Photo Diorama you can make

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CIOR

Central Indiana & Ohio RR
This has been a long in the tooth project, but I finally have it finished and thus can bring to you the first in the series of pictures for it.

It was made for a friend that does custom weather, sorta a thanks for all he has done on my layout.

I know most people like to show off their work and figured that a quick how to on building a diorama would work well. This is the original reason the "Builds" forum got it start.
So continued below are the sequence of building a photo diorama....

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Project basics:
total size is 3 feet by 1 feet wide, by thickness of 2-1/2 inch thick.
Blue foam for the base
regular cork for the track base
Micro Engineering Code 83 flex track
BLMA signal bungalow
LocTite PowerGrab adhesive
Campbell Wood ties
Rix lineside railroad poles
JL Innovations Whistle posts
Woodland Scenic ground foam (Green mix)
Highball dirt
(also dirt from my yard, dried for 1 year and baked)

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Lets get started in building the diorama.

First, get a couple pieces of foam for the support/base. I used a 2" and 1/2" pieces, using the 2" for the base and the 1/2" as the form piece.
Mark your track center line and measure the width of the cork, drawing these on the cork first will help you understand the location you can and can't cut away.


Draw out the land profile cuts, making sure to stay far enough way from the track edge lines to make it look real when you are done.
Cut the foam and make sure you cut cleanly!


Once the cut is made, you need to now glue the pieces of foam together. I mark the edge on the top piece and then put the glue on the bottom piece. I used LocTite's Power Grab and I suggest it over anything else. Its bond is almost instant and everyone that I have suggest it to that has used it, loves it. Buy it at Lowes, HomeDepot those type places.

Once the glue has dried (I waited a full day) I used a surform to shape the foam into the profile that I wanted. Its messy, takes a little time, but it is worth the slow progress.

and


Next we lay down the cork, this is a quick thing to do, and no pictures needed. I use the Power Grab to put it down with and once it was dry, I use the surform to clean the edges left on the cork. Once I was satisfied with everything in the contours, I broke out the container with joint compound in it. Using various tools, I applied a thin coat of compound onto the entire diorama. Take your time and get everything coated. You will still see some blue foam under the initial layer and possibly the next layer or two beyond. DON'T OVER APPLY THE COMPOUND!!!!!! A drywaller told me this once and it is true.... Thin coats!


After each coat you will want to sand. I bought a pack of sanding screens at Lowes back when we built the basement and still have several left over. They work much better than sandpaper!
Once you have the final coat, sand yet again. I applied 4 full coats and then sanded after each, this gives a nice smooth realistic profile to the landscape!
When you decide that you have it right, go get some green and brown spray paint. Here is when you decide what gets green and what is brown. Anything with thick grass gets green, anything with dirt or track or road gets brown! Paint and overlap the layers/coats of paint.


While waiting for the paint to dry, we will move forward and do some detail work. I like the Rix line poles, and think with a little work they look GOOD. So off we go.

Taking them out of the box, you need to decide if you like the taller poles or if you like the shorter look, most usually being what your prototype used at that location. I had no location picked, nor railroad, but I figured GENERIC RURAL MIDWEST.....

I clean the poles off, then seperate the line arms next. I paint them in rail brown and use a piece of paper towel to pull off bits of the wet paint to make it look right. This is trial and error, you will have to just try and see on your own. Once the paint is dry, I then use Tenax glue to glue the arms to the poles. Once dry, I then paint the insulators a green color, some blue and some white, depending on the railroad to be appropriate.


Next I move to the whistle posts, this being a modern looking diorama for the most part, I used JL Innovations whistle posts and used Tester dark gray to paint the posts and backs of the sign. I've tried using aluminum paint on the back of the sign, but it looked bad.


Back to the diorama itself, time to lay some track. I mad the diorama 3 feet long for a reason, this being one of them. The track is 3 feet long. I had a few pieces of Micro Engineering Flex track left over and used a piece here. I used Code 83 for this one since it was a mainline. My next will be a branchline and use either 55 or 70 code track.
I use a thin bead of Loctite power grab to put the track down, I simply use a scrap of cork to smooth it thin, and then install the track and make sure its straight.....


Next we add DETAILS to the diorama.

I decided that there was a low spot in the farmers field, not really a creek, but just a dry drain. The railroad raised itself, and had a relay box at this location and had to build itself up to hold the box. Often the railroads used what they had the most of and in this case it was TIES!
The railroad would use scraps of rail to hold it all back by driving the rail into the earth. I took and cut sections of Code 70 rail into 30' scale length and painted them a mix of rail brown and rust. Once dry I wetted a rag with some black/rust mix and pulled it down the rail, sorta a dry brush to highlight the rail in place.
Next I set the bottom course of ties in place and glued with kids white glue. The following day I came in and drove the rail in place and set in with more white glue. I find white glue and foam work well... Don't try using CA and FOAM... I also set a row of ties in place on the flat spot, sometimes the railroad did this to keep the ballast from getting washed off the side of the raised area.


