by Jay Ducharme
(All text and images copyright Jay Ducharme 2018.)
In 2017, I was asked to be a part of a team that was planning some changes at Holyoke's Heritage State Park Visitor's Center. The Center was the original building at the park in 1986, at that time featuring a large water sculpture that echoed the history of the city's famous dam and canal system. Charles Lotspeich, the current manager of the Vistor's Center, wanted to re-think how the building, and especially the lobby, was used. For over a decade, it consisted of a few glass cases featuring scattered relics of the city's past. There was a wall of brochures. And there were four large potted trees that took up most of the space.
What prompted Charlie's desire to renovate the space was contact from a local man named Dan Manson, who had acquired one of the Mountain Park midway ticket booths when the park closed in 1987. I was there to watch him load it onto his truck. In the thirty years since then, the original had rotted away. But Dan built a brand new one, identical to the original. He offered it for display at Heritage Park.
Charlie was interested in finding a way to highlight Holyoke's fascinating history, including the vast immigrant culture that built the city. He thought the ticket booth might be a way to draw people over to the Visitor's Center and he asked if I could help create some sort of companion display highlighting Mountain Park. I gave Charlie numerous images which he was going to enlarge to poster size for display. I also began acquiring some memorabilia, such as the commemorative spoon issued at the park's opening in 1897.
But I felt that there needed to be a bigger draw than just pictures and memorabilia. An entire generation had grown up never knowing that Holyoke had an amusement park. Few remained who knew what it looked like or even where it was. The generation that grew up with the park was dying off. Besides pictures and videos, how else could the park be made real for people?
For over a decade, I had wanted to built a scale model of the park. At the time, I wanted to build it in H0 scale and I wanted it to function. In other words, I wanted the rides to operate and have it fully lighted. I chose H0 scale initially because of the large collection of working H0 scale amusement park models manufactured by several different companies. I figured I would save myself a lot of work by using pre-fab kits for all of the park's stock flat rides (like the Scrambler, Ferris Wheel, Whip, etc.). Unfortunately, building the park at that scale would have required about 28 linear feet of space. So I looked into N guage and discovered that even at that tiny scale the park would have stretched for 18 feet. There was obviously no place to put it at the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, and the Children's Museum wasn't interested. So I assumed it would be just another idea I had that would never see the light of day.
So I mentioned the model to Charlie and he loved the concept, but obviously its large scale was a problem. He said he could find room for an 8 foot display, though. In retrospect, it would have been insane to attempt a 28-foot model. Eight feet was much more reasonable. But at that scale, the rides would be absurdly tiny. That, however, turned out to be a good thing. Charlie had been playing around with a 3D printer he had acquired, and that would be a perfect way to create small objects like the rides. I would have to learn how to build each ride in the computer. But since most of the rides consisted of multiple copies of a single object (like Ferris wheel seats), that would be a perfect solution.
It wouldn't be until the summer of 2018 that I would find time to work on the model in earnest. It was a struggle to know how to begin. How would I be able to piece the park together in scale, when my memory of the actual park was growing fainter as the years passed. Fortunately, I had a huge collection of photographs. I also had created a park layout shortly after it closed, while everything was still fresh in my mind.
My starting point was an aerial shot of the park taken in 1962 during the construction of Interstate 91. That particular shot was useful because it was taken straight down on the park, with no parallax to deal with. Because of the age of the photo, the resolution wasn't great. It also didn't help that it was a photo I had taken with my old 35mm SLR camera of a giant 8 foot wide photo that hung in the park office.
So I cropped that photo to enlarge just the midway section, then I printed it out landscaped on standard 8.5 x 11 inch paper. I measured it with my architect's rule, trying different scales. I discovered that at 1.5 inch scale, the printout (minus the ballroom and tap room at the far right) could be placed onto a surface that was six feet by two feet. I had been debating about which era of the park I would recreate. Without the ballroom and tap room, I had no restrictions (since they burned down in 1971). Since I really wanted to include the amazing Out of This World fun house, I settled on 1980, the year I began working at the park.
I happened to have a scrap sheet of 1/2" plywood that was 6 feet by 23 inches. So I glued a supporting frame to it with 2x3 stock. Then I glued down some leftover Homasote for the surface, as I would for a model railroad layout. I needed to use two pieces, and one was quite a bit lighter than the other (and slightly thinner for some reason). But I was planning on painting it anyway. The Homasote was a more pliable surface than the unforgiving plywood. Plus, I needed to build up the surface to create an elevation change. The park sat on the side of Mount Tom, which originally had a fairly continuous slope down to the Connecticut River. The park's midway had been built up with backfill to level it out. The east edge of the midway near kiddieland dropped off sharply toward the parking lot. So the added Homasote would allow me to sculpt that slope.
Another thing I did was to add a 3/4 inch lip all the way around the bottom. The model was going to be on exhibit and unmonitored, so there needed to be something to protect it. I suggested to Charlie that it be covered by a plexiglass case. The lip would give the plexiglass an edge on which to sit.
Once everything had dried, I began measuring the photo with my architect's scale. I divided the photo into six sections and marked off the Homasote accordingly. That way I could make sure all of the objects on the midway were lining up correctly. I began with the Mountain Flyer roller coaster, starting on the left edge. I was fortunate in that I had been able to acquire the coaster's original blueprint. I knew exactly how many feet it occupied and where all the structural pieces went. So it was a matter of corroborating that with the tiny rendition in the aerial.
Next I tackled all of the buildings. I started with the largest building in the park, the Clambake Pavilion at the far south end. It was actually an amalgam of three (or perhaps five) separate structures that had been gradually built up with varying configurations and roof lines, and it sat straddling the slope. The pavilion itself (once used for roller skating, but most people remembered it being a large Bingo hall where Larry Chesky's band played polka) occupied most of the area, with the domed stage at the south end. But it also housed another structure at the north end known as The Towers that contained food concessions including beer and pizza. Across from that (to the west) was the Mini Arcade, a long thin cinderblock structure that also included the Gifts and Cigarette games. The structure was capped at the north end by the curved Frosty Joy ice cream concession.
I then drew out all of the buildings that abutted the length of the Mountain Flyer. Originally known as "Arcade Row", the buildings included the park's two dark rides and Out of This World. Most of the buildings housed games, like water guns and Wacky Cats, and also a large arcade. Then I turned my attention to the other large buildings on the east side of the midway, including the Whip, Merry-Go-Round and Dodgems.
