Both the Longmont diorama and the Trestle diorama were meant to function as photo boxes for my rolling stock projects. Here is an example of my very first weathering attempt from five years ago. I’m currently working on a flat car and an outside braced single sheathed box car which I will post when done.
I finished the diorama this week and I’m happy with it. The initial plan for the project was for it to help me organize my new dedicated modeling room, figure out a good time to model during the day, and get back into things after a 2-3 year break. As such it was supposed to be just a small throwaway project using a cheap plastic kit and a not-very-original concept of a country depot. I did not want to scratchbuild or kitbash and used commercial products as much as possible. As these things do the project ballooned into something a little bigger to allow me to work on ideas and techniques that had been swirling around my head while I was away from modeling.
Continue reading “Longmont diorama finished!”
It’s been a while since I last posted but during that time I have been working on the diorama. I don’t have a lot to say about the construction other than I wanted to learn how to make a plastic structure look like worn wood. To do that I used chipping fluid over a coat of wood colored paint and then sprayed the surface with the final coat. Once dry I simply chipped away leaving a nice worn paint look. I gave the final effect a wash and dry-painted over areas where I felt there was too much wear.
Here are some pics:
I am now working detailing the building and surrounding area. I’ll post on that in a couple of weeks.
I’ve been working on the backdrop over the last few weeks. It’s not something I enjoy because I don’t like being on the computer once the work day is over. Nevertheless once I started I found I enjoyed the process more than expected. Though not perfect – there are a few errors here and there – the result was good enough to tick it off my list and move on.
I used Photoshop to extract all the elements I wanted and then used the various tools: clone, stretch, transform to create a scene that would stretch around the diorama.
I made several changes to the latest version:
- The color of the grass on the diorama did not match the color of the grass on the backdrop. I used Photoshop’s color balance tools to get them to match. I took a photo of the grass on the diorama, turned it into a layer and laid it on top of the grass in the photo. I then adjusted the green color by fading it and adding more yellow till the line separating the two colors faded away.
- I also moved the mill so that it was no longer hidden behind the depot building.
- I raised the road and added a fence fading into the distance that matches the HO scale estate fence that is going to be installed.
- I added a clear blue sky.
Here is the before and after picture:
Before sending this to the printer I printed out a black and white version on my home printer to make sure that things were lining up.
It took a few attempts to get the road lined up properly but I only needed to print a section with the road in different positions it was finally in the correct place (or so I thought, see below).
To create the fence that fades into the background I green screened the HO version of the fence and then extracted it placed it on the image.
I then printed out a color version on my printer, stuck the sections together and placed it the diorama to see how things were looking. The colors are not accurate because of the limitations of my printer and the final printed version ended up looking a lot better.
Anyhow at some point I was satisfied so I sent the final image to the printers and a week later a couple of prints arrived.
I used spray glue to fix it to the back and sides of the diorama and made sure to line up the roadway correctly.
I then glued the diorama base and the backdrop together and filled in the edges around the sides.
The final result:
Some close ups:
I’ve started adding small details here and there.
And finally the point at which I am at:
So still lots to do:
- New depot building
- Cross bucks
- Team track platform – I’m scratch-building this.
- Telegraph poles and wires
- Whatever else I can think of to bring the scene to life
Once again been super busy with life but have kept on with the diorama in my spare time. As mentioned before progress has been slow but steady. Besides modeling the diorama I continue to experiment with different techniques and materials, and continue to organize the modeling room. I have also started the planning of my new layout which I intend to commence building early next year.
Here is the latest:
It took a little while to decide what to put into the little area alongside the rear path behind the depot. I thought about modeling a garden or some maintenance buildings, but in the end decided upon a corn field. This would hide the backdrop join and blend the diorama with the feed mill in the background.
I’m happy with the corn field area for the time being. Plenty more to do but good enough to keep moving and come back to it at a later date. The diorama is looking a little grey and messy right now but that is about to change. I’m going to start cleaning things up and will add vegetation that will make the overall diorama look brighter and more colorful.
It took three attempts to get the center grass tufts just right. My original modeling rules had stated to not experiment on the model itself but unfortunately I broke by not having a method worked out before attempting it on the model. By breaking that rule paid the price as each time I failed to produce something I was happy with I had to remove the crossing gravel base, remake the paste and wait three days for it to dry before starting the tufts again. As such the crossing area and the grass tufts took nearly four weeks to complete to my satisfaction. I would even go as far as saying that they are still not quite right – they seem a little overscale – but at some point you just have to move on and take your learnings on to the next model.
