An express to impress from Walschaerts Build Team!
Historical builds! We can't get enough of them. Whether it's this blocktacular take on the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, this charming recreation of of ye olde London or the latest moment of history to be rebuilt in Minecraft block-by-block - the 1869 Wedding of the Rails between the Central Pacific & Union Pacific railroads!
Not so hot on your railway history? Tsk tsk. This was the ceremony that celebrated the completion of America's first transcontinental railroad, almost 150 years ago! And now, on the 148th anniversary of a ceremonial golden spike completing the railway, Walschaerts Build Team have recreated the festivities in Minecraft.
A lesser site would describe this project as being so unbelievably good that it's made our amazed minds go completely off the rails! But we like to think we're better than that. Let's take a look at the build!
Nathan_Oneday, the lead builder, is clearly a big train enthusiast, immediately proving that he's never had the 'pleasure' of paying for a train ticket in England. "Trains have always been a big part of my life," he explains to us. "So having the opportunity to create large scale replicas in Minecraft has always been something I've wanted to do since I first got the game."
And it only takes a casual skim through Nathan's Planet Minecraft portfolio to see that this is far from his first train build. Part of the fun of looking through these builds is watching his skills improve with each one. "Only recently did I feel that I had the ability to truly make a good large replica, and after some thinking I decided on doing the Golden Spike Ceremony.
"It was such a critical moment in 1800s America, and with the 150th anniversary coming up I figured it would be a cool idea.
"Plus who doesn't love a good western?"
"The biggest thing I've learned is bigger is better, especially for things like trains, which have a lot of geometric shapes that translate best when built larger. My very first train build I would label as a success was my recreation of the Perplex Express, which gained some attention and even got featured on Kotaku!"
They say practise makes perfect, and while practise certainly helps, Nathan took extra steps to keep his train builds steadily improving each time. "I started really playing with different scales, and came to an ideal ratio - 25:1 (That's 25 times the size of it relative to Minecraft if every block is 3' x 3'). I try to work off of blueprints whenever I can, as well as consult historians too. Generally they'll have better info than what you can get your hands on just searching for info on the web."
Really? We consulted a historian ourselves, to ask if that was true. "Obviously," she said, and then yelled at us for wasting her time. Conclusive!
Nathan's full of great advice if you want to try crafting a railway build of your own, and he swears by his blueprint method. "Blueprints are your friend! There's a few programs out there that'll let you convert an image into a schematic (which is a neat builder's tool that allows you to import blocks and things with block-placing plug-ins), so you can literally build right off of the blueprint!
"My process is that I import the blueprint, and begin building only a single half of the engine right on top of the blueprint. I can then mirror this after removing the blueprint's blocks and then finish making the engine. Sounds simple here, but it takes a while."
The trains themselves are Nathan's hard work, but he stresses that the whole ceremony was a team effort. "I had help from fellow Walschaerts member and good friend CorenGames, who has helped since very early on in the project making the people. Once the scale was established, I did the math on how tall they should be (it's around 40-50 blocks tall in 25:1 scale, another reason why I chose this ratio), and let Coren do his thing. He hand builds basically all the details on these guys, using painting tools only when giving the figures clothing.
"Really thankful to have had him on the team for this project, I think his crowd turned out perfect!"
It's hard to imagine the build without that cheerful cast, but originally Nathan's plans were somewhat more limited. This did begin life as a solo project. What changed his approach? "Originally I was just going to do my standard system - build a train, put it on a display piece that showcases it, then move on. But then I built the display piece, and it felt so bare and boring being just wood.
"So I built terrain around the tracks that looked like a barren desert... but then all I had was a barren desert. So I brought on a retired Walschaerts member, TheIrateSloth, who is very talented with foliage! He actually spent some time researching what sort of foliage would be accurate to the area the ceremony took place in before building it, so even the plants are accurate to a degree!
"Then I had the trains, the display, and the foliage. I was already that far in....it only made sense to keep going from there!" Nathan started livestreaming the project during this building process. One of those viewers was CorenGames - resulting in him joining to make the crowd. "And now," says Nathan "we have the awesome organics builder, CorenGames, on our team!" Credit also to ZeberahMC, Guest Assistant Organics Builder.