That whole process took about a week. Then next week was spent filling in all of the rides. I mostly used a simple compass, since the majority of flat rides had nothing but a circle as a footprint. This is where I needed additional frames of reference. The 1962 aerial was shot in the off-season, when many rides were in storage. I also had an an isometric aerial from 1988 after the park closed, but many of the rides by then had been sold. So I played detective and searched through my images for specific rides and perspectives, trying to visually line up where they all were located in relation to each other. The lines I had drawn at foot-long intervals were a big help in that regard.
The Sky Ride posed an interesting dilemma. Sitting just north of the Dodgems, the ride originally extended off through the picnic grove to a zoo at the far east end of the park. I was cutting off my model just past the main midway. So I decided to include the Sky Ride's station and just two of the carrying posts, leaving the impression that the ride continued off to the east.
The final section of the groundplan was the train and intertwined mini-golf course. I cropped the highest resolution image I could find and applied high contrast in order to recollect the course structure. There were all sorts of objects on the real course, with many novelty features such as nursery rhyme statues (like Humpty Dumpty), turning waterwheels and multiple levels. But at such a tiny scale, there was no way I'd be able to replicate those features, even using a 3D printer. The layout alone would have to suffice.
Before I continued with sanding and painting, I wanted to mark all of the footers for the roller coaster. I had thought of using 3/4" wide plastic toy ladders, but that would have cost over $600. It was too big for 3D printing. So I decided to just mark the footers and deal with the assembly later. I was stunned to discover that from the base of the lift hill to its top occupied exactly 10 inches. The actual length was 160 feet with 20 "bents", or vertical structural members. Bents were usually placed 8 feet apart on coasters during that period. (I later discovered, however, that the Mountain Flyer bents were 10 feet apart.). So doing the math on that, it turned out that my entire layout had been drawn at a scale of 1/16 inch to one foot. I measured the Merry-Go-Round building with my architect's scale and sure enough -- the building measured 80 feet across, exactly what it was at the park!
Marking the footers for the coaster's bents was going to be a very tedious process; the ride was constructed of close to 200 of them. But now that I knew the exact scale, I fabricated a coaster jig out of a paint stirrer, drilling three sets of holes spaced at 3/4 inch wide and 1/2 inch apart (assuming I was going to use the 3/4" wide ladders). I left a half-inch at the back end to line up with the last set of holes and I drew a centerline to match up with the coaster's centerline. Then it was simply a matter of placing the jig down and using an awl to punch holes into the Homasote. When that was finished, I dug out the "below ground" area at the base of the lift hill. And with that, the basic groundplan was completed by July 5.
Something that escaped me at the time (and there would be many more such incidents) was the choice to make the bents 3/4" wide. In scale, that would mean that the track was 12 feet wide! It was supposed to be 8 feet, which would have translated to a half-inch. So my jig was 1/4" too wide but I didn't realize it until I had finished the entire set of footers. I would need to go back later and re-punch all of the holes on the outside of the ride's bents. But before I rushed into that, I wanted to wait until I knew exactly what I was going to use for the structure. If my only choice was a 3/4" wide toy ladder, then that's what I would use.
The next step was to sand down the elevation change. I had a belt sander with 36 grit paper. I had never sanded Homasote before. I figured it would grind down similar to wood. But I was wrong. Fortunately I wore a mask, goggles and hearing protection. Dust was flying everywhere. It was as if I had torn open a stuffed animal and dumped all the contents onto the floor. Piles of fluff were everywhere. The belt kept getting clogged. The Homasote did sand down relatively smoothly, but what a mess!
The section that required a different approach was the stretch of grass below kiddieland. There was a pretty severe drop-off, unlike the abutting areas that were sloped up to the midway. I don't recall the actual dimension, but the drop-off was probably twelve feet. The Homasote was a half-inch thick, so I'd be able to recreate only an 8 foot drop (sort of the reverse of my coaster problem). Since I wanted a sharp cliff face, I used a hammer and chisel to sculpt out that area. That took about a half-hour, and the result was a bit sloppy. The Homasote didn't peel up evenly. But the drop-off itself was fairly convincing.
I also needed to sand down the area where I joined the two pieces of Homasote together. One section was slightly higher than another. After another hour or so, I had made progress on sculpting in the slope. The next day I finished it up and used spackling paste to smooth out the rough areas.
Also that next day, I had a breakthrough: while I was tediously hunting through eBay searching for something to use for the coaster structure, I found a vendor that was selling 1/2 inch wide ladders, 8 inches long. Since the coaster height would never get past 4 inches, that would give me at least eight sections of track per package. The vendor had ten available at $4.80 each, and I bought him out. I tracked down the actual company that made them, Horizon Creation 3D, which specialized in war gaming accessories. I was able to purchase the rest of the pieces there (at nearly double the eBay price). So for about $130, I had all the pieces I assumed I would need with which to build the Mountain Flyer! What I hadn't noticed, though, was that Horizon listed the pieces as being 15 mm wide (which translated to about 7/16"). And later I would discover that they were indeed 15 mm.
I bought four quarts of acrylic artist's paint at a craft store: white, red, yellow and blue. That way I could make whatever colors I'd need. I also bought some enamel model paint for when I 3D-printed the rides. Before I began painting, I needed to put spackling over the erroneous footer holes of the roller coaster. When that dried, I created a new jig with the proper 1/2 inch spacing. Then I repunched all of the outside footers. Then I primed the bare wood frame and lip that rimmed the entire model. I planned to eventually paint it grey to match the pavement area.
I also wanted a sense of how much of the grassy areas I would be able to cover with trees. I searched eBay again, and found packs of 20 assorted H0 plastic trees for cheap. So I bought 10 packs, giving me 200 trees. Even though there was a lot of open forested area on either side of the coaster, that many trees would allow me to create fairly dense foliage, meaning I wouldn't have to worry about making the "grass" look real. While H0 would seem to be too large for this model, the trees would actually work out well. The highest hill on the roller coaster would be about 4 inches. There were trees along the Mountain Flyer's course that hung down over the track. The H0 trees were about 3 inches high, so I was hoping they'd work well for that purpose. If I needed smaller trees I could always cut them down a bit. For smaller foliage, I already had a supply of colored lychen from my model railroad stock, and those would make decent hedges for the golf course area.
