by Jay Ducharme
(All text and images copyright Jay Ducharme 2018.)
Using Affinity Designer, I began to piece together the first building, which appropriately was the oldest physical structure in the park: the Merry-Go-Round pavilion. Originally constructed in 1897 as a dance hall, the building was an impressive structure on the midway, about 50 feet tall and, as I previously mentioned, 80 feet in diameter. The top of the building was held in place by two sets of massive wood trusses, like two wooden bridges suspended in the air. That load was transferred through steel trusses down onto four steel I-beams at the very edges of the building. That created a completely open pavilion which perfectly fit the Merry-Go-Round. I wasn't going to recreate the building's entire interior, since it really wasn't going to show. But I did want the wide garage doors at the front of the building to be open so that the Merry-Go-Round was visible inside in case the public was able to walk around the model. Even so, it was doubtful most people would notice it.
Before I could install the building, I had to paint the interior surface to match the actual floor. Because the building was built on a slope, the front half of the floor was concrete and the back half was wood (above the workshop). There was also a white line encircling the ride, about two feet away from it, as a warning for people to stand back while the ride was in motion. So I drew the circle for the line with my compass. Then I painted the "floor" a dark red. When that dried, I painted a thin white line along the circle I drew.
I then took the image of the Merry-Go-Round and warped it in Affinity Photo so that the ride platform was straightened out. I printed it on card stock at three inches wide and cut it out. I next cut a curved slit into the model base, just behind the white line on the building's floor. I lightly applied glue to the slit and inserted the cut-out. The ride was now inside the building.
As for the building itself, that was a process that took a few weeks. I selected areas of the actual pavilion from photos I had. In Design, I created a grid of half-inch blocks. I knew each side of the building had to be two inches long. So four blocks would make one side. There needed to be two sections, the bottom floor and the clerestory, separated by roofing. The building had eight sides, but I didn't have sixteen-inch-long paper. So I divided each section in half. To give myself two inches of overlap for gluing, I made each half ten inches long. I first layered in strips of light yellow clapboard. It required four strips to build up a building side. Then I sampled a window from the actual building and copy-and-pasted it across the sides. Getting everything sized properly was what took the longest. If I had a photo of a building side taken head-on, I could have just sampled the entire thing. But all of my photos were taken at angles. Once I had the windows in place, I added the "Fireworks" and "Showtime" signs that hung above two of the windows. I also added the entry door.
The most difficult sections to figure out were the big garage doors at the front of the building. I sampled one of the actual openings and cut out everything around it in Photo, making a transparent PNG file and then bringing it into Design so I could copy-and-paste it. But no matter how I resized it, I couldn't get two doors to fit onto a two inch side. It turned out that my windows were actually much too large. When I down-scaled them along with the door, everything fit perfectly. I kept having to remind myself that 1/16" was a really tiny scale. And with that, the sides of the building were complete. I printed it out on card stock. I would later use a matte knife to cut out the garage door openings. I wanted to keep the sections initially intact so that I could crease them first.
Another experimental area would be how exactly to fit the building onto the slope. I built the sections with a lot of extra clapboard below the windows. The model base didn't slope away nearly as much as the actual land did. So I would wait until I put the entire building together. I knew the garage doors needed to be at ground level, but I'd have to guesstimate where to cut the rest of it once I got it in place. That mattered only for the lower level; the clerestory (which I sized at 1.5" per side) would be unaffected. In order to help stablize the large structure, I inserted some bamboo skewers at each of the corners and later would glue the building's sides to them. I would also later add the double doors at the back side of the building, once I knew how it was going to fit.
While I was puzzling over the next step with that, I added the sign for the Sky Ride, and also that ride's supporting posts. I had a nice high resolution image to work with from a park postcard. That probably didn't matter much, though. The sign on the model would span just 3/4 of an inch across, making it about 1/8 of an inch high. Once again, I used the bamboo skewers for the sign's supporting posts. For the ride posts, I used 3/16" thick skewers. The real posts varied in height depending on the sloping terrain. But since I really didn't have much of a slope, I made the two posts 1 inch tall and painted them with red and white stripes, the way they were at the park. I was still experimenting with how to make the crosspiece at the top of the posts which held the cable guides. But for now, I had the beginnings of the Sky Ride. The next puzzle was how to build the roof sections. I assumed there must have been some way to create a peaked octagonal roof orthographically, so that I could cut a flat sheet of paper and fold it into shape. But I couldn't figure that one out. So instead I created a sheet full of triangles that were 2.25 inches wide at the base. I used masking to layer in a grey 3-tab shingle texture similar to the original building. I also created four strips of shingles to use as a sort of tape, adhering the triangles to each other. I could use the same design for the upper roof level by cutting the triangles slightly smaller.
