"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.




August 2010 Update-- A World of Motion

This post was originally published on Aug 4. Any updates added after that date, but pertain to the current month, will be indicated with UPDATE. So check back often!

To be honest, nothing really happened in July, and thus, no update. Things are really slow out in the Wonderland, thanks to the complications of the Bear Country/Beaver Valley animation (as well as real life priorities like work soaking up my time). Since more of my time will be taken away due to another semester of college, I'm going to try and get some stuff done.

The whole layout has been but on hold due to the animation being figured out and installed in the Beaver Valley and Bear Country areas. Since this area of the layout is in it's infancy, now is the time to add in mechanics of various sizes before I start getting crazy with scenic aspects (mainly since I REALLY don't want to go back and add things later which will result in damaged scenery).

I want this area to be filled as much animation as possible; so, I planned out these 3 aspects to have movement and motion:

• The marmots above the tunnel would pop up and down

• 3 bears would scratch various parts of their bodies in Bear Country

• The Olympic Elk will battle it out on a hill, moving back and forth (no decision on the legs this far).

"Them little marmots over the tunnel must be a whistlin' to all you pretty gals, can't say I blame 'em".

At the moment, the most successful animation is the Marmots above the tunnel. I created a mechanism that consists of cams pushing up on levers that lift little sculpts of marmots out of their holes (these marmots are about .5" tall, not very big and not very easy to sculpt!). It was easy to make when I figured it out, but when I was trying to come up with a way to execute this, it was difficult to conceive a mechanism that could operate many marmots randomly with the right motions, as well as leave plenty of room for the train to pass below (that gave the most problems since there was much space to hid the mechanics in the rock work).

This was my initial test I did with the mechanism, with my one and only marmot (I will mold this figure at some point, so more can be added easily).

video
Lone marmot, but not for long.

I did duration testing on the mechanics and everything seemed to pass quite well. I later carved some rockwork to hid the mechanics and to create the tunnel portal, and now all that's left to do is paint it up and add the remaining figures. 


Marmot tunnel portal; you can still see that tunnel at the park today.
That was the easy animation, now it was time to move onto something harder. 


"All they want to do is lay around, scratch, fish and swim..."

Unfortunately, my Bear island is about half the size it should be if I wanted to be accurate. Since I didn't want to "crowd" the island, I reduced the number of bears down to 3 (plus the one in the tree). The island will be little vignette of bears scratching, much like what this picture looks like:


The real thing. Photo credit:ImagineeringDisney.com
I have seen some old footage showing the motions of these three bears, and the movements are quite easy to duplicate-- problem is, the scale I'm working in is WAY too small to get everything to look and even work right. The bear in the middle there would stand only about 1.5" tall and would have to have his knees jointed. Knees that small aren't easy to joint without getting bulky and unrealistic. 

The bear scratching his bum on the tree on the right isn't much easier. The back legs as well as his front legs, need to be jointed in such a way that his rear moves in a circular motion--again, not easy to to.

I am currently considering making the bears out of flexible material, like latex from a mold that will give the bears all the joints they need without getting bulky with cut-out sections on the legs and such (if I went with a hard material). 

I'm also considering just making them static and saving the gearmotor for another area of animation, that way I could just focus on making it look nice without fussy with mechanics. 

It's a shame they are just too small to make it work easily. Of course, it would be easier to figure out if I actually had the bear figures in my hand. In the meantime, I just need to sit down and focus on making some good sculpts, later on I can worry about the mechanics and the potential need for making a flexible castings.

UPDATE: Aug 10

Bears in clay form.
Still need to scribe in some fur texture, but you get the idea. No animation is being considered at this point; just want them to look good.

UPDATE: Aug 18


Basically, to show how much selective compression I used, this was my reference:

(I wish I had room for ALL of that...) Photo credit: Gorillas Don't Blog
and that turned into this, way smaller (but no less neat to look at, in my opinion)

(....but this is what I got)  Just ignore all the crap on my table.
Rather than fussing around trying to get animation as I described earlier in this post, I decided to do a really nice and well done vignette that I could work on my worktable comfortable (which is important considering the number of miles I walk at work everyday). Right now I can install it on the layout and move on to the next section. There are plenty of bears in the water, so they'll be the next to get worked on. This was also a little scenery test to the entire Bear Country and Beaver Valley areas, determining my color palette and scenic materials. The rocks came out perfectly, mainly due in part to my experience painting a whole mountain (aka Cascade Peak) with the same technique. 


"Now there's a real struggle fer survival - two stags 'r battlin' fer them cow elk"

The Battling elk mechanism is one I still haven't decided on; I want the general movement to be a back and forth motion, but whether or not I want the legs to move is another issue. Again, scale is giving me a problem. The legs would be very delicate, as would the mechanism if I really wanted them to move they way they were in the attraction. At the moment, I am thinking of just giving the elk some very limited movement; basically they would be on a linear track that moves back and forth on a cam of some sort, just to give the indication of movement without anything crazy going on.

Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily

In other Nature's Wonderland news, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily created a set of tin signs as part of a merchandise event for Disneyland 55th. As soon as I saw the Nature's Wonderland sign, which depicts an Olympic Elk and a stylized Cascade Peak, I knew I just had to have it. On the downside though, I was only after the one but I had no choice since it came in box set of 3 with two other signs (one for Slue Foot Sue's Golden Horseshoe, and one for Disneyland's 1959 expansion with the skyway). I was originally only going to put up the Nature's Wonderland sign, but all the signs were so beautifully made and they looked so good together, I just couldn't not put them all up.

The Nature's Wonderland sign (and the other two) look over the layout
In addition to the signs, Kevin and Jody created a replica of the NWRR locomotive, tender, and one ore car (all on an appropriate trestle display). It looks nice is a good size, but after further inspection, it would have been a better piece if the whistle had been turned around, the crossheads and pistons at the right angle, all the wheels at the right gauge, and the paint not as glossy. But hey, that's just me.

Not my model, but a very nice one (sort of)
So that's basically what's going on, trying to figure out some animation and such. The rest of the layout cannot proceed until these mechanics are constructed and installed, so you'll know what I'm working on.