I began painting the pavement areas, mixing a sort of greyish color and slightly watering it down to thin it out. I didn't want to obscure the markings for any ride positions. As it turned out, even the watered-down paint was too dense. But it covered well and looked good. So I painted around the ride footprints. Since I'd be 3D-printing the rides, I could set the entire piece down over the unpainted area. There were a few rides I couldn't do that with, though: the Tempest, Scrambler and Flying Jets. Those sat directly on the pavement. So in those cases, I used a Sharpie to outline the ride's circumference. When I painted over it, the Sharpie bled through.
Once the pavement was done I mixed up some green paint, tinting it with a bit more yellow than blue, and covered all of the grassy areas. I wasn't concerned with painting over the lines of the coaster, since I already had punched all the holes for the footers. I found that the spacking tended to quickly suck up the paint. So I had to apply more paint to those areas.
Next, I used the green paint to fill in the greens of the mini-golf course, a slow process with a small brush. When that was completed, I then used white paint to fill in all the concrete surrounding the greens. I mixed in other colors to make a sort of light cream and used that for the other concrete areas in the park, particularly the track of the Cutie Caddy.
The last bit of painting was the track bed for the miniature railway. I still wasn't sure how I was going to create the look of the track, but as a base I painted a greyish strip over the entire course. So after a full day of painting, the layout was done.
The next day, I went back over some spots I missed. I also added some texture to the train route. The center of the route was always blackened with soot and oil, so I tried to recreate that. I still wasn't sure how I was going to add the rails and ties. I also painted the concrete pad that held the Sky Ride station. I added the guide rail on the Cutie Caddie track, simply penciling it in. Next to it I added the sidewalk that approached the Clambake Pavilion from the parking lot. Then I cut a tiny piece of wood to simulate the entrance and exit ramp for the Ferris wheel. I glued it in place. When it dried, I'd paint it grey like the pavement (which was its actual color).
I happened to find a coil of stiff but thin steel wire in my basement. I was wondering how to make the numerous railings and fences that surrounded most of the rides; that wire would probably do the trick. A few days earlier I purchased a pack of thin bamboo skewers, which would work well for the vertical posts holding the railings.
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.
I assumed that this was going to be the biggest job. Although I had constructed coaster models before, both big and small, this would be the most extensive recreation I'd ever attempted. Plus, I wanted it to be accurate, matching the original ride.
I began by separating the plastic ladders from their molds. I started assembly at the lowest point on the ride, the below-grade bents (vertical members) just before the lift. I wanted to work backwards from their, installing all the smaller hills and leaving the big hills (the outbound track) for the end. I kept my iPad nearby, displaying the coaster's original blueprint. I had to keep reminding my math-impaired mind that whatever the height was on the blueprint, I had to deduct 14 feet to account for the original elevation change. So a 17-foot-high bent was actually only 3 feet off of the ground on my scale model. I also kept a ruler nearby so I could verify the height of the sections.
I wasn't sure what I was going to use to affix the plastic ladders to the Homasote. Wood glue wouldn't work. The caulk would be too flexible. I decided to use my hot glue gun, and I'm glad I did. After widening the footer holes with an awl (and repositioning them to be 7/16" apart instead of 1/2"), I'd squirt a little hot glue inside them and smoosh in the ladder. The hot glue gave me about thirty seconds to get the bent positioned before it set. The plastic ladders were then impossible to remove without tearing up the Homasote. Within about four hours, I had completed about a third of the ride.
As I approached the turnaround, I noticed a discrepancy. The blueprint had fewer footers than what I had punched into the table. In other words, the coaster was a bit shorter than the way I had rendered it. So I decided to simply stretch out the two small hills before the turn. That was ironic, because that's what happened to the ride when it was actually built: the original blueprint was reduced in length by 85 feet. My render had added even more length to the ride!
Constantly checking my measurements with the ruler was getting tedious. I finally realized that the ladders were reliably consistent: the ladder "rungs" were 1/4" apart. In scale, that equaled four feet. All I had to do was count the rungs and I'd know the bent height. That saved me a lot of time. But when I got to the turnaround, the bents didn't seem to scale properly to the blueprint. They looked absurdly tall. I noticed that the blueprint listed some of the lower bents near the turnaround as being 5 feet above grade. If I subtracted 14 feet from that, the ride would have been in a deep pit. And it wasn't at that location. So I assumed that the grade had changed and the bents really were at five feet. But then when did the blueprint shift to a different grade? That wasn't clear. So I decided to follow what was written in the blueprint. But that didn't quite work out because, as I mentioned, the structure looked absurdly tall. So rather than 59 feet, I made the tallest part of the turnaround 45 (reverting to that 14 foot deduction). It still looked a bit tall. When I compared it to the photo I took of the actual turnaround, it should have been much flatter. But then I looked at the profile in the blueprint; it looked like my model. So I guess that over the years, the turn must have been flattened to slow the train; the turn took a real beating and had to be rebuilt each season.
The next morning I resumed work on it, completing up to the second hill before lunchtime. The heavy rain of the previous day had let up, so I took the opportunity to spray paint the new pack of ladders I received the day before, in case I needed them. One thing I noticed on the model was that the hills were coming out spiky, like triangles instead of arcs. To make the hills, I had been increasing the bent height at pretty consistent four foot increments. But that's not how Herbert Schmeck designed the ride. The bents sharply increased and decreased height going into and out of the hills, but had a very slight change of height along their tops, creating that signature parabolic arc. I wasn't happy with the way mine came out, but changing them would mean ripping out (literally) every hill. I pondered the dilemma over lunch and then got back to work.
All I had left to do were the "speed bump" at the bottom of the lift and the lift hill itself. I got into a pretty robotic rhythm: clip the ladder to the right height, file down the flashing, widen the footers with the awl, fill the holes with hot glue and then position the bent. The lift was one hill where my consistent increments worked. Ironically, that hill ended up with a slight dip in the middle. But after a few hours, I had connected the structure back to the station. The Mountain Flyer was finished -- at least, this stage of it. I still needed to attach ribbon bracing, batter bracing, handrails and track. But that would happen at Heritage Park. I just wanted to get the structure up for now.
