Builder: Mat, Stephanie and Brian Chibbaro
Year Built: 2002
Current Owner: The Hylands
Module Type/Size: NTrak 4' x 2'
Additional Features: Deep scenery
by Mat Chibbaro (with a little help from Brian and Stephanie!)
What the heck is Bikini Bottom you ask? You must be out of the elementary/middle school loop then. It is the setting of the popular kid’s show Spongebob Squarepants. Yes, the show is as freaky as it sounds. I have recreated the undersea world of a talking sponge (Spongebob), a starfish (Patrick), a squid (Squidward), and even a squirrel (Sandy) wearing a space suit. I have often wondered what possessed the creator of this show when he came up with the idea.
In any case, I thought this would be eye-catching module. It’s debut at the Damascus Library showed I had achieved the desired effect. Bikini Bottom was the last thing any spectator expected to see under someone’s module. Anything to interest young potential modelers is a good thing.
I started construction of this with a plywood box similar in size and concept with my Furlow Canyon module. However, I used thinner, higher quality Baltic birch plywood. I cut out unnecessary sections so it would be possible for one person to carry. The legs are made of ½” EMT, and are held in place with eye bolts in triangular pockets. These are similar to the ones I have been making to sell, however they are of course shorter, and extend farther into the module.
Four stacked layers of 2” foam form the undersea walls. After shaping in a semi-circle, I painted this the bright blue, green, and yellow seen in the TV show. The water surface is made of a rippled piece of acrylic, which I bought from a plastics supply house (for a pretty penny I might add).
The 3 standard Ntrak lines pass over my section of ocean on a piece of ¼” plywood. HO bridge parts form the 3 section bridge (a composite of two trusses in the center, flanked by single, full length girders on either side). I made the truss sections removable. They stow in a cardboard tube in the rear of the scenery for transport. Bridge piers are painted pine, with separate sections above & below the acrylic water.
The scenery above the water and to the rear of the tracks is a removable section made of 2 stacked layers of 2” foam. It is mostly a beach with actual sand glued on and some trees in the rear. Since this is not the focal point of the scene, I kept it simple. This section can be lifted out and carried separately. I have made a cradle to carry this, as well as another liftout section for a standard 4’ module, eight legs and two backboards. This cradle has 2 wheels and is rolled handtruck-style.
The icing on the cake here was the ocean bottom. Brian made Squidward’s house (a polynesian idol), and Stephanie made Spongebob’s house (a pineapple) out of a lightweight clay called Model Magic. The construction of these two unorthodox structures was the hardest part of this module. Knowing that I don’t have the talent of my two children, I chose to make the easy house, which is the rock that Patrick lives under. We glued these down to the ocean bottom, along with more real beach sand. Finally, we fastened down commercially purchased Spongbob and Patrick characters.
One coming attraction will be Spongebob sound effects. I have surgically extracted the sound machine out of a different Spongbob I bought. Now I need to figure out how to mount it and activate it from the rear.
This module was truly a family affair. That is why the tag for the module will credit “The Chibbaro Family”. Little did the member who coined the term “Semper Gumby” realize to what extent we would gumby our modules, huh? And to those of you who have compared me to Chester and his fantasy scenes, I am flattered.
A final note: Are you wondering what other liftout section the cradle is built for? Look for Brian’s graduation from the pipsqueek division to his first Ntrak module in the future. I’ll keep you in suspense on the theme of that, but it’s more reality than fantasy.
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