Testing is going to be an important part of modeling for me moving forward. I don’t want to experiment on the final model or layout and would rather have a method figured out and practiced before applying it. In the past my impatience to see the final result tripped me up again and again. A method would be tried and I hoped that I got it right the first time. However that usually was not the case and I found that I would have to backtrack and start over. Sometimes after days of preparation the result would have to be scrapped leaving a messy stage on which to build the next attempt.

Most tests are simply preliminary stages of a build. I will practice making roads and then build a road. The tests simply help me work out the method. Other tests are standalone and not related to any particular build and would include trying new products, tools, and methods. I would write the steps or results down and store them with the test to refer to then in the future thus saving time down the road when I came to actually apply the test to the layout.

A typical test not related to any particular build. In this case I’m testing the three ranges of grey marker offered by Winsor and Newton. The markers are actually no longer being produced which is shame because they stain wood beautifully. I’m still in the process of collecting the remaining shades of grey. Also I purchased a label maker to make keeping notes a much more organized and easier task. I used it to print out the labels on the side. This card will be used for reference moving forward.


This is another product test. In this case Vallejo Crackle Medium. I’m working out steps and variations. I’m hoping to use it on the diorama in some capacity. I have a few more steps to go before this test is complete. Once again I will print out the steps using my label printer and store the results on a reference card.


This is a method test. These are the results of the first round of roadbed tests I built a few weeks ago. I’m about to start over in a much more organized way, keeping notes on materials, ingredients, steps, and particular methods employed. They will eventually be stuck onto a reference board/card and at some point a final version/test will be used on the diorama.


Tests need space and the more space I have the more tests I can run simultaneously. Here are the three main tests for this week. I’m working out the next set of tests right now.



Loving my new workspace. It’s really nice to have tools and materials at arms length. I still move around the whole room quite a bit while modeling and one of the nice side effects is that I’m losing weight because I’m so much more active. The other day my wife mentioned that my face looked thinner!!

The space around me is mainly for what you can see – paint, mainly Vallejo, and I’m buying at least 10 Vallejo Air paints each month till I have the full set. After that I will start collecting their Model range.

Other shelves have glues, decal liquids, thinners, undercoats, markers and paint brushes. I have also bought a small tool holder for those most often used tools such as knives, tweezers and rulers.

I’m really enjoying watching this space come together.

New rules

While working on the diorama I cast my mind back to modeling a few years ago and tried to remember some of the mistakes I made.

I remember building and coloring and weathering on the main layout without having any idea of what I was doing. Success was not guaranteed and the main takeaway was that if I did not like the result then it became a huge job to rewind and start over. Unlike my current job where to erase and start again is a couple of clicks on the keyboard, starting over on the layout was a very involved and time consuming step. As such I decided this time round to work to some basic rules. These will evolve over time but they are currently along the lines of:

  1. Never experiment on the main layout.
  2. Have a method worked out, written up and practiced before attempting to apply it to the layout itself – know the result in advance.
  3. Try to build, color, weather etc away from the layout and deliver the results to the layout for final placement and gluing once satisfied.
  4. Do as much testing as possible, keep a note of steps, keep samples with notes, create variations with notes.
  5. Let the model /layout be the result of studying and copying the prototype and not a result of the method employed.
  6. Plan, go away, think, come back, move elements around, read, take pictures, go away again, come back again and so on.
  7. Never start until all the elements on the layout have been planned out.

I imagine any experienced modeler has long been following a variation of these steps but I needed to write them out, print them out and set them up as a set of rules that I need to stick to. I’m sure there are other rules and I’m sure these current ones will need amending but they will do for now.

So with that said I decided to start over on the diorama.

At this early stage it was easy enough to remove all the elements and get a clean stage to work on

Decided to plan things out again starting with a piece of paper onto which I could draw elements. I also decided to create elements such as roads, the parking area etc in card so that I could move them around. I also decided to create mockups of buildings if needed – just the depot building really (although I already have it built so probably not needed).

I used the NRMA track clearances gauge to measure spaces etc but really at this stage I could have just eyeballed it using a couple of freight cars.

Once the pencil lines were fixed I inked over them. Even this is probably unwise as those lines are permanent and I still may have to move the track around. In fact now thinking about it I should just cut a couple of pieces of card for the track as I did for the road so that I can continue to fiddle with the layout.

Starting with the depot building I began to figure out where the elements were to placed, the spacing between them, ground levels and other details.

I cut some old card to create the road and parking area. This allowed me to get the horizontal spacing between elements just right i.e. not too much space and not too little. This week I’ll be working on the vertical spacing.

One scenic element I found in my reference books is the raised platform for the depot as seen in these pictures – that is definitely a feature I want to model


An important feature that needs early planning is the backdrop. As mentioned previously the backdrop plays a crucial role in filling in the story of the depot – where it is located, the surrounding countryside, the season etc.

I wanted to spend some time planning the backdrop so that it fit the diorama perfectly. As my painting skills are rudimentary at best I decided to create a collage of elements taken from photos. I will then put them together in Photoshop to create a long photo poster that will be stuck to a cardboard backdrop similar to how I made the Trestle backdrop.

Before making anything on the backdrop I needed to mock up the surrounding structure and add a paper front which replicates the eventual card that will replace it. I will be adding moveable elements to it to help me create the overall scene and help me position elements such as trees, countryside and buildings behind the model foreground.

Using scrap card I built basic mockups of trees and buildings. These will be replaced by photos and then will be added to an overall scene in Photoshop. This is just a start and may go through several iterations before I settle on a scene I am happy with.

I continued to cross-check the background with the foreground elements. I’m happy with the result so far. Still have to do the sides and the faraway horizon.

That’s where I’m at so for and look forward to this week’s work. I’ll continue developing the backdrop while working on the vertical planning such as the platform.


50% of my modeling time is spent testing. I’m currently testing crackle medium from Vallejo and Winsor & Newton and Copic markers. I’ll post on these another time.

One of the nice things about the new modeling space is the various surfaces I have to leave stuff on. In this case the workbench is hosting various tests.

I finally got a computer station set up in my modeling space. I can do all my modeling computer work from here now. My next major purchase (next year) will be a 3D printer which will be run from here. I’ll be moving the computer station to behind my main modeling spot. This is just temporary.

Thanks all. More next week.