Modeling the Disneyland Railroad CK Holliday

this is my last post…

This is going to be my last post here… because from now on I’m moving over to a “more official” blog at ckhollidayplans.com/blog!

We’re just now in July 2015, making this blog 4 years old! Back in July 2011, I wanted a small, low key place to post a few bits of stuff I learned while I attempt to recreate the CK Holliday, with some screenshots of the parts I thought looked cool. It started with a modest pedestal cap and the frame. (And then it turned out that the frame needed many revisions later. I think I worked on it for about a year).

Since then the blog grew to document my rendering work, my first very own publication: the Holliday plan book, prototyping with 3d models, and even a couple of train shows! And of course, now the latest purpose of the blog is to post updates on the Disneyland Railroad simulator.

Well, it’s been fun here. I’m constantly surprised to see such interests, both in the comments and visitor numbers, on such an esoteric project. Well then, I hope you’ll continue to be interested and join me at the blog’s new home: ckhollidayplans.com/blog


updates: the engine in motion

For the past few months I’ve been working on a pretty big project to convert the sim into a 3D environment. In the first preview video I showed you that the sim was going to be a flat 2D/2.5D picture of the cab, with a view that’s like operating the engine from the tender seat.

Well, all that has changed and the entire project is slowly being converted into a 3D simulator very similar to the popular train simulators out there. Now, I have to put my disclaimer again that I’m not aiming to compete with those games and sims out there because I have a completely different intent than what they achieve. My simulator will very largely focus on the operations and physics of a particular steam engine(s) itself, so if you’re looking for a “digital train set” sim/game then those exist to fulfill your need.

But if you’re interested in learning how a steam engine really works, including…

  • how opening the throttle too quickly can cause water in the boiler to draw into the cylinders and stall the engine
  • how managing the fire correctly for each phase of the day, like idling at a station or starting a heavy train
  • speaking of starting a heavy train, how to manage the throttle so as not to cause the drivers to slip… and if they do, what you can do about it (…when the fire goes out due to a vacuum caused by the rapidly moving pistons!)

…then, okay, this is the simulator for you!

So, the 3D aspect is a bit of a bonus and it will certainly give you a very realistic perspective of being in the cab. There is much more to do but I want to highlight some of the features that are coming your way.

Here’s a start: check out how the sunlight coming through the cab windows hit the valve wheels, shining brightly and laying their shadows onto the boiler. The shadows are also in realtime, which means that they’ll move properly while the engine is moving and when the valve is operated. I’m also spending a lot of effort “painting” photorealistic textures onto each surface and device in the cab. In this shot, check out the subtle rusting on the pipes and the scratches/buffs on the boiler jacket. Indeed, you’ll get an authentic feel like you’re right there in the cab of a well-used but well-maintained steam engine.

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It doesn’t end there. Even the subtle movements of the gauge needles have been considered. Take for example, when the engine is moving. The forces of the tracks (roads) get transmitted throughout the engine and get translated into vibrations. In this animated shot, check out the very subtle “wiggle” of the needle as the engine rolls down the track. Watch carefully and you’ll see that the gauge frame is also vibrating a little bit. In the sim, you’ll see the whole engine vibrates that varies with the speed! (The animated picture is quite large in file size, so if you don’t see it just open it in another window here).

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As before, the vibrations get transmitted everywhere. Imagine what would happen if you have a bottle of water in your car as you’re driving. Well, it happens in the sim, too! The movement of the engine can make reading the water level a bit challenging. You’ll have to be careful to not read (too much) into the level when the engine is accelerating or decelerating, because the water level will read too high or low due to its inertia.

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What about draining the water glass due to clogging from sediment buildup because you either didn’t use water treatments or you used water with a lot of impurities? Or if you close the top (steam valve) and the water in the glass starts to rise due to the cooling steam at the top of the glass creating a vacuum? Yep! It’s modeled. (Thanks to Mowsefan at Burnsland for the information on that!)

The heart of the simulator has also been extended quite a bit since the last video preview. Check out all these options, spread out over 5 different pages, that’ll allow you to control control and customize your engine to your specific liking and needs. The menus are not done yet either—there will be additional options to add in the future, too. (Click on the picture to get a larger size that’ll let you see the text better).

