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Part 2: Building a Photo Diorama for Your Model Trains

January 10, 2010

Building A Photo Diorama for your Model Trains
Okay, so here’s the first part of building a photo diorama for my rolling stock.

The Modeled Locale

I wanted to model something out of the ordinary but still generic enough as not to steal the scene from my weathered rolling stock. I’ve always been fascinated by the salt ponds in the southern part of San Francisco Bay, mostly owned by Cargill. These salt ponds used to produce millions of tons of salt each year for food products. With exposure to different atmospheric conditions, brine shrimp populations, and sunlight, they can turn the really shallow water some spectacularly surreal colors. The most common is a bright rust orange, but you can find them in lime green, orchre yellow, dark teal green, and normal water colors. For my diorama I chose a portion of Southern Pacific’s Coast line between Alviso and Drawbridge, Calif. This stretch has the mainline run on an elevated embankment with mashes and salt ponds running immediately on either side of the embankment.

The Concept for the Diorama

The elevated mainline will provide the advantage of a number of interesting below-rail level photographs as well as allowing me to position the camera in a wider variety of interesting angles from 10 feet below the rails to directly above the rolling stock without any obstruction. Without any trees and only low weeds and scrub brush, it’s a realistic area devoid of tall vegetation.

I had a 12″ diameter circle of plywood left over from making a hole for an old Walther’s turntable, and decided to use that as an ultra-portable base for this modestly sized diorama. I can fit most locomotives and virtually any piece of rolling stock onto the small diorama, and the best part is that I can carry it extremely easily to a location to shoot photos.

The List of Materials

  1. Piece of 1/2″ plywood, any shape, but in a portable size
  2. 2″ woodland scenics risers for the mainline
  3. Bag of sculptamold
  4. Plaster Gauze/Cloth
  5. Water and tray for Plaster cloth
  6. Mixing bowl and small spatula for the Sculptamold
  7. Brown Paint to mix into the Sculptamold
  8. Piece of nicely detailed track, with low profile rail (like code 70 in HO or code 40 in N scale)
  9. Cork Roadbed
  10. Track Nails
  11. Carpenter’s Glue
  12. Arizona Rock & Mineral Co.  Ballast (I used “SP gray mix”)
  13. Silflor grass tufts (or you can use static grass)
  14. Hydrocal
  15. Bamboo Skewers (for wooden pilings)
  16. Woodland Scenics “Realistic Water” or better yet, Glossy Acrylic Glazing Liquid
  17. Roof or Rail Brown Floquil paint.
  18. Hot Glue Gun and Glue

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