The Remember-the-Maine Mine

Discussion in 'The Academy' started by Jac's Lines, Mar 13, 2005.

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  1. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    When I first got started scratchbuilding, I found tutorials really helpful. This is my attempt to pay back some of the information I stole early on by walking through a scratchbuild of a turn of the century "old west" mine.

    PART I: An empty space on my layout

    The photo at the bottom shows the spot on my HOn30 layout where I wanted to put a small mine structure. The space is really small: no more than 3 inches deep by 7 inches long.

    To find a suitable prototype, I trawled through the Denver Public Library's Western History Photos ( database with a keyword search for gold mine. After about 30 minutes of digging, I came up with the Vivandiere Mine, originally located near the town of Turret in Chaffee County, CO.

    There were a number of photos taken from the period 1890-1910. I decided I wanted to build the earliest incarnation of the mine:

    Other useful pictures, including how the mine fits into the local topography are:
    Some asides: I had to look up "Vivandiere": It basically means a female "camp follower" associated with zouave regiments during the Civil War. I also found out that the Vivandiere mine was eventually shut and the lumber recycled into a granite works that's still in operation.

    Attached Files:

  2. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    PART II: The drawings.

    Fortunately, the first linked photo of the Vivandiere mine has a lot of detail and also shows several people standing right next to the hoist. I was able to print the picture in Photoshop and based on the assumption that an average man is between 5'6" and 6" tall, I was able to guestimate the dimensions of the hoist and engine house. For now, that's all I'm going to build, although I may decide to rip out some trees and add the tool shed structure and outhouse in the foreground at some point.

    The dimensions I figured were

    Hoist: 20' tall, base 10'X18'
    Boiler house: 13'X13'

    I plotted these out on custom graph HO graph paper and played with the dimensions a bit until I was happy. These scans are really low quality, but give a basic sense of the angles and sizes.

    HINT: To make your own HO graph paper, scan regular 10 squares per inch graph paper and enlarge it 138%. This will result in graph paper where each square equals exactly 1 HO foot. I use this all the time, and just print off sheets from a computer file as needed (make sure it prints at 100%).

    Attached Files:

  3. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    PART III: The hoist

    Assembling the hoist is easy. Based on my HO scale drawing, I cut proper sized beams from 3/32" X 3/32" basswood strips. I assembled the front of the hoist right on the drawing; when the glue was dried I moved on to the sides. I use Titebond wood glue (the yellow stuff) -- I think it's really tacky, dries quickly, and is more forgiving with stain than Elmer's.

    One thing I do differently that most people is I paint everything after assembly. Because wood that's been laminated with glue doesn't take stain well, you have to be really careful doing it this way... If I weren't a masochist, I'd stain the wood first...

    Once the hoist was put together, I decided to add some additional framing to give the illusion of strength. I used a combination of 3/32"x3/32" and 1/16"X1/16" stripwood.

    From start to finish construction of the hoist took about 30 minutes.

    Attached Files:

  4. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    PART IV: The Boiler HouseI wanted to do a board by board construction on the boiler house. Since this is a pretty simple building, I decided to just do a laminate on top of a solid frame. I first cut out the basic pattern for the building from 1/16" basswood, including openings for the window and door. Based on the photograph, it looks like the boiler house has only one window -- regardless, since two of the four sides of this building will be facing the scenic backdrop on my layout, I see no reason to build add windows where no one will see them. I also reinforced the corners with spare 3/32" basswood strips

    As the frame dried, I began to cut strips of wood from a sheet of 1/32" basswood. Since this is supposed to be a pretty backwoods structure, I wasn't careful in measuring these strips, although I basically tried to keep the width to between 9 and 12 scale inches. These were then glued, board by board onto the basswood frame, leaving appropriate openings for the door and window. When gluing down, I try to keep a small but visible gap between the boards -- the wood will expand a little when it's stained and I just think in general that the gaps look "right". I also cut my laminate boards longer than the structure. When it's all finished, then I trim the ends to conform to the gables (I hope the pictures explain this better than I can).

    Attached Files:

  5. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    PART V: Window

    I decided to scratchbuild the one window (the door is something left over from a kit). I've never scratched an open window before, so I thought it'd be a challenge.

