So with the space planning out the way I turned back to the backdrop this week. I did some explorations with Photoshop to re-familiarize myself with some of the functions and filters. I’m still deciding which way to and I have several options:

  1. Grab images from Google (pay for them if necessary) and create a montage.
  2. Take my own pictures out in the countryside with northern California having to stand-in for the Indiana countryside.
  3. Use a some kind of Photoshop filter to convert the final image into a painting-like backdrop

Here’s what I grabbed from the internet:

I searched for ‘Indiana countryside’ in Google and found these images. I played around with them in Photoshop to see if they would work for the diorama. I especially like the bottom image. I would have to work on the road and reposition it to meet the roadway on the diorama. It can be done but it may take a few attempts.


As a web developer I have some Photoshop skills and know how to cut, crop, duplicate and add filters (plus a whole lot more). I did a quick treatment just to see if this direction was an option. I duplicated the tree, and created three more; I cut out the road and moved it around; I added a paint filter. I really like how this has turned out so far and may continue on this path. It takes hours to do this properly so it’s best if you just do a quick test to see if you really want to invest the time.


On the other hand Sonoma County (70 miles north of San Francisco) may have to stand in for Indiana countryside. Near the town of Healdsburg is some very attractive countryside with the added benefit of being fairly green compared to the dry landscape found in other parts of California. I can get up there in an hour and a bit, hop on my bike, and take all the pictures I need. I can also add the oil painting filter to blend in several scenes if necessary.

Anyhow with that preliminary exploration of Photoshop I decided to get started on the backdrop structure. Things had to wait until the weekend as I needed to reorganize my drum room. I needed to clear the space – remove one of my drum kits – and bring up my power tools. The adjoining room to the train room is going to house the power tools. I’m waiting for furniture to arrive to place the tools upon.

Drumming: one of the reasons it took me so long to get back to railroad modeling. In order to keep good neighborly relations I had to have a sound proof drum booth built. Now I can practice in the middle of the night and no one can hear a thing! My neighbors are very happy. The area in front of the booth is going to house my power tools. A table is arriving this week for my mitre saw and drill.


With access to my power tools I’m building the backdrop frame. These are the sides and I’ll work on the rear this week. Once that is done and built I’ll turn back to the imagery for the backdrop.

Road Tests

The road tests are going ok. My first attempt produced something to practice with. I’ll be ready in a couple of days to produce another road surface. My jig was not sturdy enough for a repeat test so before I can do anything I need to make a better reusable one.

I’ll post the complete steps once I have figured it all out and produced something that I’m happy with but for the moment I’m essentially creating a flowing mix out of various ingredients and pouring it into the jig. It needs to be able to flow around and fill the space.


After a couple of days the mix has settled and dried. I added little pulls to pull up the road base but unfortunately the jig itself warped and distorted – I’m going to build one of out wood this week.


You can bend the whole surface to create cracks. When the surface settles back flat many of the cracks remain and look like authentic cracks found in asphalt. The cracks still need to be worked on by rubbing them, scraping the edges, and pulling the underlying card apart. I’m going to use a Swedish dish cloth as the base as I want to be able to pull the road surface and have it NOT settle back exactly as before, so preserving the crack profile better. I’ll have more on that next week.


Not perfect yet but definitely heading in the right direction. I’m going to experiment with different bases (not just a card base), darker colors (by adding more black to the mix), patches, crackle paint and other things to make it look more authentic. I’ll post progress next week.


During my time away from modeling I took up railroad photography. Most of the pictures are just to document the scene but every now and then I took one that I thought would look nice on the wall. Here are a couple of pics that arrived this week. The library is located here

I have a library of 20,000 images of active, inactive and abandoned railroad track mostly around the Bay Area. Some pictures are nice enough to frame..