The goal with the tufts was to model them in a much more realistic way than you generally see. Most model grass tufts splay outwards as result of the electric charge that pushes the strands away from each other. In some circumstances that is realistic and has a place on a model. However I like grass that points straight up, that is sculptured and groomed, and I like grass that has a defined shape and a prototypical height. The method I devised gave me complete control over the creation of tufts and minimized leaving the shape to chance. In the end the method to create tufts ended up being quite simple and I will post the method with photos another time.
Here are some pics:
Landscaping materials and vegetation
One of the reasons to build the diorama was to help me organize my tools and materials in the new model train room. I was about to start working closely on the vegetation and took the opportunity to reorganize all my landscaping, vegetation and terrain materials. Previously they were stored either in the original packaging or in supermarket-purchased plastic containers. I looked online for a better method of storing these materials and discovered bamboo-lid storage jars. here is one supplier I purchased them from: https://www.hobbylobby.com/Crafts-Hobbies/Glass-Crafting/Glass-Containers/Glass-Jar-With-Bamboo-Lid—24-Ounce/p/80846497
They can be bought in bulk and in different sizes. I worked through the packets and containers and kept purchasing jars until I had all my materials ‘decantered’. You can buy the jars for an average of $4-$5 a jar so not super-cheap but not too expensive either. They also look great and make accessing materials easier.
What I really like about these jars is that it is so easy to view the contents. I don’t have to open them to observe the type of material, the color and the texture. I can see at a glance what it is and whether it is appropriate for the task at hand.
I decided to re-ballast the main line as I found the look of it too messy. I felt that either the ties or the ballast needed to be a consistent color. I removed the rails and used a nice clean ballast from Arizona Rock and Mineral. This layer is just a base onto which I will be lightly staining using my spray gun, rusting the rails and adding some invasive vegetation. So far I think it looks much better.
Flowers and Plants.
Here is a quick peek of current work: flowers and vegetation. I’m not finished but it looks pretty good so far and I wanted to share progress. I had to come up with a method to control the placement of plants and I spent several days just figuring that out. I’ll do a full post on plants in a couple of weeks.
Time flys when you are having fun. I can’t believe my last post was quite so long ago. I’ve been hacking away at the diorama most days early in the morning. Even though I’m working at it each day, I’m working in such fine detail that several days can go by while I put together even smallish scenes. The time is spent mostly waiting for paint and glue to dry and thinking things through and planning during the day. The process is something like:
1. Set up in the morning – gluing, painting etc
2. Check work in the afternoon, clean up and then photograph the work so far.
3. Think things through in the evening, look over the photos of the work and have a plan of action for the work in the morning.
I applied this process to the parking and delivery area:
Road and crossing
Using a similar process as above – glue in mornings, tidy up in afternoon, ponder in evening I turned back to the road and crossing. Generally I’m not happy with the crossing – even after trying to improve its look: I didn’t like the surface, the edges are sloppy, and there are gaps here and there due to poor modeling. I’ll do a round a of tidying up and tweaking later but for now I decided to salvage what I could.
Grass cutting tools
Some of the issues I have with static grass are that you don’t have fine control over the density, shape and height of the post-glue result. Mixing in different lengths and colors will only get you so far. On the Trestle diorama I found the grass to be too tall and messy and made a mental note to find a way to cut and shape grass. At the time I called it ‘giving the grass a haircut’. That was the clue to finding adequate tools to help me control the use of static grass. The tools I settled on were:
1. Eyebrow scissors: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08ZDM4L9Z/
2. Mini hair clippers: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001S4GMV8
3. Nose hair clippers: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003S4XC2I
Using these tools was able to shape static grass in any way I wanted. The electric tools were especially useful as I they were easily able to cut single hairs down – grass that was sticking out sideways for example. I was able to cut grass down to below 2mm (as can be seen on the parting area)
I wanted to bring out more texture in the road and decided it was time to add a layer of gravel. It took a couple of attempts. The problem is that my collection of white stones is translucent and this caused an unrealistic glowing effect when I ground the stones down. I eventually found a stone that was flat matte white and that produced a very nice effect on the road once glued down.
I’ve been plugging away at the diorama and have made some progress. Although progress has been slow it has also been steady. For me landscaping is done in layers over time. For example I installed the crossing and although it looked rough it will do while I work on other areas. Then I’ll come back to the crossing and tidy it up and then move to work on other areas and so on and so on. Sometimes it’s not clear how a feature should look until other areas start coming together so I don’t like to consider any area ‘finished’ until the end.
Here’s where I’m at:
I painted the platform edges – made from basswood and meant to represent repurposed ties – in grey paint and then ran my chalky finger over the grain to give it a weathered look. I think it came out great and represents the weather-beaten look of old worn wood. While I’m pleased with the cracks in the asphalt so far, at a later date I will add some potholes, grass and I will darken the cracks to emphasize them more.