    The window opening is (in scale) 3.5' wide by 5' tall. Out of leftover clear plastic (salvaged from some kind of packaging and slightly roughed up with an emory board to accept glue better), I cut two pieces: one 3.5' wide by 2.5' tall, one about 6' wide by 2.5' tall. The latter I glued (with ACC) into the inside of the structure, leaving a gap of about 1.5' at the bottom of the window. This will be the bottom half of the window, modelled to be half open (please forgive my utter ignorance of window terminology!)

    Mullions were cut from white cardstock. With a very sharp exacto blade, a good metal straightedge, and some patience, it's possible to cut strips of cardstock that are pretty close to 1" scale in width. This takes some practice, and the key is to make multiple passes with the blade rather than trying to cut through in one pass. When the mullions are cut to the proper dimensions, they are then glued in their proper place on the window pane. Because the cardstock is very forgiving, the measurements don't have to be 100% precise.

    I added the mullions for the 3.5X2.5 pane of plastic on a template drawn onto a piece of black paper. Once this was dry, I glued it on top of the already installed pane of glass, this time flush with the top of the window opening.

    The inside of the widow was then framed with 1/32"x1/32" strip wood (this is not only the way real windows are framed, but also covers up gaps). The outside was framed with more cardstock (2" scale strips).

    Some random thoughts: I use cardstock for the windows because it's thinner than any wood I have been able to locate, cheap, and takes stain in a way that's similar to basswood. Styrene would work, but I've always had problems with the clear plastic crazing and haven't ever really figured out a good way to make plastic look like wood. Anyway, the easier solution to this would be to drop in a pre-fabricated Grandt line or Tichy window.

    The cardstock was then measured

    pasted directly onto the plastic with regular wood glue

    Attached Files:

  6. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    PART VI: Painting

    I don't have a lot of pictures of this. Sorry!

    First, I stained all of the wood structures with a homemade stain made from a couple of drops of india ink dissolved in 4oz of rubbing alcohol. This isn't an exact science, and requires some experimentation to get a color that isn't too light or too dark: practice on scraps!

    Everything gets stained once with the india ink/alcohol mixture, then dries. I then go back and highlight individual boards with a second (and sometimes third) coat of stain. This makes the boards stand out a bit more.

    I also added a roof to the boiler house: just 1/16" balsa glued directly to the structure. Then, I laminated on (with ACC) 4' wide strips of black painted corrugated metal roofing material (Campbell's, I think?). Again, since I'm going for the backwoods look, I put these on in a pretty random way. Once everything was dry, I lightly brushed on several different shades of brown, reddish brown, and ochre to simulate rust. When these were completely dry, I hit everything with a wash of india ink/alcohol stain.
  7. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    Part VII: Basing and detailing

    I measured up the exact dimensions that I wanted for the scene, and cut a piece of 1/8" balsa to match it. Then I played around with the buildings until I got all the angles right, and traced the outline of the buildings directly onto the balsa. I brushed a thin layer of Durham's Water putty onto the base (to camoflage the wood grain), avoiding the area traced out for the boiler house. When this was complete dry, I glued down a foundation for the boiler house made from 1/16" basswood and glued the hoist mechanism in place. Everything but the hoist was then hit with yet another coat of the india ink wash. When this was all dry, I glued the boiler house down (with just a pinpoint of glue -- I may want to remove this for interior detailing and lighting later).

    For the cable sheath I used a leftover wagon wheel, painted in rust layers like the roof. The cable is just brown embroidery thread weathered with ink wash and pulled taut.
    Here, I did screw up a little -- the smoke stack should've been added before the corrugated roof. With a bit of cutting, this was easily repaired and a hole cut for a smokestack made out of 1/4" styrene tubing (with a lip added at the top with some cardstock).

    In the original photo, the Vivandiere includes a water tank right next to the shaft. I'm assuming that they had tapped an underground spring and the tank was used to hold water pumped up from the mine shaft. Does anyone have any other ideas of what this might have been used for? I can't imagine them pumping water into the mine for anything (maybe hydraulic mining, but wouldn't that create major drainage issues)? Anyway, I added a small wooden water tank that I had built for another structure. It needs detailing, but I like how it looks in principle.

