"Howdy Folks! Welcome to the little mining town of Rainbow Ridge, the gateway to Nature's Wonderland"

This is my documentation of my miniature re-creation of the long-gone Disneyland attraction: Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland. This is a selectively compressed model railroad, in On30 scale at 5' X 7.5' that has been in progress since 2005; even after almost 10 years of work, it's still not finished.

I started the layout when I was a sophomore in high school with basic skills and over the years the layout has been improved and reworked in drastic ways to match my ever improving model making skills. In fact, since I started rebuilding the sections to better quality and standards, I've actually created a whole new layout, piece by piece.

This is a stand-by basis project without a deadline, so it tends to hit the back-burner a lot due to other things with higher priorities. But whenever I can, I'll give an update when there is something worth talking about. All of my updates since day one are here, which include photos, videos, and plenty of rambling notes and descriptions.




March 2014 Update (That's right, an update finally!)

So yeah, it's been awhile. Mostly life has gotten in the way, but a few other projects stole my creative time. The layout itself also hit a few snags too.

I had a few issues last year that kind of put off my interest in working on the layout:


  • Part of it was Rainbow Ridge. While it was really promising when I developed it, the flickering circuitry for all the buildings and lanterns turned out to be more of a headache than a cool effect. Also, the amount of wiring: Holy crap, it's a lot of wiring. Just running cables under the decking for the load/unload platform was a lot to do and I had a big mass of wires I had to deal with. And that's just a handful of lights. The main platform with all the buildings is gonna have more!
  • LED conversion: This was a project I started last year for changing all the incandescent lights to LED's. Mainly for brighter and more vivid color,  but also better power consumption. The problem I have with the flickering circuitry is the fact that it's not very power efficient. It soaks in a lot of power to get all the lanterns to flicker and requires another power supply separate from the rest of the night time lighting.
  • Access: The only real way to get to the wiring for all of this is in the hill between Rainbow Ridge and the Living Desert. Trying to develop ways to maintain--but also build-- Rainbow Ridge is becoming more impractical the more I think about it, in terms of getting other areas worked on.
With those things in mind for just a simple lighting effect, that really stalled this project as a whole. I've decided now that I'm going back to square one a little bit with Rainbow Ridge, and keeping things simple. For now, there won't be any flickering lanterns except for a few key lights. While it seemed like a cool idea, having every single light on it's own flicker pattern was a bit too ambitious of an idea. While it still can be done, there are better ways of doing, with more power efficiency and simplifying of the wiring. I've started to use Arduino a bit, so maybe that may be an option.


Now before I deal with Rainbow Ridge, there's another area I need to get finished up while I'm at it: the Living Desert.


Because of it's proximity to Rainbow Ridge and it's mass of wiring, and because I have to lean over Rainbow Ridge to work on it, Living Desert was the focus before and more major work could be done. 

The Living Desert was the first section on the layout to go LED. Right now it's in the process of being completed converted over from incandescent bulbs, which were installed a few years ago. Since the conversion process requires ripping out the old bulbs and installing the newer, bright LED's, quite a bit of touch-up work and patch work is needed to be done. 



Here's a look at the LED's installed. So far the total is over 25 individually wired orange diodes


Since there was a considerable amount of painting---and re-painting-- that had to be done, I took a look at all the nearby rock features. Over time they've begun to look a little dull. Part of that is the dust in the room anyways, but I've felt the paint job could have been a little more punchier, especially after looking at Carsland and the recently refurbished Big Thunder and how vibrant the colors are. Of course Nature shows much more colorful hues than I previously observed. So while I was painting up the sculptamold patch jobs, I took an airbrush to the existing structures and cranked the saturation up a bit. 


And here's the desert from it's recent rehab. 


As well as doing some repaints to a lot of the desert, I went in and did some scenery work I hadn't done, mainly with more rocks around the crevices in this section. Just some small little detail areas


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And now, for some psychedelic night shots! (The exposure got really funky when I uploaded them)


But here's a more proper shot, showing off the now FULL LED Living Desert



That will do for now. Since most of the heavy work for the Living  Desert is done, I no longer need to lean over the Rainbow Ridge area for prolonged periods of time. We're hoping that's the next focus! So long folks!