I tidied up the crossing a little and it is starting to look much better. I’m intending to clean up the surface as it still looks messy. I’ll be adding more details at a later date such as grass edges and different shades of dirt and dust.
There are small ditches either side of the entranceway. I like to use a mix of natural materials for these little vignettes. I have store of different grades of rocks and sand and any grades I’m missing I grind up in my pestle and mortar. I’m still not brave enough to use paint to enhance the colors but moving forward I’ll build a few test vignettes and see how best to combine natural materials and paint to create an attractive scene.
I had some Micro Mark embossed brick paper laying around and decided to use it for the surface of the path at the rear of the depot. This has been the only risky feature I have built so far as I had no idea how it was going to turn out. I built a few tests to practice laying the brick paper down as well as test weathering. The result is ok for the moment and I will come back to it at a later date.
It’s been a while since I last posted as I was away visiting Eastern California. I went with a pal of mine to explore the southern end of the Carson and Colorado Railroad that shut back in 1960. We visited Keeler, Lone Pine, and Laws. It’s nice to see that so much remains to be seen especially at Keeler which retains the original depot building, the talc plant and some of the track layout near the original locomotive service area.
I first got into 3D printing a few years ago. At that time I used Sketchup to design railroad features that I wanted to add to my last layout. However instead of printing at home I sent the designs away to Shapeways who printed up the design and sent me back the result a couple of weeks later. Since then printers have dropped in price and are now able to produce very high quality work for a very reasonable initial outlay/cost. It seems to have become a huge part of the hobby in the last few years and the time seemed right to finally invest in one myself. I watched a few YouTube videos on how to choose a printer and which printer would best suit my needs and then settled on the Elegoo Neptune 2. It cost around $200 from Amazon and arrived disassembled a few days later.
I’ve been busy with the diorama so I have not had a chance to use the 3D printer for a few weeks but as I start adding details to the diorama I am hoping to start making them by printing them: details such as crossing bucks, telegraph poles, fences, benches etc. I have decided to use Fusion 360 as my design tool and still have to get up to speed with the software. Also, there are various websites online that allow you to download drawings and plans by other modelers – sometimes free and sometimes for a price – which is a huge timesaver if you need something quickly.
1. Grade Crossing
2. Drive and parking area
The track laying is mostly done. I’m 70% happy with it. I find that even though natural materials scale very well they tend to be a bit flat and boring. The way to spruce things up would be to use paint or details with color but I’m very reluctant to start messing with the current state of things. I can probably add some color – rusty rails, rust stain across the ties, as well as some details such as trash and leaves around the ties and the edges. I will do this at a later date.
Here are some of the steps:
I decided to use the British Brook-Smith method of laying rails. The method was described by Iain Rice in one of his 1980s books on hand laying track. The method involves gluing rivets into the ties onto which the rail is soldered. I had to adapt it to American standards and I would say I only had partial success: it was slow, messy, damaged ties, and it was difficult to keep the rail in a straight line etc. Nevertheless I will continue to use the Brook Smith method and intend to create a bunch of tools to help speed up the track laying process.
Finished (kind of)
I still have to add details such as rail joiners across the gaps. A glaring omission is the tie plates – something I will add when building the next layout. Also the rail sits a little high above the ties in places. I intend to build various jigs to make the track laying faster and more accurate – this was just a test run of the Brook-Smith method. I’ll add more color via leaves, rust and more vibrant ground cover. I want to see how the diorama develops before adding too much new color.
I’m a huge fan of track, trackbeds, track profiles etc. I spent the last few years amassing a huge collection of track pictures (20000+) located here: https://railroad-industrial-bayarea.blogspot.com/?view=sidebar. I don’t really have much interest in modern locomotives or modern railroading – I’m more of late steam, first-generation diesel guy – and generally spend my time browsing Morning Sun books for inspiration. I photo, video and sketch track and for me modeling good trackwork is one of the most important parts of the hobby. For a long time I thought I was the only one on the planet who cared about modeling good looking track but then I discovered Facebooks groups with hundreds of like-minded souls with the same love of track and all attempting to reproduce in model form the wide variety of colors, textures, materials, landscaping, profiles, weathering and technical characteristics of trackwork. I’ve been hugely inspired by the work on these Facebook groups and would like to produce something that matches the quality of the modeling. So with that in mind I spent the last two weeks working on the roadbed of the diorama trackwork trying to figure out how to produce something credible.
I decided to start with a test to figure out some methods, effects, what works, what doesn’t work. I have various test beds for track and was able to use them to try out various ideas and to provide a modeling road map and modeling destination when I eventually start building the trackbed.
I decide to take what I had learned from the quick tests (done over several days) and apply them to a final test.
I will post on the final diorama version in a few of days. I’ve almost completed it and it’s worth writing up a full post on that build alone.