I did further modify the turnaround, getting it to match the photo I had. I also tweaked some of the bents on the big hills. That helped a little, but it would require more serious surgery if I wanted to create true parabolas. But I still had a lot more work to do on the model before it left my basement in two weeks. For now, I figured this version would have to do.
Well, it didn't do. The next morning I looked at the profile and couldn't live with the spiky hills. So I tediously tore out the offending bents and cut new ones to maintain the arc at the top of the hills. I modified both the second and third hills, plus the tall seventh hill heading back to the station. It wasn't perfect, but it looked a heck of a lot better and I could live with it now. The way to make it more accurate would have been to continue adjusting the slopes going into and out of the hills. But I was concerned that would lead to another big problem: my model was actually longer than the blueprint. If I increased the slope on the hills, that would leave me with long stretches of ground-level track. And remember that the actual coaster had been shortened even further than the blueprint. So I was willing to accept this compromise and keep moving on to the next phase of the model.
The next piece I chose to tackle was the largest structure in the park, the Clambake Pavilion. It began its life as a roller skating rink and evolved into (at various times) a general purpose shelter with dozens of picnic tables for guests to use, a bingo hall, an exhibition hall where the bodybuilding competitions were held and a dance hall when Larry Chesky and his polka band played every Sunday.
The building was a clearspan structure that featured giant curved arches that park supervisor Roger Fortin built by hand. Attached to those arches were hundreds of light bulbs that provided illumination and looked magical, especially when I was a kid. The arches weren't really structural; in the winter, the park crew had to install 8" beams to hold up the roof from the snow load. But given the size of the building and its open nature, I was afraid that it would collapse on itself if it was made of the standard card stock I'd been using. The sides of the building itself were rather featureless, painted a flat white. And there wasn't much of the building exterior visible. The area facing the midway was a wall of garage doors. The area facing the parking lot was hidden by trees. So I opted to make the entire structure out of foam core board, which would give me the rigidity I needed. The roof would still be card stock.
I debated whether to recreate the building's arches. While they'd help support the roof, I didn't need that much support. And people looking at the model would never be able to see the arches. It would be a lot of work with no tangible benefit. So instead I created a simple roof support in the center of the structure. The foam core board was trickier to cut. I didn't get the clean lines I was used to from the card stock. That was most noticeable with the garage door openings. But once the model was complete, they'd be difficult to see.
The puzzle on this building was the stage, which was a clamshell attached to the back of the building. I assumed I'd just glue triangular strips as I did with other roofs. After all, the actual stage was built that way, albeit much larger. I wasn't sure I'd be able to curve the card stock correctly. But first I noticed another issue.
While I was double checking photos of the stage, I noticed that it was actually raised off the ground about a two feet. In fact, the entire east side of the pavilion (facing the parking lot) was floating above the ground on stilts. I remember that spare ride parts and equipment used to be stored underneath it. The ground had sloped away sharply away from the pavilion, much like the problem I had with the merry-go-round and Dodgems. But my surface had no slope there. Also, the ground abutting the stage not only sloped, it dropped off a cliff much like the area below the Cutie Caddy. I could have left it alone and racked up another inaccuracy. But instead I took a deep breath, got my chisel and began tearing out the Homasote below the pavilion. I didn't go so far as to remove anything under the pavilion itself, but I painted a dark grey line along the base of the building giving the illusion that there was space below it. Then I sanded and repainted the surface to match the pavement and grass in other areas.
I was debating how to raise the stage area up off the ground. Then I discovered I had lots of spare cork from my model railroad. So I cut strips and glued them down behind the pavilion. Then I cut an arc out of foam core board and glued that to the cork strips. I also added a horizontal brace so that I could attach the paper strips to the back of the building. I let that dry, then cut out the roofing triangles as I had first done for the merry-go-round building. I wasn't happy how the wood glue I was using (which bonded really well) was leaving yellow streaks on the building's white surface. So I got some regular white glue to attach the triangle strips. The stuff just wouldn't hold. Pieces kept popping up and I'd have to press them down over and over. Finally, everything held in place, but the result wasn't pretty. It was comical, actually, appearing to be a deflated hot air balloon that had collapsed there. I tore it all off and pondered my options.
To give my mind a break from that, I began work on a simpler structure: the mini-arcade building just across from the pavilion. It was a simple narrow box structure, but it had one tricky part: the signs over the different concessions formed a sort of tall extended facade that tilted outward. And capping the building's north end was Frosty Joy, the ice cream concession that had an even more elaborate facade.
So I began with the main building. I found various photos of the mini arcade and attached concessions. One of the left side of the arcade featured the park's matron, Mabel Zinn, standing out front. I couldn't find a photo of the right side, so I copied the left side and flipped it, making a clone of Mabel in the process. The Gifts concession was nearly always closed, at least in my memory and in the photos I had. So I found a picture of the Novelties stand (which I couldn't place anywhere in the park) and used that. The last concession was the Cigarettes game. In later years, it simply featured stock prizes like radios and lighters. I had a picture of that as well. So I sized them and fit them onto a strip, framing it with blue cinderblock and pink trim. I didn't have a good photo of the sign above the arcade, which had three-dimensional angled letters coming off the building. So I simulated that in Photo with perspective and drop shadows. I printed out the whole thing on card stock. I also printed out a stock sheet of white clapboard, which I could then cut for the oddly-angled upper side pieces, and a sheet of tar paper for the roof. As with merry-go-round, I placed bamboo skewers at the corners to secure the sides of the building and caulked everything in place. I even was able to recreate the clown head that hung on the side of the building. Within a couple hours, the mini-arcade was finished. Peering over from the south side, I could actually feel myself standing back on the midway.
I settled on a solution for the pavilion stage: a styrofoam ball. I went back to the craft store and to my surprise they had one that was 4.4" in diameter, just what I needed. I cut it in half, and then I cut the half into a quarter. It almost fit but was a little too high. So I cut off a bit more and it fit perfectly. I had to flatten the top a little bit. But it looked a heck of a lot better than my paper version. I painted it a sort of light grey to try to match the shingles on the roof. It dried a bit dark, but I would touch it up later. I glued down the roof with caulk. For now, the Clambake Pavilion was finished. But I still had the Towers and the Frosty Joy to make before this section was completed.
