by Jay Ducharme
(All text and images copyright Jay Ducharme 2020)


As the pandemic settled in during the spring of 2020, it became obvious that my work on the model had ground to a halt. Nearly two years had passed since I began, and I was feeling frustrated with the rapid passage of time. The Holyoke Merry-Go-Round was forced to shutter, as was the rest of Heritage Park. The promise of the new spray park bringing in crowds was now unfulfilled. I knew I wouldn't be able to work on the model at Heritage Park. I was also frustrated that there was still no plexiglass cover.

So in July, I called Charlie and suggested that I come get the model and bring it back to my house so that I could continue working on it. He was quite amenable to that. On a warm summer day, Charlie and his assistant loaded the model (which was still covered since the last time I was there) into Karen's Subaru. When I returned home, I met up with Jim Ramsey who helped me unload it and bring it back down into the basement. This time I had cleared out the room where I had been building my miniature railroad. So rather than have the model sitting in the middle of the basement, I had a dedicated space. We set it down on two sawhorses next to my pinball machine.

This was also the year I officially retired. I assumed I would have plenty of time to resume work on the model, but other projects quickly piled up. It was over a month before I removed the cover and assessed the situation. It was interesting to see the model fresh for the first time in nearly a year. It looked better than I remembered it. The colors -- even the pastel acrylics -- were really effective. I had forgotten that I never completed the Whip; it still needed the building around it. The pole on the kiddie boats had snapped off, but that was a simple fix. I never put in the stairway up to the Clambake Pavilion. It was an easy design in Blender, so that was the first thing I did. The print came out really well, even though it was really small. I think the direct drive modification I made on my 3D printer was a big help. It was giving me much more precision.

I remembered that years ago I had downloaded from TinyRides on Thingiverse a Flying Scooters ride (which at Mt. Park was called the Flying Jets). It depicted a standard modern Larson-style construction. But when I examined photos of the Mt. Park version, it was very different. I'd be able to repurpose the cabs from TinyRides, but I'd have to build the support structure from scratch. And given the small scale with which I was working and the spindly nature of the support structure, that was going to be a challenge.

I first tackled the base, where the motor was housed. At such a small scale, something as detailed as the motor wouldn't print so I opted for a simple cylinder with side bracing. As usual, I had to beef up everything. The cabs themselves printed fine, but I had to modify the wings to be twice as thick. Otherwise they'd simply split in half. When everything finished printing, I painted the base. For the center shaft, I used a small piece of 12 gauge electrical wire.

Kiddieland was still pretty empty, so I decided to tackle that next. I still had the Scrambler (along with the Flying Jets) left for major rides, but those had presented some unique structural problems. With the kiddie rides, I was pretty sure I wouldn't have those problems. So next up was the Herschell Auto Car ride. That consisted of a platform and just two car models that repeated over and over. And the two models were identical except for one small detail: a small ladder in the back to pretend it was a fire engine. The basic car was pretty straightforward. I had learned to avoid small details since they'd never print. So the resulting car was decidedly lo-poly. The platform was a typical flattened cylinder with a hole in the center and fencing, much like the kiddie Whip. Since all the kiddie ride platforms sat about six inches off the ground, I created a separate disk that I could print and then glue to the platform bottom. Previously, I had built the disk into the platform, but that required extra work to cut out the printer supports. Gluing on a separate piece was a lot quicker. It didn't take me very long to complete the ride. It printed well, even at its tiny size. So I decided to press my luck with another ride.

The kiddie swing ride was a relatively late addition to the park. It took the place of the boat ride, which was relocated near the kiddie coaster. I'm not sure which company made the swing; it was made of fiberglass panels and topped with Disney characters. But I was able to quickly put something together in Blender. I planned to hang the seats with thread, in a manner similar to the Flying Jets. So I made sure there were big loops on both the tower and the seats. But even at that seemingly ludicrous size, they barely printed.

I kept plugging along, next tackling the Mangels' pony cart ride. The Mountain Park version had wooden slats for the seat backs, but again those would never print. I also knew I'd never be able to get the cart to print with wheels. Even so, I went ahead and tried, designing them to print alongside the cart. The base was the kiddie ride standard, but this time I wanted to print the carts separately to see if I could glue the wheels on the sides and get it up off the platform a bit. But the wheels printed at about the size of a grain of sand. For the ponies, I used a silhouette of a horse and brought it directly into Cura (my printer slicer). I made it really thick. But again it was so tiny, that the print produced barely distinguishable figures.

