Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Something Else Finished - A record month so far

Yes, the tea rack is finished and currently holding jars and cans of loose leaf tea. I'm pretty pleased with it, there are a few mistakes and some things that could have done better but it still looks pretty good.

For the final finish I sanded the components before I assembled them, much easier to do that way, working up from 120 Grit to 400 Grit sand paper. Very much worth the effort and its not a huge item so it wasn't terribly time consuming to do. I then followed it up with two coats of Danish Oil, Dark Walnut which really brought out the beauty of the Tzalam wood that I used for it.

I'll probably build another one to fix the mistakes but there is no rush to do that, its getting the job done and most people aren't going to notice the mistakes.

She likes her loose leaf tea, the tea bags are for me!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Its that time of year! 2021 Christmas Card

This will be the fourth year that my wife and I will be designing and printing our own Christmas cards. Its definitely something that we look forward to doing each year despite the amount of time it takes. We are not going to tackle a multi color, multi plate card this year! While last year's card turn out pretty good, in the end it was a little nerve wracking and took even more time to finish.

We are going to go back to a single color block this year and I have finished a couple of sketches for the design. Take a look let me know what you think of the two concepts and if you are from Colorado do you recognize the peak.

Quick sketches from this morning. Just have to pick one and then I can refine it for printing. Both of these have far to many very fine lines for printing purposes. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Game Design Thoughts - Mountain Passes revisited

Warning this rambles more than a little bit

While I still feel that ignoring  mountain passes, even in an 18xx game, shouldn't be done. Yet I can't ignore how restrictive that makes the board. Will a restrictive board, from the viewpoint of laying track tiles, be fun to play on? Will there be a reasonable replay value?

I have read all of the comments I can find about the CO 18xx (Rock & Stocks) and I'm not sure that it even came up as a design element, although 3 tunnel companies were originally included in the early drafts and were eventually eliminated because no one used them. The question that comes to mind is that board may not be restrictive enough, especially when you see the amount of track that is seems to be laid in northwestern Colorado. Where is the compromise point?

Let's take a look at just a small area of the map and you can see how much is going in this portion of the board. I did expect this area to be more or less the center of the action since it includes Denver.

A little description. The multi point starts represent the passes. My first thought is that they should be located on the hex sides, so Tennessee pass needs to be moved a little bit. The red line, more or less, represents the continental divide, which is what most passes cross or tunnel through.

The big problem hex is the Golden hex. The area actually includes three major towns; Golden, Blackhawk/Central City and Boulder and four passes, one of which I haven't included (yet?); Rollins Pass, Loveland Pass, Argentine Pass and the missing pass is Berthoud. Of these four passes only Rollins pass was actually built over. Geographically all of this fits in one hex. The reality, on the ground so to speak, is that three of the passes can only be reached through Clear Creek Canyon which the Colorado Central (along with a couple of others) built through going west as far as Silver Plume (a little farther than that but close enough). Rollins pass was reach through South Boulder Canyon (kind of, sort of) between Golden and Boulder on the front range. Loveland, Argentine and Berthoud passes all would need tunnels built (long ones) to keep the grades at reasonable levels. Rollins Pass was actually crossed without a tunnel but that trackage was considered temporary while the Moffat Tunnel was being built (The tunnel construction started in 1923 and was completed in 1927, and the first train passed through in February 1928. It is the highest railroad tunnel in the US at 9,200 feet and still 2800 feet beneath the surface and 6 miles long). Even if the hex is reduced to two passes its going to require a special tile to represent the difficulty

Let's take the hex apart:

1) The first difficulty, three towns occupy the hex at the current map scale. I think Boulder can be safely eliminated, it was never on a major railroad route. Boulder sits in a rather steep valley at the base of the foothills making it difficult to serve by rail. Golden must be there even though its right next to the Denver hex, at the very least from an historical context and if the Colorado Central is used as one of the railroad charters then this would be its home hex. Blackhawk and Central City are strictly gold mining and can be represented as a resource providing revenue. It might need a custom tile.

