Now that the Three Finger Freddies structure is complete, I wanted to try my hands at an actual diorama. One that would incorporate some various landscaping elements, some spare rail, figurines, and even some used rolling stock. The idea behind this is to create a 3D scene, one that will continue to help me get practice when it comes to building my actual layout, and to also allow my creative wheels to spin and tell a story ala ‘Americana’ style.
So first things first. In my mind I wanted to create a scene that would feature Three Finger Freddies, but also have some depth to it and incorporate other model railroading elements. The background would contain some railroad cars on some track, roadbed, and talus. The foreground would contain an actual road, perhaps a parking lot with cars, some foliage and also trees. But it would be an active scene, showing miniature HO scale people buying fireworks and milling about leading up the Forth of July.
I went to a local hobby store and settled on buying a single sheet of 1″ thick styrofoam. 1/2″ seemed a bit flimsy, but I was very limited in the dimensions that we offered. Basically, everything was sold as rectangular sheets, in an aspect of ratio fo 2 x 1. So, I purchased a sheet of 24″ x 12″ sheet of styrofoam and brought it home and arranged the various elements in a manner in which I thought would work as shown in the following two pictures:
Pic 1: Layout idea.
Pic 2: Layout idea.
As you can see in the pictures I have the main structure at a slight angle with some HO scale track and cork roadbed an opposing angle to create some visual interest and asymmetry. As luck would have it the train shop I frequent was going to throw out all this old cork roadbed, and when I told the proprietor what I was doing, he gave me the roadbed for free. I purchased the individual pieces of track, and the rail stock ($4 each) you see. I really like the Baby Ruth car, as it already lends a certain vintage look to the diorama without me even having weathered it yet.
However, the 12″ width of this sheet of styrofoam appears to shallow for the scene. So I decided to cut off some of the excess length, and reattach it to the front giving me more of a square footprint. Using a pencil, I marked off the sheet at 16″,and using a razor blade and a straight edge, carefully cut off 8″. I will tell you now, that a razor blade is not ideal. If you have a hot wire cutter or hot knife, I highly recommend using it for this procedure. It can be done with a razor, but even making slow and multiple pass through cuts, it still leaves some rough edges and you must be very careful not to rush it as the styrofoam is delicate and leaves slightly rough edges. You can smooth the cut edges with an Emory board or sandpaper, but again, you must go slow and in one direction. Back and forth strokes, or speedy strokes will only make it crumble or damage further.
Using the excess strip of 8″ styrofoam I just cut off, I was able to remeasure and cut two new sections to attach up front with a glue gun (Pic 3, below).
Pic 3: Re-attaching excess styrofoam.
Notice that I had to do re-attach two (2) separate pieces, 1 longer and one almost square piece (the missing corner above), due to the shape constraints of the piece I originally cut off. I used a cheap hobby craft glue gun and all-purpose glue sticks to do this. I’d like to point out a few things here: 1) The glue gun should be set to ‘High’ heat when using all-purpose glue stick and also to wait a few minutes for the tip to heat up before you start pulling the trigger, allowing for the glue to get to the right melting temperature. 2) If you plan on using a glue gun for your layouts, invest in a good one. This cheap little model is good for small, bursty uses, but not for long-term or large projects. The glue sets faster than you’d think, the trigger is a bit tough to pull (i.e. not comfortable), and it goes through glue sticks pretty fast.
In the picture above, I have attached one piece already with glue and am weighting it down with an iron weight and a candle, waiting for the glue to set and cure. I did this again for the small corner piece as well. Once the glue was set, it still looked a tad flimsy to me, especially at the seams. I just wasn’t sure how strong this all was never having used glue sticks before, so I wanted to add one more layer of strength, in this case a foam-core base. So off to the store again where I bought a large sheet of 1/4″ foam board (You can find this at Target, Staples, Walmart, etc.) measured and cut out a square that I would then glue to the bottom of the styrofoam.
In my final picture (below), I went ahead and applied my plaster cloth strips as evenly as I could (bumpy side up) and formed a small berm with tissue paper at its core. The black silicon tray that you see is some rock castings from Woodland Scenics that I made with plaster I mixed myself and waiting for them to cure before I remove them.
Pic 4: Plaster cloth added.
So what you see is a slightly square foot print bases, covered in a single layer of plaster cloth and a small berm in the upper left corner in which I will attach my plaster rock castings. The track is shown to give a visual idea on how things are going to shape up. I hope that my next post will show the painted base, rock castings (also painted), cork roadbed and track both cut and secured.