dead end trails, they were near the end of their provisions. They new that if this canyon was yet another dead end, they would be forced to give up the search.

As they traversed the narrow pass, a storm began to blow in from the southwest. Suddenly, a big thunder clap echoed above the canyon walls, spooking the pack mules and scattering their supplies. Lightning flashed and the rain lashed down. Hunkering below the meager shelter provided by an overhanging boulder, Jake and Dave had no choice but to wait out the storm. When it finally passed, booming and echoing away down the canyon, they spied a beautiful rainbow above the ridge, and below, revealed by a beam of sunlight, was the abandoned town of Crescent Creek.

They never did find the rumored riches of the Lost Eldorado Mine (though Dave really wants to keep looking), but they did fill their sketchbooks and journals with treasure of another sort: the vivid history of a Wild West boomtown told through the time-weathered structures of an earlier era. Returning to civilization, Jake and Dave resolved to share their discovery with the world, and, most particularly, the model railroading community. Both being the model building sort, and knowing they sat upon a veritable trove of architectural marvels and curiosities, they set about forming Crescent Creek Models in order to immortalize their find forever in miniature.

And that, if you can believe it, is the story of Crescent Creek.