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The Diablo Valley Lines: Scenery.

July 2, 2008

Like most older model railroad clubs, the scenery is the victim. I don’t mean this offensively, I mean this as a stated fact of club happenstance. Over the period of a 30 year old layout, there will only be a few people who are knowledgeable and talented enough to create excellent, realistic scenery, and all those who aren’t those people create scenes that over time, become eyesores. Unfortunately, due to the laziness, lack of support or time constraints of the scenic masters, the scenes stay there for much too long. The Magnificent scenes that they have created are sometimes overshadowed by the terrible eyesores that non-talented scenery people have created, and thus it effects the overall “feel” of a layout, and how the public perceives the club and it’s members. The public usually could care less about your completely accurate AC-12 Cab forward and 100 carefully built, weathered and accurately numbered PFE kits built from Sunshine resin kits, they want to see recognizable, naturally realistic, and accurately modeled scenery with inviting, spectacular, and sometimes humorous scenes. They want to see miniature people and vehicles telling a narrative that a layout running a CSX stacktrain and an entire brass replica of the original ATSF Chief on  the same mainline could never tell in context.

I want to reinforce this point is not directly pointed at DVL or its members, because nearly every model railroad club, with few notable exceptions.      

However the DVL is an excellent example of the best and the worst scenery present in club railroading.

The Best Scenery on the DVL.

…is really quite spectacular! Detailed rock work, amazing bridges, and interesting details that you have to look for add a lot of interest.  

Looking over the top of the ridge seen in the last photo, you can spot the crown jewel of the layout, the single-track cantilever bridge, which spans a great chasm with beauty and grace. It’s vaguely reminicent of MiniaturWunderland, the HO scale international masterpiece.

In a possible nod to John Allen’s Gorre& Daphetid, the resort/monastery atop the craggy outcropping has always bugged me. It seems so incongruous for an American model railroad to see something more likely to be in Nepal than North America.


 The Extreme detail of the rock work present below the Cantilever bridge was, according to the DVL website, rebuilt by a geologist! I really enjoyed checking out all the interesting, accurate rock work in this canyon, which is unfortunately mostly hidden from the normal viewer. Notice the drill-holes for the dynamite charges above the tunnel portal, VERY nice touch! The RED arrows point to what looks like a seasonal/dry waterfall, another interesting touch. I’m in the middle of a lake/reservoir from where the photograph was taken. Also note the type of the rock changes a few times before reaching the top.

What amazing depth this scene has! Spectacular bridges, and not to mention a great narrow gauge railway (to be featured in a future article) curving through the canyon, just like the D&RGW!


On the other side of the Canyon from where the last photo was taken, an almost Alpine valley is discovered. Tracks clinging to the extremely steep rockwork. In the distance is the terribly dated scenery.

The Worst Scenery on the DVL.

Ok….what the (Bleep) is THIS?! Laziness, that’s what. Perhaps it would have been smarter just to make it a double-sided backdrop instead of this extremely terrible scnery present, thankfully in the very back corner, but as you can see in the other photo above, it’s not hard to see, and it really sticks out like a sore thumb.

Please…for your own good, fix this scene, DVL members!

Woah, dude! Now presenting “That 70’s Scenery!”…or a virtual moonscape…yuck. Why haven’t they attended to this portion of the layout?  In addition to not having seen scenic care since the Carter Administration, it also comprises the backdrop for an awesome arch bridge, ruining the scene.

ARRGH. Ok, how cool would this scene be if:

1. the P-51 was attached with a couple of transparent fishing lines

2. If the Scenery was complete and the rest of the scene didn’t look absolutely horrendous.

3. If the bridge piers look like they could actually support the weight of that large arch bridge and the forces of an angled (not completely half-circle) arch design. Did I mention that 1000 ton trains roll over this? It doesn’t even look like it could hold itself up, let alone the weight of a 250 ton locomotive+10 cars.

In Conclusion:

DVL members, get off your duff and work on the scenery!!! It’s the most important element the the visiting public, and considering that scenery techniques have progressed amazingly in the last 20 years, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t update your layout’s best attribute. If you used modern scenery techniques like “Super Trees” “Silflor” and Woodland Scenics figures, the 500+ HO vehicles out on the market, and at least dusted off some of your scenes you could have an award-winning layout. The time is NOW and the choice is YOURS. Otherwise you’ll just become a dinosaur of a layout and leave people little cause or reason to visit again.

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