Final Updates to Riordan Mansion Display

Early this morning members of the Flagstaff Model RR Club performed the final updates to the N-scale diorama depicting the Riordan Lumber Mill. The diorama, located at Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff, shows the layout of buildings in and around the lumber mill as it existed in the early 1900’s, just southwest of downtown Flagstaff.

The final updates consisted of a variety of tasks, the focal point of which was the replacement of the “stand-in” model of the D.M. Riordan family home with a historically accurate model and the addition of the tombstone shaped stone wall surrounding the property. At the sawmill, over 120 rough-cut wood blocks that had represented stacks of drying lumber were replaced with custom made resin castings from Steve Wolcott at Pre-Size Model Specialties. Updates to the sawdust burner conveyor were made and several bicycles were added to the town, as they were a primary mode of transportation at that time.


Shown above from left are Club members Rich Metzner, Todd Pilcher, John Lovely, John Viggers and Larry Gibbs. Not shown, because he’s behind the camera, is member Phil Scandura who created the D.M. Riordan home model.


John Lovely clears excess plaster and ground cover from around the tracks to ensure the trains can make it safely through the crossing.


Rich Metzner and Todd Pilcher are installing the stone wall around the property.


There are 124 lumber stacks drying in the Arizona sun. Go ahead and count them!


Adding the finishing touches.


BEFORE – “Stand-In” Model


AFTER – Historically Accurate Model


The overall diorama with the protective acrylic cover in place.

A special thanks to everyone who helped with our work session today and to Riordan Mansion Manager Nikki Lober for her patience and support.

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Flagstaff Visitor Center/Depot Display

With the club building having limited access these past several months due to construction activity at Ft. Tuthill, we were able to tackle several outside projects.  One of those projects was updating our display at the Flagstaff Visitor Center, located within the railroad depot in downtown Flagstaff.  The depot houses the visitor’s center, as well as the Amtrak ticket office and waiting room.

Our display was looking old and tired.  We also did not feel it conveyed the creativity of our members or demonstrated the various skills that members can learn through membership in our club.  The new display consists entirely of Northern Arizona scenery with a Santa Fe passenger train traveling through it.  Here are a few photos, but we recommend visiting in person.



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Updating Riordan Mansion Display

Back in February, club members gathered early one morning at Riordan Mansion to clean, repair and update the N-scale diorama depicting the Riordan Lumber Mill.  The diorama shows the layout of buildings in and around the lumber mill as it existed in the early 1900’s, just southwest of downtown Flagstaff.

Riordan group

From left, members Larry Gibbs, John Viggers, Dave Nash, Curtis Diebel and Joe Cluck put their creative talents to work refreshing the Riordan Lumber Mill diorama.  Member Phil Scandura constructed a new model of the D.M. Riordan home based upon many photographs and consultation with local historians.


A view of the diorama within the room at Riordan Mansion:

Riodana diorama entire

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Signalling Changes


The MPL signal system has seen a few changes this week. Most obvious is the new intermediate signal at the base of the climb to Timber Creek, for northward movements through the “Mogollon” block. Meanwhile, the absolute signal at the Ogden tunnel portal has been removed – this means movement through staging is governed by signals at Control Point North Hill Valley.

Our “open house” mode has also been reprogrammed. The signals should no longer lock up at Stop when running bidirectionally without a dispatcher.

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2015 Year End Review

Well, it is now 2016, and as we prepare to start new projects this year, I thought it would be nice to review some ongoing projects from last year.   As you read in Phil’s post back in September, we were able to install the new buildings for Hill Valley, including the depot, before the county fair opened on Labor Day weekend.   This project included not only the new building arrangement, but revisions for track and roads as well.  This year, we will continue with detailing the roadways, add additional scenery such as trees and shrubs, install interior detail and lighting in the buildings, and add signs to buildings and building windows.

