Scenery Structures Track

Setting the Scene

The Art of Building a Diorama

I then turned to the bents. I cut the legs and caps from 12” x 12” lumber. The prototype doubled the caps which were each different lengths. I cut my caps in a similar pattern with the shorter lengths on the bottom. Once again I used my razor saw to roughen the timbers and my hobby knife to add deeper gouges to the wood.

You will notice I’ve began adding a few bulkhead timbers to strengthen the bent legs, however, I left most off to allow me to work with the plaster. I have also temporarily added strip wood to the base of the bents which will act as the back of the mold for the plaster footings.

I used Styrofoam as a base for my concrete castings. I glued two bulkhead board to the back of the legs and built up the forms using stripwood. Using white glue, I temporarily attached the forms to the styrofoam base. My concrete mix was poured into the form and allowed to set up but not cure. While still setting, I removed the forms and used a damp makeup sponge to roughen the castings and expose the sand in the plaster.

When dry, I colored the plaster using, Woodland Scenics Aged Concrete as a base. Thin acrylic washes of light brown were then applied with a makeup sponge. Finally, thin acrylic washes of flat black were applied to bring out the details in the castings.
Continue building up your colors until the desired effect is achieved. I then finished adding the bulkhead boards. I stained everything the same as the deck.

To create the waterline effect on the wood and concrete, I started with a base coat of light-gray acrylic paint from Ak-Interactive. I created a wash by thinning the paint in water and dabbing it onto the legs, concrete footings and bulkhead board with a brush. I let each coat dry until I was satisfied with the look. Then another wash of AK-Interactive earth enamel was made and allows to flow over then light-gray acrylic.


  1. Good suggestion for modelers to try their hand at a diorama.
    I think they should follow your lead to keep the scene simple with a single focal point.


    1. I have learned so much through out the years from building dioramas. I remember when I was younger reading fantastic articles in the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette from you and Bob Brown that got me started.


  2. Great little mini project. Since I’m not at the scenery stage on my layout, a small diorama is a great way to get to play in that area of the hobby. I think it’s time to build a small diorama for my office.


    1. You will learn a lot from building them. They are not daunting like a larger layout. I personally have found that I fear mistakes less when I’m working on a smaller footprint. It’s quite liberating!


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