I created a sheet with the rest of the building sections on it. It went through continual revisions as I tried creating certain structures and failed because the graphic simply didn't fit. I started with the Frosty Joy ice cream stand. That was the most time consuming because of the graphics, which I pulled from various photos of the actual concession. The first version I made wasn't wide enough. So I tweaked it, and the second version looked much better. I was able to recreate the facade's curved and angled surface fairly easily. I'd try the same technique for the Towers facade. The concession had a wraparound counter, which I simulated with a curved cut of foam core board. I added the roof, and it was done.
While the Frosty Joy dried, I started work on the towers. I decided to try a new building technique. I started off with a foam core board base, around which I could wrap the walls. For the side of the towers that faced the Cutie Caddy, I added cartoon children to the wall. I remembered seeing them at the park, but I couldn't find any pictures of them. So I created my own. They were so tiny, it really didn't matter. Plus they'd be hidden by trees. I made the wall a textured white surface (only to later discover it was actually clapboard). I did notice in some photos that the Towers section extended further east than I thought, pretty much even with the pavilion rest rooms and forming a corridor leading to the doorway into the pavilion. So I extended the building's footprint accordingly. Then I added internal foam core walls for more support. I also cut strips of foam core and placed them internally along the roof line. Rather than cut flaps and caulk the roof, I could just glue it to the foam core supports with a new bottle of clear glue I bought.
The facade around the towers proved to be much more challenging than the Frosty Joy sign. I had created the graphic as an arc, which had worked well for the circular ice cream concession. But for the towers, the facade had a long straight run and then it curved at the end. No matter how I tried to adjust it, the facade was horribly warped. When I attempted to affix the roof, it simply popped off. So I tore the whole section out and redesigned it as a straight run. That fit perfectly. I also glued on the green and yellow fiberglass awning that hung below it. I affixed the facade square to the walls, but what I should have done was tilt it slightly forward. That would have created the angle of the original. But even so, the finished Towers didn't look too bad.
Meanwhile, my shipment of 200 trees came in. I was surprised to find they were all uniform in shape and height. I could have sworn the vendor said there was a variety of different sizes, and also some pine trees (as opposed to just maple trees). But hey, I now had 200 trees to work with. They supposedly were H0 scale, but they seemed really tiny, shorter than most of the buildings I had installed. I was worried they'd be too tall and I'd have to cut them down. So to supplant that, I ordered some pine trees online. I also found a bag of larger trees I had bought a while back for my model railroad setup.
To finish up the buildings at the park's south end, I wanted to tackle the Hot Rod garage, which was used as a storage building, and the soda game. The Hot Rods sat on the site of the short-live bumper boat ride behind the mini-arcade. The bumper boat pool was filled in and the east trough became the back wall of the mini-arcade. The ground was then used as a race track for little hot rod cars. The cars were difficult to maintain and the ride was removed in the 1970s. Its place was taken by the Scrambler and the Bubble Bounce. But the garage remained. It was a simple triangular building with a garage door. When I hunted for photos, I discovered that by the 1980s it was no longer there, its place taken by a large pine tree. So that was one less building I had to make.
The soda game was a simple box structure. As usual, I found a photo of the actual game and incorporated that into the model. This time, I cut a block of foam core the same size as the building's base. I glued the walls directly onto the foam core, added the roof and then glued the foam core down onto the table. That was a much easier way to do it, and actually created a sturdier building. It helped that the building was small and square. But with that, the buildings at the south end of park were finished.
With time running out before the model was to be transported to Heritage Park, I focused on structures that I could finish relatively quickly. The rest rooms next to the golf course were simple box buildings. The train tunnel was attached to the back of them. So that was the next section I worked on. I spent a lot of time hunting for photos of those buildings, which were really old structures. In fact, an increasing amount of mine time was getting taken up with research. There were many aspects of the park I simply hadn't paid close attention to, and tracking down the source was daunting. I had hundreds of photos to cull through. But in this case, the best image I found was on a lengthy video taken in 1987 and sent to me by a gentleman in California. It had a lot of footage of the train, including right next to the turnaround by the rest rooms.
So from that I knew that the structures were simple white clapboard with windows on each side and flat roofs. I was able to quickly put the graphics together using assets I already had. Then I simply duplicated it since (except for the interior) they were pretty much identical. I had thought that the women's room had a sort of a porch in front, but I couldn't find any photographic evidence. I cut the walls so that they sloped down to a half-inch at the back. Then I cut foam core squares for the bases. They were all ready to put together. It took just a few minutes to glue it all together. I inserted small pieces of foam core around the roof line to make it simpler to glue down the roof. Before attaching the roof, I glued the buildings in place and let them dry. Then I turned my attention to the tunnel.
I used two strips of card stock with clapboard printed on them. Then I placed short bamboo skewers at the entrances to the tunnel. I looped the strip around the skewer and glued it. Then I glued the inner side of the tunnel to the backs of the buildings, curving around the men's room and looping around the bamboo skewer at the other end. Those skewers closest to the golf course would never be seen; the walkover and fountain would go there later, built with a 3D printer. For the outer wall, I glued down a strip of foam core board to add some rigidity and glued the wall to that. I also added a few more pieces of foam core to help support the roof, which I sized in place. After a bit of trimming, I affixed the roof and that whole section was complete.
I planned to next build the main arcade and adjacent games. As I pored through image after image, I noticed that the structure I thought was one unit (containing the shooting galleries, novelty stand, office and Action game) was actually two separate buildings with a single awning connecting them. The shooting galleries (originally labeled separately as Shoot Out the Star and Shoot Till U Win) in the 1980s had just one sign above them: Shoot 'Em Out. In the last couple of years at the park, Shoot Till U Win was replaced by a roller ball game. The office complex had a complex series of intersecting roof lines. But Shoot 'Em Out was a fairly simple box so I opted to build that one next. It was all pretty straightforward, with a foam core base and printed graphics. The only difference was, since the building was so long, I added some trusses like I had done in the Clambake Pavilion in order to hold up the roof. Then I glued everything in place and one more building was done.
Speaking of the Clambake Pavilion, I ran across some photos that called into question my design of the Towers area. Some images seemed to show a continuous level to the roof from the Pizza area. Other images seemed to show a stepped design. Another image seemed to show a long thin rectangular section of roof. All I knew for certain was that my design was incorrect. So to compromise, I added a stepped section of roof. It might not have been completely accurate, but it did add more visual interest to that massive expanse of roof.