So with that figured out, I set about cutting the building sections with a carpet knife. When that was done, I proceeded to mark off two inch increments on the back of each strip. Those would be the marks for where the octagonal sections would be creased. But to my surprise, when I folded the sections at those points, the graphics were off by about an eighth of an inch. Windows were folded in the middle. I couldn't understand that. I had purposely created a half-inch grid in Design and printed it at actual size. But somehow it printed slightly smaller. So I went back into Design and respaced all the elements by trial and error, printing each attempt until I got everything to line up properly. Then I printed out the sheet again and recut it. I marked off the sections and creased them. Then I had to cut out the garage doors. So I delicately used the carpet knife and within a few minutes had a set of open doors. Then I glued the two ends together and waited for them to dry. I realized the small pieces between the garage doors would be really fragile, so I added two more bamboo skewers to support them. After the glue dried, I slipped the bottom level of the Merry-Go-Round over the skewers. It lined up perfectly and looked pretty good. The only problem was with the slope. At the park, the ground began dropping off just past the door on the right side of the building. But on the model, it didn't drop off until the back of the ride. And even then, it was a very shallow slope. Because of that, it didn't look like the back of the building had a lower level. And there was no place to put the workshop door. It was becoming apparent that I simply didn't have enough Homasote on the deck in order to create the actual elevation change at the park. If PTC used the parking lot as its base measurement, that meant there was a fourteen foot elevation change from the parking lot to the coaster. In scale, that would translate to just under an inch. I had only a half-inch to work with. The only other building affected by the slope was the Dodgems. So it too wouldn't have a lower level. If I really wanted to, I could have re-sanded that section to try to create a more severe slope, then repainted everything. But I didn't think it would matter since there wasn't enough material to sand away. I should have started with two sheets of Homasote glued on top of each other to create the necessary slope. At this stage, I wasn't willing to scrap the whole thing and start over. So that would end up being a pretty obvious (to me) inaccuracy in the model. And for me it was a sad omission, because I spent so many of my final years at the park in that workshop under the Merry-Go-Round.
The roof was the next part I tackled. I cut up the triangles and glued them together with the straight strips. I assembled them in pairs. When they dried, I used a ruler to crease them. Then I glued two to two, and again after they dried I creased them. Lastly I glued the entire roof, and I ended up with ... a flat roof. No matter how much I creased it, I couldn't make the roof slope. So I cut out the center, but that didn't work either. For the heck of it, I made a single slice down one of the creases and I was able to slide one piece under another. Voila! A sloped roof! But it had only seven sides. Then it dawned on me -- I needed a nonagon, a nine-sided figure. So I found one online and imported it into Designer. I copied one of the triangles from the previous roof into the nonagon and lined it up with a side, extending the top until it reached the nonagon's center. I copy and pasted it to fill the entire thing. I had my new roof. I had to tweak the printer settings to have it print at the correct size, so that each side was 2.25 inches long. Then it was simply a matter of cutting it out and slicing one section. I also removed about an inch of the center. I creased each section, glued the overlapping pieces and the lower roof was done. That was so much easier! I thought about how to affix it to the walls and settled on adding tabs to the inside of the roof. Then I could apply clear caulk to the tabs and they would grab the sides of the building.
It took another day of work (nearly four days in total). I found it simpler to apply the caulk to the top edge of the walls and then slide the tabs in place. I waited for the lower section to dry, then glued the walls of the upper section in place with caulk. Before applying the upper roof, I used one of the bamboo skewers to poke a hole in the top and then glued it in place as a flagpole. There were also flagpoles at each corner of the lower level, but I'd deal with that later. I cut a little flag out of card stock and folded it around the skewer and painted it. The building was finished.
