Category: Calico

Calico Mountain Expansion Part 8: The Calico Mine Co.

In part 8 of the Calico Mountain build, I create my own version of the Calico Mine Co. structure as seen at Knott's Berry Farm. Using some laser cut parts, coffee stir sticks, and a few commercial castings, I show how I built the structure from start to finish - right down to the LED lighting!

Thanks for tuning in, amigos!
Dave

Calico Mountain Expansion Part 6: The Backdrop

 

Welcome to Episode 6 of the Calico Mountain Expansion how-to series! This episode shows how I built, installed and painted the 30x60" backdrop behind Calico Mountain, with tips on painting clouds and scenic landforms to blend the backdrop with modeled scenery. Don't forget to subscribe and hit that notification bell so you don't miss a single episode.

Thanks for tuning in, amigos!
Dave

Calico Mountain Expansion Part 5: Building a Mountain Out of Foam

 

Episode 5 of the Calico Mountain Expansion how-to series is all about building Calico Mountain itself out of extruded polystyrene foam (EPF). I give step-by-step descriptions of my process for roughing in scenery with this lightweight material, and even adding some carved rock detail. Don’t forget to subscribe and hit that notification bell so you don’t miss a single episode.

Thanks for tuning in, amigos!
Dave

Calico Mountain Expansion Part 4: On18 Track Levels

 

In episode 4 of the Calico Mountain Expansion how-to series we get the On18 trains running on two levels! Some changes are made to the original plan, with a second mid-height loop of On18 track added to increase the fun and visual interest. Don't forget to subscribe and hit that notification bell so you don't miss a single episode. Thanks for tuning in, amigos! Dave

Calico Mountain Expansion Part 3: Going Vertical

 

Time for episode 3 in the Calico Mountain Expansion how-to series! In this one, construction goes vertical with the addition of an upper deck for the On18 line. I'll take you step by step through the carpentry and tools I used to get this project off the ground floor. Don't forget to subscribe and hit that notification bell so you don't miss a single episode.

Thanks for tuning in, amigos!
Dave

Calico Expansion and a New Layout Map

 

Thunder Mesa is expanding! In 2021, a new 3x5' Calico Mountain Extension will be built next to the town of Calico, adding a longer run and a reverse loop option to the On30 mainline. On a higher level, the new On18 Calico Mining Company Ry will wind in and out of the mountain in a figure 8 pattern, evoking the look and feel of Knott's famous Calico Mine Ride. Both lines will journey underground, passing through detailed mining scenes inspired by the Knott's original. Some version of Calico Mountain has been part of the plan for Thunder Mesa from the earliest days, and I'm excited to finally be bringing this to life. Here's a first look at the new Calico Mountain Extension, and an all new layout map for 2021!

Above is the first new layout map I've published since 2016, and as you can see, there have been a lot of changes! At left is a floor plan of the Jerome studio, showing how the layout fits in with everything else.  In this week's video, I demonstrate a little bit of my process for making these plans, and go into more detail on the new Calico Mountain section.


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

Happy Holidays,
Dave

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

Laying Track in Calico and This Week’s Video Log

Studio Update - Sep 1, 2017

This week I was able to spend a few enjoyable hours completing the track work through the new Calico town section. As usual, Peco On30 flextrack and turnouts were used, just as they have been on the entire Thunder Mesa layout.  This track is tough, easy to work with and operates very well. As a bonus, it's chunky, caricatured appearance fits in perfectly with the TMMC as it resembles track on Disney's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Click on this week's video log above for a few track laying tips and tricks, as well as a little ghost railroad hunting along the old right-of-way of the United Verde & Pacific, Jerome's fabled narrow gauge line from 1895. Below, I'll go into a bit more detail on some of the track laying particulars for this project.

One thing I didn't really cover in this week's video log was the installation of the wye turnout that connects the rest of the layout to the new Calico town section. This was a little tricky since the turnout needed to be located on a curved section of the existing mainline. After a bit of trial and error, I found the sweet spot where the curvature of the proposed wye best matched the existing curve on the mainline and then planned the rest of the track into Calico from there. I marked where the ends of the turnout would fall and then cut out and removed the matching section of mainline.

I've recently begun adding Tam Valley Depot Frog Juicers to the turnouts to improve DCC performance. In the photo above you can see a simple modification made to the wye turnout where a length of wire has been soldered to the thin wire that brings power from the points to the frog. This wire will be connected to a Frog Juicer to provide constant current to the frog while automatically changing polarity when the points are thrown. The Frog Juicer itself will be installed below decks at a later date.

