Practice makes Perfect: Building a Diorama – Part 1.

The foam diorama I created to test my ideas. It matches the profile of the layout bases. The square hole is where the switch machine will be mounted.

In order to better visualize how my layout plan will work, I built a small diorama to test my ideas.  It’s the same thickness as the layout baseboards (a 1″ piece of foam with a 2″ piece of foam on top where the track is and a 3/4″ piece of foam for the water, so the maximum thickness is 3″, minimum thickness is 1 3/4″).  This will allow me to test my switch machine mounting system, turnout construction and placement, sub-roadbed, and scenery techniques.  Read on to see what I’ve done so far.

The switch machine mounted to a custom styrene plate that fits into a notch in the foam.

For turnout control I’m using Mole switch machines from the P:87 stores.  They’re considerably smaller than Tortoise machines but a bit more work to assemble and install.  I’ve mounted them on a styrene plate that fits inside a notch in the foam so that the top of the plate is flush with the top of the foam and roadbed can be laid straight across.  The throw rod runs through a styrene bushing that rises to the top of the roadbed.

The other side of the mounted switch machine. Here you can see the styrene tabs that hold the switch machine in place.

Once installed, two of the mounting brackets on the Mole will no longer be accessible due to the placement of the motor. Since I expect that I will need to replace switch machines in the future, I attached these two brackets in place with a pair of styrene tabs.  The other two brackets are held in by screws.  If a Mole needs to be replaced I just unscrew the two screws, slide the other brackets out of their tabs and the machine will drop down out of the base.  Installing a new one is the same procedure in reverse,

The switch machine and base set in place. The ends of the screws and the throw arm will be cut down to allow for installation of sub roadbed, cork and track.

I plan to make the Mole in this diorama fully functional, so my next step is to wire it up and test it.  Then I will secure it to the base and start laying roadbed and track.  Eventually I plan to test all my scenery ideas on this diorama as well.  If you’re going to be at the New England/Northeast Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet next weekend, I’ll have the diorama on display.

– Chris

2 Replies to “Practice makes Perfect: Building a Diorama – Part 1.”

  1. Good thinking, that. It was great to see your work in person at RPM!

    1. Thanks Stuart. I was going to bring this diorama to NERPM, completely forgot it though. Next year I guess.

      – Chris

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