I began the scenery by the application of vegetation. This is where we must dip into our wallets and purchase some of the infamous Woodland Scenics ground foam. In my modeling arsenal, I have quite a bit of this leftover from building a layout with a friend once upon a time. I started with the finest ground foam first, a lighter olive drab color with a powdery texture that would represent a grass effect. I sprinkled this particular foam in various areas along the entire length of the diorama embankment. Once satisfied with this, I graduated to the next larger sized ground material and dispensed it liberally along the embankment. After this foam was carefully placed, I needed to make sure it was permanent on the diorama. For this, I used a spray bottle filled with tap water and a drop or two of liquid dish soap to create "wet water". Wet water breaks the surface tension and allows the water and white glue to penetrate the previously laid scenic materials. I mixed a 50/50 concoction of white glue and tap water to create a milky white slurry that would be used to hold everything in place. This ‘elixir’ is the entire wholesale catalyst for doing these kind of projects. The ‘magic serum’ if you will.
After spraying a healthy amount of wet water onto the entire scene, I took an eye dropper and dispensed the white glue/ water mix and saturated everything. When completely covered and soaked with the mix but before it dried completely, I cut small hairs from a few inexpensive blonde paint brushes I had bought at a hardware store. I stuck the cut off ends as clumps of dry grass into the wet scenery. Once this was done, it was time for another week to let everything dry. Once this mixture has absorbed the scenery, it solidifies like concrete.
Moving right along,... I decided that it was time to lay the roadbed and tracks into place. I felt no need for the roadbed to serve any functional purpose as this was just inoperable scenery on a diorama. So Instead of using the typical cork roadbed, I opted to use the black foam posterboard as previously mentioned in this article.
I measured the foam board just wider than the track ties to allow for the area of the ballast slopes that will be applied later. After the board had been cut to satisfaction, I glued it within the guide lines that I had drawn on the base in the beginning of this job. I used a more powerful clear bonding glue for the foam board roadbed. After this had dried, I had to make a drastic decision as to what to do next. This included whether or not to cement the overpass now or wait until the tracks were glued and ballasted in place. I decided to go ahead with cementing the overpass first because I figured that the pillars that support the structure would need to be surrounded with ground cover around their bases with sand and earth before the ballast could feather out over the terrain. With the overpass tightly secured into place, I laid some simple code 100 track onto the road bed, again using the stronger bonding clear glue. The track looked far too toy like and new, so I hand painted the rail sides and every tie by hand with a dark charcoal gray acrylic paint and then I covered the area between the embankment and the roadbed with small piles of talus at the base of the embankment. I wanted to represent erosion tailings here. I also created a service road and sprinkled on two different spreads of sifted rock debris to accent the area. I then added course ground foam clumps randomly and then repeated the wet water/ white glue elixir compound again to secure everything in place. Note: I also added equipment signal power poles spaced out evenly along the backside service road.
The next step was to scenic the foreground side of the diorama. Not a lot to explain here as it was just a reiteration of what I previously described doing on the backside; service road, fine gravel and rock debris, shrubs, etc. And, of course, once again, the entire area got soaked with wet water and the magic elixir.
With the entire area drenched with white glue dispensed from an eye dropper, it was time once more to let everything dry for nearly 2 weeks.
With the scene nearing completion and with nearly a month into this project, I was becoming pleased with what had been accomplished. I then added larger boulders in the foreground to give the scene a bit of drama by gluing them into random locations with plain white glue
At last, to complete the basic scenery, I applied a coarse ballast mix by Woodland Scenics. However, to obtain a more prototypical look for Western Southern Pacific Railroad tie ballast gravel, I added a full 5 ounce jar of poppy seeds to the mix. The poppy seeds can be purchased in any chain grocery store in the spice aisles. I mixed the two products in a mixing bowl to an even ratio and then applied it to the length of tracks and commenced to brushing the ballast into the tie gaps and feathering it out from the sides of the roadbed onto the scenery as per prototype settings. Upon completion here, I once more repeated the wet water/ elixir process to secure the entire ballasted scene. After another week of drying time I used a dark gray pastel powder that I compiled in a basin to dry brush directly onto the road bed to simulate diesel oil and brake dust that is often seen on many heavily used mainlines throughout the U.S. The final step here was to mist the pastel dust with Dull-Cote.
With all of this being completed it was now time for the final details. The diorama is now completely dry and ready for those small details that bring it all together and bring the scene to life! I refer here to the stringing of thread for the signal lines. A chain link fence I had created from an ordinary frying pan splatter screen that I glued to wire posts. I then added some wooden ties, made from matchsticks that I had stained with a mocha brown/ charcoal-gray acrylic mix of diluted paint.
Finally, I added sections of replacement rails along the roadbed to add a bit more variation to the scene and wrap it up.
This was a challenging, yet fun diorama to build, not to mention inexpensive. I think framing our best weathered models is paramount in our hobby and creating believable scenes to frame them within should be a priority. I hope this article might be beneficial to those who read it and wish to explore the fun in building a diorama and the reward thereafer in possesing a true to life, believable presentation for their weathered models...