It took a total of 3 days to finish the wall, as I used white glue and could only stack 3 rows of ties at a time. Just take your time, this step is WELL WORTH YOUR EFFORT. Make sure you stagger the joints in the stacks, this will add strength and also add some dead men (ties set into the hill that hold it) You can't see these in the model, but its there. Once you get the tie wall finished, you can then carefully cut the rail to height, then you will need to do a quick touch up job on the top of the rail.


A quick over view to see how it all lays out....


Here are the finishing touches..... Including the models (sorry, these are train models!) LOL











 

sparkyftw

Member
Good looking diorama.

I should make one, but I have been really busy lately. Also I can't afford basic modeling supplies like ground cover and paints. Oh the joys of a poor college student.
 

IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
What, no bikini models? Awww man....! :D :D :D

Seriously, nice work! I'm long overdue to make one of those myself, nothing beats natural sunlight for great photographs.
 

sparkyftw

Member
After looking at this again, I remembered having some foam sitting in the garage that would be just about perfect for this. So I may have a diorama in my future.

What is the best way of getting the "grass" to stay down on the foam after painting?
 

Railphotog

Railroad Photographer
Pretty neat with the mini scenes built into the diorama. The only suggestion I'd have is to vary the color/texture of the grassy areas - its much too uniform, almost looks like what one would find on a golf course! In nature open areas like this would be covered with all kinds of foliage of differing colors, coarsness and heights. Bushes, small trees, bare areas where people and/or animals travel, etc.

I made a somewhat similar photo diorama several years ago using a Styrofoam base, mine's 6 feet long. Just a raised track bed and some lower scenicked areas without any scenes like yours. I made mine for mostly taking photos of models outdoors with real scenery in the background. I bring along a folding Black & Decker workbench to mount the diorama on for the photos. Never really used it all that much though, had a hard time finding suitable real scenery areas the few times I did have it out.
 

CIOR

Central Indiana & Ohio RR
I have a pretty simple process for making the grass stick after I paint.

Once the paint was dry, I take straight white glue, apply pretty thick, and use a paper towel to spread it around, then a spray on some "wet water" (alcohol/water mix) and it helps finish spreading the glue about. I then use a kitchen sifter and spread the grass using it, all over the glue area.

Once that has set for 24 hours, I lightly spread more grass to fill in any spots that are light and give the entire area a coat of ground foam. Then wet with "wet water" and I then use Matte Medium and using a pipette I apply it over the grass area lightly. I let it dry another day and then wet the grass really well and apply more matte medium. The grass in a days time is down hard and won't come up.
 

CIOR

Central Indiana & Ohio RR
Pretty neat with the mini scenes built into the diorama. The only suggestion I'd have is to vary the color/texture of the grassy areas - its much too uniform, almost looks like what one would find on a golf course! In nature open areas like this would be covered with all kinds of foliage of differing colors, coarsness and heights. Bushes, small trees, bare areas where people and/or animals travel, etc.
Yes, I know. But for what they want and need, this is what they got.
Generally I would used a textured grass (as i did on my layout) that would add to this looking even more realistic. I was in a hurry to finish it (as I started tearing down my layout and had to pack up the materials) so it was a quicky project to finish.

One thing you have to remember and most don't is the fact this is a diorama that will be handled a lot and take abuse. Textured grasses and other details like that will easily be matted down and look HORRIBLE very quickly. No real need for that here. It is just a quick diorama for someone that does custom weathering. He can quickly pull it out, stick in the line poles, whistle post and CTC box and start taking pictures in 30 seconds!
 

nmaniac

Member
Good looking diorama.

I should make one, but I have been really busy lately. Also I can't afford basic modeling supplies like ground cover and paints. Oh the joys of a poor college student.
Hey there Sparky I'm sitting on a bunch of stuff if you want it it's yours for the asking I'll even cover you on shipping just got me an e-mail :D

Larry
 

rustam

Member
About! Good work! I still should make it... Now I collect a material: cars, stations...
Thanks for a photo!!!
 

zoegraf

Craftsman at heart
After taking a another look at your amazing diorama, I wish I had cut my pieces larger that I'm going to use for dioramas. They are 1ft X 2ft.

Again, nice work.

Cheers
 




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