2) The second difficulty, mountain passes. In the ground scale four passes could potentially occupy this hex with only three sides to work with; Loveland, Argentine, Berthoud and Rollins. Loveland Pass and Argentine Pass, if built, would to the west eventually into the same valley leading down to Dillon (they would roughly meet at Keystone Resort). Berthoud and Rollins pass take you north to Steamboat Springs. Rollins Pass is the only one that could be crossed without a tunnel (although that added 27 additional miles to the mainline, along with all the problems associated with trying to cross mountain passes in the winter). I think I could, in theory shift Argentine pass to an adjacent hex from looking at a map. But it still leaves the problem that Berthoud and Rollins would both need to use the same hex side.

3) The third difficulty revolves around trackage rights. For the moment lets just ignore the hex difficulties, and look at those. In most 18xx games track is really controlled via stations at cities and if you can trace a legal route to it you can use any track on the board as long as it connects to at least one of your station tokens. That rule should still hold true for the Colorado board, the difference is you need to determine who can use a pass and how to mark it. For example If the D&RG builds over La Veta pass (which is down south) then only the D&RG can cross it. However the D&RG should be able allowed to award trackage rights to other companies (either subsidiaries that it owns or those companies owned by other players). At the moment I'm thinking that every pass should have its own tile and every company should have an additional set of "control" tokens, to go along with their station tokens, they would be used to signify which company owns the pass crossing. But then the dilemma is how to show which companies have "trackage" rights over that pass.

Another situation, relatively common in Colorado history is two railroads banding together to form a railroad specifically to build through a particularly difficult stretch of terrain. The railroads would share trackage rights and, almost inevitably, one of the parties would buy out the other, usually when the partner when bankrupt). The more I think about it the more I like the idea of trackage rights if I can come up with a simple mechanism to reflect it. I could envision a game where the need to build track gets as cut throat as the financial side of the game. 

Ideas are still swirling.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Something Finished!

Well, its not a game design or a miniature or anything truly cool like that. However, I did manage to finish a mobile stand for the new lathe. With this finished I can get our assembly table back and do the finish work on the tea rack. Nothing spectacular but any progress is good at this point.

All the pieces cut and ready for assembly.

Legs assembled and attached to the top. All joinery is with screws and glue. This is my first piece using pocket holes.

Pretty much complete at this point. Main brace and the floor braces are in place.

Flipped over and added the wheels. 3" wheels with locks.

Lathe mounted up and the stand rolled into its home. We can work right here in front of the window or move it out to a different spot. Its a rather brute force approach but it gets the job done till I can build something better.

I need to take a grinder to some of the screws that went all the way through. I couldn’t find any 2” pocket hole screws and the 2 1/2” are bit to long. But at least we can use the lathe now!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Woodshop Projects - Tea Rack

My wife is a big tea drinker, not of that bagged stuff either, its pretty much loose leaf or nothing for her. As the tea "boxes" continued to take up more counter space I offered to make a tea rack for her, just to keep things a bit more organized. Quite frankly its odd that its me that wants to get it organized and not her, if you seen my work space you know that neatness is not one of my strong suits!

The wood she picked out is called Tzalam also know as Caribbean Walnut and the rough hewn nature meant I needed to get a straight edge on one side before I could really start cutting out the pieces. Since I don't have a jointer I needed to make a jig that would let me cut a straight edge on it allowing me to square everything up.

I bought the plans from Fisher's Shop through his online store: fishersshoponline.com

Once I had a good edge on the two boards I cut the pieces that I needed to length and ran them through the planer to get a smooth surface on the top and bottom. Then I ran the piece for the two shelves through the new band saw to get the right height. That band saw worked a charm on this wood as well, it just took me 15 minutes to figure out how to get the blade on. And then another 10 minutes to figure out why I kept losing power. There are only a few outlets in the garage so I use an extension cord that rolls up and has a place to plug in four power cords. In addition it has its own breaker. The band saw was pulling enough amps starting up to pop this little breaker. I ended up maneuvering the band saw closer to the back workbench so I could plug straight into the wall, that solved the problem!

