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This tiny diorama is being built in response to Oliver Rowley's brilliant challenge on this forum, -  to build a diorama no bigger than A4 by 20 May this year. I don't want to hijack Oliver's thread by filling it with lots of my own construction details so I've decided to start this separate thread to show how I have approached this competition, and I hope you find at least some of it interesting.

I am at present building a slightly larger diorama in 3mm:1Ft scale which isn't so far very advanced, but I had already made a number of card buildings for it, and a quick play with a sheet of A4 showed that some at least could be used for this project.  There are are at present only three main structures - a brick arched road over bridge, a three storey maltings and a water tower - not much to go on, but even in 3mm scale they take up a surprising amount of space on A4.  Since they are intended to be used on another model, I don't want to alter them in any way, so fixing them and creating some sense of unity will be a problem in itself.

I am using high density flooring grade foam for the base, simply because I had some left over from a house project, and the frame or enclosure will be made from MDF, also from the scrap box, as are any other bits of wood, metal, screws, and whatever. There is a suggested budget of £5 for these dioramas, but it isn't absolute, it's more to discourage people from going out and buying ready made bits and just sticking 'em together, -  although that isn't so easy at the moment anyway!  

In fact, there is very little available commercially for 3mm scale, so most of it has to be scratch built; the old Triang TT stuff is still around secondhand, but often at silly high prices, and falls well short of modern standards of detail, but is usable with care. On the other hand, the 3mm Society have a wide range of items  for sale covering almost all eras and regions, but they are only for sale to members, so if you want to have a go at this delightful scale, joining makes sense (End of plug!).

 

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Here's a pic of my first attempt to see if this was even possible!

 

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Not too inspiring, but I might as well begin at the beginning!  This is the piece of 40mm thick extruded polystyrene foam cut to size on the bandsaw. It will be framed with 6mm MDF, so is 12mm all round smaller than A4 - 198x285mm.  To be continued, as they say!

 

Mike

 

 

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Before I move on I should explain that 3mm models run on either TT 12mm track, or the true scale 14.2mm track (there is a third less common size of 13.5mm, which I suppose is the equivalent of EM in 1/76), Now, since both this and the larger diorama I am building have a straight track emdedded in a roadway and paved yard, there is actually no need for  tracks with sleepers, since they would be buried out of sight, and static or radio controlled models don't need power in the track, so luckily I found a length of extruded aluminium channel section, which has a "track" dimension of 12.25mm, so this is inserted into a groove in the foam, and the centre gap will then be infilled.

 

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You need very sharp router cutters and high rotational speed to cut foam without tearing it, but given that, a 15mm two flute cutter will cut this in a single pass without effort.

 

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Here's how the ancient 1/4" router was set up to cut the groove for the channel, which is 15mm wide and 15mm deep. The router runs against a guide clamped to the work, and the plunge depth is set by an adjustable stop.

 

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This shows the piece of ally channel now cut to length and trial fitted.

 

I'll carry this on with another post because of the photo size limit,

Mike
 

 

 

 

 

 

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80IMG_20200418_194736_1.jpg.458dc9d234bcdad877848468139130ec.jpg

 

Next, the outer frame sides were cut to length and width from scrap 6mm MDF sheet and glued around the baseboard using ordinary builders white PVA glue. The longer sides are cut a little over length and will be cleaned up true on the belt sander later. The frames are 60mm deep giving a 20mm void below for wiring, switches, etc, if I have the time to fit lights in the buildings, and the frame has small pieces of softwood quadrant glued into the corners to increase the glue area.

 

A couple of things I ought to say here, - firstly,  if you use MDF for any kind of machine woodwork, you should always wear a proper particulate face mask and/or have adequate extraction arrangements - the particles produced are extremely fine, quite unlike ordinary sawdust, and are very damaging to the respiratory tract.   Secondly, you cannot nail or screw anything into foam, so glueing is the only realistic option and despite a certain, perhaps natural predjudice, I can assure you that white PVA will produce a bond which will be stronger than the foam, the foam tearing before the glue joint fails, when tested to destruction. I used a little picture framer's band clamp to hold  it tightly together until set.

 

 

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The panels for the enclosure were next cut out, again from a piece of scrap MDF sheet, this time 3mm, using a combination of the router and the bandsaw. I want the diorama to be partly visible from the side as well as the front, and here the pieces are roughly lodged together to see what it will look like, and the foam infill for the track has been test fitted - I am happy!

 

 

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Here's the enclosure more or less complete. The little corner fillets are made of oak, and hold the panels  together at the top and also form the support for the lighting panel. The panels are assembled using button head screws and in such a way as to allow any one or more of the panels to be removed without the rest falling apart! With something as small as this it's quite important for me to be able to do this - there isn't much room on a piece of A4, and I am quite clumsy! I put a piece of the said A4 paper on the base, just to show that I'm not cheating!