    It was somewhere around this point that I decided on a name for the mine. Since this is supposed to represent mining in the western Black Hills of SD/WY at the turn of the century, I thought "Remember-the-Maine" would be an interesting name. I like thinking up backstories for my layout: this is a small mine claim owned by a veteran of the Spanish American war, who won the claim in a poker game while docked off Havana in sight of the wreckage of the Maine.

    Well, that's it for now. As I get more time, I'll add a bit dealing with superdetailing and transitioning this mini scene into the existing layout scenery.

    All told, this was maybe 6 hours of work, with a total cost of no more than $5. Almost everything used here is stuff that people probably have lying aroung their spare parts box anyway...

    Attached Files:

  8. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Neat looking structure and a nice step by step construction article. I also like the story behind the mine's name!
  9. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    A neat project JL. Nicely done.
  10. revandy

    revandy Member

    Great job, thank you so much for the tutorial, and sharing this with us, everyday I learn something new here on the Guage.
    Rev. Andy
  11. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Cool! Good job.

    TrainClown :D
  12. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    Part VIII: More Detailing

    Thanks for the encouraging comments on this project everyone. I've been busy, so not a lot to update on this project. I finished up the base, added some WS ground foam, assorted rocks and weeds to the base, and dropped in some superdetailing parts: signage, barrels and boxes, cable, a wood stack, etc. It was sunny today so I thought I'd take some update pictures.

    Next up... I need to build the ore chute and get this mini scene transitioned into its spot on the layout. I've decided that I am going to build the tool house/storage shed that went with the original Vivandiere mine (I may actually do that next).

    Attached Files:

  13. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    It just keeps getting better and better JL. The added details are great.
  14. jimmybeersa

    jimmybeersa Member

    One very nice model ,but please ! tension that hoist rope, as an old mining man ,slack rope means disaster, either the skip is jammed in the shaft, or its sitting on the bottom (Overwind ). On a point of information, when a hoist rope that has been under tension goes slack it Birdcages (gets a bulge in it ) due to the strands unraveling. this is not a critque only an observation. As I said avery nice model
  15. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    I haven't updated this in forever, so let me add a couple of posts to finish up and close out this project.

    I didn't take a whole lot of pictures when I installed the mining scene on the layout, but this should give a general idea. The base is paper towel soaked with Durham's Water Putty. I also glued on some hand carved rocks left over from an older layout.
    I like Durham's because it's pretty forgiving, especially in transitioning older plaster work to newer stuff. This was a big issue in this project since it languished on the work bench for months.....

    Attached Files:

  16. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    I don't have pictures of the complicated terrain work, including the scratching of a new tipple and the ramps/restraining walls. Basically, I built the structures out of basswood in situ, and landscaped around them. Sorry I don't have progress pictures!

    All that remained (over four months of on and off work) was landscaping. I painted the base a sand colored acrylic mixed with very fine sand. Then everything was hit with multiple thin washes of earth tones -- browns, greys, etc. No real science here, just basically dribbing paint until it looks right.
    I then added multiple layers of scenic material for texture. First a mix of sand and WS fine ballast in earth tones (mixed grey, buff, and tan), then some randomly applied talus (cheap cat litter -- the super cheap cat litter, without the blue or green scent crystal, is basically the same stuff as the WS talus product, if you don't mind sifting). I hit everything with a some more acrylic washes. Then I started with random earth toned ground foam from a variety of manufacturers. Started with the very fine ground cover, then moved to the more coarse. When I got to the point that I added bushes and really coarse foam, I also added dried tea leaves to the mix (a mix of regular, green and camomile tea looks like good pine forest undergrowth).
    Finally, I added a lot of WS trees. I'm not fully satisfied with the WS product and may at some point return to this issue. However, for now I'm happy to proclaim this project done. Here are some pics of the finished product:

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  17. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    A couple more, including some Photoshop magic...Thanks for the encouragement and suggestions from everyone whose commented on this project!

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  18. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    The b&w makes this look like the photo was taken a long time ago. Great modelling Jac
  19. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    This thread was moved to the Academy Noovember 2005. Some posts were deleted to provide clarity and continuity the this important thread. It has been locked, so if you have any comments on this thread, please make them in the appropriate forum. Thanks.
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