It doesn't look like much yet. The long pieces are for the shelves and the two shorter pieces are the sides.

Now that I finally have everything cut I can pull out the router and chamfer the edges and then do all the sanding work before I do the final assembly.

Monday, September 27, 2021

What's Going On and Tool Purchases

A gift to me on the front porch, of course its on its side contrary to directions on the box.

Its been quiet on the blog, to quiet, and its been going on for most of the year. I have mentioned a couple of times that things have been busy and there is probably a bit of depression to go along with it. Nothing like a pandemic to steal all your enthusiasm. Not going to Reaper Con this year has certainly played into it, there just wasn't any reason to get stuff in the painting que ready for the show. Heck the BFG has been was intended to be an entry for 2019 and its still not ready. I think the hardest has been dealing with Lani our Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd mix being ill with cancer.

Her particular cancer is a sarcoma and it started in her nasal cavity on her right side. Even though we found it early, it was already in the bone and inoperable. We changed her to a raw diet, that has helped a lot, but the other treatments (we didn't want to do radiation therapy, she wouldn't have survived the treatment I don't think) were not as effective. But here she is as stubborn as ever, she could put a mule to shame, and feisty just not as active as the other dogs and her poor face is distorted by the growing tumor. She is three months past the best estimate by the vets with radiation therapy but it still makes my heart cry to look at her and know the inevitable cannot be put off. So we spoil her absolutely rotten.

Back to the title though. A new tool arrived this week a Jet 1221 "midi" lathe. Weighing in at 115#s I can't wait to get it fired up and start turning some wood with it. I need to build a stand for it first and, hopefully, get rid of the small craftsman 10" table saw that is just taking up space now. I'll need to re-arrange the garage a bit as well to get it in a good spot. Naturally, this tool is one of those that requires a whole raft of other tools to make it usable so my wife and I ended up dropping quite a bit more on those things as well as kits for some of the projects we anticipate needing the lathe for. Hopefully good news on that front in the near future.

The traditional in the box shot. There was enough damage to the exterior box that I was worry the lathe itself may have been damaged in transit.

Wrestled it out of the box and, temporarily, set it up on my little assembly table. I have spun it up to make sure everything was in working order but the chisels hadn't arrived when I took this photo.

Friday, September 10, 2021

New Tool - Laguna 14/12 Bandsaw

 I just finished putting together the new band saw a Laguna 14/12. Big machine and it should serve me well for a lot of years to come. I already have an old Craftsman band saw but since I anticipate working with a lot of rough cut hardwood I needed something with a better resaw capacity. The throat on the Craftsman is impressive but the horsepower is just not enough for my wood working plans.

It really didn't take me long to put it together, although I would say the instructions are only adequate, they could use a little help. Good enough to get the job done though. This thing is heavy weighing in at around 250#, which means you really should have two people for some of the assembly. I didn't really have anyone that could help so I did it all myself. Not recommended but possible, you just need to pay attention to what you are doing and think through all of the steps first before applying muscle.

The main body comes assembled. With a little careful thinking I was able to get it out of the box on my own. Basically I just cut the end of the box off and tilted up into position.

Putting the base together. I have never seen screws referred to as "fixings" before.

Here I have laid the main body on its spine supported by 2x4s, with a couple extra under the motor to keep it straight. The base is ready to be attached. They sell you the mobility kit at the same time, another quick $150 bucks...ouch

Like the body I used 2x4s to support the base while I adjusted everything into position and attached the bolts.

Base attached and upright again. To get it back to standing I placed the back wheels into one of the expansion joints in the garage floor and tilted it up, carefully!

All assembled. The table is a heavy slab of metal and the fence is aluminum and moves using a sliding bar. Pretty effective.

The few tools I used to get it all together, 12 and 14mm sockets, a couple of different sized allen wrenches.  The final assembly need a 5/16th socket and yet another allen wrench to deal with a set screw. I think I made notes on the sizes of the two larger allen wrenches for reference on the back of the manual.