 

 

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Of course, at this point I couldn't resist messing about with it to see if it all still fitted - this is only a dummy run, and I may alter some elements as I go along, but there really isn't much room for manoeuvre, literally!

 

Cheers. Mike

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Posted (edited)

1:100 Scale buildings

Now that the enclosure for this little diorama is almost finished and just needs paint and finishing, I can start on fixing the structures and groundscapeing, but before I do here's a few pics of the buildings and a little bit of info about them.  I had a head start with these because they were already either complete or very nearly so, and it was lucky that they could fit on A4 with a good chance of producing a believable little scene.

 

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Gray's Maltings

This is a composite building made using MDF, insulation foam, card and paper, and is a low relief model designed to stand against a backscene. It is scratch built but loosely based on a drawing by the legendary J.H.Ahern, of a Welsh warehouse but has an extra storey added and a chimney from the Scalescenes modular factory. These have both been scaled to 1:100 full size, which is so close to 3mm to the foot that it makes no difference;    the printed surface textures are also scaled down Scalescenes textures.

 

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This is the back view which of course will never be seen, and you can see that I never spend much time on the hidden side of things!  I have put in some nominal floorboard covering and it is intended to fit interior lights, but probably not for this model.

 

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Water Tower

This is one of John Wiffen's brilliant Scalescenes design, reduced to 1:100, the only deviation being that the corner panels are paper covered aluminium angle, rather than the card suggested, which would have been a bit delicate in this scale. Extruded aluminium alloy is available in a large range of sizes and cross sections and I reckon it's invaluable for making little buildings, either as here, forming part of the structure's surface detail, of used inside to strengthen various joints.   The tower will have an access ladder eventually, and perhaps interior lighting.

 

Cheers, Mike

 

 

 

Edited by Spotlc
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Road Bridge

 

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This is another scratch built structure based on a previously published design, this time by the great Eric Ilett, who in the 1970's, produced a few booklets of the most wonderfully detailed drawings of railway related buildings and structures, mostly in the west of England or west Midlands, and mostly GWR and LMS - the illustrations are quite beautiful in themselves, a triumph of architectural drawing - done long before computer aided draughting,  but still a valuable source of accurate info, and a pleasure to look at.

 

Sorry, got a bit carried away there!  So, the bridge is a GWR road over bridge but stretched to span a road as well as a railway. The original drawing showed the typical supporting wings to a raised embankment, but I chose to build it as part of a brick panelled supporting wall.   Again, made mostly from paper covered cardstock but the underside of the arch was cut from some unknown hardwood, and the vertical piers are from MDF with card facings; all the coverings are Scalescenes textures scaled to 1:100, the railings are actually 1:76 scale, but cut down in height.

 

Cheers  Mike

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Sprague & Collins

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All these previous buildings had only to be slightly altered or finished for this diorama, but  this "building"  had to be made specially for it, and It's purpose is to give the bridge some reason, rather than it ending in mid air! It also fills an awkward gap and the chimney masks the corner reasonably well. A needlessly complex thing to make from card alone,  I made it from solid wood from the scrap box and then glued on card facings. The chimney is cut from high density foam, with card facings, and the rest of the trim bits are also from the scrap box.

 

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                                                           Here it is with the bridge positioned

 

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Here's the maltings roughly positioned, and you can see that only the front and roof of the corner building will be visible when it's finally put  together.
I've no idea what Sprague & Collins actually do, but it's hard to photograph their works against the brown MDF!

 

Cheers, Mike

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Posted (edited)

I have really enjoyed the time I've spent so far on this little diorama, but although I got off to a flying start, because I had already built, or almost built, all the main structures, I seem to have spent ages sorting out what should be some very simple lighting!   Well it is simple, but it had to be done before certain other things, and they in turn took more time than I thought, etc, etc  -  does any of this sound familiar?

 

The plan is that the overall scenic lighting will be controlled by a panel mounted dimmer, and the lights in the buildings by a remote control wireless dimmer, simply because that's what I have available.    In ordinary times I would organise the needed bits for this no problem, but our postal service is down to three days a week, and anyway I have tried to stay within the spirit of not spending more than a fiver! On top of this I have had a nasty bacterial infection so It's been a struggle to get to the half way point, but now I can start on lights in buildings, now that the main lighting is done. Everything came out of the scrap bin. Here's some pics.

 

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Most of the bits are mounted on a piece of 40x40 aluminium angle; hopefully I've cut the recess big enough to take the wireless dimmer as well, but it is very small!

 

 

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To connect the power supply I had to butcher a PP3 battery holder, because I had no 3.5mm jack sockets, but I will replace it with a proper connector later on.

