Category: video

Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad


Let’s take a ride through the redwoods on the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad! Located in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains near Felton, California, Roaring Camp remains one of the premier narrow gauge railroad attractions in the United States. Some of the oldest operating steam engines in the country still pull daily excursion trains up and down the switchbacks of Bear Mountain on grades approaching an astounding 9%! The scenery is just as spectacular as the trains, as 3′ narrow gauge rails wind through the oldest preserved redwood grove in California. Note that this video was taken after the recent September 2020 fires near Santa Cruz. As you can see, the railroad and surrounding woods are still standing and as beautiful as ever! Roaring Camp is a must see for any steam railroad fan, and particularly for fans of vintage geared steam.

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,

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,

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,

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,

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


New Park & Depot Benches from Crescent Creek Models

Walt's Bench is Here!

Crescent Creek Models' new Park & Depot Benches are now available to order. These classic wooden slat style benches are based on  none other than "Walt's Bench" from Griffith Park in Los Angelas - the very same bench where the old Moustro is said to have first dreamed up the idea for Disneyland as he sat eating peanuts and watching his daughters ride the carousel. These scale 8' long benches will look right at home on a depot platform, city park, or town square in just about any era.

Our O scale Park & Depot Benches feature an innovative design, making construction easier by allowing you to build the delicate seat and back assemblies right on the card. Follow along with the photos for a quick how-to, and watch the video below for a step-by-step build.

Step 1: Remove 3 back supports and 3 seat legs from the plywood sheet.

Step 2: Fit the seat legs to the seat slats by aligning with the slots on the basswood sheet and cement them into place.

Step 3: Remove the seat assembly from the basswood sheet and glue the front slat in place.

Step 4: Pass the 3 seat back supports thru their corresponding slots and cement in place.

Step 5: Remove the back assembly from the sheet and align with the seat assembly. The combined legs should form x-braces below the seat. Glue together when properly aligned.

Step 6: finish the bench by gluing the leg braces into their corresponding slots, front and back. Paint and finish as desired.

Modeling Canyon Country Scenery with Foam

Building the Diorama

The one question I am asked more than any other is, "How do you model your rocks?" I've done a couple of videos that explain my methods in detail, and this one, originally created for Joey Riccard's Trackside Scenery YouTube Channel is among the best. I've re-edited my segment of that video to make things a bit clearer, and added it to my own ongoing series of "How To" videos.

The Lone Rock diorama featured in this video began with an email from Joey Ricard. He asked if I might be interested in contributing to an upcoming video about modeling rocks and I was happy to agree. Joey's videos are always fun and informative, focusing on both tried-and-true and new-and-innovative techniques. Just my kind of project. Most of the build is covered in the resulting video, so this post focuses on a few additional details that may have been glossed over.

The 12" x 24" diorama started with a simple frame of 1" x 2" MDF and three layers of 1.5" white polystyrene bead-board. Some 1" thick gold polyurethane foam (Balsa Foam) was roughly shaped to form a single, towering butte. 1/2" plywood was cut to shape for track sub-roadbed and glued in place atop the foam. The white foam was shaped with a hot-wire cutter, and a small stone culvert made from Balsa Foam was created to bridge the gully. I used Loctite Power Grab construction adhesive to glue everything together.

The butte was carved from hard density Balsa Foam. This is a commercial version of the same gold urethane carving foam used by Walt Disney Imagineering and Hollywood special effects model builders. It's available through better stocked art and craft dealers.

A short section of the 1/2" plywood sub-roadbed was cut away and a chunk of 1" thick Balsa Foam was used to form a small stone culvert. The arch was created with sandpaper wrapped around a small bottle, and the stones were carved with a hard 5H pencil.

Using photos of rocks from Monument Valley, Moab and Sedona, Lone Rock Butte was carved from Balsa Foam using mostly a #2 hobby knife. The butte was then glued to the base with Loctite Powergrab adhesive. Four bamboo skewers between the butte and the base add additional strength.

Sculptamold was used to blend the butte into the base and to form an embankment along the sub-roadbed right of way. A soft, wet brush was used to smooth the Sculptamold and blend it with the different foams.

Since there would be scenery below it, the stone culvert was finished early and installed flush with the sub-roadbed. It was painted with acrylics and the mortar lines were filled with spackling paste. Midwest HO scale cork roadbed was glued down with yellow carpenter's glue, then just about everything on the diorama was given a base coat of golden-tan flat latex house paint. When that was dry, a length of Peco On30 flextrack was cemented in place with Powergrab adhesive.

As described in the video, a wash of diluted India ink was sprayed onto the butte to darken cracks and crevices before final painting was done. Inexpensive craft acrylics were used to complete the paint job. Colors like raw sienna, red oxide, burnt umber and unbleached titanium were applied wet into wet, working from darker to lighter tones.

I masked off the diorama and painted the track flat black with some Krylon spray paint. Next the ties were painted with a light tan acrylic. I used Apple Barrel "Khaki." Then the rails were painted with rust colored chalks suspended in 70% isopropyl alcohol. The final step was to give everything a good dusting with black and dark brown chalks. There's no power going to this track so I didn't bother to clean the paint off of the railhead. On powered track I'd use a Bright Boy or paint thinner to clean the railhead after painting.

The basic ground cover is Polyblend Sanded Grout. I mixed it up with a little water to form a thick paste and then just stippled it on with a cheep paintbrush (don't use a good brush for this! You'll never use it again). The erosion lines were pressed in with a pencil. The grout does a good job of representing soil while also filling and smoothing any remaining gaps in the foam base. This color is called "Sandstone," appropriately enough, and it dries a couple of shades lighter than it goes on. The wet grout generally stays where you put it but I also wet it down with a misting of diluted matte medium to lock it in place.

Once the grout had set overnight, the final coloring was done with light washes of acrylics to blend and unify the grout layer with the rock carving.


Real dirt and rocks were sprinkled on and then glued in place with white glue and diluted matte medium. Then the track was ballasted with local sandstone, held in place with more diluted matte medium.

Woodland Scenics "Field Grass" was used to make clumps of desert grasses and weeds, held in place with dabs of Aleene's Tacky Glue. Any loose fibers were later cleaned up with a shop vac. Then a few more bushes and desert plants were added to finish the diorama. The juniper bushes are Super Trees from Scenic Express covered in Noch dark green foliage. Clumps of gray sage were made with Woodland Scenics medium green bushes, lightly sprayed with gray primer. The prickly-pear cacti are castings from Pegasus Models.

Building the Lone Rock diorama was a quick, fun and rewarding project. Even if you don't have room for a full layout, I encourage anyone to try their hand at a small diorama like this. It can be finished in a week or so, and it's a great way to learn new techniques or to experiment with scenery ideas.

The Lone Rock Diorama was completed back in early 2016 and was later featured on the cover of Railroad Hobbyist Magazine. Today, it is being incorporated into a new HO layout I'm building at the studio called the Rio Lobo & Western and there'll be more on that in a future post. But that's it for this time. Thanks for checking in, amigos. Adios for now!

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!