I was pretty happy being able to get it all together and relatively quickly on top of that. Like I said the assembly can be done by one person but you do need to be careful so that you don't hurt yourself or the band saw. I am annoyed that it didn't come with a blade, I figured for that much money they could have at least included one blade.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Game Design Thoughts - Financial Shenanigans

If you are an 18XX player, especially 1830 and its variants, then you are aware of how volatile the financial part of the game can be. Between stock market manipulations and train rushes money can quickly run right through your hands in these games. And while Colin and I added even more, potential, madness to that in 1869 it doesn't begin to approach reality.

I'm still trying to figure out a good point in time for my version of 18CO to start, right now I'm focusing on 1870 or there about. I know for sure the Denver & Rio Grande Railway will be in the game and likely one of the public companies. I started jotting down notes about what was going on at the time. After a little light reading I don't even know how to go about recreating the kind of financial manipulations that were going on. Here are some quick notes that I took in about 15 minutes this morning:

1870     Articles of Incorporation filed in Colorado

1871    First Spike

1878    Loses the race to Raton Pass to the ATSF, both companies are in dire financial straits at this time. In an effort to stave off the creditors Palmer leases the D&RG to the ATSF. ATSF goes into a rate war with the UP which is controlled, at that time, by Jay Gould.

1879 Palmer files to break the lease of the ATSF due to poor management (true, ATSF is basically plundering the D&RG in the fight with Gould and the UP). The D&RG goes into receivership and Gould starts buying up stock to take control.

1880 In a deal brokered by Gould the D&RG cannot build south of Trinidad or Espanola NM. The ATSF cannot build into Denver or Leadville.

1882 the D&RGW (note that at this time the D&RGW and the D&RG are not the same railroad, Palmer created the D&RGW to build the Utah side of the empire that he envisioned) leased to the D&RG

1883 the D&RGW completes a through line to Salt Lake City, Palmer resigns from the D&RG but remains president of the D&RGW

1884 the D&RG goes into receivership again, trackage right agreement with the Denver, South Park & Pacific terminated since it has its own line to Leadville now.

1886 still under receivership the D&RG Railway is sold and reorganized as the D&RG Railroad, lease with the D&RGW is terminated

1890 D&RG completes standard gauging to Grand Junction via Tennessee Pass.

And these notes only are highlights and I didn't really get into depth with the financial maneuvering, like leasing your line to your biggest competitor, or Gould coming in and buying up stock to take control.

And I completely skipped the fight for the Royal Gorge, the ATSF used proxy railroads to build that line but the D&RG won the fight for the rights to the canon and acquired the ATSF proxy railroads. Pretty much makes the biggest 1830 shark look like a newbie at the game.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Game Design Thoughts - Research and Books

I think the best part of doing the researching is acquiring the necessary research material. In this case I have acquired a number of "new" books. An 18XX game based on a more historical basis appeals to me more than one that is just another variant of 1830 or 1829. While I'm duly impressed with 18CO; Rocks and Stocks it lacks the elements that I'm looking for. The best way to help define those elements and then decide whether those elements are to restrictive takes some research which means scouring the internet (almost worthless for this subject, but not entirely) and finding some good books.

Thankfully I already had some of books to help get the project underway:

Tracking Ghost Railroads in Colorado by Robert Ormes (8th printing), Century One Press, Colorado Springs CO, 1980

Denver, South Park & Pacific by M.C. Poor, World Press, Denver CO, 1949 (limited edition #336/1000)

The Switzerland Trail of America by Forest Crossen, Robinson Press, Ft Collins Co, 1992 (softback), 2nd Edition

The DSP&P was probably the largest narrow gauge system after the D&RG and its history is fascinating. Its a dense book though coming in 493 pages including some maps (which are getting more and more fragile). If you are fan of Colorado Railroad history this is a cornerstone book and while its a limited edition its not really hard to come by if you are willing to spend some money. Mine, unfortunately doesn't have the dust jacket and I would like to acquire a copy that does.

