This was the result of me grumbling about the backgrounds in most of my photos. See, it was pretty common for me to take photos of finished or in progress models for sending to my friends via text message or email. (Ah, the wonders of modern technology. When advice can be sought in the moment or work shared instantly upon completion.) Most of the time I would take photos on either the mantel above the fireplace, or the dining room table if it was devoid of flat surface syndrome. This was because those locations had the best light. However the result was a beautiful model admits the realms of household debris.
This could be solved with the use of a photo booth. Or a sheet of paper held up behind the locomotive. Which was the immediate solution. However, the seeds where planted in my mind for something more substantial. Why by god, the best place to take a builders photo of a finished would be at a locomotive shop. Why not build a simple diorama that had the back wall of a shop building as a background. I had this small 27x27 cm plaque I had obtained from Hobby Lobby sometime back that was just perfect. One track, maybe two, and the brick wall of some backshop. What could go wrong?
Things escalated quickly.
So, the plaque was discarded for a frame of basswood atop a layer of two 2x1 foot chunks of polystyrene foam laminated together atop a screen. This made the diorama both super light, and super strong. I decided to focus on the entrance to an engine shed with two tracks running outside along a workshop. The engine shed would be modeled with the door open and short bit of track going inside. The inside would only be modeled for the first few feet. A black backdrop and the interior fading to shades of black would help to illustrate the illusion of a larger shop.
In front of the workshop is another large building. Also modeled in respective compression. I decided to model this building with a “Builders Photo” front. A wall that is painted white with the windows covered in canvas. This is so that locomotives can be photographed in front of it strait out of the shops. The white paint on the building helps the photographers retouch the photo and remove the building entirely. The space between the two buildings contains an access road.
The workshops were made from wall sections from the Revell “Superior Bakery” kit. One of many Revell kits made from the same basic structure. I had two of these kits for reasons unknown. (I believe I obtained them to make a steam era backshop for North Georgia Modu-rail. However, better options came our way) The brick walls with their awesome multitude of textures and arching windows were perfect for an 1880s-90s locomotive shop. I cut the wall segments to fit, and on one piece cut two of the archways out to make access doors.
The walls were painted brick red, and a wash of refer white and grimy black gone over them to highlight the textures and give a dirty appearance. The structures were assembled with card-stock backs painted black on the inside to both give the illusion of full interiors and help disguise how small the structures are. The inside of the engine shed and workshop got a wood plank floor with individual floorboards cut and glued to card-stock.
A third track was added to spot coal hoppers for the boiler house as well as help add more to the scene and provide another track to photograph. This track was set at a slight curve as if running to a switch just off the edge of the diorama to help break up the square lines. The track was secured with liquid nails for projects. All three tracks got a spray of flat black to hide the shine of plastic and weather the rails. Once the paint dried I went over the railheads with a bright-boy.
The walls of each structure were glued together using CA glue, and then attached to the base and sides with liquid nails for projects. Once the structures were in place, the initial covering of ground-foam went down. I tend to scenic in layers, with each layer of scenery getting a coat of glue and letting dry before the next layer is applied. This way I avoid having a large layer of scenery material to try and soak glue into and potentially have crack as it dries. Starting with the roadbed, each track got a layer of dirt and cinder, and the the whole diorama got a mix of cinder, dirt, brown ground foam, some real crushed coal, and a slight wash of brown paint to help tie the whole mess in. The smallest grade of everything was used.
The crossing was built up from three layers of yellow ground foam, dirt, and cinder in that order. As the final layer dried I took a wheelset with plastic wheels and dragged it across the surface to represent wagon tracks. As the road dried I did a was of brown paint and highlighted the ruts with strait paint.
The weeds and brush were added with the layers depending on how vibrant I wanted them to be. My rule of thumb is that more layers one puts atop the foam the more subtle and in the earth it becomes. In some cases as the layer dried I'll add a sprinkling of foam and press the foam into the earth with my finger. The key to this is patience and delicacy. I tend to add ballast and scenery material by finger-loads rather then just pour it out from a shaker. This helps to control the material and get it exactly where I want. My brush is from the Scenic Express value bag. I highly recommend this, as not only is it far cheaper then the plastic bottles, but you get more material. I'm still using a bag I bought back in 2013.
Since the inside of the workshop is slightly visible from the windows, I went ahead and did some subtle details. The back wall is black and the floorboards slowly turn into a black wash. This helps create a nice shadow effect and gives the illusion of a much bigger building. However, as some parts of the building would be visible, I created a wheel lathe and placed a few bits of machinery along the row of windows. The lathe was made from excess parts from the Revell kits, and the machinery were parts of Woodland Scenics sawmill kill and included rollers for band powered equipment and a circle saw.
The shed doors where made from paper glued to balsa wood. The image of the shed with created in Paint Tool Sia, and printed out and glued to balsa. The doors are glued in the open position.
As the bare wood wall was visible next to the locomotive shed, one single brick wall with two windows was cut to fit. This became the boiler house, complete with stack. The back of the windows were painted black to hide the wood frame of the diorama. The roofs were made from cardstock painted black. Masking tape was layered to represent tar paper roofing material. I may come back later with shingles and redo these roofs. However, for now this is perfect.
Well, this turned into a far more ambitious project then I planned. But the end result was spectacular. A light diorama that can be taken outside and posed in natural light for photography. There are a few things that I may add as time goes on. Such as figures and maybe a horse and cart.
As for the name? Well, I've been building custom locomotives for clients for a little while now. Mostly turn of the last century equipment. I've jokingly dubbed this service as “Dinkley Locomotive And Machine Works”, after a pun one of my close friends came up with in regards to both the small size of HO scale, and the Hinkley Locomotive Works. After a year of playing with it, “Dinkley” now has a physical form.
Aye Sir, the Dinkley Works are open for business.