May 2013 Update

I wish there was more to post for May, but being the end of a hectic semester, other stuff takes priority. However, being that it is May, traditionally in the last few years, it's "Aerial Update Month". So here's what the layout looks like as a whole as of May 2013.


This photo has also been added to the "Aerial Photos" page, where you can see the progression over the last few years. Some things to note between this shot and the one before is the addition of water to Bear Country and Beaver Valley. The waterfalls have been updated with the latest technique, and Rainbow Ridge is receiving it's decking. The Pack Mule portion of Rainbow Ridge is taking shape as the big hill in the middle. 

And here's a video from above as I've done in the past showing the entire layout, which shows off a lot more than the photos.

April 2013 Update

A brief update for April, as the layout is on the back burner under a backlog of other side-jobs. However, the photography is quite good, so hopefully it's enjoyable.

Although installed over a year ago, I finally got the geysers spruced up enough to be filmed for YouTube. Blew off the dust and added a coat of Mod Podge to make them appear "wet" once again.


When it got dark out for night shooting to show of the lighting effects, I took some real great long exposure shots



And here's the video, seeing the geysers in action!



Something a little more new, over in Rainbow Ridge: Performed the first lighting test for the Load area lanterns. This was done by just crudely tying the wires together to the LED flicker controller I built two updates ago. Everything seems to work pretty well, so more should come with few bumps.



I've also begun the process of adding the railings to the deck made out of strip styrene. 


The lanterns at night, via long-exposure shots. 




To show off their flickering, here's a video of the lanterns under power. 



February/March 2013 Update

A few things caused a delay for February's update, so it's being combined with March. Since March hasn't ended, this post is likely to be updated as the progress moves along.

Rainbow Ridge continues to take shape and the rough forms give way to finer details. At this point, knowing those finer details now are critical, as going back to fix any mistakes would be a headache and bothersome to fix later. This is the second time Rainbow Ridge has been redone and I plan on not scheduling any rehabs in the future!

This section of the layout is being planned very meticulously from the ground-up, most notably for this month was the wiring for all the lighting. As mentioned in last month's update, the lighting for Rainbow Ridge will have a special difference compared to the rest of the layout. That difference being the flicker effect, generated by some custom circuits utilizing tea light flickering LEDs.


Unfortunately, these circuits require a LOT of extra wiring, as parallel wiring wouldn't work for randomly flickering lights. Each light needs it's own wire running to one of 16 flickering LEDs. They can share the same ground wire. For example, the Load/Unload area for Rainbow Ridge requires 7 flickering lights. In traditional parallel wiring, I would only need two wires if they were constantly lit, or all on the same flicker circuit. Since I want each light to have a unique flicker for a more realistic appearance I'm running 8 wires to the Load/Unload to drive the lighting. 

This results in a couple bundles of wiring being fed up, around, and under Rainbow Ridge. Putting in that amount of wiring in now while in this state of construction certainly will make construction much smoother than putting it in later. 



While the wiring infrastructure was installed, I finally developed the lights themselves. 


While I would have loved to just buy perfectly scaled ready-to-go On30 1800's lanterns, like everything else on the layout, they have to be scratchbuilt. Looking at photos and even existing lights around Big Thunder at the park, I was able to figure out a way to make fairly decent looking lights with scrap material. 


The process starts with feeding the wire leads through a piece of .125 square styrene tubing to serve as the post. To give the bulb a slightly more bulbous shape, I applied a drop of super glue, while the bulb was spinning in my drill, for equal distribution. Next I flattened a #6 lock washer and glued that to the top to form the "hat". For the top section I cut a piece of brass tubing. I could have used styrene, but I wanted the metal parts to absorb the heat from the bulb away from the glue. The support arms on the far right light in the photo were formed from a standard office staple. 


Next a coat of black paint completed the light. 


And heres a test fit on the platform. 