I decided to follow up Shoot 'Em Out by working on the Playland arcade and adjacent games. But as usual, I got distracted. I noticed the small footprint areas for two buildings next to the carousel: the "new" rest rooms and the midway stage. The rest rooms would be another simple box with a gabled roof. The only difference is it had two walls out front directing people to either the ladies' room or the men's. So I started with that. The graphics were easy: white cinderblock. I created the walls with thin card stock bent around skewers. The stage was a little more complicated, involving more intricate folding. As usual I began with actual photos of the structure and inserted them into the graphics. I was going to use a block of foam core for the base, so I designed the stage so that it could wrap around the foam core. The building sides didn't go all the way to the end of the stage, so I made "wings" that I could fold in. I also made a piece resembling the back side of the stage that I could glue over the card stock. The roof of the stage was a bit trickier, since it continued out over the audience. I used two bamboo skewers for the supporting posts and cut a small gable out of foam core. I glued them together and painted them blue. The audience sat in rows of thin red, white and blue benches affixed to the asphalt. For that, I clipped small sections of the plastic ladders, painted them and hot-glued them in place. I glued the roofs on and after just a few hours, the stage and rest rooms were finished.
Over the next few weeks, I was tied up with other duties. But I did manage to start the process of adding trees. The 200 tree set were extremely uniform and looked unrealistic. So I tried to balance that with other varieties of trees that I had. It became clear that I wouldn't be able to populate the model exclusively with the large set. I had thought there would be more variation in them. But at least I started to get a feel for what the model would look like as more trees were added.
Another chore I had been putting off was painting the sides of the table. I didn't like working with spray paint indoors. But I made quick work of it and turned on our air purifier for a few days. I sprayed it all a dark grey, and it looked good.
I finally decided to focus on "Arcade Row", the strip of buildings that housed Pop It (the water gun game), Sock It To Me (Whacky Cats) and the Play Land Arcade. The buildings themselves weren't very complicated, but the facades were. The big puzzle for me was how to create the crenellations that adorned the roofline of the buildings, originally huge wood and metal geometric structures that looked impossibly large compared with the rest of the structures. My original thought was to use foam core, but I'd wait until the buildings were actually finished before approaching that.
The first task was to create the graphics, which I added to the previous buildings sheet. I had no photos of the first building, Pop It, except when it was closed. I knew what it looked like inside; it was a typical carnival balloon game with clown heads that rotated back and forth as you tried to squirt a water gun into their mouths. The building originally was a shooting gallery, and the steel wall from that game remained behind the clowns. That graphic took a few hours of research. I was surprised how few photos their were of such a popular game. Most were looking sideways down the row of clowns. I finally found one looking straight on, so I cropped it and inserted it. I did have a photo of the Sock It To Me game (also known simply as Baseball, where you throw a baseball at a small clown head, trying to knock it over). So that one was easy. For the signage above the games, I was able to salvage a photo of the Sock It To Me sign taken from the side, and I warped it to appear straight on. It was also black and white, so I had to hand-colorize it. The Pop It sign was a simple graphic of letters inside diamonds.
The buildings were straightforward rectangles with foam core bottoms. They were the same size. The only difference was in the roof structures: Pop It was gabled while Sock It To Me was flat and also had an upper level (like the Towers). So I created the gables with foam core board for Pop It and glued the base into place. Then I created the simple flat box for Sock It To Me and glued that down. I glued on the roofs and then moved on to Play Land.
This one posed the toughest challenge graphically because I had no pictures of the inside of that arcade. I remembered approximately what it looked like, with pinball machines, early video games and antique arcade machines filling the room. At the back was the redemption counter where my aunt worked, along with some Fascination tables (a sort of combination of bowling and bingo). It took me hours of combing the Internet trying to find appropriate images. Eventually I ended up creating a mash-up of about six different images. While it didn't look much like the inside of the original arcade, at least it gave a sense of depth.
Then I added the upper signage. I had a font that was pretty similar to the real sign. The curved light bars were simply red curves with yellow dots and drop shadows. I even added the little rainbow on the center support. The building sides were too long for a single sheet of paper, so I broke them up into three sections. Since it was such a large box, I added a strut down the center to help hold up the roof. That building also for some reason had a cinderblock chimney at the back right. I used a small piece of foam core for that. I glued everything into place, and Arcade Row was coming together nicely.
As for those crenellations, foam core would have been much too thick. So I opted to used double-backed card stock. I recreated the shapes in Designer. I printed out two copies at 16% of normal size. After cutting out the shapes, I glued them back to back and then affixed them into position with clear glue. The one between the Pop It and Sock It To Me stands didn't fit, though. It covered a large section of both signs. I couldn't understand why until I examined the photos carefully -- the two buildings were actually about four feet apart with a door between them, allowing access to the back of the buildings. I had placed the two buildings too close together, and it was too late to move them. So I cut down part of the crenellation so it would fit. Then I took a screwdriver and pried an opening between the two buildings. Arcade Row was pretty much finished.
The only thing missing was the awning that ran across the entire stretch of buildings. I had one, but when I held it in place it hid all of the graphic work below. I knew eventually I'd have to attach it. But I decided to hold off for a bit and instead get to work on adding more trees. That took just a couple of hours. I didn't want to add many to the midway, since I still had most of the rides to install. But I was able to rim the model with the heavily forested area between the roller coaster and Whiting Reservoir, and also the small section of the picnic grove. The four inch pine trees I ordered came in handy; I used a few of them just as they were, but many I cut in half to yield a small conical tree and a larger bushy one. The smaller ones I added to the midway areas; the bushy ones I placed in forested areas.
I wanted to add the roof to the Whip, the Satellite entrance sign and the overhangs to the Cutie Caddy and train, but I wasn't sure if I'd have enough time. Those structures (with the exception of the Satellite sign) weren't too complicated, though. So I hoped I had a little breathing room before August 22.
