"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.

Summer 2014 Update

Since updates are gonna be sporadic, I've decided to make "seasonal" updates, since I can't seem to get the monthly thing back in routine. An update is an update, nonetheless!

One of the most common things about the layout is it's ability to make progress, but at the same time, go back and have things redone. Most often the case is making things aesthetically better, whether it's the sculpting or paint job, or accuracy or detailing. But this time around, it was just ease of maintenance and mechanical efficiency. 

As with anything mechanical, It was inevitable that the Battling Elk would go down for some sort of issue. Unfortunately, I didn't think it would be the issue that it was, and this case it was a motor that went 101. 

When I originally installed the Elk, I put in a hatch so I could access the mechanism. While it was fine and dandy, really all it provided was a visual access port, to confirm that the mechanics were working or not. Since it appeared the gears were no longer spinning, I shut off the motor and tried to diagnose the issue. From my little "viewing port" I determined that it was a gear getting out of alignment and also the motor having issues turning. It was clear that I had to dig up the scenery and perform an extensive rehab. 

For pretty much all the mechanisms on the layout, I've used AC 3 RPM synchronous gearmotors from Micro Mark. While they worked for most of the time, occasionally they would get really loud, get really hot, or quit all together. Since the Elk were the latest mishap regarding a motor to occur, I decided to switch the motor type with the rehab.  

After many experiments over the years with different motors, ranging from different sizes, voltages, and RPM's, I was able to determine the proper motor for animation on the Nature's Wonderland. The criteria for the motors that I needed were they needed to be ultra quiet, low voltage, little heat, and most importantly, reliability. I found one such gearmotor that I can run off my 12V power bus. It was a DC motor, so there was no chance the rotation would change when started up, which was an issue I had with the synchronous motors. 

What's nice about the DC gearmotors, I can get one with a decent RPM for animation, and then dial down the voltage so the motor would turn slower for the speed that I needed. This also makes the motor a LOT quieter, which is a major plus. The motor I used matched the same RPM as the original Micro Mark motor, so I was able to keep the same gear ratio, and animation cam. 

While it would have been nice to be just a replacement rehab, it was clear that the entire mechanism needed a rebuild. For it's time, the mechanics that I built for the battling elk worked well at installation, overtime some of the flaws I didn't expect or anticipate began to pop up. I needed a more solid system. 


I built a new motor mount and mechanical infrastructure. I eliminated the counterweight and pulley portion and replaced that with a spring. This way, the return pull was guaranteed, since the counterweight would snag sometimes. Every part was either screwed together, or glued. In some cases, like the brass portions, the parts were welded. The main focus of the rehab was reliability, so building something that had little play tolerance and mechanically solid was mandatory.

Here's a video of the new mechanism in action

Another requirement, which started this whole rehab, was maintenance later on. The layout for the mechanics was revised. Rather than having the motor and gears under the elk themselves, I offset everything so the motor, gears, slides and springs would be located under the access hatch, all in plain view. This way, in the event of another issue, or just routine checks and lubing, anything could be looked at with ease.

When I got the position of the mechanics properly, I screwed down the entire module into the layout. From then on, I took existing portions of the scenery and pieced them together to match the new mechanics without having to start from scratch completely.

I made a new maintenance hatch that is ingeniously attached to magnets to the layout. This provides a secure mounting for the hatch and there's a perfect alignment every time. 

As part of the rehab I added a new LED light for the elk. The original incandescent bulb hidden in a tree that I had was always odd to be, so I was glad I could retire it. As a replacement I took a warm white LED and drilled out a tunnel in the natural arch bridge. This way the bulb is completely recessed, out of the way, hidden, and yet it lights up the whole scene. You can see it on in the picture above. Running the wiring was a little tricky, but wasn't impossible. I ended up cutting a trench in the bridge for the wiring to the closest bus bar and patched over it later. 

Instead of completely sealing the mechanism, I opted for an exposed one, to a certain extent. The original mechanism worked on a slot that overtime created a lot of friction. This time around that isn't the case and the open set-up make inspections and adjustments quick and easy, and usually without opening the access hatch. 

Then it was a matter of patching up all the scenery around the elk, and just like that, a scene is fully rebuilt and improved. 

Rainbow Ridge FINALLY got it's first building in years since the very first ones were built back in 2005. After doing scenery work on the layout mostly, I thought it was time to change gears and start getting some buildings made for Rainbow Ridge. I also wanted to make sure my skills were still up to par, since it had been some time since I've done actual styrene modeling. 

The first building I started with was the Assay Office, right between the Opera Hose and the Miner's Hardware store. 

Based off drawings I did back in 2012, I constructed the building out of styrene. I eyeballed all the measurements based on the elevation view I drew

So far, the building is just a primer gray. I'm thinking of keeping it unpainted until all the buildings are constructed, then I can knock out all the color palettes and the decals that go with them