Jump to content
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Shadow Box Roundhouse



In the lead up to Christmas I wanted a break from the next phase of making the control panel for my Barrow Hill Yard layout - wiring just ain't fun enough! So, whilst perusing the internet during this let up period I came across David Shepherd's magnificent painting called 'On Shed' - this features a dirty 9F awaiting its next duty. This really got the juices flowing so I put together a quickie layout for a Shadow Box scheme (I've had a Bachmann 9F for Christmas which I'm eagerly waiting for the postie to deliver right now). The idea was to try and simulate David's painting by having streams of sunlight coming through imaginary skylights etc. This, I thought, could only be done by constructing a Shadow Box. Anyone familiar with military modeling will have probably heard of Shep Paine who honed this way of making dioramas way back in the 1980's. For anyone not in the know, a Shadow Box is basically a model within a sealed box with its own hidden light source that can be used to simulate sunlight through a window etc etc.




David Shepherd's magnificent and very dramatic painting.








My efforts so far. I'm still playing around with positioning the light bulbs and led spotlights. The beams have been generated by cutting tiny slits and holes in the roof of the layout - the roof has a sealed box glued on top which contains the lights. The bright light is generated by three 55 watt car headlight bulbs and is the closet to sunlight as you can get without burning the house down! Getting the lights to work was the most frustrating part of the project. However, I spent a couple of enjoyable hours with my local mechanic (Mike Dillane) in his workshop with card board boxes and different car lights. His son happily obliged us by blowing smoke into the boxes to try and create the beaming effect. Mike suggested using a car battery and battery charger, but I didn't fancy lugging this stuff around. In the end, I used simple AC 12v 60 amp transformers used for Kitchen downlights - these quite happily run 12v DC car bulbs and they were only a fiver each! I started off by running an extension cord from the battery of my car to run the bulbs, however, SWMBO put a stop to this in case I did damage! Then I tried an old drill battery charger but this was only putting out 2 amps and not the 15 amps I required - it lasted all of 15 minutes! It's all part of the learning curve I suppose, but to me, this is were the fun is.






The layout is quite simple and is basically a quarter of a roundhouse which has a mirror placed along one side. I initially considered taking a saw to my Barrow Hill Roundhouse model but reason prevailed. The layout took about 10 hours to build from bits of scrap I had lying around etc - the lights have taken about 6 hours so far. I used the same method of roof and smoke construction - this time without the skylights as the light can only be let in very slightly so you get the streaming effect without washing it out. Photographs have been taken at night with room lights off for maximum effect.



  • Like 6
  • Craftsmanship/clever 1


Recommended Comments

  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike, I've only just seen this, and I'm rather shocked that you've basically gone an built a whole extra layout since the last entry! And what atmosphere - this must be just about the ultimate in roundhouse atmopshere. I remember how you weren't quite happy with the light streaming through on earlier layouts. Well you've certainly got that sorted now!


Is there any chance we could see a photo of how the lights are positioned? I'm going to start reading up on shadow boxes...

Link to comment
Job, Thanks very much - happy modeling to you too for 2014.
Paul, I've may have been too conservative with that time estimate as when the wife read the entry she told me that it was more like 40 hours because of the amount of time I spent ferreting around in the workshop with it!  I guess that when we model all sense of time and place just disappear - that why I enjoy it so much.  Given that she is likely to exaggerate as well I'll split the difference and say around 20 hours build time instead.  Be warned though, it's a quickie build and at just 18 inches by 18 inches square the whole thing is quite little for 4mm.  There's only one wall with brick papers, the floor is just six small pieces of Code 75 track under mounting card, the roof was very quick to build despite looking complex and there's a mirror along the other side too make the whole thing look twice the size.
Mikkel - I've included the following snaps.  The lights are on stiff wire stalks so I can move them around to create different effects.  You can see the sealed box which has been built directly on top of the roof.  It ain't pretty in the light box, but you're never going to see it.  An outer box could be made to accommodate the whole model and hide the workings, but it'd be a lot of box for a little model.  Read up on these Shadow Box models because there are a lot of excellent examples and it could prove to be an exciting way of presenting small layouts in the future.

P1040926 (FILEminimizer)


P1040921 (FILEminimizer)


P1040918 (FILEminimizer)


P1040917 (FILEminimizer)


Link to comment
  • RMweb Gold

Thanks very much, Mike! I understand the concept better now.


That last shot - wow!

Link to comment

Hi Mike,


Happy New Year :) 


These images are pretty mind blowing Mike, they ooze atmosphere you can almost smell the diesel and oil in there! Well worth the effort with the lights and electrics.  Reminds me of some images I've seen of Tyseley, this one in particular http://www.tyseleylocoworks.co.uk/tlw/images2/tyseley_061165_rw_v.jpg


It's an inspiration to see how quickly you've put this together and I'm glad you didn't resort to cutting up Barrow Hill :) Though it would have given you 4 layouts! :)


Epic stuff, looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings from your workshop

Link to comment

Cheers Wenlock - really working on perfecting the lighting at the moment.


Alan, thanks very much and for the Tyseley link.  Magnificent picture of the Roundhouse there - shame that nearly all these places were torn down.  Thank God for the outstanding efforts of the preservationists at Barrow Hill - just imagine that if it didn't survive then future generations would have had only photos to help them understand what Roundhouses were really like.    Hope to see progress with your loco works soon - if the attention you've shown to the external brickwork is anything to go by then the interior is just going to be mind blowing.



Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.