New beginnings

Stop Press

The C&S has been sorely neglected for some 18 months until now (May 2021) thanks to surgery, recovery, Covid lockdown and general apathy. Added to that I lost around £500 on expensive and useless backscenes from an American supplier, which did nothing to help. I'm back with a vengeance and am starting this blog afresh from where we are now. New structures and characters are being introduced and the trains will soon run again. Watch this space.

History Archive of all previous posts from the beginning of time! 


I try to include family and friends in the life of Cuspidor and you’ll find references to them below.  I endeavour to fit them tongue-in-cheek into the most suitable positions, such as our dear friends Malcolm and Cathy who once treated us to a disastrous grand weekend tour in Derbyshire.  In the spirit of never letting a good turn go unpunished I conceived of them running the world’s worst bus tour company.  I enjoy creating little vignettes that bring the viewer into my strange little world.  Building Cuspidor is a long term retirement project and I will try to keep adding to the story. 

My World

The little known Rocky Mountain town of Cuspidor lies at an elevation of 8,639 feet somewhere between the Uncomphagre and San Juan ranges. It sits in the Rio Bozo valley amidst hard granite  cliffs.  It’s pretty hard to find nowadays as the valuable metals ran out in the fifties and people mostly just drifted away leaving what was a once prosperous town to just fade into obscurity. Diehard exploring types have been known to stumble across it when following the old abandoned narrow gauge railroad line through the brush or hiking along the Rio Bozo up to the fabled Plughole Falls.

Here we view it in 1932 at the end of the glory days but while the railroad still ran serving the almost played out gold, silver and lead mines.

The upper town of Cuspidor sits on a series of steep, narrow switchback roads reminiscent of Jerome AZ.  A fairly recent addition is the magnificent stone City Hall and Courthouse built in 1918, at great public expense, by over ambitious and short sighted city fathers.

Notable buildings include the Golden Cuspidor saloon and hotel up on the bluff, the aforementioned City Hall, Miss Anna’s Pleasure Palace, the Miner’s and Cattlemen’s Association Hall and a magnificent F W Woolworth store.  Dan Webb’s auto repairs does a good trade thanks to the awful roads and Miss Sarah’s little car is seen there rather frequently causing tongues to wag.  The Lady’s Temperance Group, if not protesting about miner’s and stockhands carousing and frequenting the saloon and Miss Anna’s on a Saturday night, often speculate that it’s about time young Dan did the right thing and popped the question.  There are still some tiny miner’s shacks in and around the town along with a few old shops that struggle to compete with a Woolworth’s that won’t stay long once they check the turnover at head office.  Below the town you can just see a corner of Wiggin Field where Captain JJ Wiggin valiantly tries to keep his old biplane flying with air circus shows and crop dusting duties.

Overlooking the picturesque Plughole Falls is Desport’s tiny diner where the occasional, intrepid tourist takes ham and eggs along with miners from the Rio Bozo Mine.  The poor chaps up at the Devil’s Drop goldmine don’t get down there too often.   Now and then you can see the Pritchard’s Intrepid Scenic Tours (PIST) charabanc approaching the view point, usually with their last passenger hurling herself out of the open window in a desperate attempt to escape.

The Cuspidor and Southern Railroad depot and yard bake in the summer sun and freeze in the winter along with everyone else (work in progress).  many mines and related mining industries keep the old line rattling on. Enjoy.

My Musical Adventures

My other hobby - only for the brave:


Saturday 23 October 2021

Wiggin Air takes off (er not quite).

My neighbour and ace model sculptor Sam presented me with an Airfix Stearman biplane kit after I said the old one had sustained irreperable damage and I couldn't find another. So I built it and looked at the finished model. Hmm it would be nice if the prop turned. Aaaagh!!  I turned up an old electric toothbrush motor that I'd saved and figured it could fit. Off came the motor and prop and carving started. I managed to drill the tiny propshaft with a micro drill in a hand vice. Some plane disassembling later I glued the shaft to the prop, the motor to the plane, threaded wires to the tail and set it on the layout. A 1 1/2 v battery did nicely and now it can be operated with a push button. The girls will love it. I added the sound from a real Stearman for this video. My bro in law Julian Wiggin is a retired Airline Senior Captain and always wanted to fly a Stearman - now he does, in Cuspidor!

