by Jay Ducharme
(All text and images copyright Jay Ducharme 2021)
The stone planters and ticket booth were easy to build and print simple cubes with smaller cubes attached to simulate brick. It took me a few tries to get the arch structure right, but eventually I got it to print and it looked remarkably accurate. While I was at it, I also printed out a stack of fencing designed to replicate the types used in the park.
As I was staring at the model, I became increasing unhappy with how the Tempest turned out. It was one of the first 3D models I made, in the days before I knew I had to bulk up everything. So I tweaked the original Blender file and reprinted it. The cabs printed much more accurately, compared with the original attempt. I couldn't reuse the original umbrella tops. This time I used good ol' bamboo skewers for the posts. In short order I had it the Tempest put back together.
I also painted the coaster station's arch and the brick planters and glued it all together. When I positioned it, I thought it was a little too close to the edge of the train station. Before I began building the rest of the coaster station, I wanted to make sure the position was correct. I decided to angle the north edge back a bit to give more room. I'd have to paint another inch or so of the station footprint to simulate asphalt anyway, since the gaps between the planters and the ticket booth were the entrances and exits to the ride and were on pavement. Once that dried I could begin measuring the footprint. Meanwhile, I also had to install the transfer track that would hold the spare coaster train. That was a fairly simple procedure, much like what I had done to build the coaster in the first place.
After debating how to built the rest of the station, I settled on a mix of a 3D model for the base and foam core board for the roof. After I examined about a dozen different photos I had of the original station, I discovered that the spare train was actually in a different place than I had thought. It sat in the back middle of the station, between to two sets of hand brakes. Rather than try to build the station deck around the track, I chose to simple remove all the track that was there and build a trough into the station deck. It came together pretty quickly in Blender. I included holes in the four corners so that I could mount bamboo rods to support the roof. The original station had lattice-like truss work supporting the roof, but no one would be able to see that. The truss work above the entrance ramps is what had been covered with Homosote and painted with that black-and-white checkerboard pattern. The first print of the deck wasn't angled properly. So I made some adjustments and gave it another go. By the fourth try, I finally had it. As a bonus, the descending angle of the station created striations in the 3D print that looked like wood planking. I cut the bamboo rods and glued them in place.
While I was working on that, I received a comment from YouTube user Lk Tah who mentioned that my model of the Scrambler was incorrect; it had one too many sets of cabs on it. And sure enough, the Scrambler had four cabs per center strut -- but there were only three center struts. Luckily, it was a simple matter to redesign the center portion. I was able to reuse the cabs that were already made. And as a bonus, I was able to make the structure slightly smaller so the ride fit better into its footprint.
I painted the sides of the station and set it in place. I designed the station's upper side piece in Blender and printed it out. The roof itself was simple to construct. I cut foam core board to size, glued on a tar paper graphic and then painted the edge blue. I glued the spare coaster train onto the transfer track. The train looked a bit small, but I think my transfer track was simply too big. Then I applied the side piece, and the station roof was almost complete. I needed to add the red fiberglass backing under the arch. I also needed to figure out what I was going to do for the coaster track itself. Once I glued down the roof, it would be harder to place track in the station. I also needed the roof over the brake run. And I didn't like how the lift hill was so uneven. Before I added track, I needed to straighten that out.
So the next order of business was to get some thread and stretch it from the base of the lift hill to the top. That gave me a straight line and showed how inaccurate the lift hil currently was. I then had to pull out all of the bents between the top and bottom, recut new ones and glue them back in place so that they were even with the string. It took a few tries to get it right but eventually the straightened lift hill looked a lot better. It wasn't perfect, but I was satisfied. The next task was to figure out how to create the track.
Once again, 3D printing came to the rescue. It took very little time to create a simple train track in Blender. After a few test prints, I was able to get the perfect size so that the pieces could snap into the existing bents. I printed 40 of them. They were really flexible for curving over the hills, but too rigid to turn corners. Fortunately, there were just two major turns on the ride: coming out of the station and the turnaround at the far end. So for those, I designed special curved pieces. After a few tries, I found the correct radius. The turn at the station snapped into place. The turnaround took a few more tries, but soon that too was in place.
Once the turns were complete, the rest of the track went in quickly. I tried using hot glue to affix the track to the bents, but that tended to melt all the plastic. So instead I used the 3-in-1 glue with which I'd been affixing the rides to the base. That took longer to cure, but since the tracks generally snapped firmly into place, it wasn't a big issue.
I did have a few problems with certain sections. I tried to use complete track pieces at the top of every hill, to create a smooth profile. But that often meant I was connecting the next piece at an awkward juncture. It was difficult getting the joints to line up properly. But at a reasonable distance, it didn't look too bad.
I still had the side bracing and the ribbon bracing to add to the coaster. But I turned my attention back to the station roof. I created a graphic for the red fiberglass panels and printed it on card stock. What I should have done was applied that graphic to the roof first, and then glue the tar paper graphic on top of it. So I simply cut out a thin strip of the tar paper graphic and glued it on top of the tabs that held the fiberglass panels. That way you could still see the blue edge of the roof. I drilled some shallow holes into the bottom of the roof panel to fit snugly onto the bamboo post, then cut the fiberglass panels to follow the arch. Then I hot-glued the roof into place.
I re-examined some photos of the coaster station and realized I had forgotten two buildings: the maintenance shed next to the transfer track and the motor house. Those were easy to design and print. But I discovered that the station floor was too high. It should have been about two feet off the ground, but I printed it at about 8 feet in scale. That put the floor of the station in line with the roof of the shed. The problem of elevation was coming back to haunt me. The ground level rose up to meet the coaster, so although the station was about six feet off the ground at the entrance, the back was two feet. And there wasn't much I could do about that at this point.
My enamel paint set was running out and congealing. So I needed to buy some more paint before I could finish the fences that I had printed. I also wanted to try making the green chain link fencing that lined the ramps in the coaster station. And I needed to print the ribbon bracing for the coaster and then attach the side braces. And I wasn't happy with some of the transition on the track. So there was still a lot of touch-up work to be done. But the coaster station was finally done after four months worth of work.