"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 September 2005. In May of 2016, I finally got the layout to a point where I declared it "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.

July 2011 Update

Wires, wires, wires

After going through many design changes, I'm proud to say that I got my block relay system put together and up running successfully.

All the wires for every block and every signal run to the back corner near under the geysers. This is where all the relays turn on and off sections of track, depending on which reed switch was toggled, as well as the appropriate light signals for each block.

Originally, I tried to wire and solder everything in place in the back corner in tight confinement, like so:

Messy and unorganized wires....
That lead to problems in keeping everything organized and hard to maintain if I wanted to replace a relay or make changes.

To keep things clean and easy to maintain, as well as build, the new layout for all the relays and wires was done on a separate piece that I can work on my desk comfortably.

...clean and organized wires. 

The end result was a "plug-in" to the layout by adding jumper wires from one terminal block to another. This has been the most complicated wiring project I've ever done. Despite it's complexity, using different colored wires and planning everything out carefully made the construction go smoothly. In case a relay  craps out over time, it can be replaced easily thanks to pin sockets, as opposed to having to de-solder the leads and resolder them again. 

The big relay with all the orange wires is the "override" relay; usually, when there is a red light, the train will stop since it's power is cut off; with the override on, the train can still move despite another relay trying to keep the block off, which is mainly for testing or if a reed switch doesn't trigger to clear the block. 

All the wires for the layout, whether it be light, sound, animation, block controls, throttles, power lines, turnout motors, etc, run down to the front of the layout, and will eventually connect to a control panel. This control panel will be built to look like the ones used on Disneyland attractions. That still requires planning when I have everything ready to connect (since I don't want any add-ons later), but for the mean time, this is what it looks like, all 30+ wires... 

Yes, everything is labeled
Let There Be Light! 

Almost two years ago, as I was making modifications to the track, the night-time lighting for the Living Desert had to be re-adjusted. Rather than embedding the lights into the ground again, I decided to make "light towers" like so below:

Original lighting package for the Living Desert.
They seemed to work when I added them, but for some reason, the the blue-white LED's just didn't have the right feel, despite having color gels placed in front of them. The christmas tree lights just weren't cutting it for me. 

Perhaps the main reason they were doing it for me was the fact that I keep referring to me very first train layout:

A 4 X 5' miniature Disneyland. 

Between 2004 and 2005, I built my own miniature Disneyland out of cardstock and acrylic paint, surrounded by a loop of HO snap-track. While crude when I built it, as I was 14 at the time, the one thing I really liked about it nowadays was the night-time lighting hidden within the buildings. Using 12V incandescent lights and color gels, I tried to light all the main structures like the real counterparts at Disneyland. It worked really well and it was a lot of fun to operate the train and look over the layout in the dark. The 12V lights gave a nice warm glow to everything as opposed to the blue-white, cold LED's.

A blast from the past: my model railroad before Nature's Wonderland
circa early 2005
If I wanted to replicate that feeling of that model on my NWRR model, I had to use the same techniques I used over 7 years ago. 

I ripped up all the LED's that I had embedded, as well as the light towers, and I began running wires for the new 12V lights. Once again, I will be using color gels to set the mood of the lights to match the scenes. 

Nature's Wonderland at night is a difficult thing to determine since there is hardly any recollections or photos to get an idea of how it was lit. As usual, if there isn't any reference, I have to take some artistic license. 

When it comes to how the model will be lit, Rainbow Ridge will have it's buildings lit up from the inside, as well as a few lanterns on the station platform. The Living Desert will consist of warm colors, like red, orange, and yellow, while the forrest areas and Cascade Peak will get cool colors like blue and green. The choice of the warm colors from the Living Desert is inspired by how Big Thunder Mountain (on my old model and the real thing) is lit with orange flood-lights. The use of cool colors for Bear Country and Cascade Peak, came from real Bear Country pond at night, when illuminated with a blue light at night. 

Since a lot of wires had to be imbedded in the scenery, the lighting had to be done before anymore work can progress on the scenery (since I don't want to redo any more stuff!). So I had to do it NOW. 

The basic process for installing lights starts with making the enclosure for the "grain-of- wheat" bulb out of aluminum and adding the appropriate color gel. The light is installed in the scenery, whether it be concealed in a rock, hillside, or even in a tree. When the light was tested and everything looked good, it was secured in place and the wires were run to it. These wires are either drilled through scenery or will be covered later.

Here are lights for Bear Country, all attached and ready for patch-work which will include a layer of celluclay and scenery. A few trees and shrubs and it'll be hard to notice. 

Here's what the layout is looking light now, in all it's night-time glory. About half of the required lighting is already installed-- about 25 bulbs-- with more to come. Since I mainly work night shifts, installing lights during the daytime is a challenge when the position of each light needs to be tested.  During the installation process, I've blacked out the windows of my studio to overcome that obstacle and utilize precious time.

Photographing the night-time isn't easy, especially if you're trying to replicate what it looks like in person without being too dark or too blown-out. 

One of the difficult parts to lighting the layout, from a design perspective, is hiding the lights. Normally, when lighting an attraction, the lights are hidden in bushes, rocks, on rooftops, etc. The problem is, this isn't a real attraction, it's a model that will be viewed from above, and not from the train itself. So it becomes a careful balance of lighting the scene like the real thing, but also keeping in mind of how it will be viewed from above and from several different angles.