"The Mine Train model will never be complete, as long as there is always something to improve, modify or change"
(a play on Walt's quote)
That certainly is true. What was once a small project of adding a spur line, has now turned into a massive rebuild. It opened up a big can of worms.
But before I get into that, I'd like take a look at what's been done in the desert; the lighting. Since the grade in that section was redone, most of the lighting that was mounted along the track got all screwed up. Having the lights at that low vantage point didn't really help as scenery easily blocked the beams of light. And since I needed to put the ground work back in after I fixed up the balancing rocks, I didn't want to do scenery gingerly around every light. I came up with a solution to fix all of that, using "light towers".
These are, in simple terms, blocks of 2 X 4's with LED's glued to them. This way, I can streamline the lighting by having them all in two areas and not in the actual scenery. I can adjust them easily too without having to dig up the scenery too. These "towers" will be hidden by trees in the future. The amount of light being thrown from these towers has actually been improved since part of the light isn't being caught by the ground anymore.
Perhaps the biggest news this week was this ambitious undertaking that I decided to go with a few days ago, on pretty much the same scale the the big desert redo of last winter. It all started with a spur line:
On the side of the layout I have this space where I've always wanted to put in a spur line to pull a train off onto. This makes it easier for a two train operation, or if I just want to test a non-NWRR locomotive without taking the whole train off the track. The turnout would be located in the caverns, as with the real thing and the spur would exit onto the side of the layout. To install the switch, I had to tear out that wall in the foreground of the caverns. No big deal, it really had nothing on it and it's an easy fix.
Realizing I needed more work room, I tore out more of the cavern walls and eventually sections of the rock works and waterfalls. Pretty much half of the caverns were exposed to daylight now. No big deal, I was going to expand the caverns anyways and the walls were going to be replaced anyways. Suddenly, an idea popped in my head.
Why expand the caverns when I can expand Rainbow Ridge instead?
For years I've been disappointed with the space alloted for the little mining town of Rainbow Ridge. There wasn't enough room for all the buildings and the general spacing of everything was pretty tight. My original buildings were built too small, and new more detailed buildings at a slightly larger, yet more correct, scale were slated to be built at some point. The Rainbow Ridge area is probably one of my favorite, if not the most, section of the whole attraction. With a desire to have a larger town, I began to plan the new Rainbow Ridge (mind you I have yet to finish my little spur line project).
After reviewing some aerial photos and several vintage photos, I was able to determine the amount of space I needed for an entire Rainbow Ridge. The new space for the town would be double of what the old space was. That would allow for a correctly proportioned town with all the buildings and best of all, room for the spur line out front in the load area. (That would make two spur lines to be made; one in the caverns and one in the town; could have a three train operation now!). After some research I decided to go for the expansion. At this time, Rainbow Ridge is already stripped down and ready for it's rather small redo that was originally slated before this craziness.
But expansion comes at a price; Rainbow Caverns would need to be cut down-- a lot. Almost half. It wasn't a big deal after I thought about it; Rainbow Caverns really had a lot of wasted space. The scene could easily be condensed and still have the same effect. However, I've decided to move the viewing window to the side, so I won't have that picture-esque composition with the train making that curve anymore (it's just going to pass in front). There's also some space underneath the future Rainbow Ridge hill where I can expand the caverns and make it deeper. (So essentially, it'll be the same size, just that the volume has moved around).
Also, I will be switching from using a tube blacklight to some UV LED's by Lemax that I picked up from Michael's last year ; these "near-blacklights" are small LED's that give off a nice deep violet glow and make any fluorescent paint glow nicely. It isn't exactly the same effect as a tube UV light, but it's pretty close; as long as the viewer goes "ooohhh!" when they see it, I'll be good. The pack comes with two spot lights made up of 3 LED's each (six in total) that I will dissect and rewire for my own practical use (they'll be hooked up to a transformer too) . Each LED will have it's own mount so I can adjust and point them wherever I want. By using these, I won't have to worry about the bulb burning out (they don't last long) or the batteries going out if I forget to turn it off, which has happened a few times.
So, here's my plan of action:
The yellow line represents the current track (or what use to be the current track) and the red represents the planned new track. The green portal represents where the town starts after the train comes out of the tunnel. The caverns spur line route is also visible.
My to-do list just got longer.