The Switzerland Trail covers the history of the two railroads that headed west from Boulder CO (not at the same time). The Greeley Salt Lake & Pacific and later the Colorado & Northwestern. Its a good example of the trials and tribulations of many of the smaller mountain railroads that were built to tap the mineral wealth of the Rockies.

Tracking Ghost Railroads is an excellent guide to the physical locations of the railroads along with how to get there. I recommend a good 4WD vehicle if you plan on doing that you can drive on a lot of the old grades that way (the accessible ones anyway).

The new acquisitions are:

Railroads of Colorado; Your Guide to Colorado's Historic Trains and Railway Sites by Claude Wiatrowski, Farcountry Press, Helena MT, 2012

Colorado's Historic Mountain Passes by Larry Rynearson & Rick Jones, Western Reflections Publishing Co, Lake City CO, 1975

Colorado's Mountain Railroads by Robert A LaMassena, Sundance Publications, Denver CO, 1984

Rio Grande...To the Pacific by Robert A LaMassena, Sundance Publications, Denver CO, 1974, 2nd Edition

Colorado Central Railroad; Golden, Central City, Georgetown by Dan Abbott, Della A. McCoy and Robert W McLeod, Sundance Publications, Denver CO, 2007

The Midland Route; A Colorado Midland Guide and Data Book by Edward M. "Mel" McFarland, Pruitt Publishing Co, Boulder CO, 1980

The first two really came up bust for me, not nearly the kind of information I was looking for its hard when you have to buy them site unseen. The rest will form a solid core for the library. There will be more books on the D&RG the Rio Grand to the Pacific is a bit more focused on the Utah lines but does cover the split and recombination of the D&RG with the D&RGW.

The Colorado Central is an iconic railroad that was heavily involved in the early days of Colorado Railroading. More along the lines of the Switzerland Trail, it had big ambitions and always seemed to fall short due to money and circumstances. It would eventually become a part of the Colorado & Southern RR.

The Midland is fascinating, another railroad that struggled financially for its entire existence it was the first railroad to build standard gauge rails into the mountains and its system was quite extensive.

So far though, I think my best acquisition is the Colorado Railroad Map by Linn Westcott for Kalmbach Publishing from 1943. Shows all the railroads, the abandonments and topography. Its 78 years old and in amazing shape and I managed to get it for $20. Best buy so far.

With all of this I'm starting to refine the map and try and work through what railroads should be included, and how they will fit together. At the moment I'm considering keeping the number of public companies low supported by a lot of minor companies and maybe even more than your usual number of privates. I'm also sure that everything will not be available during the opening rounds so I'm considering an "event" deck similar to what Colin and I used in 1869. Events aren't random but are driving by the purchase of trains. Will see how it pans out.

The prize in the box, well eBay. I have been looking for this for a while. I have found reproductions available online but they don't include the information on the back of the map and they tend to be expensive, as do original copies like this one.

This is why the back of the map is as important as the front, a complete (yet to be determined) list of all the railroads in Colorado.

And the front. I knew that Linn Westcott was big in the model railroading world for a long time I had no idea he was a cartographer as well.

And perhaps the most interesting find, from the internet, is this:
National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form
A: Name of Multiple Property Listing - Railroads in Colorado 1858 - 1948
B: Associated Historic Contexts - The Historical and Technological Evolution of Colorado's Railroads 1858-1948
Prepared by Clayton B Fraser, Principal and Jennifer H Strand, Research Historian
Fraserdesign, 31 August 1997

This little gem helps tie everything together, almost 300 pages of information, it helps break Colorado railroading into distinct phases which is quite helpful when designing an 18XX game of any kind.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Game Design Thoughts - The Map - First "Workable" Iteration


Here is the first iteration of the map that is approaching something that is at least workable. I'm sure there will be a lot of modifications to come. This one has a new image behind it and I'm pleased that I was able to pretty much remove the geological map I found and replace it with this relief map with almost no alteration. Just size it to fit. The added bonus with the relief map is I get enough of New Mexico to include Raton Pass and the southern bits of the D&RG route through northern NM and southern CO.