I put that aside and went to work on the kiddie carousel, another classic Mangels creation. I grabbed a free 3D horse off the Internet and replicated it on the stock kiddie platform. The carousel had sixteen horses and two chariots. I also made the canopy and rounding board, which I planned to affix with a small wooden dowel. I assumed that the horses would end up being a bit of a mess. And I was right. The whole print exploded. At that scale, the level of detail wasn't possible. So I found a different horse model (what I was searching for to begin with), a flat silhouette similar to the pony carts, that I bulked up. I was hoping the simpler design would print. But it too exploded. So I took the same approach I used for the pony carts, printing the horses as separate pieces. I added a thick base under their legs to give me a flat surface for gluing, making them look more like a rocking horse. Finally that worked. The horses were incredibly tiny, but at least they printed and retained some of the original detail. I'd just have to glue them onto the platform.

The one remaining kiddie ride was the Sampson kiddie Ferris wheel, which had six cylindrical mesh cabs. It was essentially a simpler version of the Big Eli Ferris wheel, so it too didn't take long to put together. The cabs were simple cylinders. Since I couldn't replicate mesh at that scale, I just punched out the area where mesh would be. Thankfully the entire ride printed without incident.

When all of that was complete, there was only one more midway ride left: the Scrambler, the Eli Bridge ride found at nearly every park and carnival. I had purchased a 3D model of the entire ride, and naturally it wouldn't print. But I finally understood what I needed to do when working at this scale: everything had to be bulked up and simplified. So the ride took me only about an hour to model. I started with the "windmill" section on which the cabs sat. The main support structure was pretty much the same thing, only larger. The cabs were little more than five geometric shapes slapped together, but they conveyed the essence of what those unique cabs looked like. Once all of that was printed, to my surprise all of the park's rides (with the exception of the fun houses) were complete. All I had to do was paint them, put them together and glue them into place.

I say "complete", but there was still a lot of detail work left on many of the rides, including the Mountain Flyer (which still didn't have a track or a train). But overall, the main design and construction work on the rides was now over. I never could have done it without my 3D printer. I began the whole project wanting an accurate and detailed recreation of the park. But scale was my nemesis; I could never get the accuracy I wanted unless I had been able to work in H0 or N scale. So although I had to make a lot of compromises, my hope was that I was able to give a sense of what the park was like 40 years ago.

As you can see from the photo above, the Scrambler at the park was basically white, but with stenciling on the cabs. That was never going to be possible at scale, so I took the basic stencil colors (red, blue, yellow, orange and purple) and alternated them on the front, back and sides of the cabs. They were just blobs of color to brighten it up. I put a dab of silver on the floor of each cab. Then I glued it together and set it in place. It turned out about a centimeter too large. But I think if I had made it any smaller, it would have been little more than a series of indistinguishable lumps of plastic. At least I was able to retain some of the original look.

I next quickly designed the control boxes that sat in front of the Scrambler and Flying Jets. They were little more than wood boxes with slanted roofs to keep the controls out of the elements, and to keep them locked up when the ride was shut down. While I was in a box kind of mood, I built one of the ticket booths that populated the midway. There were four types at the park: a pretty bare-bones version made of wood and Homosote that was about four feet square and about seven feet high; a small octagonal model made of wood and Homosote; a larger octagonal model with steel and glass; and the one I was modeling, a large unit with a thick roof, slanted fiberglass panels and steel trim. There were two of those latter units on the midway. Again, it was a quick and simple design. Then it was a just matter of painting everything and gluing it in place.

That said, the painting was painstaking. I was trying to capture the striping on the Flying Jets cabs. But as usual, I ended up with little blobs of color. I also had a change of heart on the center support that held the struts for the flying jets. In real life, the bottoms of the slender struts were connected to the base and tied together with steel cables criss-crossing between them. Obviously, thread fine enough would be extremely difficult to use. There was a supporting piece at the center of the ride that radiated out and connected to each strut. I replicated that but had no reliable way of connecting it to the struts. Glue would just pull apart. So instead, I added collars to the ends of the center pieces. It wasn't mechanically correct, but it worked. I was able to slide each strut through a collar and glue each bottom to the base. The result was pretty convincing. The large collar at the top of each strut wasn't technically correct either, but it would allow me to connect a wire from there down to each cab.

