Photo Diorama

One of my first tests of what I wanted to build as part of a future layout was a simple diorama to take photos for the new B&O Modeler. I have had this prop for a while. The parameters were simple; lightweight, portable, removable backdrop for outdoor photography, double mainline, river side scenery like the B&O’s Old Main Line, and inexpensive, using materials on hand.


A thin sheet of 1/8″ luan was in the garage and made a lightweight base. Some two inch foam insulation, Code 100 flextrack, scrap posterboard, ballast, ground foam, and some Sculptamold rounded out the materials list. I cut the luan to a 18″x 24″ rectangle and added some 2” foam for base scenery. I covered it with Sculptamold and painted it brown. The idea was for the view to be from across the Patapsco River, so the front of the scene sloped down to the river and was covered in cinders. This is meant to be 1950’s view but generic enough that it could be used as a background for trains from the last 100 years.


The backdrop is a piece of posterboard left over from one of my son’s school projects. Some foggy, gray spray paint and a poor attempt at clouds added a neutral background. Don’t want to steal the show from the models. It slips into place between the foam scenery base and piece of scrap approximately 3/8″x 1″ glued to the base.

Some weathering of the rails with a spray can, then gray ballast, some ground foam and we have a lightweight photography prop. While it is slightly noticeable, I used a little more red-brown to simulate additional “brake dust” on the downhill track. I usually took it into the backyard with trees in the distance to get my shots in full sunlight. One key hint is to put some long pins at the end of each track. The cars roll pretty easily with the slightest incline and one rolling off the end would ruin a day.


After 15 years of service, it might be time for a refresh on the backdrop and scenery. Sounds like a great opportunity to try some new techniques before I try them on the layout. Time to get a static grass applicator and break out the airbrush.

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