 

 

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This is the lighting panel, a scrap lovers delight!  Made from a bit of white melamine faced hardboard left over from a domestic job, the LED strips were actually intended for Ho carriage lighting - I bought them at a swap meet in Limoges years ago, but never used them, the adhesive is getting a bit tired!  The plug and socket came from a broken laptop desk light.

 

Best,  Mike

Edited by Spotlc
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Posted (edited)

Not more than a Fiver!

 

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These are the other bits for my lighting rig on Gray's Maltings, they were actually ordered for another project, but I'll use 5 of the 3mm leds and one of the tiny 1mm leds, the bigger ones are about 54 pence each and the tiny ones £1.50, the R/F controller and transmitter were salvaged from the "leccy bits" bin, but I bought a few of them a couple of years ago, and they were only £0.99, I remember.  I think that's all I need to spend, I have pillaged my bits and pieces boxes pretty savagely, but nothing I'm going to miss too much!  No connection, but Express Models in Loughborough is a brilliant source of all kinds of LED's for modelmaking, and give super fast service.

 

Mike

Edited by Spotlc
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Tick Tock!

 

Finally finished putting in the lights, so I can now start to put in a few more scenic details.

 

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Here's a pic of the scene with the lights on - I have left the background plain dark blue for the moment, but I might change this later.

 

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Made a bit of progress with the weighbridge - the building is Scalescenes, the bridge is a piece of 00 plastic roofing, and the guard rail is soldered up from bits of copper wire, fitted in a some wooden "stone blocks" The 3 ton Opel Blitz will morph into a 3 ton Bedford when I have the time, shouldn't be too hard, since they were both built by General Motors!

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4 hours ago, Kevin Johnson said:

Makes the scene look atmospheric, well done looks great.:good_mini:

 

Kevin, many thanks for your encouragement! Now, pander to my curiosity - tell me that BA is Bishop Aukland, and not Buenos Aires !

Best, Mike

 

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3 hours ago, tom q vaxy said:

"I almost expected to see a cloaked figure lurking in the shadows".

Tom, thanks for your kind words!  No can do the cloak, but lack of time means there may be some ghostly white little figures dotted about!

 

Best, Mike

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1 hour ago, Spotlc said:

 

Kevin, many thanks for your encouragement! Now, pander to my curiosity - tell me that BA is Bishop Aukland, and not Buenos Aires !

Best, Mike

 

Hi Mike yes it’s Bishop Auckland.

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Into the Wilderness!

 

I have a reasonable experience of model buildings and hard landscaping but admit to a deep ignorance of the greener side of things, but I thought this little diorama might be a chance to learn!IMG_4150.JPG.a2a2010a02a23802956a5b53bd8fa8bb.JPG

I made this tree from twisted florists wire some months ago, but never used it, and it gradually got knocked about and lost a lot of the foliage, so I set about repairing it. The "foliage" is Woodland Scenics Underbrush, the trunk and branch padding material is brown decorators acrylic filler and the smaller branches are bits of lichen found in the garden.  It is screwed to an MDF base roughly "sculpted" to shape on the front roller of the belt sander!

 

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I used more acrylic filler to blend the tree into the ground, and then used a mixture of paint, pva, bits of N gauge ballast. and green dyed sawdust to resemble the terrain. The little bushes are strategically placed to hide the screw that will hold the whole thing down.

 

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This is just a closer view of my first attempts at any kind of soft landscape, and I am both pleased and surprised by the result, but time is running short, so I must press on!

 

Cheers, Mike

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I like the idea of the little sub base to allow your tree to be easily transplanted (pun intended) - everything I read about trees tends to say "make a hole in the scenery and glue into position" but this seems neater, somehow.

 

Steve S

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Posted (edited)

Hi Steve, thanks for your interest!   I think it depends on the kind of substrate the trees have to be fixed on, and where they need to be put.  This one had to go in a very tight corner, so it made sense to put it on a separate base to make it easier to finish.

The other thing, is that if you use foam as a baseboard, poking a hole in it and sticking the tree in will only work until you accidentally knock it for the first time!  Also applies to signal posts, crossing gates, telegraph poles, etc, etc - you can guess how I know this!!

 

Best,  Mike

Edited by Spotlc
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This is the last day of this A4 competition, so here are a couple of pics of Gray's Maltings now that it is finished.IMG_4175.JPG.b1c62f5813b330e402d9d9d7dd8e4071.JPG

Not quite finished, but nearly!

 

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Hard to pull off the night time look on a very sunny afternoon!

 

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Another view

 

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More night shift!

 

It still needs a bit more detailing, but I've really enjoyed discovering what can be done on A4 in 3mm, and I'm already thinking of the next one!

 

Cheers, Mike

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Posted (edited)

Now that this diorama is largely finished, this seems the right time to offer a little description.   I should like to be able to say that it was the story that prompted the model, but in truth , the model suggested the story!     It is complete make believe, of course, apart from the breweries mentioned, which, living in France, I miss greatly!