The next day I tackled what I figured would be two easy tasks: the aforementioned roofs to the Cutie Caddy and train. At first, I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do it. While in real life both roofs had a lip of about 8 inches, creating that wasn't practical at such a small scale. So I knew I had to use card stock. The roofs were supported by steel pipes about 3 inches in diameter. So I knew I needed to use the bamboo skewers. I just wasn't sure how I could attach the roof to them. I finally settled on good old hot glue. I punched four holes for the Cutie Caddie supports and cut the roof out of card stock. I did the same for the train station, with a few more supports. After cutting the skewers to the same length (about 3/4 of an inch), I squirted hot glue into the holes and pressed in the skewers. When they had set, I painted them the colors they were in the park (pink for the Caddie, yellow and green for the train). Then I had an idea: rather than squirt hot glue onto the skewers, I pressed the roof on top of them while the paint was wet. That created marks on the underside matching the positions of the skewers. When the paint dried, I squirted hot glue onto the dots, flipped the roof over and pressed it into position. That worked like a charm. I did get a little carried away with the hot glue on that one, though. For the Cutie Caddie I used less hot glue and made quick work of that as well. Then I took a deep breath and glued on the Play Land awning. I was worried that it was going to cover up all the graphic work, but it didn't turn out too bad.
As an added precaution for the display, I added Do Not Touch signs along the front and back of the supporting structure. That way if the plexiglass cover wasn't ready on time, at least there'd be a verbal plea to treat the model with respect. And the words would still be visible even if the cover were on.
The next day I went hunting for lumber. I needed to make a wood cover to protect the model during the move. The cover would stay at Heritage Park in case they needed to move the model at any point. I stopped at the Visitor's Center to talk to Charlie. He said instead of a table, he'd place the model on large wood blocks about two feet square and then surround it with stanchions. I'm glad I was working on the cover; although I was under the impression that the Mountain Park display would be permanent, Charlie said they'd probably have to move things around to accomodate other displays.
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 hobbiests 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.
Thanks to intuitive software and a well-designed printer, I launched into ride production quicker than I expected. By Labor Day weekend, I had created a miniature version of the Satellite. The week leading up to that involved a lot of test prints with my TEVO, including an amazingly-detailed miniature of Robot B-9 from the old TV series Lost in Space. That was a good lesson in using supports on the models when there were parts that were suspended in mid-air (like the Robot's arms). The printer couldn't deposit filament in mid-air; it needed a surface. So the printer could create supports as high as needed. So I also had a good lesson in removing those supports, which was tricky and delicate business. I knew from that experience that I wouldn't be able to print the Satellite as one piece; I'd have to print parts and then glue them together afterward.
Using the powerful and open-source 3D modeling tool Blender, I created my first model specific to Mountain Park -- the decorative rocket that sat to the right of the Satellite entrance. It was a really simple model to make, just three progressively smaller cylinders combined with three cones. My first print was so tiny it resembled a thumb tack. The second print was the right scale, but suffered from severe distortion near the top. So I needed to keep tweaking the printer's numerous settings.
After that test I dove right in and created one of the Satellite cars in Blender. I printed out a copy and realized the wings were too wide and the tail was too short, so I modified it in Blender and exported a new file. I tried printing it at different sizes and discovered that at the correct scale for the Mountain Park model, I couldn't get the tail to print; it was just too small. But at the larger scale, I was impressed with the amount of detail.
Next I created the car supports, which were attached to the tower. They were simple cylinders with flattened cubes at the ends. They ended up being smaller than toothpicks, but they printed fine. Then I created the ride's tower, complete with the air tanks that lifted the cars. There were twelve cars in all, and I found it a challenge to fit everything in. I printed it out and discovered that the tiny bottom supports were warped. So I lowered the print temperature and tried again, and that version came out much better, except for the globe at the top which was distorted. It was a series of compromises; I preferred a stable base to a perfectly spherical topper. Next I printed twelve cars at the correct scale, one after the other. Detaching the tiny objects from their plastic bases was a challenge. But after about a day's work, I had all the parts I needed.
I considered painting the parts with the acrylic paint I used on the model base, but acrylic on plastic would easily peel off. So instead I used the new set of Testor's enamel model paints I had purchased. The fumes were nasty, but the paint adhered like glue to the plastic pieces. I first consulted some color photos of the Satellite to make sure I was rendering it accurately. I started by laying down a sheet of wax paper and placing all the parts on it so they wouldn't stick to the surface. The first color I mixed was the sort of light yellow that was on the bulk of the cars. I had to hold the cars with tweezers and use a tiny brush while looking through a magnifying glass. It was difficult to keep my hands steady enough. (I guess next I'll have to invest in a 3D painter!) The wings and tail on each car had the same color as its arm and air tank (three separate colors). There were nice colored accents on each car, but those were too tiny to paint. It was challenging enough to get the wings painted.
The tower was easier to hold while I painted. I started with pale yellow on one of the air tanks, and when I got to the final tank it was only one away from where I started; it should have been two. I counted them and discovered I had created only eleven tanks. So it was back to the old drawing board. I had to modify the original model in Blender, shrinking and shifting each tank to make them all fit. I also lowered the tower's height a bit and then re-printed it. I was then able to finish painting it, one color at a time. The sphere at the top of the tower was actually a mesh globe. But there was no way I could make that in such a tiny scale. So I just painted the globe yellow. The last color I added was silver to the interior seat of each car. Then the painting was finished and I had to wait for it all to dry.
The paint remained a bit sticky, even days after. I did some research on PLA, the plastic filament used by the printer. I was surprised to learn that it basically was made of corn and sugar; it was completely bio-degradable. I had used model paint designed for styrene (oil-based) plastics. So for the next model I decided to try acrylic paint instead and see if that worked better. I attempted to glue the arms to the cars, something I really should have done before I painted them. I assumed wood glue wouldn't work, especially over the paint. So I tried Loctite cement for plastics and fabric, which was sort of like rubber cement. All it did was create a flexible rubbery film over the parts. And in my haste, I glued them all on backwards. So I pulled them all apart and moved on until I figured out a better solution.
