"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.

April 2010 Update: Rebuilding Cascade Peak

A lot of activity going on in the Nature's Wonderland area, specifically the west half of it, the nearly forgotten half. Cascade Peak is currently undergoing it's long overdue rebuild which will bring more detail and accuracy to the mountain and will look more on par with everything else that has or will be redone in terms of quality.

I should mention that in the sidebar I post what my "current focus"is; I update that more frequently than post, so watch that even if you don't see any recent postings. The date indicated the last it was updated.

 I layed down the track all the way to Cascade Peak, which is a major step to do, which includes all of the track for Rainbow Ridge with it's onstage spur line. As mentioned in previous posts, all the trackage going is being wired for two train operations, so the mainline is separated into blocks and the station has some areas where I can turn parts on and off if I want to only run one train.

This area was tricky to do, since the track had to reach the plywood on a grade, so I came up with my own way of laying track that can be adjustable. The next step would be to fill in the areas underneath with probably celluclay or sculptamold.

Here's an overview of the model which shows what the layout looks like at this point, Cascade Peak is getting it's major rebuild, which will be the main subject of this update.

A very colorful version labels everything, and it's quite obvious how packed in everything is and where areas are located. 

Now, onto Cascade Peak....

For several months, if not years, the Cascade Peak on my layout has been slowly falling apart and needing a major rebuild. My sculpting skills, especially when it comes to rockwork, have greatly improved, and I thought it was time to bring the quality up on the mountain. There are also a number of inaccuracies I discovered on my model, even after redoing my mountain three years ago.

Before I did any work at all, I made sure I documented what I had (would be neat to do a before and after shots when the rebuild is complete).
The old Cascade Peak model, soon to be redone.

This corner is perhaps the most neglected area on the entire layout, totally falling apart here. This is area is so forgotten, I didn't even add the waterfalls to this side when I redid the entire peak! The hill connected to the mountain didn't get very far either.

Perhaps the most neglected part of the layout, this side of Cascade Peak was never "finished" since it's a hard to reach area, as well as hard to see.

In planning the new Cascade Peak, as I did with Rainbow Ridge,  I went to aerial imagery and plot plans to see if I can get a full scaled out Cascade peak-- so proportions and details would be accurate. Unfortunately, as always, I found my space is too small; The mountain needs to be about a foot longer and about 3 feet deeper. I've got a foot to make it wider, but then the track radius gets hard to determine and tighter ; and I have only 17 inches for the depth, in an already squashed Bear country. So I guess I need to compromise yet again!

The track around Cascade Peak has always bothered me, as the appearance is terrible (as it was ballasted prematurely) and the curves are really tight at the ends. Also when I did the layout, I didn't feel like detailing the track with "bridge work" as with the real thing:

The real Cascade Peak, with a track detail I didn't bother to add when I originally laid the track down--the "bridge truss" the track is on as it circles the peak. Photo credit goes to gorillasdontblog.blogspot.com

I decided to go for the bold move and expand the track out a few inches, to ease the curves at the corners and make them less tight as well as add this extra bridge-like details to the track. 

I dug out some old snap track that was in good condition, and I roughly laid out where the pieces would go. I'm using 15", 18", and 22" radius pieces, as well as a piece of flex track for the last turn and the new Bear Country trestle. The advantage with using snap track is that they keep their radius, which is easier to work with than trying to wrestle a piece of flex track into the right position and keeping it there. 

The new sections of track roughly held together in place so I could determine the smoothest curve and widest radius.

As you can see above, sections of the mountain, including Big Thunder falls, have been  already ripped out for this new track. The many advantages for putting in this new section of track is to make the curves less tight, add more authentic track ("bridge look") and the extra space between the track and the mountain will give more room for the waterfalls, which have been pretty pressed up against the mountain. 

Once I was happy with the track, I begin installing it in permanently. I made the truss-work out of styrene square rod and a few pieces out of balsa wood. Since the track here was already at the correct grade (you know how I'm so fussy with the grades) I simply transferred the height measurements over to the new track. 

The new track has been installed permanently, with the truss work and all.  Sections of the old track are still visible, and will be ripped out when it comes time for the new scenery and waterfalls. 

At this point, after several months of having the main line cut up and sections isolated (since I had redone Rainbow Ridge and such) I'm proud to say that a full and complete line is now operational, and I can have a train run on it's own confidently. The full loop is back!

Once the track looked pretty good, and the train ran fine over it, I was ready to tackle the mountain itself. 

The mountain was a difficult thing to figure out how to rebuild. I was stuck between retrofitting the existing structure (just add on to it) or starting completely over which would makes things a little easier, in terms of strength and building. After much thought, I eventually settled on just retrofitting the existing mountain. 

Foam, which do I use.... (and how do I get it?)

For materials, I didn't want to go back to using paper mache as I did with the original mountain. I wanted to work with a material that can carve easily, without using a lot of expensive urethane foam. After reading several Model Railroader magazines, I thought I'd give a shot at using the foam insulation board they always use; it's very cheap for the amount of it you get, and it carves and shapes fairly easily. Problem is that it turns out almost the entire southern California area hardware stores don't carry the foam, and so I'm stuck having to not use it. Avoiding having to do a special order, I ended up snooping around the garage for supplies, just in case I found something that might work.