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I’ll have to devote some other time to discuss what those options do, but for now I think you get the idea of what I have planned.

The beauty extends beyond the cab’s interior, too. Here’s a small part of a fictional track that I’m using for building and testing the engine. Grass, flowers, and small shrubs and trees all make a part of a realistic scene outside of the cab. Oh, and they’ll react to the wind and weather, so on a windy day you’ll see the grass blowing and the trees sway… or even when you open the blowdown valve you’ll see the grass sway away from the escaping steam!

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And finally, you will have a dynamic sky! It’s just so pretty that I’ll let the pictures do the talking. But let me just say that the sun, moon, clouds, and weather are all dynamic. You can have a clear sunny day or a foggy or a rainy day. It’s all customizable in realtime or you can just let the dynamic time and weather engine handle it all. Oh, and the celestial objects, including the sun, moon, stars, and planets are all accurate depending on your chosen date.

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That’s it for now. Not a very long update but I feel like it’s a big one; at least it’s a big step for the sim for sure and it took a lot of work to get to this point. I hope you enjoyed it!



Good news, everyone! I’ve made some really good breakthroughs and progress on the simulator. The bad news is that I still don’t have anything ready to show yet!

It’s been slow going because a few months ago I decided to redo many aspects of the simulator. It is now “almost” entirely new from what you saw from the preview videos.

There’s a lot of stuff to consider! Like not fully opening one or both of the water sightglass valves will cause the water level in the glass to change slower than what’s actually in the boiler, or that closing the top steam return valve can actually cause the water level in the glass to rise due to condensing steam above. So the glass can actually lie to you!

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45: tender frame

I bet you didn’t think you’d see another CK Holliday build update! There’s so much going now on this blog between the virtual build, the simulator, and the Haunted Mansion. But, I thought I’d go ahead and post some pictures to show what I have so far for the long-waited Holliday tender.

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There are just four steel beams supporting the tender “tank” above. Can you tell which end is the front? Yes, there’s a difference!

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The trucks are detailed with their springs and pockets and saddles.

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And of course the “Disneyland Railroad” and “Lovsted, Seattle” stamping!

a free haunted mansion update

I know some of you are really eager to get the Haunted Mansion architectural set. That’s not done yet, but I decided to release a version of it for free!

This drawing is something I made a long time ago with intention of releasing for free, but I guess I never got around to it. Well, here it is. It shows three elevations visible to the public in good details. I admit that it does lack decorative railing details, which is something that the full mansion architectural set won’t.

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This “lithograph”-style drawing has a dark background and a subtle “wandering” and fading “hand-drawn” look to the lines, evoking the famous Mark Davis drawing of the original facade.

To download a full size copy, just click the picture below and save it to your computer. Again, the drawing is provided free and you may distribute, modify, or use it in your project. But you absolutely may not make money from it, or use it to make money in any way.

elevations composition - inverted - 100

Also, note that the titleblock on this drawing says “Balboa Observatory”. This is just for me to avoid saying “Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion”.


a helping hand or four

Occasionally, I code some of the simulator from the bed, and when I do I usually get a helping hand… or four!

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Certainly, they are my QA/QC team and they want to be sure that the sim’s release is purrfect :)

a day at the DRR

This wonderful, rare video shows what it’s like to to work with the CK Holliday at the DRR on a typical day: from warming up and prepping the engine early in the morning, to putting her back at the end of the day.

Check out the awesome number of different sounds! Every hiss, creak, and clank means something to the engine. And there are the numerous valves use to test and control the engine. I’m working hard to make all of this happen on a computer. Almost everything that you saw in the video you will be able to experience at home.

It’s evident from the video that a steam engine surely is a living thing. Creating this in the computer isn’t easy: but I intend to make each sound you hear from the simulator be dynamic, meaning that the “same” sound will be different each time depending on the condition of the engine, like steam pressure, engine speed, engine temperature, valve positions, etc. Computers are purely logical, where A+B always = C, but with a steam engine sometimes A+B = D, because there’s a variable you didn’t know about.

Anyway, it’s a hard job to make something completely logical like a computer to become something dynamic with a personality like a steam engine. But… it’s coming!