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Cliffside- A model masterpiece set in 1943.

June 5, 2008

In the early 1980s, artist Jim Scancarelli built a bunch of dioramas that were inspired by the town of Cliffside, North Carolina. His beautiful craftsmanship and very realistic weathering really make for inspiring models.

NOTE: All photos are taken by Jim Scancarelli.

What We Can Learn from Jim’s Modeling

Jim has created a very definite era, the mid 1940’s, as a backdrop for his modeling. There are VERY strong ties to this period, with war propaganda posters and patriotic messages tucked away inside his city scenes. His subtle weathering on everything adds an ambiance to his layout and suggests that a lot of materials that would be used to repair vechicles, structures, and other things are in short supply because of war rationing.

He was VERY ahead of his time with specific details. Utilising what he could find, I’d imagine, he created all of these tiny details WITHOUT the help of a computer. Notice the ghosted signs on the walls of the buildings. He was very ahead of his time incorporating details such as miniature liscence plates and large building advertisements, which have become somewhat commomplace with the arrival of computer imagining software.

The Gentle delerliction of everything strongly suggests the depression is still evident in many communities, even as the economy booms with millions of war-related jobs pumping money into town economies. Note the fresh fruits and vegetables in HO scale!! Incredibe detail like this really makes this model stand out, yet fit in with the rest of the scene. Also notice the “black goose” packing crate label, and the pleasant mix of small and large signs to attract attention to this scene.


There is so much to soak up in this, and the following photographs, but PLEASE take time to look at all the subtle details that make up this scene. The Engine house is still in operation, and it’s employees are working hard to keep the railroad going with a shortage of parts, paint, and oil. The Scrapped steam locomotive is a sign of the times, as older 1880’s and 1890’s locomotives are cannibalized for parts or scrapped altogether. The small ads on the fence, those amazing pine trees, and the weathering everywhere really tie this scene together.


Looks like one of the workers is taking a boiler tube out of the steam locomotive, presumably it is good enough to use on the other locomotives, so it’s salvaged. Note the canvas curtains on the rear of the cab, an all too often forgotten detail that’s essential to adding realism to most steam locomotives. Also look at the old locomotive cast steel driver wheel, and the different shades of rust, fading, and grease on just that part alone.

The gritty look of this soot covered roundhouse is really eye catching. Although some of the rust is too orange for it’s own good, it looks natural. The electrical transformers on the power poles is a nice touch, as is the bracing on the interior of the engine house door. Other details like used wheelsets, the crane, and the cinder-covered earth unify this scene.

The battered 1940’s era truck reinforces the wartime narrative, lack of parts, not much gas, but still running! Soak in all the details in this scene while you’re at it. Look at the disassembled cylinders on the locomotive in the bttom left.

A wealth of roof details really add interest to this scene! Look at all those vents, water tanks, skylights, etc.

To see a LOT more photographs, please check out his site:


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