Diorama Building



Diorama – Building

Diorama Table Possibilities An old work bench (although this one is being used) or an old dining table.


Step Four – The Base: The base of your diorama can really be whatever you have available – some individuals make table framing and use plywood topped with sheetrock for a sturdy foundation – others have used an old door laid across saw horse for theirs. A hobbyist, like with customs, can go an expensive or as inexpensive as one wants. Look around the house and see what is available. Heavy cardboard across an old table even works. We do not, however, suggest using Grandma’s antique dining table – LOL!!

We decided not to get into construction framing here due to space limitations and that would get us into Construction 101, but there are many simple ideas for building a base for your setting if you are creative and use simple items from around the house. Again, a lot depends on the space available and time and money you plan to spend on the project.

Step Five – Buildings: Buildings are tricky for the HWs, MB, JL and the like scale (as are detailing pieces which we will go into on the Detailing Page). Because these pieces are bigger then HO scale yet smaller then S-Gauge (refer to Scale for further reference), they present a problem getting structures that are proportionately correct. To some this is not a problem, the scales are close enough and it is more about having something to display them on then being 100% accurate. Still others this is not acceptable in their realm of their hobby.


Ertl Building Sample

Code 3 and Ertl each make 1/64th scale Buildings – Code 3s concentration is Firehouses for their line of 1/64th scale fire apparatus. Ertl also makes a number of 1/64th scale buildings for their Farm Country toy line. These buildings are hit-n-miss with regards to scale and proportion. Some work very well with this scale others are “cartoon” like in comparison. We have seen some used as a base with custom adaptations that look great – but most were from advanced hobbyists.

Train Buildings are always a good bet – you local hobby store should have a large selection. Again here it is a matter of testing and determining which is the best fit for the look you want to achieve. Sizing varies by manufacturer so there is not a specific unit that can be recommended. One unfortunate note – S-Gauge train buildings are the most accurate for this scale, however, they are extremely hard to find and are very expensive when available. HO-Scale tends to be a bit small and O-Scale tend to be a bit large, again hit or miss.

The other option is to custom make your own buildings (as we have done in the pics below) – this is a great way to get the building you want. We drew a pattern using appropriate measurement conversion to match the scale and traced the pattern onto a compressed wood product. The pattern was cut out and wood glue used to assemble. We then trimmed with hobby pieces, primed, painted and detailed to the finished product. This is an easy way to get the specific building you want, however we had the tools and materials to build it. Those who do not may want to see if there is a local hobbyist would can build from your plans for a small fee.


Raw Wood – cut for assembly.


Assembled and Primed for Painting.


Final Completed Building – Roofing crew has been called, trim and windows detailed.

Step Six – Positioning and Final Layout: You have Determined what buildings you will be using and where all the large and key pieces will be used – it is time to go back to the sketch and create a final draft – this can be used as your “map” to completion and your guide to placing the buildings, roads and other detail pieces.

Going back to our friend “Bill” in the example on the previous page – Bill found the buildings he wanted to use and decided how he wanted the final roads to run. He then took his previous sketch and made a more detailed or “final” plan where he was going to position things. This gave him a perspective as to how things would fit and gave him a working diagram to use in final construction.


Again, this is only a suggestion, it helps to give perspective to your ideas and to work through any potential problems. On a small layout this may not be an issue, but on larger layouts this can be a problem especially if you are working toward numerous themes. Some hobbyists can work through these steps in their mind and while others prefer to draw plans – personal preference prevails.

Step Seven – Final Construction: Your plan in hand (or mind), your platform empty and your buildings ready to be placed – you can start final assembly. Our recommendation is to start with your plan and roughly transfer your sketch to the base. This will help you get a placement of the pieces and get a look at where things will reside. This is also a good time to tweak your plan for extra space or details. Once transferred, we suggest laying roads and pavement first. Whether you are painting, using prefabricated road products or laying real concrete – it is much easier to do this step first as it is the base which the other pieces will work off. Once completed it is easiest to place buildings next and then proceed to additional details – these are discussed in the next page – Detailing.

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