by Jay Ducharme
(All text and images copyright Jay Ducharme 2019.)
It took several weeks, working off and on, to construct a car in Blender. It was mainly a large cube, a couple of spheres, two cylinders and six toruses (the tires and steering wheels). One of the amusing things about the Cutie Caddy is that each car had two steering wheels, but the kids never seemed to notice that turning them wouldn't affected the direction of the car, and that they could each turn their steering wheels simultaneously in different directions. Once I finished the model, I printed out some larger versions (about 80 mm in length) to make sure the details looked good. In reality, the cars would be printed at a less than a quarter of that size, so the details were lost anyway. I printed a batch of six in one go and painted them in the park's pastel colors, this time by using a trick I learned from the students in my animation class: nail polish. It was a lot cheaper than model paint and dried a lot faster.
I next attempted to built the turtle ride. It was the kiddie version of the once-ubiquitous Tumble Bug, designed by the legendary Traver Engineering Company. I found online a model of a turtle that I could adapt for the cars. The track was a simple undulating T-bar, but that proved extremely challenging to shape correctly using Blender. I worked on it for a few days before the holidays arrived and gave up.
The kiddie boat ride was next to the Cutie Caddy, and I figured that wouldn't be too difficult to construct. It was a small cylindrical pool with six identical boats floating in it made by a company called King in the 1950s. I tried building my own boat, which didn't go well. So I once again looked online and found a simple model that could work. It gave me the rough overall shape, but I had to make several modifications. The ride sat four kids, two in front and two in back. Like the Cutie Caddie, they each had a steering wheel that did nothing. A revolving post in the center of the pool with a covered commutator at the top held the electrical wire that went to the lead boat, the only one with a propeller. All six boats were chained together end to end and simply circled around the pole. It only took me an hour or so to put the whole thing together. And like with the Cutie Caddie, when it printed at its tiny scale, most of the detail was lost. I ended up having to redo it; I at first had made the boats circle clockwise, when they actually went in the opposite direction. I also originally made the pool too deep. The boats were painted in the usual pastel park colors. They did have some detailing on them, but I didn't attempt to recreate it. The pool itself was pale blue, so painting that was easy.
I then began work on the kiddie coaster. It was made by Schiff and Associates and was a popular model found at many amusement parks in the 1950s and 1960s. It didn't take me long to build the train; it was the same car repeated five times, so I only needed one of them. Like the Cutie Caddy, it was going to be printed out at such a tiny scale, most of the detail would vanish. So my model was extremely simplistic. As for the track, it was a similar dilemma to the Turtle ride; I wasn't sure how to bend it (nor how to print such a lattice-work structure). So I put that aside and turned my attention to some of the smaller buildings on the midway.
There were two circular game booths, one next to the main arcade and one next to the Dodgems. They each had a large turntable in the center. One was for the Birthday Game, where a twelve-sided die would be tossed. If your birthday month came up, you'd win a prize. The other was the Glass Game, where you would toss a wooden ring around a glass (among a table filled with them) to win a prize. It took me very little time to construct the booths. I ended up separating the roof off into a separate file to print, since otherwise the 3D printer would have had to clog up the booth with infill. The problem came when I tried to print the lower section of the booth: the roof supports were so thin that they wouldn't print. So I reworked the bottom section to have just four ludicrously thick supports. That printed fine. I printed two sets and then recreated the paint scheme from the original buildings. The Birthday Game's lower section had intricately painted panels with multicolored triangular designs. There was no way I could recreate that at such a tiny scale. So I painted the panels alternating red and blue. The Glass Game was a bit simpler, with panels alternating in pastel orange, green, yellow and blue. Once the paint dried, I glued on the roofs and those two games were finished. While I was at it, I printed out another, slightly bigger, for the Dolly Pitch game in Kiddieland. The only change I made was a different polygonal roof.
Another set of simple buildings were the Gypsy booths, two identical boxes where there was palm reading and, over the years, a guess-your-weight game and a Whac-a-Mole. That was really simple to build in Blender. I printed out two of them. They were red with white trim, which made them really easy to paint, too. Within a short time, those were done.
There were a couple unfinished items from the north end of the park that I wanted to complete. One was the fiberglass elephant that stood in a grassy area between the Sky Ride and the Dodgems. I found a simplistic model online, but it needed a lot of support structure. When printed, the entire elephant was about 3/4 of an inch long. It took a long time to pry off all the supports. I ended up breaking one of its legs and its trunk. I was able to glue the leg back on, but not the trunk. At that scale, though, I didn't think people would notice. Another object with an enormous number of supports was the golf course ticket booth, a structure with a multi-colored brick base and an inward-angled roof. I ended up breaking off some of the roof columns as I removed the printer supports. I should have printed it like the game booths, with the roof separate. But eventually I got it cleaned up, repaired and painted. Next to the ticket booth was an eight-foot high golf ball on a red tee, to draw people over to the golf course. That was a simple sphere on two cones and was really easy to recreate. The red stand was all that needed painting. I did have to drill a hole in the base and insert a bamboo skewer, or else there would have been no way to affix it to the model.
