Friday, July 18, 2014

15mm Pan-Galactic Troopers

Just a quick project for this week...Khurusan's 15mm Pan-Galactic Troopers. Kind of remind me of the Outsider troops from X-Com: The Bureau. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Canyon Diablo: WIP Dance Hall & Livery Stable

Work continues on the buildings of Canyon Diablo, slowly but surely.  First up this week is the Dance Hall (described in the contemporary literature as "little more than houses of ill repute"), as such I started adding a large moonshine still to the rear of the building. Don't be alarmed by the bright red fire hydrant look, the shape will be half hidden by dried earth along the bottom half (shown sometimes on old stills to contain heat), piping will be added, and the entire thing will be painted an aged copper color. The fence framing has been added and I'll be adding the boards after painting the groundcover.

Upstairs I added an interior wall to break up the monotony of the second floor. Unlike previous buildings, I'll put the multiple beds after painting and adding rugs. I also added some framing timbers around the false front and finished the front door. Downstairs, I added a small stage.

The livery stable is intentionally small, as it primarily serves as the coach stop on the North-South wagon trail with the stable for traveler's horses being somewhat an afterthought. The front window is actually made from the leftover Gamecraft doors that were underscale - I cut off the arch at the top and flipped them upside down, then glued three side-by-side, framing the exterior trim. It's hard to see in these photos but the exterior of the building is a wood board-and-batten pattern that I picked up ages ago and has been languishing in my bitz box.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Canyon Diablo: WIP General Store & Chicken Seller

The General Store is almost complete. I added a small addition to the side of the building which will become a dry goods storage area which will include bushels, sacks, and barrels. Dry goods storage was almost universally unheated with bare earth floors at the time, as abrupt temperature and/or humidity changes caused by indoor heating could easily spoil the contents. Speaking of which, I added a stove, stovepipe, and bed to the back room for the owner's comfort. 

On the "sales floor", I added some built-in shelving to display some consumer wares and a small sales counter. I plan to add a large Swedish flag to the back room wall in homage to my own retail job at a certain Swedish furniture store.

Lastly, this is the first 100% scratchbuilt structure - the Chicken Merchant. It's a big guess, but meat and animal by-products would have been in high demand locally. Even with the railroad's ability to deliver consumer goods far and wide, meat and food production was still fairly localized in the West, even by the early 1900s; so I figured I needed some food sources for Canyon Diablo. The chicken coop itself is based on a real design from 1910 - it's large enough to accomodate a good amount of poultry and a small storage area for feed and tools. It's elevated and screened to keep out predators - Coyotes were (and still are) a problem, and it's possible Mexican Gray Wolves would have roamed this area of Arizona at the time. There will be a fence as well.

The shack is just big enough for the proprietor to sleep and eat in. Naturally though, he puts his time and energy into keeping his livestock, which is why the coop is larger and in better condition then his own dwelling.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Canyon Diablo: WIP Hell St. buildings

Progress on the first batch of buildings is slow and steady. Most of these are Gamecraft buildings which, while cheap and easy to assemble, had badly under-scale doors on both main and side entrances. As such I had to rebuild nearly all of the doors. For example, on double doors below, the window section is actually just about the height of the actual door (minus transom) on the original Gamecraft kit!

Tar paper roofs for the two small buildings below. I love tar paper because it's so incredibly easy to simulate in miniature, just glue down 400grit black sandpaper in 4-6" strips. These pics also show some of the early details for the "backyard" - ladders, barrels, etc. The two small strips of lumber on the rear of the left building are the base for a firewood pile. The upper supports will be added after the groundcover is applied, the firewood will be added after painting.

Again, the basic interiors prior to painting without too much details. The pot-bellied stoves are awesome from the awesome Wiseman Railroad Models. These are in O scale - perfectly sized for 28mm! The bases and stovepipes are from plasticard. The stone floors (freely available all around in the rocky scrubland of eastern AZ!) are textured plasticard, base molding from strip wood.

