by Jay Ducharme
(All text and images copyright Jay Ducharme 2018.)
I wanted 1/2" thick pine boards, but I could find only 3/4", which was really too thick for my needs (and a bit heavier). But I took what I could get, went home and put together a frame that would sit on the edge of the lip I had built. That construction was really frustrating. It's difficult to get straight wood, and this pine was no exception; all of the boards were slightly warped and the nails kept popping out. I finally had to use multipurpose screws (along with glue) to hold it together. I added small handles to help with lifting it. I had masonite for the top, but I'd wait for the next day and cut that outside.
The last structure in the park that I would build before the move was the Satellite entrance. The whimsical curving space scene, with a rocket blasting off on the left and a giant spaceman to the right, was too intricate for me to free-hand. So I painstakingly grabbed pieces from photos and adjusted the images to line up straight across. The resulting graphic was pretty accurate.
Because the graphic had to be wrapped to a semi-circular roof, I decided to make the roof out of foam core. The scale of the roof would be way too thick, but structurally it was the best option. I glued a tar roof graphic on the top of the foam core, then glued the graphic to the curved section. It fit perfectly. As I did for the Cutie Caddy and train station, I embedded skewers in the table, painted them and then pressed the roof onto them creating dots where the skewers were. When the paint dried it was a simple matter to hot glue the roof in place. The Satellite entrance was done, and much more quickly than I had expected. I'm glad I had worked with the two other roofs first. There was one detail that was missing: in its original design, a three-stage rocket made out of tin was affixed to the far left support, towering above the roof. In later years it was completely obscured by a large arbo vitae. So I decided to save that detail for a later date.
Since I would no longer have the physical model as a reference, I took a sheet of tracing paper and drew the footprints of all the remaining buildings. That way I could lay a section of foam core board over the tracing, and that would give me the exact dimension I needed. The roller coaster station would be a bit more tricky, because it had the coaster track running through it. But I marked off everything and crossed my fingers that my plan would work.
The last construction detail was the cover. Rather than masonite, which was too flexible, I used a sheet of 1/4 plywood paneling that I had. In short order I cut it to size, then glued and nailed it to the frame. I added large wording identifying what it was so that it wouldn't get discarded at Heritage Park. Then I just had to wait for help to lift it into place and secure it to the base.
Help came in the form of an old friend of mine, Jim Ramsey. Karen worked with him at Westfield State and suggested I contact him. He used to work at Mountain Park and was more than happy to lend a hand. We got together in the basement and reminisced for a while. Then we boxed up the model. I was relieved to find that the cover fit perfectly. We then carried it up the basement stairs and over to Karen's car. And fortunately, it fit snugly in the car. It was bittersweet; I was glad others were going to get a chance to view it but at the same time I wished I had room to keep it myself, mainly so that I could finish it.
The next day I brought the model to Heritage Park. Charlie and his crew placed it on a dolly and wheeled it into the Exhibition Hall. I expressed my concerns to Charlie, the fear that he was going to display the model only temporarily and then box it away. I suggested finding a place it could live where it wouldn't have to be moved. So we walked around on the extensive mezzanine section and settled on an area at a false wall. He set up four carpeted blocks and the model was placed on that. He said he'd get stanchions to help keep people away. But even so, the model was at the perfect height for kids to grab it. So I urged him to make that plexiglass cover.
I did finally order myself a 3D printer (a TEVO Michelangelo) so that I could begin the next phase of the model: creating all of the park's rides. It shipped to me a lot sooner than I expected, and I wasted no time in setting it up. Having never used that kind of printer before, it took me a bit of research to figure out what to do. The manual was missing a lot of key steps (like how to feed the filament), and I assumed that was because most of these printers were currently like computers were in the 1980s: mostly for hobbyists who wanted to tinker, not really for the mass market. But after some futzing I was able to make a successful test print.
On Sunday, August 26, I drove to Heritage Park. There were already quite a few people at the Merry-Go-Round. I went into the Visitor's Center. Charlie was still setting things up. There were pictures along the wall of the Gallery along with my Space Sky Ride sign. I went upstairs to the model. Charlie had placed a single stanchion across it. He said he couldn't find any others. So I decided to babysit the model the entire time. I knew the words "Do Not Touch" on the side would be a meaningless gesture.
I was happy that quite a few people came through. One guy made a snide remark about how he had more Mt. Park memorabilia in his own home. I was going to tell him to bring it on over, but I kept my mouth shut. Even with a large procession of children, most were respectful of the model. (But I still wanted that plexiglass cover!) I was especially surprised by the large number of people who were interested in the model even though they were obviously too young to have ever been to the park.
So I would take a rest from model work as classes started again for the fall. My time would be spent learning how to create 3D models and "slice" them for the printer, and create more tests to become more confident with the process. One of the first models I considered for that was the rocket for the side of the Satellite entrance, a simple collection of cylinders topped by a cone. As for the rest of the buildings, I had the tracing paper outlines of them. So I could gradually work on those as I had time, then bring them to the park and glue them in place. The busy summer construction period was over, but the real work to flesh out the park was just beginning.