I like this image because it only includes the geographic features, no cities, no roads to deal with, just pure Colorado countryside. Each of the circles represents a town/city that may or may not be included. Red circles are included in other games (such as Rails through the Rockies and Tracks to Telluride) that I didn't think to include and I'm still unsure about including. Blue circles are towns/cities that I felt were important for historical railroad reasons, and green circles are common in all the games I looked at.

I know there are way to many cities on the board and probably at least half of them will have to come off. But one thing it does help identify is interesting geographic locations within the scale of the map. Two of the more interesting areas have three fairly important towns, from a railroad and/or revenue perspective all within the same hex. Lets start with the Denver area:

There are a lot of towns in this area that are geographically very close but fall into the "you can't get there from here" category. For instance to take the railroad from Denver to Dillon you would have to go south and come up through Fairplay to Breckenridge and then to Dillon.  There is a pass that would shorten that route; Loveland pass (because I don't think Argentine Pass is a viable route). I think that the route over the pass from the east is surmountable with a reasonable grade, but I'm fairly certain that the you couldn't get tracks down the western side. Its one of the areas that I'm trying to find old survey maps on, with little luck I might add. 

In addition you see two red circles in this area; South Park and Dillon. Just to be clear, there is no town or city in Colorado named South Park. There is an outdoor museum where a lot of historical buildings have been relocated to called South Park, but not an actual settlement by that name. Obviously that one will be removed. I believe that Dillon was only served by a spur so its likely going to be removed as well, even if I find a viable route north from that point, its just to close to Breckenridge which was more important from a railroad perspective.

Another interesting point is the hex containing; Golden, Boulder & Blackhawk. During the period the three only connected through Golden. Boulder was important, relatively speaking, because it was the gateway to Boulder canyon which had rich deposits of gold, silver and tungsten (which was important to the war effort in WWI). There was a railroad (the Colorado & Northwestern) that served the area and Boulder was the eastward terminus. Boulder was not part of any major routes north/south or east/west, Golden was important as the gateway up Clear Creek to the rich mining districts in Blackhawk/Central City and Georgetown/Silver Plume and a possible route across the Continental Divide. Not sure how I'll handle this hex, reduce it to one city or maybe keep two, something to mull about in my head for a bit.

Another interesting area is down in southwest Colorado in the Durango/Silverton area.

Silverton, Ouray and Telluride all exist in the same hex. But geographically you cannot go directly from one to another (well you can by car now, there is a highway between Ouray and Silverton but to get to Telluride you would have to take Black Bear Road from Red Mountain Pass, google that and you can see why they say 4WD only. You can still only get to Lake City through Montrose). In fact three little railroads would spiral out of Silverton, but only to serve the mines. In addition you can't really go from Lake City to Ouray or Silverton by rail either (I had a lengthy argument with another game designer that said from an engineering basis you could get a railroad up and over any terrain, which is certainly not true and even if you could would the financial outlay be balanced out by the potential income). Durango is the key here. There are rails through the Animas canon that will get your from Silverton to Durango but to get to Telluride you would then have to go through Dolores and Rico. From Telluride to Ouray you would have to go out of the hex again and come back through the adjacent side and Lake City is reached by a branch from an entirely different direction (I'm thinking through either Montrose or Gunnison, depends on which direction you are coming from). In theory you could put all three towns there and use a special tile to represent what's going on.

In the end some progress is being made. I probably should get back to the pass question before I start removing towns though.

This was the sign that was at the top of Red Mountain Pass. The sign was stolen so often the authorities stopped replacing it.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Game Design Thoughts - Working the Map

This is the original logo that Colin and I devised for our line of 18XX games. We had grand plans!