I spray-painted the ladders that I had so far. I was still waiting for another shipment. While they were drying, I puzzled out one of the most complex buildings in the park, the Dodgems. Originally built in 1929 with a standard gabled roof, it was modified in the 1960s when John Collins (Jay Collins' father) saw a geodesic dome and wanted the structure on top of the Dodgems. So Dominic Spadola (who designed most of the unique structures in the park) and supervisor Roger Fortin worked with a crew to eyeball a massive roofline consisting of what looked like about a dozen interlinked tetrahedrons. The entire structure was built with furring strips and Homasote. When the city's building inspector arrived, he nearly had a heart attack and demanded that the park install double the amount of supports around the building, unaware that the new roof added very little weight.
So my problem was how to replicate that at 1/16" scale. Given how geometrically-challenged I was just putting together the merry-go-round roof, I had my doubts as to how well I'd tackle this challenge. First I looked up tetrahedrons, thinking I could make a bunch of those and glue them together. In reality, the Dodgem facade gave the illusion of a geodesic structure, but it really wasn't. So that first step went nowhere. Then I took a strip of paper and simply began playing with it, folding it various ways. I found that if I creased it like an accordion and then stretched it back out, it came pretty close to looking like the roof. It didn't have the same variety of angles as the original, but at the scale I was working it would give enough of the impression.
I cut a piece of card stock to fit the ride's footprint of 5 1/8" by 4". Then I applied my little accordion pieces in a similar fashion to the real building. The center tetrahedron was taller than the others, creating an arched roof in the center. So I replicated that. I glued each piece and let it dry before adding another. Then I added inner side panels and a support in the center. The roof was starting to take shape.
The roof would eventually be mounted on posts (skewers) rimming the building. But there also was a workshop behind the Dodgems, and I needed to create that as well. As with the merry-go-round, I wouldn't be able to recreate the ride's basement (which was used for storage) because I didn't have enough slope to work with. But I definitely wanted to include the back wall of the building because that had a wonderful sign that over the years had become mostly hidden by trees. It took me the better part of a day, but I was able to recreate it from scratch. Ironically, on the model the sign would be so small that most of the detail would nearly impossible to see. But it was fun to do. I created the lower back wall with a cinderblock texture. The roof would make the other half of the back wall, and that would be white. Then I'd glue the sign over both pieces.
The next step once the glue was dry was painting the roof sections. All the geodesic pieces were light pink. The ceiling above them was light green. And the area below the roof was light yellow and rimmed with florescent lights. I wouldn't have any lights there, but at least I could paint it yellow. I also painted the center section grey to simulate the steel mesh power grid in the ceiling. But again, no one would probably ever see that. The upper part of the roof was odd. In all the photos I've seen, there was a dark area over the front and sides of the roof, which I assumed was tar paper. But in the center it was bright white. Again, just an assumption: the tar paper covered the geodesic roof sections, while the white area was the building's original roof peaking through. So I wanted to replicate that as well. I printed out a sheet of tar paper texture, cut it and affixed it to the top piece.
For the base of the ride, I wanted a slight lip. The Dodgem floor was raised off the ground about two feet. So I cut a piece of 1/8" foam core board and glued it to the Dodgems' footprint. Then I attached the lower back wall section. At the park, that back wall had a door on the right-hand side for the workshop, and the rest of the wall was covered with floor-to-ceiling mirrors separated by florescent light strips. It was a really stunning effect. To recreate that look (though hardly anyone would probably notice it in the model), I affixed a strip of aluminum tape to the card stock. Then I covered the floor with the same aluminum tape to simulate steel plates.
After an hour or so, I assembled the roof sections and waited for that to dry. Then I was ready to put the whole building together. As usual, I added flaps to the bottom rear of the roof to fit into the workshop area. Then I applied caulk to the workshop and glue to two larger posts and fit the roof on. It wasn't a perfect fit, and I'm not sure where the measurements were off. But it wasn't too noticeable. I used a straightedge to cut all the small posts evenly, but they were wildly inaccurate. But again, unless you stooped down at eye level (which would be impossible to do once the other buildings and rides went in), it wouldn't be noticeable. So with that, the Dodgem building was finished in just two days. The finishing touch was affixing the sign to the back, looking up the road between the Dodgems and merry-go-round and sighing.