A small hole for the wire was drilled below the frog's position and then the turnout was installed, making sure to add insulated rail joiners to prevent shorting when current is fed from the open, non-point end of the turnout. A couple of Atlas track nails on the connecting tracks hold everything firmly in place.

The rest of the track installation is covered pretty thoroughly in this week's video log, but there are a few points I should emphasize.

  • I always solder rail connections on curves, but almost never on turnouts or straight sections of track. This allows for expansion and contraction of the rail during changes in humidity and also makes it much easier to remove a turnout and replace it should that become necessary.
  • I use either glue or track nails to hold the track in place (though rarely both), and always use nails on sharp curves or anywhere I need the flextrack to firmly hold its shape.
  • I do not glue or nail turnouts to the roadbed. Connections on adjoining tracks make this unnecessary and, again, not nailing them down makes them easy to remove should the need arise.
  • Always pay attention to how power flows through the rails and follow the manufacturer's instructions on where to place gaps or insulated rail joints on turnouts to prevent short circuits.

And lastly: have fun! Model railroading really is fun if you take your time, enjoy what you're doing and don't take it all too seriously. Remember, when all is said and done, we're just grown-ups playing with trains. Make the most of it.

Here's a bonus video showing the first train into Calico after I dropped some feeder wires and hooked the new track up to the DCC bus. Enjoy!

Thanks for checking in, amigos. Adios for now!

Changes to the Backdrop and This Week’s Video Log

Studio Update - Aug 26, 2017

This past week I did more work on the new Calico section, repainting an area of the backdrop that will be behind the town to look a bit more like the desert hills around the real Calico Ghost Town near Yermo, CA. Many thanks to former Calico resident K.D. Younger for sending me a disc full of photos from her days there. I also found a little time to do some ghost-mine hunting this week and paid a visit to the Audrey Shaft Head-frame at the Little Daisy Mine in Jerome. Click on this week's video log above for a visit to the mine, some backdrop painting, and other assorted antics.

When I originally painted this section of the backdrop a few months ago, I really didn't have a clear idea about what to build in this new section of the layout. Once the decision was reached to relocate Calico town there, I knew that the backdrop would need to be altered to fit the scene. I started by studying photos of the mountains around Calico, and then lightly sketching in a rocky profile with pencil. Fortunately, I still had a lot of paint left over in several shades that were specially mixed for the backdrop and I blocked in the basic shapes with a medium brown tone.

The next step was to start defining the shapes a bit with a slightly darker shadow color. That was then followed by a lighter, more saturated color on the areas where sun would be hitting the rocks. When working with acrylic or, in this case, latex paints, I've found that it's best to start with medium values and then work darker and lighter from there, saving the highlights and darkest shadows for the final steps.

Then it was just a matter of building on these medium tones with lighter and darker shades to give definition to areas of sunlight and shadow. Again, most of the colors used were already pre-mixed from the earlier backdrop painting and I highly recommend this approach. My practice is to experiment and then mix up small amounts of the colors I'll need with artist's acrylics. These colors are then painted on to small, 2x2" pieces of white cardstock, and labeled on the back with names like "medium sandstone," "red sandstone," "dark shadow," etc. Then I take these cards down to my local home center and have the colors matched and mixed up by the quart as interior flat latex. This system ensures that I always have color samples at hand, and that one section of the backdrop will always match (and not clash with) another section, even if they are painted several months apart.

The final step was to bring the entire scene up to the same level of finish as other parts of the backdrop. This is when the final, lightest highlights are added and small details like trees and bushes are painted in. Obviously, I don't go for photo-realism on the backdrop, just a believable scene that will blend with and compliment the 3-d foreground scenery to come. The challenge here at Calico was to convey the rugged, Mojave Desert feel of the mountains there, while still matching the colors and character of earlier sections of the backdrop. I hope I pulled it off.

That's going to wrap it up for this week. Just a quick reminder that next Saturday, September 2, is the next Open Studio & Train Day at Thunder Mesa Studio and I hope to see some of you there. Also, a big thank you to those who have taken advantage of the 15% off coupon and free shipping going on now through August 31 at the Thunder Mesa Spreadshirt shop. The coupon code is: EAAIZSF9

Thanks for checking in, amigos. Adios for now!