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  • Downtown Diorama:

    Without cities there would be no real railroads, yet few modelers have had the forethought to fit them into their layouts.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 84 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 85

    In the early 19th century the railroad was needed as a link between the seaport cities and the great frontier of the Appalachians and beyond - in, 1970 railroads still serve as the major transportation link between cities and suppliers. Most model railroads make some provision for the industrial area of the fantasy cities they serve, but fail to create much of an impression that a city really exists. One reason, at least, has been a lack of kits and other materials to simulate the feeling of a true city scene. Now HO scale modelers have a choice of kits, from SS Ltd. and a few other manufacturers, to build a complete city if they wish. Few modelers will have the space, time, or desire to devote to a complete city but, as the photos on these pages show, it doesn't take a vast amount of space or number of buildings to give a credible impression of a complete downtown area.

    Many of the industries served by real railroads, and most of their major passenger terminals, are (or were) located in the "high rise" area close to the central city. With a bit of careful planning, at least one of the industrial areas of your pike can be surrounded by a "background" of city stores and apartments that will give the viewer a pleasant urban contrast to the rural mountains and valleys on the rest of your layout. The downtown diorama pictured certainly gives the effect of the industrial area of a medium-size city yet the entire scene occupies a space (in HO scale) only two by four feet.

    You should plan the location of your city so it falls on one of the shelf-like narrow portions of your layout. The industrial buildings and trackage can then be located in the prime foreground viewing area where they should be - you are, after all, trying to give the feeling that you are operating a model railroad; the industrial buildings and the city structures are merely props that help to complete the railroad "scene. " If the actual "city" is at the rear edge of your table you can best create the bustling building effect with only a few complete structures; most can be merely false fronts with no sides or backs - no one can see these areas anyway. If your railroad is somewhere near eye level above the floor so much the better. Most streets can parallel the railroad tracks; again, like they do in real life, with only an occasional street lead ing off the table to give the impression that the city itself goes on and on. A photo mural backdrop or painting depicting the rest of the street not actually on the tabletop can be placed against the wall behind each of the streets to give even more realism.

    PAGE 86 LEFT: All of the downtown buildings on these pages were assembled from SS Ltd.-brand HO scale "craftsman" kits. Although these kits have more detail castings than most, their construction is typical of the term "craftsman kit" a dozen or so enjoyable and creative hours are needed to complete the kit.

    PAGE 86 RIGHT: The dozens of delicately detailed metal castings are included with the SS Ltd. New York "row house" we used as well as the similarly shaped Chicago "brick" and San Francisco "wood" kits.

    PAGE 87 TOP LEFT: The short strips that still retain the pre-cut window openings must be sliced through with a single-edged razor blade to "open" windows in the interior wall pieces.

    PAGE 87 TOP RIGHT: The embossed "stone" covering for the outside of the building is sprayed with Floquil's Henna paint to simulate the red-brown color of the stonework typical of this period.

    PAGE 87 BOTTOM LEFT: A thinned down wash (50% paint and 50% thinner) of Floquil's concrete color is rubbed over the embossed stone sheet. The grey color will nestle into the "mortar" seams with ease.

    PAGE 87 BOTTOM RIGHT: "Scotch Grip" No. 77 spray-adhesive is used to fasten the embossed stone sheet to the interior walls. This type of glue will avoid buckling and warping from humidity or heat.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 86 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 87

    Two factors make these city scenes so realistic; first, the SS Ltd.-brand building kits are arranged to duplicate the orderly stagger of style and street fronts typical of any city. Second; the scene has that hustle and bustle effect that is synonymous with "city." Note the dozens of scale model people and cars and, equally important, the large number of smaller details so often overlooked on model railroads; the street lamps, billboards, ornate fences, garbage cans, peddler wagons, curbs, sewer drains and manhole covers, raised curbs, mail boxes, fire alarms and fire plugs, and on and on. SS Ltd. supplies most of these "forgotten" details as highly detailed metal castings. The figures are from Preiser and Mertens; the cars and trucks from Jordan Products kits. This diorama depicts a street scene as you might find in the early nineteen-twenties, however, most cities change so slightly that identical structures could be used for a model setting in the seventies. More modern city scenes would have neon and plastic signs with bolder lettering. The clothing styles would be more modern and, of course, the cars and trucks would have to be changed to fit a more modern era. The HO scale modeler has a wide choice of scale model people, from Weston, Preiser, Merten, and the 1880's to the AHM; and vehicles, from Jordan Products, A.B. Boyd, and others to suit almost any era from present.