 I came across some foam that Lowes did have-- the white beady styrofoam sheet-- which I had plenty left over from a Physics class project years ago (we had to build a device that could help you could walk on water--which I failed at; I floated, but a rudder would have helped). I was hesitant using the styrofoam at first since it doesn't give the same quality carving as with urethane foam, but realizing I could get a good texture and strength out of it by covering it with celluclay, I thought it would actually work. I made a few test pieces and after a few days of dry time, I ended up with a satisfactory substitution for insulation board. Although it takes more time, at least I can use up scrap material I already had (styrofoam and celluclay). 

The first thing I did was use the styrofoam to form the new hills for Bear Country. I stacked a few layers and glued them together with white glue. When it dried, I carved a rough form, which will be later covered in Celluclay for a rock hard finish. 

The new land formations for Bear Country and Cascade Peak are being made out of styrofoam. This will be covered in celluclay which is will make a nice solid surface for the future foliage.

I'm also taking the advantage of the new expansion space that appeared when the layout made it's second move to a bigger table last year. I'm expanding the hills into this area, to give more natural space for the mule trail. Here's what the expansion space looks like, the extra six inches:

The 6" of plywood seen in the picture is the expansion space that was created when the layout made it's move to a larger  table. This space is being used for the hills of Bear Country and I'm considering expansing the Desert area into it too. That, however, willeliminate my plans for adding a static Disneyland Railroad. 

I'm also seriously considering expanding out the desert a bit into this 6 inch space, to give the geothermal areas a little more room. That would however eliminate my plan to add a non-working stretch of the Disneyland Railroad line, so I'll need some time to think about it. Should I expand the desert in the future, I have to have a solution for working geysers, as that would be the best time to install them. 

Waterfalls and other features are blocked out in styrofoam. The original track that circled the mountain has now been ripped out at this point to make room for the coming scenery. 

Since they are the most prominent features on the mountain, I blocked out the water falls with styrofoam blocks. Aside from a few adjustments in there position a few inches, the waterfalls are pretty much in the same spots as they had been. I really wanted to move them where they should be in terms of the distances between them, but there was only so much I could do on this already compromised Cascade Peak and making it look good at the same time. At this time, the remaining pieces of the old track were ripped out. 

When I was done with positioning, floral foam came next to block out and shape more details. "Why floral foam?" you say. Well, since this is a retrofit project, I need to be able to shape blocks of foam fairly easily by rubbing it against an existing surface to make a custom fit. Since floral foam is less dense then the usual urethane foam I use, it shapes very easily, yet it allows for intricate details almost like the urethane foam. And the price of floral foam is fantastic too; I bought 12 brick size blocks of it for about $8--not bad!

Once the foam, of both kinds, were shaped to the way that I wanted, I covered and blended many of the unwanted cracks and seams with celluclay. Celluclay is a paper mache type material that you mix with water and will get hard a in few days (or even a whole week, depending on how much water you put in). Recently I had switched to Sculptamold, which has a little plaster in it and sets and dries much faster, but I didn't want to use it on this portion of the project; I usually mix the stuff in big batches and so I want to be able to cover a large area and shape it the was I want it without it setting on me too quickly. Celluclay will stiffen in about 24-48 hours and then a few more days to dry completely, so this seemed like a good way to go, as I want to pick at details as I look at every now and then. The Celluclay also has a neat texture quality to it that makes it appropriate for Cascade Peak, a kind of early Disney rock formation made out of cement look. 

After the styrofoam was in the right position, floral foam was used to make more details and just about all the seams and cracks were blended and smoothed out with Celluclay. In a few days, the celluclay will create a very hard surface, 

The above photo show the "Twin Sister Falls" given a first pass of Celluclay once the floral foam was done being sculpted (I never understood why those falls were called :Twin Sister falls", since they in no way look alike).  The next step after this photo is to move around to the backside of Cascade Peak overlooking Bear Country, as well as the the hillside on the left (the styrofoam). As I worked on the mountain, I would slowly rip out old sections and replace them, so a lot of the mountain is brand new, with a little bit of the old material still part of the structure. 

Above, more foam and celluclay have been added and the backside of the mountain will be next. 

Here's the Bear Country and Beaver Valley areas, dominated by the currently peak-less Cascade Peak. Since photos of the backside of the mountain are quite rare (and when I do find one, the quality isn't great) and there are a lot of compromises already, I basically took some artistic license and made up what  looks good to my eye. Same with the rest of the Bear Country and Beaver Valley; unfortunately, there is not enough room to make an accurate depiction of the land forms of those areas, like rivers and such, so I had to change sizes of the land plots and the widths of the main rivers in order to get everything to fit. Even the Bear Country "island" where all the bears hung out was cut to half the size it should be in order to fit. 

The backside of Cascade Peak covered (mostly) with fresh celluclay. The mule trail is visible as it snakes along the backside of the mountain. Also visible is the tunnel portal to Bear Country, with it's truss-less trestle. This tunnel actually still visible today at Disneyland. 

Here's the Big Thunder falls roughly shaped to form with styrofoam and floral foam. Large gaps are covered with aluminum foil. I didn't realize how many little falls Big Thunder falls had when I looked closely at photos. Unfortunately, this area got pretty squashed and compromised to fit the space, but it looks pretty good and natural.

When I was happy with the shape of the material(s), everything got a layer of celluclay.

Once this hardens in a few days (other areas may take a week) I'll be ready for the next phase which is more details and other areas I missed with the celluclay. The celluclay will create a nice rock solid surface for more formations and details.  The peak will cap off the rebuild (no pun intended) and then everything should get a coat of paint to seal everything.