 

Gray's Maltings, a brief History

Gray's Maltings was established in the 1880's, near Tredington, close to the boundary between Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. It was founded by the owner  of a large local farm, Morton Gray, to produce malt from the farm's barley for a number of small breweries in the district. The firm quickly gained a reputation for high quality malt, and gradually became suppliers to breweries further afield, despite the lengthy journeys involved by horse drawn carts.

 

Eventually, the recently formed Banbury and Leamington Railway Company were persuaded to build a six mile single track branch to Gray's yard, provided Gray financed all the earthworks himself, to which he reluctantly agreed. The bill passed quickly through Parliament, not least because of the enthusiastic support of the local MP,  a major shareholder in the now limited company.   Royal Assent was granted in November 1891, work commenced with vigour, and the line opened to traffic two years later.

 

The maltings prospered greatly as a result of their new found mobility, because they could now reach a far wider geographic range of customers than previously, and by the outbreak of World War I, they counted among their clients such doyens of South Midlands brewing as Brakspears of Henley, Morrels of Oxford, the Hook Norton Brewery, the Leamington Brewery , Clinch of Witney, and many other equally hallowed names.  Morton Gray died in 1937, his two sons both having careers of their own, and no interest in becoming maltsers, they sold their controlling shareholdings to  two local businessmen, Arthur Gifford and Stanley Knowles.

 

Taken from "A History of Brewing in the South Midlands"  by A. Nother-Rownd, published by Frederick Warne & Co, London,  1961.


The Model

We see the maltings as they were in 1951, when the track  and railway infrastructure had become the responsibility of the recently created British Railways, Midland Region, who are  now using ex-LMS bulk grain wagons, rather than the two hundredweight sacks of grain in covered wagons, which was the practice before nationalisation. The buildings themselves have changed little over the years - Gifford and Knowles have added their names to the main building, but kept the old Gray's Maltings nameboards  for reasons of continuity.  The "dog kennel" hoists are nearing the end of their lives, and a new compressed air grain delivery system will soon be installed in the main building, the weighbridge has been refurbished, and the formerly disused water tower is now leased to the maltings by BR for storage purposes.

 

The infrequent freight movements are limited to a seasonal twice weekly return trip with a single 20 ton grain hopper, bringing barley in and malt out, and the regular  coal wagon bringing fuel for the drying floor kilns, both usually hauled by an elderly ex-LMS 1F loco.  In an attempt to reduce costs, consideration is being given to the purchase of a small  private owner locomotive, and the directors have attended a number of auctions at nearby C.A.D Kineton, but no decisions have been made as yet.

 

However, Stan Knowles also has an eye to the future, and is convinced that road transport will become both cheaper and more flexible than rail distribution, and to that end has recently bought a couple of ex- Army secondhand  trucks at a government disposal auction for very little money. The Ford AA dates from 1931, being one of the first models produced at the then new Ford plant at Dagenham, and has been fitted with a twin wheel rear axle and plated to 3 tons by REME workshops in Aldershot,  and the 1942 3 ton Opel Blitz was one of a batch of commandeered German Army vehicles which were brought to Britain in 1946 and converted to right hand drive, also at REME Aldershot. 

     

 Who knows what the future will hold?  They aquire a sizeable fleet of 12 ton ERF trucks and abandon the railway entirely?  Bought out by Flowers of Stratford-on-Avon, then in turn by Whitbread, and finally closed down, I expect!  The maltings converted to luxury apartments by Metropolitan Estates, and the bridge demolished to make way for a ringroad!  Take your pick!

 

Cheers, Mike

 

Edited by Spotlc
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Here are a few more pics that I took while I was building this diorama.

 

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I mentioned at the beginning that all sides of the enclosure could be removed at will, and this shows how easy it is to work on the model, or make alterations to it if this can be done, here with the back panel removed.

 

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This shows the installation of one of the trees and the card facing for the wall - not impossible from the front, but far easier done like this!
 

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Google Earth view.  Just for fun, what it looks like from above!  A couple of the buildings were intended for another project, so I had to compromise some of the positioning to stop them from masking one another.

 

Cheers, Mike

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Mike you have produced a beautiful looking diorama, the modelling and attention to detail is excellent. 
It’s been great following your build thread and hope to see more of your work in the future.:good_mini:

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Posted (edited)

Kevin, many thanks for your kind words!  

As for future efforts, I must say that I am completely converted to the idea of these little dioramas - much easier to try out any new ideas - and not too much lost if it all goes pear shaped!   3mm is a beautiful scale to work with, but not so common - compared to 4mm there are very few road vehicles for example, but it does come into it's own for these small displays, and I suppose this is why it is almost invariably used by commercial architects.

 

Cheers, Mike

Edited by Spotlc
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