    PAGE 88 TOP LEFT: Spray both the interior wall s and the back side of the embossed stone sheet with the "Scotch Grip" No. 77 adhesive and, while still wet, press the two together evenly.

    PAGE 88 TOP RIGHT: The window openings are cut through the thin embossed stone sheeting from the interior side of the walls using a sharp X-Acto hobby knife with a No. 11 blade.

    PAGE 88 MIDDLE LEFT: Spray all of the window and door castings with a contrasting color - we used a light tan. Castings can be pressed onto a piece of masking tape to hold them while spraying.

    PAGE 88 MIDDLE RIGHT: The window castings are glued into the walls with white glue. The five-piece front steps/porch castings are painted first, then glued together with the white glue.

    PAGE 88 BOTTOM LEFT: The front steps and windows can be "weathered" with a single coat of Floquil "Walnut" stain streaked over the surfaces in the same pattern that rain water run-off would follow.

    PAGE 88 BOTTOM RIGHT: The back, front, and one of the side walls can now be glued together with one of the "floor" pieces as a brace. Cast metal corner stone pieces are included with kit to finish corners.

    PAGE 89 TOP LEFT: The SS Ltd. kits include clear plastic to glaze the windows and colored paper "drapes" that can be glued in place from the interior side of the front and rear walls.

    PAGE 89 TOP RIGHT: A full set of brass etchings are among the kit's pieces. Railings and floors of fire escape are trimmed following the instruction sheet's suggestions. Manicure scissors are best.

    PAGE 89 MIDDLE LEFT: The ends of each of the fire escape's railing pieces are gripped in a vise and the sides bent over smoothly with the handle end of an X-Acto knife to shape railing.

    PAGE 89 MIDDLE RIGHT: The fire escape side/end raIling piece you just bent to shape must now be soldered onto the brass floor piece. Hold the pieces firmly on a scrap block of wood while soldering.

    PAGE 89 BOTTOM: The side rails are soldered to the step pieces to assemble the fire escape's stairs, then each of the stair treads is bent at the same angle to give realistic "step" detail.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 88 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 89


    PAGE 90:The fire escape's platforms and stairs are soldered to one another and glued in place against the back side of one building. This is what is dubbed "super" detail!

    PAGE 91 TOP: Extra SS Ltd. window castings can be combined to make a bay window like the one for a slightly different effect on adjacent building based on the same kit.

    PAGE 91 BOTTOM LEFT: The etched brass ornate fence and cast metal cornices complete the front of the structure. A recessed front "basement" should be provided below porch as shown for the best effect.

    PAGE 91 BOTTOM RIGHT: Full roof details including simulated tarpaper, ventilators, and stairwells are provided with each SS Ltd. kit. Two of their false fronts and one complete building kit were used to build the structure with the U-shaped roof.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 90 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 91



    PAGE 92: An SS ltd. "N.Y. Brownstone" (right) and "Chicago" row house form a natural corner setting for SS ltd.'s "Gas Station" kit. The "Gas Station" is, like other SS ltd. kits, a limited production kit - a few dealers may, however, still have one.

    PAGE 93: The sight of an HO scale train drifting through this city setting is a welcome, and far more typical of real life, sight than the strictly rural scenes most modelers feature on their layouts.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 92 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 93

    PAGE 94: Five of Jordan Products HO scale automobile kits "date" this scene as sometime in the mid-twenties. Note manhole cover in street just behind the station wagon. PAGE 95: Two of SS Ltd.'s "Drug Store" kits occupy the corners of this HO scale city street intersection. Street lights are from SS Ltd.'s line of castings, cars are Jordan Products.
    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 94 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 95

    Article Details

    • Original Author 1001 Model Railroading Ideas
    • Source 1001 Model Railroading Ideas
    • Publication Date Winter 1970

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