The platform itself is the masonite base that was cut in the December update. To create a scaled down wooden appearance, a sheet of styrene wood planking was spray adhesive'ed on. I made sure to keep the plank direction pointing towards the track, as with the real thing. 



To make styrene look like wood, countless paint tests were created. Many refinements later, I developed a quick, easy, and very realistic way to make plastic look like timber--using only three colors. 



When I get onto the deck sections on the other sider of the tracks, I'll do a tutorial on this paint technique. 

When the main section of the platform was complete, The two Load and Unload ramps were made, as separate pieces and attached. 


The Unload was a little trickier to do, since the ground was sloped, leading down to Mineral Hall. Before adding the ramp, the masonite ground was put in and the joints filled and sanded. 


Here's the unload ramp, given a coat of primer. Unfortunately, despite going slow and careful with each step, I goofed with the main platform, creating an indentation where the two pieces meet. Rather than a continuous curve, there's an inward dent. Luckily, since there is a planter right in front, I'll hid this mistake with a decent size shrub and won't have to redo it. Even with my accuracy  and quality anal-ness, sometimes it's not a big deal to let something like this go. 


An interesting fun fact: This ramp was later removed and replaced with a section of stair in later years on the real attraction. This was presumably done to increase seating for Casa de Fritos. 

Here's a sample railing made of strip styrene. The only revision to be made is the middle horizontal beams, which were made thinner, despite being scale accurate, for aesthetic balance. 


That'll do for now. As mentioned early, if more is done for March, it'll be added. "So long!"


January 2013 Update

Research and development continues as Rainbow Ridge slowly comes together. One of the big things to get figured out this month was the lighting. Not just regular show lighting like I've done in previous updates. Lighting in Rainbow Ridge will have a little bit more realism... a little 'flicker'.

Back in December 2011, I added some flickering lanterns to the Bear Country tunnel. I was able to achieve this using some cheap tea-light LED candles from Target and wired them onto my own circuit. This subtle feature was a great addition and added another layer of realism and effects to the layout. 

 

With Rainbow Ridge, I knew there would be a LOT of lanterns to add as well as all the buildings having interior lighting, plus the load/unload area lighting. 

I loved the Bear Country lanterns so much I wanted to add them to Rainbow Ridge. My only issue with them is the color; much too yellow to be totally convincing. To combat this, I decided to go with a mix; yellow flickering LED's and a majority of warm-white LED's. 



In an ideal world, having all the lights meant to be candles or lanterns should flicker in Rainbow Ridge. I tried a few set-ups trying to get the yellow flicker LED's to affect the warm-white ones for similar flicker effect. Nothing worked. I would plan to have the flickering yellow LED's and the warm-white LED's constant.

It wasn't until I discovered this article I found a solution. Rather than trying to tie the flicker LED in-line with another or other LED's I found a way to have it be a micro-controller; have the flicker LED control another set of lights. The best way to do this was to use an electronic component I hadn't used before: transistor. 

I spent about 3 days prototyping, testing and developing a circuit that both looked good and worked efficiently (as in no hot components!). What I came up with was rather surprising for myself. 


I posted a video over on the Facebook page, much to everyone's intrigue of the circuit above


Instead of using warm-white LED's I ended up going back and using my old 12V incandescent grain-of-wheat lights, which I haven't used since I started converting over to all-LED lighting last December

The reason for this being is not only is the color more realistic, but the actual flicker looks better; the incandescent bulb "smoothes" out the rather jerky flicker from the LED and looks much more like a real candle/lantern. While LED's have brought a whole new level to the layout, in terms of color, power efficiency, and vibrance, I guess Rainbow Ridge will have to make an exception here. 

To explain how I did this, I drew up a schematic of the circuit. I'll also try and explain it as easily as I can to those not as electronic savvy. 


The entire circuit--the "controller" flicker LED and the 12v incandescent lights-- are all on the same power source. The 1kΩ resistor brings down the current for the flicker LED and the 10Ω reistor also brings down the current, but to the transistor. The power coming from the LED connects to the base of the transistor, allowing current to flow from the 10Ω reistor, to the 12V Inc./Incandescent light. The transistor is a standard 2N222A I picked up in an assortment pack from Radio Shack for a couple bucks. 