MPL Intermodal Facility at Flagstaff

The new intermodal facility (left) has been roughed in with new plywood base and Homasote layer. The track has been installed, and necessary changes to turnouts for the new spurs completed.  Next will be paving the entire area and installing the overhead crane.  The paved surfaces will be painted and pavement markings added.  This facility has two tracks and will handle both trailers and containers.

Supporting our goal of adding industries that are indicative of Northern Arizona commerce, we now have a woodchip loading facility at Glenview (below).  The chip loader has capacity to load 4 cars on each of two tracks.

Woodchip loader at Glenview

Another ongoing project is the upgrading of rolling stock and repainting to establish a roster of Mountain Pacific freight and passenger equipment.   Below is one of two bulkhead flat cars for handling tree-length logs.  These cars were originally Ambroid wood kits for a Northeastern U.S. protoype pulpwood car that had a center bulkhead and no stakes.  These cars were donated to the club, and had various areas of damage to the floors and bulkheads.  The floors were removed, white metal stake castings installed, bulkheads rebuilt, and grab iron and stirrup steps installed.

MPL 8900 log bunk flat

Freights cars are not the only rolling stock being upgraded.  The club is working to build a fleet of locomotives and cabooses decorated in a revised paint scheme for the Mountain Pacific.  These fleets will not be made up of random models, but will consist of groups of the same models to represent equipment bought in large lots from a single manufacturer such as is found on Class 1 railroads.  Below is an example of a CF7, and an International wide vision caboose.

MPL 5 CF7 repaint

MPL 110 caboose new scheme

 I will be adding more updates as the year progresses, as well as presenting status reports on our new projects.  Happy New Year!

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Project “Hill Valley” : Installment 4, Completed Installation

It’s been four months since the last Hill Valley post, as my “day job” continues to interfere with my hobbies. In fact, the Coconino County Fair has already passed, and in the final weeks leading up to the Fair the Club scenery experts worked tirelessly to install the completed structures, lay down roads and blend the scenery. Before we get to those photos, I wanted to talk about one more structure. Continue reading

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CTC Installation: Sunset to Page

As of tonight, Centralized Traffic Control is in effect from Sunset (the station formerly known as Switch 10) to Page.  Control Points have been installed and programmed from Sunset to North Hill Valley,  with an intermediate signal at the Page tunnel.

The two-track cantilever at North Hill Valley, showing clear for northbound traffic on the main.

CP North Hill Valley

Train detection is by a combination of current sensors (4 Digitrax BDL168s) and scratchbuilt optical sensors masquerading as ties.  The layout was originally rewired in early 2013 with no provision for optical detection, but once the first signals were installed it was clear that detecting only locomotives and lighted cars was unacceptable – signals tended to clear in the middle of long trains or take multiple car lengths to drop at O/S sections.

Dispatcher control is from JMRI, on a Union Switch and Signal type panel.  Fleeting capability allow long strings of trains to follow each other without dispatcher intervention, and the panel logic prevents the dispatcher from directing two trains into a cornfield meet.

The new signals should make this year’s Fair slightly less stressful – no more need to remember whether the tunnel through South Mountain is clear!

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Project “Hill Valley” : Installment 3, Building Construction

It’s been three months since the last Hill Valley post, and by now you’re probably wondering what’s been happening with the project. Truth is, my work schedule has been so busy with travel and overtime, that it has been hard to find modeling time. But I have managed to squeeze in some building construction here and there, so I wanted to bring you up to date on the progress. Continue reading

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FMRRC on NAZ Today

NAU students Holly Switay and Xavier Rangel have been visiting our club this past couple of months as part of research for Holly’s graduate thesis.  After shooting stills and video of several us working on projects, they produced a short feature for the local NAZ Today television news program. Continue reading

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Project “N Scale Modules” : Installment 5, Track Wiring – Hooking it All Up

Back to everyone’s favorite task, wiring up the track. Admit it, now that you’ve been through the planning process it’s not so scary – right? Well even so, remember to invite your wiring buddy from the Club and have some refreshments on-hand. The work will go quickly. Continue reading

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