Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sippin' Swamp Diorama - Part 1 - Getting My Gator On

At the Rocky Mountain Region Convention in November of 2011 there will be a special contest.  See the rules below...

Requirements for the Region Convention 2011 Mini-Diorama Contest

The requirements for the Mini-Diorama Contest are simple and are listed below.  The idea for the Mini-Diorama Contest is to get people to build something.  Contestants will be able to win awards in both the Popular Vote Category and the corresponding Achievement Program Category.  For instance, if your diorama is a barn you could be judged in the Structures – Off Line Category. The contest is open to all NMRA members attending the 2011 Convention.  Look at this competition as not so much contest between you and others, but as a contest between you and yourself.  It is a great opportunity to work in a different scale or with scenery concepts you’ve never tried before.  Be creative!


1.  The diorama may be on any subject that the modeler may choose.  It would be nice if the chosen subject is railroad related or related to the theme of the convention, though that will not be a requirement.  You can build in any scale or gauge combination you choose.

2.  The area of the diorama can NOT be larger than 144 square inches.  There are no requirements for length or width as long as these two dimensions when multiplied together equal 144 or less.  As an extreme example: a diorama that is 1 inch wide and 144 inches long would qualify.

3.  There is no restriction on either height or depth.  Those two dimensions are dependent on what the modeler can transport.

Please bring your completed entry to the Contest Room at the start of the Convention.  Good luck!

Naturally I can't pass this opportunity up  Dioramas are fun to build and they let you play with scenery items you don't normally get to play with.  However, because I'm working on other projects and am the Convention Chairman, I'll have to do something quick.  With all the swamp work I've done I'm thing...Hebard Cypress.

I ran across a photo by Mal Ferrell in his book Argent: Last of the Swamp Rats.  It was a wood burning steam locomotive on a piling railroad in the swamp.  The loco had thrown it's hose overboard and was drinking water up from the swamp to fill it's tender tank.  It's a great scene and one that also occurred on the Hebard Cypress Company.

I've already got the pilings, crossties, and the cypress trees.  All I have to do is lay it out and put it together.  The swamp models of the Muskrat Ramble group continue to get rave reviews and I've got a seven year jump on them.  So why not?

Several years ago I gave a clinic on building dioramas.  While it was a beginner's hands on clinic it did give folks a chance to play with designing and building a diorama.  We'll use those same skills here and I may reprint the article on line.

First, let's outline the key elements:
1.  Swamp loco with tender - probably a 0-4-2T engine lettered for the real Hebard Cypress Co.
2.  Engineer and fireman who will add character to the scene.
3.  An alligator
4.  Large, scary, dreary cypress trees with knees, vines and Spanish moss.
5.  Piling trestle bridge across the diorama
6.  Swamp water, vegetation, etc
7.  Maybe a small fishing/hunting shack
8.  Leaning dead log with "cooters" or turtles
9.  Swamp sign
10. Cypress stumps

The story:

The best water in a swamp comes from a gator hole where it is deep, cool and clear.  The boys decided to fill up the One Spot's tank and take a drink for themselves.  The engineer lowers a bucket into the gator hole only to stir up trouble.  Maybe the gator has the bucket and the rope is in the hands of the engineer who is fighting to keep his balance on the trestle.

Diorama Layout:

I can see big trees on either side with the piling trestle just touching solid ground on either side.  The track is curved in a crescent moon shape.  The middle of the dog-bone shaped diorama is the scene with the loco, maybe one log car, and the two men fighting Old Grumpy, the gator.  Each square inch must be fully detailed with heavy swamp scenery.

Tomorrow I'll try to find my sketch pad and graphite and draw you up something.

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