Monday, January 3, 2011

Sippin' Swamp Diorama - Part 3 - Base, The Final Frontier

Let's get to work on that diorama.  I may need it soon for a clinic. 

 The first thing is to get the design down on paper.  I've been playing with it in my head for weeks and have the general design.  So we'll bring out our new drawing pad and some HB/2H pencils and get to work.

 The problem is not the design so much as the space.  I get 144 square inches and no more.  So with the help of some of the guys on the NMRA AP Yahoo Group I got a rough idea (without doing calculus) of how to estimate the area of the diorama.  With knowing about what I had to work with I began sketching.

 Click on the design to enlarge.  It is a bit faint.  I curved the track to give it some interest to the eye and to make photographs more interesting.  The real swamp trackage was mostly straight as they just cut down anything in their way.  I put dense cypress trees on either end to keep the eye from wandering past the end of the diorama.  This gives me a picture box to work in.  Larger, more detailed cypress trees will frame the front view.  This gives us two scenes in the "play."  One is the loco taking on water and the other is the fireman getting in a tangle with a large gator.

 I am a firm believer in making mock ups.  Nothing works better than seeing what could be the real thing in 3-D.  Using a piece of foam board and a section of Micro Engineering On30 track, we'll start the mock up by putting in the piling trestle.

 Using my five year old as the photographer I start by drawing 1" apart vertical lines on the foam board.

 Next, I'll draw in the horizontal one inch lines to make a grid.  We'll use this grid to count how many one square inch boxes we use.

 There!  We have grid!  Probably could have used some large graph paper, but this was quick and easy, plus it gave me a solid surface to move around the room.

 I know that I want the track to gently curve.  This will be a trestle except for both ends which will be on dry land.  The rest is a piling trestle bridge.

 Green boxes!  I love green boxes full of On30 stuff! 

 First we'll yank out the to-be-converted 0-4-2T tank locomotive.  The Hebard Cypress Company used them to move logs in the Okefenokee swamp.  Really, the only non-prototypical thing we are going to do on this diorama is to make it narrow gauge, and that is only because we aren't really sure if it was standard or narrow. 

 I'll use a log car only because it is about the right length for a water car.  Plus I can use a log car if the tank doesn't come out right.

 I have a box full of old swamp scenery which includes cypress trees (cast from resin), stumps and knees.  The tree limbs have been broken off but you can still get the idea.  All of the trees that we'll use on this diorama will be scratch built.  So there will be two very large cypress trees (dwarfing the loco) in the front on the right and left.  We'll put the "crown" stump on the right.  I call it that because when the cypress decays after cutting the stump buttresses stay much longer than the center stump and thus it looks like a crown.

The trees will be shorter than the prototype because if they were to scale they would be more than 2.5 x higher than shown here.  It would make the loco even smaller.

 So the loco and the water car will be elevated about three feet from the surface of the water.  The Brakeman will be filling the water car with swamp water from the swamp by flexible hose.  Various swamp plants will be growing in and around the trestle and vines will be hanging down.  The loco will go through a MAJOR overhaul in that it will be painted and heavily weathered.

 The big tree will be on the right and I might fix and use some of these smaller trees.

 I will build the base out of 1" pine board.  The reason is that I might elevate the whole display on a mock cypress stump so that it is eye level.

Here in the overhead shot you can see the design.  It is common for the waterways to be open and free of trees, so not having them in the background is not a bad thing.  One idea is to make two or three trees and sit them individually in the background.

 I circled the trees so that I would know where to put them.

 The stumps and the train are marked as well.

 We might move the stump over to the left side to give it more character.

 Looks like we are ready to go!

 I cleared off the grid with all the markings and put away the trees, stumps and the rolling stock.

I cut out the template.  Some straight edges but not too many.  Very pleasing to the eye.  I like it!

I decided that the long flat back was not to my liking so I curved it as well.  Now I have a very nice warped dog bone!  The final count was 141 square inches.
I put a picture of my inspiration up in the office so that I can keep it in mind.  I tried to cut the board tonight but the kids jumped in bed just when I locked my self in the garage and I ran out of time.  Maybe tomorrow...


  1. Scott,
    Looks really interesting. You mentioned resin cast cypress trees. Did you do those yourself, or do you have a secret vendor source you can share without killing me after? Aside from the Southern Yellow Pines I need to make in mass quantities for my N scale layout, I want a few cypress to really set things off.

    Thanks, and happy modeling!

  2. I cast the trees myself. Using Alumilite resin and Dow Corning silicon. You can get a all in one kit from Alumilite or better stocked hobby shops. I make the tree from polymer clay and bake it hard, then insert it in a tube and fill it with silicone mold compound. Then just fill the mold with resin. At one train show I had a teaching table and made several dozen in one day. Stay tuned...I may cast one of these! Let me know if you need any help!

  3. Scott did a great clinic for our operating group on casting with Alumilite. I've got "casting fever" and find it to be very useful.

    BTW, if you have a Hobby Lobby in your area they usually stock the Alumilite kits and supplies AND you can use their 40% off coupons to get stuff at a great price!


  4. A source for large graph paper-- Flip Chart Easel Pads. Some are available with a grid to make your words come out straight and even-- I think they're even 1" squares.
    --Paul E Musselman


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