Now that I was more confident in overbuilding the models in Blender, I turned my attention back to a ride I had abandoned: the Sky Ride. When I was just learning to use a 3D printer, I attempted to build a visually-accurate replica of the Sky Ride cab. I knew now why I would never get it to print. So I went back to the drawing board and created a ridiculously beefy version using simple cubes and cylinders. I was delighted to see them print reliably. Not only that, but the small scale helped make them look remarkably accurate. I ordered some 28 gauge stainless steel wire on eBay; I'd use that not only for the Flying Jets and swings (provided it was thin enough), but also for the Sky Ride cable.

With most of the painting finished, I applied the tiny horses to the kiddie carousel using SuperGlue and tweezers. For the centerpost, I used a penny nail and hammered it into the model base. I slid the motor box on, then glued the platform in place, and lastly glued on the canopy. I didn't have any of the jumper posts or hanging rods, but the finished ride looked pretty good.

When the super-thin 28 gauge stainless steel wire arrived, it looked ideal for my uses. I cut 16 strands and began to attach the Sky Ride cabs to the struts. But it was really delicate and finicky work. I was using fine tweezers to bend the wire. But when I'd attach one side of the cab, the other side would pop off. My fingers weren't small nor steady enough to work on such tiny objects. So I put that aside until I could think of a solution.

I stuck the ticket booths in place, but they looked much too small. So I went back to the drawing board and added the hexagonal ticket booth that was next to it. There was also another hexagonal ticket booth next to the Sky Ride. Again, the booth was designed overly-bulky, but it printed perfectly. I reprinted the square ticket booths as well, glued them together and painted them. They looked much better. I was looking around for the two control boxes I had printed out and couldn't find them. Then I realized that I had glued them to the top of the previous ticket booths; I thought they were the tickets signs! So I printed out three more ticket signs and glued those to the booth roofs. I also made two more control boxes.

I wasn't happy with the way the pony carts looked. It wasn't only the horses; I discovered I had printed that ride too small as well. Plus, I had room for just six carts when there were supposed to be eight. So I redesigned that as well. And this time I printed out the same horses that I had used for the kiddie carousel. While that was printing, I finished assembling the kiddie Ferris wheel and glued that in place. I used one of the small bamboo toothpicks for the hub. It fit perfectly.

The next day an idea popped into my head. (One a day is about all I can handle.) That stainless steel wire was the perfect size to recreate the steel track of the rollercoaster. All I'd have to do is string it along and spot-glue it at every few bent sections. With that idea, I then decided to recreate the beautiful (and increasingly rare) coaster train originally built by National Amusement Device. It was a stainless steel Art Deco masterpiece with three headlights in the front powered by a battery under the front seat. As you might expect, I had to bulk it up. But when they printed, they looked really nice. I printed two sets because there was a spare train stored in the coaster station. If memory serves me right, the one the park used had blue seats and the one in storage had red seats. At some point before I constructed the station, I'd add the storage track and glue down the spare train. The wire alone wouldn't provide enough surface, so I was still thinking about how to make something resembling track ties.

I finally figured out a way to attach the Flying Jets: I placed one of the cabs in my miniature clamp that I use for electronics work. Then I was able to wind the wire securely in place like a twist-tie. That made it a lot easier to then position the cab on the struts.

On September 16, I finished painting the rest of the rides and the new ticket booths. I glued the horses onto the pony carts. They were a bit too large, but any smaller and they wouldn't have printed. Once they all dried, I glued them to the model base. Meanwhile, I started thinking about the Sky Ride. I had made the support posts out of wood before I had a 3D printer. Compared to most of the other objects on the midway, they looked really crude. So I designed a more accurate post with sections that I could stack. My main reason for doing so was that the current posts left me no way to attach the stainless steel wire. I designed the new arms to have slots, and again bulked them up and was surprised when they actually printed well. I removed the old wood posts and filled in the holes in the Homosote. Then I glued down the new posts. If the surface had sloped down as it was supposed to, the taller posts would have looked more natural. But overall, they looked a lot better than the makeshift wooden ones.

In a burst of inspiration, I built the roof for the Whip. It was a large oval, and I thought it would be difficult. But I simply cut an oval out of the old shingle print on card stock, this time tinted red to match the color of the shingles on the Whip's roof. Then I slit the ends and overlapped them. It looked remarkably accurate. I was going to use bamboo skewers for the supports, but I thought of a simpler and sturdier solution: I created arches in Blender to match the roof slope and added a crosspiece that connected them (five arches in all). That wouldn't give me the posts that went around the ends. In order to attach the roof to the structure, I had to pile on heaps of silicone caulk. The result wasn't too bad. The roof ended up a bit too high. I decided to nix that idea, and instead went back to the bamboo skewers. I'm glad I did. The roof was at a more accurate height and in the end it looked a lot better.