Instead I started working on the ride opposite the Satellite: the Tilt-a-Whirl. I first building it in Blender. After a few hours of work that produced only half the ride platform, I hunted around online. I figured someone must have already built a digital model. And I was right; there was one available at TurboSquid -- for $50! It was a tug of war between my money or my time, and time won. I shelled out the money and downloaded the model. It was an absolutely beautiful rendering. I prepped it for my TEVO and set it to print at the correct scale. After about an hour, the printer had produced a pile of exploded plastic. There was simply too much detail to replicate at that tiny scale. I attempted a second print with different settings. The platform came out perfectly, but everything above it was a mess. So I created my own cabs, center, sign posts and railings in Blender and printed them individually. Then I cleaned up the platform. I did some research into gluing PLA, and the consensus was to use Locktite Super Glue Gel. So I bought a bottle and sure enough it worked perfectly. I glued the cabs on in random orientations to make it look like they were spinning. I printed out the actual Tilt-a-Whirl sign in scale and glued it to the sign posts. Then all it needed was paint. I continued to experiment with the Tevo. While I was waiting for it to finish a job, I turned my attention back to the Satellite. This time, I brought out my hot glue gun. I squeezed as small a blob as I could onto one of the tiny jets and then placed the arm on it. The blob was too large. I tried trimming off the excess glue when it dried, but that was tedious. I assembled four that way, then I tried a different method. Instead, I placed a blob of hot glue onto my aluminum drip pan, then dipped the arm into the blob and immediately affixed it to the bottom of the jet. That worked really well, melting the end of the arm and basically welding it onto the jet. So I used that method for the remainder and was happy with the result.
Once again, I found myself getting side-tracked. I had found a Ferris wheel model online like the one at Mountain Park, just smaller. The park's was a 16-cab Big Eli model made by Eli Bridge back in the 1960s. The model had eight cabs. It also had a different support structure. So I gave a try to printing it out, and got nothing. The printer would initialize and then stop. I tried chopping up the model in Blender and printing out just pieces, but that didn't work either. So I hunkered down and designed my own Big Eli Ferris wheel. I first printed out each side, with the sweeps already attached to the hub. Then I made a strut (a simple triangle) and printed two large and four small for the side braces. I made my own simplified cabs in Blender. I tried putting more detail into them, with the curved guards like on the original wheel, but once again they wouldn't print at such a tiny scale. So I printed 16 tiny versions and then began gluing them to one of the sides.
My micro drill set arrived and I wasted no time setting it up. I drilled indentations just above the air canisters on the Satellite tower, each one at a slightly different angle. I started by attaching the red jets. Sometimes the glue would hold and sometimes it wouldn't. When I got all four of the red to stick, I left them alone to dry. I kept them low because those were my first attempts with the hot glue gun, and they had large blobs of glue underneath them. The next day I finished attaching the rest of the jets, and the Satellite was finished.
I turned my attention back to the Ferris wheel. When one side of the wheel was dry, I began painting the cabs. Instead of the enamel paint, I switched back to acrylic. The original cabs had alternating colors: red on the back, blue on the bottom; then blue on the back and red on the bottom. There were other graphic details on them, particularly the numbers. But those details would be impossible to see, so I didn't bother trying. The acrylic was easier to work with, but didn't adhere very well. Once I finished painting the cabs, I glued the other side in place. When that dried, I glued on one of the struts and once again waited for it to dry. Then I stood up the ride and glued on the other one.
Next I finally began painting the Tilt-a-Whirl, working from the inside out. As with the Ferris wheel, there were painted details on the cabs. I put little dots of yellow on their backs, and that was as much detail as I included. I didn't paint the sides of the ride so that I could glue the railings in place. Once the paint dried (which was much quicker than with enamel), I glued on the railings. I wasn't very happy with the look of the acrylic, so for the bottom section of the ride I switched back to the enamel paint. It had a much richer and more saturated appearance. The last paint I applied was silver to the railing supports. The difference between the color of the enamel and acrylic was obvious. It would be the last time I used acrylic on plastic.
Painting models was never my strong suit. I always enjoyed assembling them, but I was never any good at painting them. My hand was never steady enough. The Satellite wasn't too difficult because it was all separate pieces that were simple shapes. The Ferris wheel and Tilt-a-Whirl were pretty much assembled when I painted them, and they had more complex shapes. In any case, I considered them finished. There were still a couple details I wanted to add to the Tilt: an awning above the entrance and railings around the operator's station. And the railings around the Tilt actually followed the rolling contour of the ride platform, yet mine were straight. But in two days the National Carousel Association was having a big convention at the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, and I wanted to get the rides installed for that event. I wasn't yet sure how I was going to affix the plastic to the Homosote. I decided to do a test with the clear Elmer's to see if that would work, taking a spare plastic piece and gluing it to a Homosote scrap. The next day, it popped right off. So I tried the Loctite cement (not the Super Glue), and that actually seemed to hold really well. So I decided to try that on the model.
As it turned out, I didn't get a chance. I went to Heritage Park for the National Carousel Association's visit to the Merry-Go-Round on September 15. Over 200 enthusiasts were there in the morning, and I got a rare chance to turn on the Artizan Band Organ. I had brought the three model rides along, figuring I could get into the Visitor's Center to install them. But no one showed up to open the building. So I took them back home.
Over the next week, I tackled the Tempest, the ride we lovingly referred to at the park as the Puke Machine. When I broke it down into its component parts, I discovered that it was pretty easy to construct in Blender. The deck was a simple slanted cube with another cube at the thin end. The octagonal cabs had sides were made of a steel mesh, but I knew that would never print at such a tiny scale. So I made the sides solid. I created bench seats inside. The umbrella-like tops were the most complex to make and took the longest. I even created the signposts that stood between the cabs.
I printed out all the pieces, along with a couple more Satellite arms to use as the umbrella posts in the cabs. I couldn't get the cabs to print properly; at that scale, the printer filled in the interior. And the arches over each section didn't print. So I left it that way. The micro-drill set came in handy to poke a hole in the center of the cabs for the umbrella posts. I glued the pieces together and let them dry. Later on that same day I painted them. I found that using a bamboo skewer as a brush worked really well on the tiny parts. Once they were painted, I had to again wait until they were dry to continue. The next day I was able to glue everything together. That gave me a total of four rides completed, with just 24 more to go.
On September 19, I brought the four models to Heritage Park. This time it was open. So I glued the rides in place with the Loctite cement. Charlie was really impressed with them. I once again urged him to get a cover on it so nothing would get damaged.
And with classes in full swing, my progress on the model would slow down. I was thinking of next making the tunnel entrance and bridge for the miniature train. And maybe I could make the train as well. If I did that, along with the Sky Ride mechanism and the Mountain Flyer station, that would complete the north end of the park. With the 3D printer, I now had a lot of interesting options.