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Finishing touches to the new real estate

The Pastor's house and part of the hillbilly smallholding.

More scenic work (the best bit) on the centre space.

The piggery. The gate has just disappeared into the bottomless pit of small parts that every layout room has.

Pastor Kirk's manse.  He looks on as his wife supervises granddaughter Emily with the washing.

Saturday 18 September 2021

The story behind E. Crank Gas and Oil

 In the early years of the 20th century a young and somewhat eccentric traveller arrived in the fabled Cuspidor Valley, seeking to make his fortune. His name was Eli Crank. Sadly he found that all the fabulous mineral deposits had been claimed for miles around and he had to eke out a living driving a team of mules for a local haulage company.

One day as he grazed his team and took his lunch, he happened to notice a small, foul smelling pool nearby.  Bingo! He realised that there was oil here.  He dashed back into town, bought a map and logged a claim at the town hall. On the strength of his discovery, the bank granted him a modest loan and he purchased a pumpjack or nodding donkey, which he set up on the site to extract the black gold.  Luckily there was enough oil of high quality for him to repay the loan and earn a reasonable living until the well ran dry in 1921.  Being a careful character he had saved his money and set up a small oil and fuel distributorship on his claim and expanded that.  The redundant  pumpjack was left to moulder and parts can still be seen to this day rusting in the grass. Here we see it as it was in the mid '30s slowly giving way to Mother Nature.


A fellow modeller from Canada, who is a good friend of my mate Sir Graham, goes by the nom de plume of Eccentric Crank.  When I built my small diorama of a Petrol/oil supplier I thought I'd name it E. Crank in his honour. Recently I've been installing all my dioramas into the layout but had no room for a couple of them, this being one and the other was my little foundry.  I decided to insert a piece of board into the central operating well (seeing as I don't do any operating as such it was an obvious place to gain some real estate).  This has become the home of these two dioramas, plus a house for the church pastor.

I also had a tiny board with some rusted out, above-ground piping and equipment on it, which I placed next to the Crank's lot and thus a back story was born.  I've wanted to make a model of a pumpjack ever since seeing one working at Kimmeridge on the Dorset coast extracting oil from the extensive oil shales there and one would fit here just fine.

I built the pumpjack entrely from scrap and stuff lying around my workbench. I don't claim it to be accurate but it is in scale and looks the part. Good 'nuff.

This board is still work in progress and I'm landscaping as fast as I can.

The new real estate takes shape

Crank's with the foundry behind

The Pumpjack

The Pastor's house in the rear

Gone to sleep

Friday 9 July 2021

Cuspidor Station Depot Building

 I finally re-engineered the depot structure.  It was made from an ancient  Atlas (Rico I think) plastic kit which I dismantled, cut down to fit my limited space between the tracks at Cuspidor Flats and re-assembled.  Almost complete, it still needs signage to be knocked up on my printer and a train order board.  I used to have a lovely little Grandt Line one but it has vanished like so many small bits and pieces over the years. The roof is made with Auhagen shingles, a bit coarse but available over here so it had to suffice.

On this end wall you can make out signs of the butchery I had to perform on the kit, however it won't be visible from the normal viewpoint so isn't an issue. Meanwhile Chief Conductor Cyrus Dibble rushes to get all the freight and luggage ready for the five o'clock train.

In its eventual position, ideally it should face in the opposite direction but a lot of detail would have been lost.  It isn't beyond the realms of possibility that the noted Colorado raiload architect Edward Finkel got the plans the wrong way round, that's Cuspidor for you, after all! Either way Cuspidor now has its depot which will be merged into the landscape pretty soon.  Fortunately I arranged the structure as a press fit onto its base and that will make for an easy installation.