I made another quick detour to dash off a really simple design: next to the Pony Carts, in back of the Grocery Game, was a water bubbler about 4 feet square. It looked more like a well, with a deep trough in the center. It had four faucets, one on each side, that would squirt toward the center. There was a steel mesh over the opening so people didn't fall in. Modeling it in Blender took me a couple of minutes. The real bubbler was built like a stone wall. I added lots of small cubes to the main cube to give it some texture. It came out pretty nice.

Since I was in that vicinity, I took measurments of all the other small buildings near kiddieland. The biggest was the popcorn stand, between the Ferris wheel and the Tempest. Because of its spindly structure, I didn't think it would work using card stock, though the colors would certainly be easier to replicate that way. So for the heck of it, I created a replica in Blender. I was worried about the buildings beginning to look inconsistent if some were paper and some were plastic. I was trying to keep them all the same, with just the rides 3D printed. But I already 3D-printed the ticket booths, the gypsy booths and the water bubbler. And 3D printing was so much quicker and easier than working with paper and toothpicks, plus more accurate.

Two buildings remaining that were directly in Kiddieland were the famous grocery game and the dart game. I had a photo of the grocery game that I could use. I couldn't remember what the dart game looked like, and I eventually found it from a 1978 image; it was actually a poster game. I noticed that there were unpainted sections of the midway where I had planned to put the Kiddieland buildings, but those blank spots were larger than the actual structures I used. So I touched up those sections.

Before I put the buildings together, I got distracted again and launched into the midway lunch stand, the cotton candy stand and the souvenir stand. It didn't take me long to build and paint them. The souvenir stand had a small sign that wouldn't reproduce at scale, but for the other stands I was able to glue graphics onto them. And when they were done, all I had remaining were the two games (plus finishing up the Sky Ride, Flying Jets and kiddie swings). When the stands dried, I glued them in place. I noticed that I had painted yellow supports on the popcorn stand when I really should have left them white. But even so, the midway was really coming to life now.

The next day I assembled the buildings using tiny sections of foam core board for support. Then I glued them to the model. I also took a deep breath and ripped out the gypsy booths. They were just too ridiculously huge, especially now that the two small game buildings were next to them. So I reprinted them slightly smaller and they looked much more accurate. While I was at it, I also glued wire to the Sky Ride take-up reel. I needed to wait a day to let it dry. If it held, then I could glue the rest of the wire to the other support posts and crimp the wire around the third post to help keep the wire in place. As it turned out, though, I hadn't wrapped the wire evenly. One side had a lot of wire left over and the other barely had enough. I had no idea how that happened; I thought I had wrapped the wire correctly. But after it was all glued down, I didn't want to rip it all out. So with the tip of the wire's end glued to the last post, I also glued on top of it one of the Sky Ride cabs. The craft glue I was using tended to melt the plastic slightly, so I was hoping it would grip the wire tightly enough to hold it in place. The next day, I found that it worked. So I glued on the rest of the cabs, and the Sky Ride was finished.

I finally sat down with the Flying Jets and cleaned up all the wires. I glued the wire loops to the cabs to keep them in place. While I waited for that to dry, I redesigned and rebuilt the roofs of the bathrooms by the golf course and glued those in place on top of the flat roofs that were already there. Then I finished up the Flying Jets, gluing the wires so that it looked like some of the cabs were in flight. And when they were all dry, that complicated ride was done and I glued it down onto the model.

Another thought that occurred to me was fencing. All of the rides (and many other areas) had colorful fencing of one type or another surrounding them. I'd probably save that step for later, but I figured if I 3D printed them as a flat strip, they'd be flexible enough to wrap around the circumference of the areas where they were needed. There were also dozens of colorful park benches scattered across the midway. I didn't think I'd be able to get those to print; they'd be too small. But it was another detail I was turning around in my head.

On September 29, I sat down with the kiddie swings and a spool of grey thread. After cutting the thread into 12 separate inch-long pieces, I glued an end onto the back of each seat and let them dry. Then I threaded the other end through the loops on the swing structure and glued those in place. When that had dried, I trimmed the threads and the swings were done. That was the final ride for the midway. With that, the only empty areas were five buildings abutting the coaster. I was thinking of more ways to utilize my 3D printer in the construction of the Dinosaur Den and Pirate's Den dark rides and the Out of This World fun house, as well as the station for the Mountain Flyer (which had its own stone ticket booth). So even though there was still lots of work left, it was thrilling to finally see the model more closely resembling the park I remembered so fondly.

Remaking Mountain Park