The only 4ground building I've been able to afford really doesn't need much details. I built a workbench and sawhorse from strip wood, the plastic barrel is from a Lionel kit. I'll be adding some Wiseman Model tools and accessories after the groundwork is applied.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Canyon Diablo: Recreating the Deadliest Town in the West

About 5 years ago, I had planned on starting terrain for Old West gaming, based on the the real-life town of Canyon Diablo in Arizona around 1880. But I could never devote the time to finding out more and bringing it to life in miniature...until now.

 Located about midway between Flagstaff and Winslow, the actual geological feature of Canyon Diablo was the biggest obstacle to the completion of the main East-West line of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad. Like the Union Pacific, the A&P built the line from both directions, hoping to meet somewhere in the San Fransisco mountains east of Flagstaff. The canyon would be crossed by a steel truss bridge assembled off-site and delivered in 1880. But, someone measured wrong - the bridge turned up short - and westward construction of the line was halted overnight.

This was the genesis of the shantytown of Canyon Diablo. Everybody has an image of the "Hell on Wheels" town....and this town fit every stereotype - Lawless, violent, and fueled by the boredom and cash of the railroad workers. 

On the northside of the railroad right-of-way stood a large, yellow-painted A&P depot (this was likely to have been a combination passenger depot and freight warehouse). Accounts also indicate the existence of a bunkhouse for the railroad workers. Being the end-of-the-line (and later a flag stop after the canyon was crossed) , it was also likely to have had a water tower and , possibly, a small "sanding tower". All of this, plus various railroad equipment, spare cars, stacks of ties and rails, would have congregated around the depot. 

There is conjecture for the existence of a north-south wagon trail, that ran west from Winslow (supposedly following the same route of Route 66/I-40), then proceeding due north upon reaching the canyon proper to a site where the canyon could be crossed. There was a real "town" here, appropriately named "The Crossing" (which would later become the "town" of Leupp), but USGS survey maps of the time only show one road running West-Southeast with no connection to Canyon Diablo. However, a wagon route north from the town to "The Crossing" would make sense, as passengers could disembark at Canyon Diablo, rather than the farther town of Winslow, so I've included it.

 Stretching east, along the northside of the railroad right-of-way, was the only road of Canyon Diablo - "Hell St." - and buildings facing each other across this dusty avenue included 14 saloons (including "The Cootchy Clatch", "The Road to Ruin" & "The Last Drink"), 10 gambling dens, 4 "house of ill repute" (all unmarked), 2 dance halls (little more than houses of ill repute themselves), eating counters, shanties/tents, and a grand total of 1 grocer and 1 dry goods store. All this to serve a town of nearly 2000 people.

Being situated in the arid Painted Desert region of NE Arizona, it's odd to think that these structures were made primarily of wood, tar paper, and tin - when trees are few and far between. There is an explanation though and it lies just to the west - the San Fransisco mountains and the largest stand of hardwood pine in the Southwest, the present-day Coconino National Forest. Edward E. Ayers (an Illinois resident - like me - and benefactor for the Chicago Field Museum - not like me) started a lumber business in Flagstaff supplying ties to the A&P railroad. Ayer's lumber was so renowned in the territory that it's probable that town residents would buy (or steal) his lumber as it was trans-shipped eastward.

There was no law in Canyon Diablo, because no lawman lived long enough to enforce it. Of the 6 officers who lived there, none lived longer than a month - one put on his badge in the afternoon and was promptly buried by nightfall. It is rumored that plenty of residents met their end here and there is reportedly both unmarked and mass graves just to the east of the canyon proper. What are their names, their stories, how did they die?

Unfortunately, we don't know. Within 2 years, the new bridge had finally been completed and the town dried up overnight. The workers, barmen, ladies of the night, hustlers, and criminals boarded the trains and disappeared. The town itself probably was raided for materials by nearby ranchers and Navajo from the reservation, anything left decayed. Canyon Diablo existed as a flag stop on the line for many years and a Navajo trading post (whose ruins are the only ones left) existed around the turn of the century.

And so it begins...below are a few of the buildings I've started. The largest will probably be "The Cootchy Clatch" (under construction), the 2-story will probably be the Dry Goods Store, the large 1-story will be "The Road to Ruin", the small pitched-roof will be the Grocer, and the smallest will be one of the "houses of ill repute".