There comes a time when you just have to buckle down and put something on paper, or in this case on the screen. For experimental purposes I'm doing this in Visio, not the greatest platform for this kind of thing but I'm very familiar with it and it will do the job, although ultimately not in a format really fit for publication, if I ever get that far.

One thing that makes the map process a little easier is the fact that Colorado is a rectangle with perfectly straight boundaries. None of the borders with the neighboring states following geographic features, like rivers, as a lot of state boundaries do. Colorado is the 8th largest state in the United States, the northern border follows the 41st line of Latitude and the 37th line of Latitude on the south. The eastern border is, basically, the 102nd line of Longitude and the western 109th line of Longitude (+/- a bit). The state measures 380 miles from east to west and 280 miles from north to south.

I decided that the easiest way to approach this was to decide on a scale for the 1 1/2" hex overlay, and I arbitrarily started with 25 miles, flat side to flat side. With that value set (the value "r" in the formula for hexagonal calculations) I could figure out how many, approximately, hexes I needed for the east-west dimension. The final result was 14 1/2 hexes. The north south is always more difficult to determine since you are measuring point to point, but you need to  consider the hex overlap so just dividing by 28.87 would get me in the ballpark. I ended up with 12 rows of hex running north-south which gives a rectangle that looks about right.

There are four major rivers that flow out of Colorado's Rocky Mountains; the South Platte, The Arkansas, the Rio Grande and the Colorado (originally named the Grand River important to know if you are looking at old maps). For now I'm ignoring the rivers, the reality is that only the Colorado River is a true obstacle, the others tend to only be obstacles during the spring run off. They will definitely be features on the map when (if?) I get that far with this little project. Then I need to add the cities, not something I was looking forward to.

To start I took the latitude & longitude for Denver and measured about where I would expect it to fall on the map, but didn't want to go through that process for all the towns and cities that might be needed. To make the process a little easier I found a geological map of Colorado from 1913. It solved the problem, it included towns and cities but didn't really show roads which tend to obscure details. It did, however, include the rail lines that existed in 1913 so I could see which towns I could consider including. What you find, which I think I knew in the back of my mind, is a north-south corridor of major cities along the front range and a concentration  of towns in areas of heavy mining or agriculture. 

This exercise allowed me rethink the towns I was thinking of including, some just didn't exist in 1913 or were to small to even be included. Some towns that I didn't think of including are important from a rail service standpoint and others are so clustered together that I will have to adjust their location or exclude them altogether, decisions, decisions. Back to the map. I downloaded a high resolution copy from the library and inserted as a picture into the Visio file I built. Using the picture as a background image I placed the hex grid over it and adjusted the size of the image to fit the borders I had determined. It actually worked really well, the proof being that Denver ended up almost exactly where I expected it to. I then used the map to pinpoint the towns/cities I wanted and within a couple of hours I had the beginnings of a useful map.

With the railroads printed on the geological map I think I can pinpoint the passes that were actually used, although they are not named on the map. I know most of them already its just a matter of translation. The hard part will be determining passes that were surveyed and could have been used and passes that were surveyed and were not viable routes. For instance Berthoud Pass was surveyed but not used, it would have required a 3.5 mile long tunnel to be a viable route, however Rollins pass (known as Boulder Pass at the time) was dismissed as a viable route in 1864 but construction began to in 1903 (and completed in 1904) to get over this "insurmountable" pass, while a 6 mile long tunnel (the famed Moffat tunnel) was built (construction on the tunnel didn't begin until 1920 and the first train rolled through in 1928). Things to ponder.

With thoughts of republishing 1869 I have fully transcribed the rules back into a word document. Now I need to start rebuilding the board. I just need the right software, something that would be equally useful the Colorado game.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Game Design Thoughts - Researching where the research is


I continue to work my way through what I consider to be one of the main features of any game, 18XX or otherwise, that features railroads in Colorado; mountain passes. I acquired a book last week, "Great Surveys of the American West" by Richard Bartlett, and while the focus was, indeed, on railroad surveys it was more on the surveys developed for the transcontinental railroad rather than the surveys for the railroads that would build into the Colorado Rockies. It is still an interesting book just not quite what I was looking for.

