Model Gondola by Randi Rain

If you have read these blogs, you might be surprised that as a child, I liked toys. Yes, I know. Shocking isn’t it? But it’s true. I was a big toy player as a child. The reason, I believe, is even though I wasn’t an only child, my brother and sister were older than me. Which meant that I had to entertain myself quite often.

When I was younger, there was a store at the local mall called “Toys By Roy”. I looked it up online, and all I can find is that they no longer exist, they started in 1972, and it was a company from Lubbock Texas. It was always an interesting place. Not your typical toy store. It was a store with the really “cool toys”, that I couldn’t afford.

One day while walking through the store, they had a model gondola in there that spanned the entire store. You could buy one, put it together, install it in your home, all for way more money than I had. It was something that always fascinated me. I wanted one, but I knew I couldn’t have afford it, and I also knew I could build one myself.

Even as a child, and I am talking even before High School, I built all kinds of things. I once built a miniature roller coaster out of flexible model train tracks and Popsicle sticks. One of my most proudest moments as a child. It was something so special, I even have pictures of it. The name of the roller coaster was “The Wild One”. Maybe not the best name for a ride that only goes up a hill, down, around, and over, but I was a kid. Here is a photo of “The Wild One”.
The Wild One - Miniature Roller Coaster

For some reason, I decided to build the roller coaster on top of a bookcase. A smarter idea would have been to build it on a board, and then just put it up there. For some odd reason I thought it was more fun to stand precariously on a desk to build this thing. It was very hot up there too. I took a trash bag and funneled the air conditioner vent straight on me. That worked great. I so remember that.

Of course, if you were a miniature person that wanted to ride the roller coaster, you couldn’t get to it. It’s on top of a bookcase. There was only one real solution, there had to be a gondola to take people there. When I saw the toy gondola in the toy store, it all made sense. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the gondola. It really didn’t deserve pictures, nothing more than a wooden box. I did however catch the pulley and string in a picture of the roller coaster. Look at the far left.

The Wild One - Miniature Roller Coaster

I don’t remember where I got the plastic pulleys I used to make the gondola, but I can pretty much guess that the motor came from a broken hair dryer. Most of the time when a hair dryer breaks, it’s the heating coils. The motor rarely breaks. We seemed to have many broken hair dryers in the house, obviously, because I had a collection of motors. I used a model train power supply to turn the motor each direction. With the fast dryer motor, and the train power supply, you had to be careful not give it too much power. If you did, it would shoot across the room and smash against the wall.

The little gondola never left my thoughts throughout all these years. My skills have vastly improved in the last thirty five years, so it was time to build another one. It became a day project. Something to make the world a little better place, something to share with the world, and something to kill some time.

It started with modeling the whole thing on the computer. This probably took the most time. Some of the pieces I rushed through, but time was taken with others. I tried to make it look like the one I remember from the toy store, all those years ago. Once I was done, I printed it out on my 3D printer. The best investment I ever made. If you have access to a 3D printer, and you want to make a gondola, you can download the files here.

Printed up, I glued the pieces together and gave them some paint. My “Toys By Roy” gondola clone was complete. I remember the original had more black on it, but I didn’t want that. It was going outside, in the sun, it didn’t need to be black. Instead, I went with a silver, that came out more grey. Here is a close up of mine.

Miniature Gondola

 It was time to motorize the little fellow. I just bought some geared motors just the other day at my local electronic store, Tanner Electronics. These motors are nice motors with a durable metal gear box, with metal gears. These are plenty strong. A motor support, and pulley system was modeled and printed out. This is the motor and support, but I changed the pulleys. They were too big, and the idle pulley was not right. Then again, this was made for something else at first. If you would like to print the pulleys system out as well, the files are here.

Gondola Motor Pulley system

With everything done, it was time to install the model gondola in the garden. It spans from the house, across the yard, and ends at the tool shed. I think it’s adorable.

Model Gondola

To make the model gondola travel back and forth, you have to reverse the electricity to the motor. This is really simple to do. You only need one thing, a DPDT switch. That’s a double poll double throw switch. Put the motor terminals to the two commons on the switch. Then on the normally open side, put it negative/positive. Then on the normally closed side, put it positive/negative. Throwing the switch either way will reverse the polarity. I used a switch that has a no connection middle position for it to stop.

That’s it. I hope everyone can make their own. If not, take a virtual ride on mine.