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Trogolodyte house settled in.

The little trog house made from plaster wall scraps has now been embedded into the cliffside near the Plughole Falls. 

It looks like young George Willikers has taken over the old abandoned place to make his own. He's built a shed/outhouse from half of an old caravan. It seems he's in the process of rigging up a supply of running water to his sink using an old barrel and pipework that looks like he scrounged it from the now derelict Lady Wendy mine. Lucky there was a small spring in the mountainside near enough to tap into. Mind you he might want to put an overflow pipe into that barrel or he may get more water than he bargained for....

I need to put a shine on the spring outflow and a support timber under the barrel, plus I have a small woodpile to go next to his front door. The lad has been busy.

The scene is pretty well finished

I see that George must have heard me, he found a length of galvanised pipe and put in that overflow. Phew! The spring has garnered some ferns and moss and the water coming down the cliff and along the ditch by the track looks suspiciously like superglue. A bit of fence for privacy and a handy old mine ladder to access the cliff, standing on the rickety roof of the woodpile, complete the scene. Oh, he put in that timber support under the tank too. I think I'll leave him to his plumbing labours now.

A few more details and the road across the track to the packway added.

Still have to add some crusty boards to the track for the crossing

Sunday 27 June 2021

Two small structures from photos

 I found some photos on the web when looking to expand residential accommodation in Cuspidor. Two evenings were spent building them. The tract house is made from Evergreen styrene and windows and doors from my scrapbox.  The little trglodyte dwelling is made from bits of plaster walls I made some time back.

The original model I found on the net

My version

This will be fitted into a rockface on the layout

Found on Shorpy

My version

Friday 18 June 2021

A small project for my granddaughters to help on

 Jasmine (9) was interested in how I made my models so I decided to do a small build with her and Darcie's (5) help along the way. Here is a potted account. 

Found on Dreamtime

Scale drawing

Cutting openings

First boards

The girls helped gluing on boards

Walls clad

Internal wood (paper) added

Finished shack on a display board

Monday 24 May 2021

A new denizen appears in Cuspidor


A new character comes to town. This is Rita Garcia, named for a great friend of my wife. She has just acquired a low rent property but great things are planned for her. An ice cream parlour has been mooted. Rough and tumble Cuspidor could do with cooling down at times. Ben & Jerry's - Pah!

Lower town views

Al's in a hurry, chilli again last night......

The real skid row.

New limekiln (disused) and new ore chute for the abandoned Victor Mine

The limekiln started life as half of an ornate cap to a curtain pole. 

The gas staion/garage is always busy but that car has been there for at least 4 years...

"Ernie - Are you working or sleeping on the job?"

Makes my backyard look positively tidy

The house on the left is one we actually visited at Animas Forks in Colorado

Wednesday 12 May 2021

Cuspidor history

 Some history

Early on I did have a statue of the purported founder but he got lost in some upheaval. I now have a new statue of Jedediah Arbuthnot, the real father of the Cuspidor valley. He was passing through the territory whilst evading some rapacious debt collectors when he happened to purchase some 10,000 square miles in the Uncompahgre range from an impecunious Indian chieftain, for the princely sum of 15 dollars and a case of dubious scotch whisky. Soon though, he realised that the land was worthless and passed it on for 50 dollars to an old prospector, Isiah Faraday, who struck gold and died a millionaire in the Bahamas. Now Arbuthnot looks out on all that he had lost.  In truth, the sculptor had no idea what Arbuthnot looked like and modelled him on his own grandfather. Sic transit gloria mundi....

The unfortunate Jedediah Arbuthnot, whose bones lie undiscovered to this day.

Widow Avery gets more real estate

I felt that I had short - changed Mrs Avery in terms of land so I extended her little portion with a bit of plaster. This was coloured to match in and then I added an outhouse to address her daily needs (BTS laserkit). Then a wall and a chopping block with some logs. Job Done!!

First colour
Wall and outhose installed
She's happy now.