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This is my HO scale carnival, amusement park, fair and zoo site.

Minitown Zoo

Posted by Dave on November 22, 2009

The Zoo

Zoos have been a major passions most of my life. I have always loved going to zoos. Animals and there habits have always captivated me. I enjoy watching PBS and the Discovery Chanel broadcasts of animal stories. In my youth I lived a short time on a farm we had goats, chickens and some horses. One of my many dreams was to own a pet store. Over the years I have had a wide verity of pets besides the usual cats and dogs. I have owned various reptiles, rodents, amphibians and insects as well as wide verity of birds and tropical fish. I once maintained around 30 aquariums and was raising feeder fish to sell to pet stores. I came real close to actually opening my own tropical fish store but the store front was rented by someone else and the last I heard is now a coffee house. Well life went on and with 5 kids to raise I needed a more stable employment.

Now that the kids are all grown I can get back to collecting animals, HO scale animals that is. At first I collected animals for a farm scene and for my circus but as the collection grew it became apparent the next logical thing was to build a zoo. When I first started my collection it would fit in a small storage container. The collection in now nearly 500 animals and that does not include cows and horses. I now keep my collection in a large storage box about 2 sq. ft. in size. Most of my pieces are from Preiser, Merten, Faller and Noch which you can get from Walthers. I have some others from Airfix, Dyna-Model, Rustic Rails and Kerroby. Some figures I don’t even know who made them. I even have some animals that are beads. Most of the animals came pre-painted but others I had to paint myself.

The Structures

The Cat House this is one of the first structures I built for the Zoo. It constructed of a group of cage cells divided in the middle with a store entrance and book-ended with two open pit enclosures. The cage cells were to be decorated with vegetation and made to allude to containing small cats. The open pit enclosures at each end would hold Lions and Tigers respectively. The center entrance would be where visitors could get more information on wild cats and where the Zoo personal would hold hands on demonstrations as well as a place to view nocturnal cats. This structure was starch-built from DPM wall sections. The cage bars where made from plastic coated wire, plastic-welded together and painted black. The end enclosures where made with MDF and scale wood.

This structure remains incomplete and may be redesigned for other animals. One of the ideas that I later adopted much like proto-type Zoos is the use of more open and natural habitat enclosures. This has two advantages; one it is the direction real Zoo are going and two it works well in HO because it allows easy viewing of the figures.

The North American Exhibit is the second structure. It is more like a small diorama. The diorama started with the Rapture Aviary which is comprised of three large enclosures built into a hillside. I made the enclosures with 1/4in dowel and black veil I bought from a Mill-End store. The odd thing is that when I made the enclosure I had no Raptures (Birds of Prey). So the enclosure remained incomplete for a few years until Rustic Rails released their eagles I bought two sets one for the first two enclosures. Each set comes with an eagle in flight one perched and a nest. I made two wire framed trees painted up one pair as Bald eagles and the other pair as Golden eagles. I glued some fine wire to the in flight birds then glued the other end the trees. I then glued the nest and the perched birds to the trees and placed the trees in the enclosures. I then painted some of their gules as hocks and put them on a tree in the third enclosure.

The Aviary was now complete and it was time to work on the rest of the diorama. The next section just right of the Aviary is a maintenance building. As I am trying to make a believable zoo I feel there should be buildings place around the zoo that are used for zoo personal only. Besides the maintenance building also supports the outdoor stage just to its right which is the third section to the North American Exhibit. The next section was the visitor path in front of these displays then the beaver pond and duck pond enclosures across the path and in front of the Aviary. Then I added another path to the right of the ponds, followed by the prairie dog enclosure. I then added two more small enclosures next to the outdoor stage. At that time I felt it was time to stop building on this diorama until I had a modules designed to display my zoo.

I planed out a number of different exhibit areas. I even built an open-range area but never could find the right idea. So I turned my attention to working out the module design. I calculated that four, 30 inch by 6 foot modules would be need to adequately display my zoo. The modules needed to meet the club standards of the model railroad club I belong too. That was the most difficult part. The club requires a three track mainline and I am hesitant to give up that much real-estate to the railroad. So in order to make room for both the zoo and the rail lines I had to have the tracks go under the zoo.

Note: The actual module design and construction took several years and is made up of 4 30” x 72” modules with 4 15” x 72” add-on modules in the front. To see the module designs go to- Zoo/Modules.

Now that the basic module design was worked out I decided to go back to working on enclosures.

The Australian Exhibit I had just received a shipment of Kerroby figures from Australia some Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats’, Emus, Goannas “Joanna” and some Dingoes. So I was itchn’ to go down under. I worked out the design of the exhibit then proceeded to assemble the whole diorama out of wood. I work at a cabinet shop so I tend to make a lot of my structures out of light weight wood and MDF. The diorama is a long oval shape much like a surfboard with a main building in the center. To the left of the building is the Wombat, Koala and Goanna enclosure. To the left of that is the Roo and Emu enclosure. I have a number of Roos form Prieser, Airfx and now Kerroby. They range in size so I am not defining the types of Roos though they are all supposed to be Kangaroos some are small enough to be Wallabies.

To the right side of the center building is the Dingo enclosure. Then to the far right of the diorama will be a glass atrium to house plants and birds from Australia.

The Future

The zoo will eventually have a number of sections for various types of animals and regions. Such as a bear exhibit which will house my collection of bears, a reptile exhibit for the crocodiles, alligators and tortoises, a deer park which will house my large collection of Elk, Moose, and Deer and A primate exhibit for chimps and other apes. I will also have a safari park where most of the large African animals will be displayed. This park will be a controlled tour using park vehicles driven by park personal.


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