"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.

February 2010 Update

With almost a month of school under my belt, I can get a more accurate feel for how work is going to progress on the layout. I might be able to squeeze an hour or two a night during the week, but mainly I'm only able to work on the layout during the weekends. I've also got some other side projects coming up on the horizon soon, so the layout will be hitting the back burner a lot.

This whole effort to retrofit the layout and make all these big changes makes the project a complicated puzzle.  So in addition to having to take the time to put in more details than I did in earlier years, planning how everything will come together is taking some time if I want everything done perfectly without having to go back and fix it again. Since some area have to wait until that area is done, but that area needs this aspect, but that aspect needs to be worked in for future additions, it becomes a big domino effect that I need to coordinate properly. So even if there isn't much going on physically, there is a lot going on (at least in my head!).

At this point, I've adjusted my work schedule for the layout. Right now I'm going for a "generally finished" layout for an upcoming Patrick Hurd podcast. That means the most of the areas on the layout will hopefully have most of their major details and will look basically "finished" . I would like to get this "generally finished" look by about mid-March, but even that is a stretch; there's simply too much to do being that I'm a perfectionist these days and the amount of planning it takes to bring all these elements to the new layout together. By March, I might be able to have Rainbow Caverns done,  Cascade Peak redo done, Bear Country roughly blocked in, and I just barely might have the cardstock mock-up buildings for Rainbow Ridge (Rainbow Ridge has about twice the amount of buildings, and I only want to build them once!). We'll see, things could change.

My plan of attack for the layout is to get the track for Rainbow Caverns and the Living Desert done (which includes adjusting the track for the uniform grade I discussed in a previous post). From there I'll hop over to the opposite side of the layout and work on adjusting the grade for around Cascade Peak and Bear Country. There I'm also going to give Bear Country a new trestle and plan out that area for development (and also figure out if I'm going to put in jumping fish) and Cascade Peak will get a major facelift with more details and new water falls. Once the two ends are pretty much done, the track ends will join together at Rainbow Ridge were the big construction job will happen with all the buildings I'm going to make (but starting out with cardstock mock-ups to figure sizes out). If everything goes well, I just might have every detail in by the very end of 2010 or early 2011 but I can't count on that. With this project, I don't want to rush it with a deadline, I want to actually enjoy working on it despite how repetitious and tedious some areas are. It's too bad I can't get it done before the real attractions turns 50 in may, but hey, that's just how it's going to be if I want a cool looking layout!

Since the layout had changed so much in the last couple of months, I decided to film another "aerial" video explaining what's going on.

To see the annotations that I put on the video, go to the video on YouTube here

As for what has been done within the last month, the Living Desert is shaping up very nicely and I think I'm in the home stretch for this area in case of making it look "generally finished". I'm proud to say that Balancing Rock  Canyon is finally finished after doing heavy work on it and also having to fix the mechanism a few months prior. This section was crucial to get finished, considering it would have been a lot harder to work on if the areas around it would have been developed more.

Going back in time a little bit, in the last update, this area just got it layer of scultamold and it was ready for paint and scenery. From here more foam rocks were added and everything was painted. 

As I was adding these rocks, I decided that I'm going to branch off a little bit of the accuracy side and more towards what looks good. A lot of the rocks that were added were basically made up and don't correspond to anything in the original attraction. I just went for what looks good, proportional, interesting and didn't worry too much if it looks like something that the attraction had. With this in mind, my rocks actually look more realistic and less "blocky" or "edgy" like my earlier rocks when I was more tight and constrained in sculpting the rocks when trying to be accurate. 

From here, I'll let the time lapse demonstrate adding the details to a portion of the desert:
Unlike previous time lapse videos that I've done, I didn't do captions.

I must say, the Desert area is looking very beautiful, and it's great to do detailing instead of redoing the same thing again!

Here are a couple of shots of the train in the scene as well as a neat POV shot. 


Although not pictured, the pond in the back of the desert is finished and that area should see more detail soon. (Don't know when I going to do the Dinosaur bones though!)

Meanwhile in the geothermal area of the desert, I think I've finally come up with a solution to simulate those geysers. 

After considering using ultrasonic misters for some time now, I think I'm going back to my original idea of having a static column of "water" that raises up and done on an actuator. The thought of a whimpy mist and the potential for a mess kinda shelved that solution for now.