After that I turned my attention to the Whip. That was the most conspicuous unfinished building on the model, mainly because of its silver floor. The Whip cars themselves were pretty easy to build in Blender. But when I tried printing them out at the correct scale, the sides were two thin and failed to print. So as with the game booths, I had to beef up the sides and finally got them to print correctly. The cars were attached to a large oblong platform that had a large pulley on each end. A motor was housed in the center. A cog turned one of the pulleys, which had a channel in them. A cable was wrapped around both pulleys. The cars were on four large steel casters and were attached to the pulleys at their front center by a spring-loaded arm that was attached to the cable. As the car went around a pulley, it swung out from centrifugal force and then was snapped back by the spring. I created a simplified version of that arm in Blender. The arm was supposed to fit inside a notch I built into the cars, but at that scale the notch didn't print. After I printed out all the pieces, I set them up to make sure they'd fit into the proper footprint. The ride turned out to be a bit too big for the pavilion. But by reducing the size of the arms, I was able to fit everything in correctly.
Since I had the Whip done, I figured I might as well also make the Kiddie Whip, which sat right next to its big brother. Some miniature Whip rides were proportioned the same as the original, and worked the same. But Mountain Park's version was circular and simply went around and around with negligible whip action. I reused the base of the Bubble Bounce ride and simply added the Whip cars, an inner fence and a central post. In a short time, that model was done. The only thing I didn't add was the narrow fence around the ride itself. I knew it wouldn't print at the correct scale.
Once I finished that, it occurred to me that I still needed the ramp entrance to the Dodgem building. That was another model that I was able to complete quickly. For this one I made the fenceposts and railings really thick right from the start, and thankfully they printed just fine.
Over the next two months, I didn't find time to get to Heritage Park, so I resumed work on a kiddie ride that I had been having difficulty with: the Turtles. That ride was a miniature Tumble Bug, manufactured by the Traver Engineering Company. I was having trouble bending the track and couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Finally I realized that all I had to do was create two cylinders and remove the center, leaving rings. Then I could deform the rings to make the hills. Initially, I had thought there was supporting structure between the track and the ground. But upon closer examination, I discovered the rail was bolted directly to footings on the ground. The only supports were on the hills. After about a day's worth of work, I had finished the track. Then I fit an entrance ramp against it. I next made the truck, the platform with wheels that held the ride cars. I had to play around with the platform angles -- too wide and they'd miss the entrance ramp; too narrow and the cars wouldn't fit. Lastly, I made a single car. Initially, I was going to modify a turtle model that I had found online. But instead I built the car from scratch. I liked the way it turned out, but I knew at the tiny scale it would print that none of the details would be visible. It was difficult just getting the track to print at that scale. But eventually I was able to put all the pieces together.
Once that was finished, I was suddenly inspired to tackle the kiddie jet ride. Like many of the park's kiddie rides, it was manufactured by Allan Herschell under the name Sky Fighter. After studying pictures I had, I was able to quickly make the ride platform. The jets themselves were actually pretty simple, a cylinder with a sphere on the front. Again, the tiny scale obliterated any details but at least it didn't take long to print. And within a short time I had it painted.
I happened across an arial shot of Kiddieland that I had taken from the Ferris wheel and I noticed that the kiddie boat ride consisted of just five boats, not the six I had included in my model. And they were all yellow, not multi-colored. So I went back and redesigned that ride and reprinted it. The good thing about the new version was that the boats were slightly bigger making them easier to print (and easier to paint).
At that point I had begun running out of white model paint. To get the pastel colors of the park, I had to cut a lot of the colors with white. Testors didn't sell their model paint by the pint, just in 1/4 ounce jars. That didn't go very far, and it was also ridiculously expensive. Luckily I found a cheaper (and higher volume) substitute online and ordered a few jars.
I packed up all of the new models and headed up to Heritage Park on May 16. I brought my hot glue gun, figuring it would make it easier to glue the models to the deck. When I arrived, there was a lot of activity in the park preparing for the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open a new splash park. Previously there had been a waterfall there, replicating the Holyoke canal system. But it had been shut down for nearly a quarter century. Hopefully the new feature will bring more people to the park, which in turn will bring more people to the Merry-Go-Round.
I went upstairs in the Visitor's Center and got to work. I couldn't find any nearby working electrical outlets, so instead of hot glue I just used Loctite cement and craft glue to affix the rides. The Whip, with all its small pieces, took the longest to put together. The other rides and buildings went down quickly. I was most pleased with the look of the Cutie Caddie. The cars really did look cute sitting at various points along the track. I also installed the golf course ticket booth and golf ball statue, plus the elephant statue next to the Dodgems.
My calculations were obviously wrong on the Gypsy booths, which turned out to be taller than the arcade. I thought I had printed them at 8 feet high in scale, but they ended up more like 15 feet tall. The Dolly Pitch, on the other hand, was a bit smaller than I planned. But overall it was looking good. The Commissioner from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation came over to look at it and was impressed, saying he was glad we were preserving an important park of Holyoke's history.
I stepped outside to watch the ribbon cutting, a fitting beginning to a new season and, hopefully, a harbinger of a rebirth at the park.