Another "book", more of a pamphlet really, provided quite a bit of useful information, but it would have been a lot more useful if it had included the map that had accompanied the original survey. The rather long winded title is "Union Pacific: Report of F.M. Case, of Surveys of Cache La Pondre & South Platte Routes and other Mountain Paeese in Colorado". And I intentionally left the misspellings in the title. Pondre should be Poudre (in Colorado we pronounce that as pooh-der) and Paeese should be Passes. Fortunately those errors were introduced by the printer that reproduced the report and you can find it all correctly spelled on the internet. Its quite a fascinating little document and it shows the difficulty in researching some subjects. For instance one of the passes explored (actually not explored) is Boulder Pass. On a modern map you are unlikely to find "Boulder Pass", with a little digging you will find Boulder Grand Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park but that's not the Boulder Pass in the report. The Boulder Pass mentioned in the report is what we now call Rollins Pass. Rollins pass was on the route used by the Denver & Salt Lake Railway before the Moffat Tunnel opened in 1927. The pass has had a number of names since its discovery including; South Boulder Pass, Boulder Pass and Corona Pass (I don't know which one is first, and Corona Pass seemed to be a later attempt to rename it from Rollins). I was verify the actual pass  from the USGS publication "Historic Trail Map of the Denver 1° x 2° Quadrangle, Central Colorado" by Glenn R Scott. There are a number of these historic trail map publications by Scott and I have most of them in PDF but I would love to get my hands on the physical publications (of course, no longer in print). Which brings me back to the map. There was a least one map that went with the F.M. Case survey report and perhaps two. Getting my hands on that map would help me determine if there is a viable railroad route into North Park from the Fort Collins area as he actually redlines potential railroad routes that may be worth surveying.

As I have mentioned before, in these game design ramblings, I do feel that the use of mountain passes and the restriction it causes in building viable routes is very important if you are going to capture the feel of railroading in Colorado. One of the things that bothers me with Ryan Driskel's "18CO, Rock & Stock" is how much track gets laid in northwestern Colorado and how little is laid in southwestern Colorado based on the in-game progress pictures that I  have seen posted. Granted I'm restricted to what has been posted, but like a lot of 18XX games there are patterns that tend to be very consistent. To be fair I have not played Ryan's version yet so I don't have first has hand experience with his game at this point. I am viewing  it from the lens of how the railroads developed in Colorado and development in the northwest was very light and it occurred very late in the Colorado's development. I back this up from a document I found written for the United States Department of the Interior National Park Service titled "Railroads in Colorado 1858-1948. There is a sequence of maps in this document that shows the development of the rail network in Colorado.

1870 Map
All maps are screen shots from the Department of Interior Document and originally appear in the Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History by Donald B. Robertson

1875 Map

1880 Map

1885 Map
Finally a connection to the west, but not a true transcontinental route as it connects Grand Junction with Denver via the Denver & Rio Grande and then to points east over the larger railroads like the Union Pacific.

1890 Map

1910 Map
This is the first map that we see activity in the northwestern portion of the state. The Denver & Salt Lake Railroad opens in 1902 and crosses Rollins pass in 1903 to finally break into northwestern Colorado looking for a more direct route to Salt Lake City. It never advances beyond Craig 

1915 Map
This is pretty close to a "finished" version of the rail network in Colorado. After this there are mostly realignments, mergers and major abandonments.

This sequence of maps reveals a couple of things; the development of the rail network was primarily north to south in the early years, then expanding east to west to create a secondary transcontinental route which would eventually hook back up with the Union Pacific in Utah. The mining industry was the big driver for the railroads, first for silver (central Colorado), then for gold (central and southwest Colorado) and later for coal (northwest Colorado). The question becomes how to really drive an 18XX game to achieve something that is both somewhat historical and fun to play. And those are only the first elements that need to be dealt with. I'm still thinking that the map needs to come first and then the rest can follow.