The reistor with the question mark is an override resistor; this can be any value; the lesser the value, the more "un-modified" current goes to the 12V light, making it brighter, but also flicker less.  After the initial test video above and looking at Disneyland's own flickering lights, I determined a proper balance of subtleness and noticeability using a 47Ω reistor in this spot. 



This circuit only has capacity for 3 incandescent bulbs; any more and I'd have to beef up the components to prevent overheating (and more maintenance). This isn't a problem; having every light flicker on the same frequency wouldn't realistic, right? So, to fill out Rainbow Ridge, a number of these circuits, or modules, will be put together for a variety of random flickering lights. 

Here's a module put together in practice:


The top red wire is coming from the (+) 9V source and the bottom red wire goes the incandescent light. The other lead for the incandescent goes to the (-) ground. In the photo above this one, you can see the next module marked out next to the complete one, to give you an idea of how this was wired together in my usual 'amateur circuit board' approach, aka nails on a piece of wood. 


Here's the finished "Flicker board" with 8 flicker modules, with a capacity to power 24 lights in Rainbow Ridge. 


As the lighting progressed, some more ground way laid down in the Casa de Fritos area. The tricky part here is the sloping ground to create the different leveled sections. This is also where some wiring will run, so the lighting project above had to be done first! 








December 2012 Update

The layout continues to move forward as the end of the year approaches. The last section of the layout finally got started on: Rainbow Ridge, more specifically, the Pack Mule area. This part consists of the two uphill and downhill trails that lead the teams of mules to and from Nature's Wonderland. While the majority of Rainbow Ridge has been laid out to be almost perfect in spacing and accuracy, this section remains pretty sketchy and this is where creativity and selective compression comes in. The actual trails leading to and from the load and unload area for the pack mules were shifted, moved, and shortened to fit on the layout base and at the same time not look too crammed in. The same goes for the buildings around the load/unload; moved slightly, and unfortunately for quite a few, eliminated.

The main section of Rainbow Ridge was planned out on paper for just about every detail. The Pack Mule area on the other hand was pretty much roughed in and the final decisions would wait until actual construction. Because of this, the Pack Mule area was first mocked-up in cardboard in order to figure out the layout of everything.


As seen in past posts, lighting adds another dimension to the layout and Rainbow Ridge is no exception. This part of the layout will feature probably half the lights on the layout just in itself. So, before hills could be put in, 12v bus wire was run to critical areas in the Pack Mule load/unload. This is also where the layout splits in half, so wiring can't be run from the other side of Rainbow Ridge. 


Once the wires were run, aluminum foil hills were formed and covered in a shell of celluclay. At the time they were put in, the hills were as wet and soggy as a Anaheim rainy day. 



The uncovered foil sections represent where the buildings will go. 

Since it would take days for the celluclay to dry because of the high humidity, I changed gears and jumped to the other side of Rainbow Ridge: the train load/unload. This stage of construction is critical since any mistake now could be costly, since I can't just slap plaster and cover it with scenery (considering it's all buildings with hard edges). As a result, this area will be a slow process until all details are accounted for. 

The first step is the platforms, for both the load/unload area and for the building facades across the track. These were cut from masonite and raised on spacers. This will allow for wires to run underneath for lighting in the buildings, light poles, and the sound speakers. 


What's pretty amazing is this was done 7 years ago this month in 2005, but quite a bit more primitive. 



Since wiring had to run to the Pack Mule area for lighting, the light package Beaver Valley was finalized. 



The Marmot tunnel was also lit, with the usual all-LED lighting. 

Speaking of the marmot tunnel, something peculiar has occurred at the prototype tunnel over in Anaheim...


Some fresh paint has been applied to the tunnel, however, this is simply no refurbishment. This is actually a color sample test for the upcoming lengthy Big Thunder Mountain rehab. After the rockwork job on Cars Land and the Matterhorn, Big Thunder should look fantastic. It's also nice that the ole relic is spruced up a bit, even if the whole thing isn't repainted.