Category: Disney

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.

Sam Towler’s Nature’s Wonderland Model

Sam Towler’s amazing model of Disneyland’s Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland attraction filmed at the 2016 Railroad Days Celebration in Fullerton, CA. This fantastic On30 model railroad was the hit of the show and lovingly recreates this long lost Disney attraction in elaborate, often animated, detail – right down to the themed trashcans! Enjoy.