I was initially thing of using a screw type with a motor and bolt, but I later figured out a way to do it with pneumatics. I started playing around with a few short lengths of small brass tubing and an aquarium air pump (the ones that are about 2-3 psi) to my surprise, it actually works quite well, more than enough power to push up a rod of plastic (I might even be able to power all the geysers off of the same pump).

I built a prototype and I've been playing around with it, adjusting the amount of air pressure, location of overflow holes, and a bunch of other things. Basically, with my brass tube pneumatic actuator, when the air pump is turned on, the column rises, when power is off, column falls. I can control the amount of air pressure by using a dimmer switch on the air pump (a 3-way gang with adjustable valves is probably ideal). Since it's all aquarium equipment, it's virtually silent, aside from the very slight rumble of the air pump. The next thing to figure out is making the column fluctuate and vary in height, probably with a valve on a cam.

I've also been looking at making the Bubbling Mud pots actually bubble. The basic premise here is to make tube full of  water, and adding an air line to make it bubble like an aquarium. I built a few prototypes right in the scene, and so far, things haven't been that successful. Since I'm using 1/4" tubing, the water tends to get sucked out of PVC pipe mud pot when the air pump is shut off, and controlling the amount of air flow to get the right bubble interval isn't easy. Plus, in some tests, I found that the bubbles weren't popping easily (maybe the painty water that I used did that). I'm still working it out, and this element might need to end up being static.

Since both the Geysers and Mud pots have materialized in some way, I'll be holding off on improvements for now until I get other area up to par for a "generally finished" look. 

Meanwhile, just next to the Living Desert, Rainbow Caverns is progressing very slowly. At this point, the new Rainbow Caverns has just become a chore since this is the 4th time I've had rebuild it. I'm tired of it and I'd really like to move onto something else, but I've got to do it! 

Since the new town of Rainbow Ridge ate up some of the land for Rainbow Caverns, the entire caverns had to be reworked to fit in a more compact space. I moved the viewing window to the side of the layout and I was able to squeeze a new "show building" like structure into that small plot. 

Here's what the area looked before the new structure to house the caverns went in and the new "show building" made of old sintra signs.


 This "show building" I paid a little more attention to in the overall architecture of it. I made it shorter in height to put it in scale more, and also so it can hide behind  that hill in he desert. The angles of the roof also are very similar to that of the show building for the original Rainbow Caverns structure. Once again, the roofs are made removable so I can access and build the inside the caverns. That small tunnel will lead to Rainbow Ridge and it will be hidden with foliage like the original attraction


For now, wood blocks serve as handles for the access hatches, though eventually they will be made to look like AC units.

Inside the "show building" work is going ahead on the rock formations made out of sculptamold. I decided to not shoot construction with time lapse as it is a smaller work space and I just wanted to get the caverns done and not fuss around with filming it. Using the same notion of making things look good and not being to worried with accuracy, I'm just making up how the caverns are looking considering how compromised the space is. I'm going for a Geyser Grotto feel with a pond of geysers and the Rainbow falls as the end. This time around I'm actually using UV LED's instead of a small fluorescent blacklight. This way I can light everything precisely without worrying about changing the batteries for the blacklight bulb or the bulb "burning out". Plus, the deep purple light the LED's give off looks really cool (though, unfortunately, impossible to photograph accurately).

I've also come up with a way to lay track efficiently. Since I've got that grade issue, coming up with a way to lay track wasn't easy since it had to raise at a specific height every few increments. I came up with a pretty genius way (at least I think it's genius!) of laying track precisely. By gluing a strip of pre-drilled countersunk masonite to the track at specific increments, all I have to do to make a grade and install the track is to add spacers between the strip and the actual base of the layout. This way I can precisely control the grade, but all since I'm screwing the track, I can torque the track the way I want it and be able get the joints nice and smooth, as well as be able to make adjustments easier. Here's a close up of the strip screwed down with one layer of spacers. 

This is only for the Rainbow Caverns portion, until the track hit the plywood base for Rainbow Ridge.

Speaking of grades, the section of track for the Living Desert that leads to Crossover point (see previous post) is locked down permanently.