Make Your Own Realistic Railway Station Diorama
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Looking for a great project to do in your spare time? How about a realistic-looking train station?
Follow this in-depth guide to make one for yourself.
But first, you will need some things before you get stuck in.
Tools and equipment needed
- Laser cutting machine
- MDF or cardboard
- Balsa wood
- Wood glue
- Masking tape
- Modeling knife
- Modeling tools (file, etc)
- T-shaped profiling
- Oil paints and thinner
- Weathering powders
- Model train tracks
- Track ballast glue
- Length of plastic I-beam for models
- Various miniature model parts (stairs, etc)
- Fine sand
- Ground gypsum
- Powdered dyes
- Optional - syringe
Step 1: Plan your diorama
The first step is to plan your diorama. You can either use a real train station or make one up from your imagination.
For this example, the creator used a small section of the Dnepropetrovsk South station on the Dnepropetrovsk-Yuzhny railway. The diorama is 13-inch (330 mm) in diameter.
Once designed, you can either hand-cut or use a fancy laser cutter to prepare the diorama base. Make the main base using something like balsa wood, and cut out any other features, like the platform, in MDF.
Alternatively, you could make using strips of cardboard. MDF, however, is far more robust.
With the main diorama pieces ready, begin to glue them into place on the base. The dimensions will vary depending on your design.
Continue building up the base until completed.
Step 2: Fill any gaps using filler
With the main features of the diorama complete, you can seal any edges using things like filler, or similar material. You can also fill any gaps between pieces on the diorama too.
Once dry, sand down as needed — especially around the rim of the diorama base.
Step 3: Add the main platform details
Next, take your plastic card and cut out the pieces needed to make other features like, in this case, the main platform canopy, and fascia slabs to the platform edge. Remove any barbs from the cut edges using your modeling knife and files.
Glue into place as needed.
You can also add T-shaped profiling along the top edges of the slabs if needed. Alternatively, you could round off the edges.
For added realism, you can texture the concrete slabs using adhesive, like PVA. Apply evenly to their surface, and then dab with a sponge to give a mottled appearance once the glue dries.
Add in other features like stairs, etc, where required.
Step 4: Begin to paint the concrete and add imitation asphalt
With the main construction of the base complete, we can begin to paint the platform. Either hand paint, or use an airbrush. Take care not to obscure the mottled effect you created earlier.
Paint the edges and joints in black. Then, paint over again in white to give a dark grey effect.
To make the asphalt, take a mixture of 50% fine sand and 50% powdered gypsum. Mix together and add some black powdered pigment to the mix. Alternatively, you could use filler and paint grey later.
Add some water, and mix into a paste and add some PVA glue to bind everything together. Then begin to spread over the surface of the platforms.
Try to get this part of the work done in a quick manner as this mixture tends to cure pretty quickly. Spread evenly and level off using a wide spatula.
While curing, you can also add in some cracks or weathering damage to the asphalt for added realism. To do this, scratch the surface using a sharp tool.
Once fully dry, you can make the asphalt darker by painting the entire surface with thinned down black paint.
Step 5: Add the tracks and ballast
With the main platform bases effectively completed, you can now begin to add the tracks. This diorama is 1:87 scale and PIKO tracks have been chosen.
Lay the tracks and trim off any excess (for example around the base), as needed. Before laying them permanently, we will need to paint them a little first.
Paint any metal parts on the sleepers black. You could also paint the sleepers brown at this point too.
With that complete, glue the tracks into place using superglue. Now to create the track embankments.
Tape around the edge of the model base to form a clear boundary and then add model railway track ballast to the rails. Use a paintbrush to move the ballast evenly between and around the sleepers.
Before fixing the ballast into place, paint the track rails in black and then add burnt amber, or equivalent, pigment to them to give them a weathered and slightly rusty effect.
Once dry, add them back to the track sleepers.
To fix the ballast, make a mixture of water and PVA glue. Spray the surface with water, and then spread water/PVA mix over the surface of the ballast and let it run between the ballast pieces.
For best results, use a pipette to squirt the mixture where needed.
While curing, you can add some weathering effects like some flock, etc. Sprinkle over the surface of the ballast, as necessary.
When the PVA/water cures, these added textures will also be fixed into place.
Leave to cure for about 10 hours, and then, if there are any, tilt the model to knock off any loose bits of the ballast. Then remove any edging tape you put into place.
Step 6: Make the platform canopy and age it
Next, mark out, cut, and assemble the columns and supporting arms of the platform canopy. You can use either plastic card, as before, or cardboard. Alternatively, use other suitable materials (like balsa wood) you may have to hand.
Fill any gaps as before, if needed, and sand down.
Then glue into place on the platform. Ensure they are perfectly vertical. Once in place, add strips of I-beam plastic for the canopy roof rafters.
For the main canopy covering, cut strips of plastic card (or thin cardboard/balsa wood), and glue them into place.
Once dry, begin to paint the platform canopy as needed. In this case, the main columns are a sandy color, with a black strip at the base. Again do it by hand using an airbrush.
The roof of this platform will be covered in roofing felt. You can use strips of fine sandpaper to simulate this.
Cut strips of it and glue them into place. Once complete, trim off any excess, as needed. Add some edging strips of plastic for added realism too.
With that complete, you can also make up some mock-bitumen by using liquid rubber, water, and a black dye. Mix together and use a syringe to apply between the joints of the sandpaper.
Alternatively, you could just use black paint, or mix black paint with PVA.
Spread the mix out a little bit beyond the seams of the roofing felt. Next, take some black oil paint, thin it down, and paint over the entire surface of the roofing felt.
Next, take some brown oil paint, thin down at around 80:20 with thinner, and apply to the underside of the roof. Do the same for all elements of the canopy, including roof struts and columns.
This will give these areas a realistic weathered look from being exposed to rain for many years. Add some streaking with brown paint too if desired.
Roughly apply, and then spread out using a wide brush.
Give the edges of the roof the same treatment too to match.
Step 7: Make and add the station name plaque
With that complete, the next stage is to create and add the station's name plaque. You can either sketch them out by hand and cut them from plastic card or use your laser cutter to make cut them from balsa wood or MDF.
Whichever you choose to do, take the letters and stick them to two thin plastic rails.
Once dry, paint the entire thing black by hand or using an airbrush. When the paint is dry, hand paint the letters in a steel color (or whatever color you want).
Stick the entire name plaque assembly to the canopy roof.
Step 8: Add other details to the platform
Depending on the fidelity of the model, you can also add in some other details, like yellow edge plates and markings to the platform edge. To do this, take some angled plastic strips, and paint them as needed.
Then glue them to the platform edges. You can also add more "concrete slabs" to create crossings on the tracks too.
For any markings, tape off the design needed, and airbrush. Alternatively, you could try hand painting them.
Add weathering to any new "clean" elements at this stage too. Copy a similar method as you did for the canopy using oil paints.
Add some weathering and staining to the tracks too. For best results, you should look at some example images of train tracks in the "wild" and try to replicate them.
Remember train tracks will build up a lot of soot, oil stains, etc. Use thinned oils, or other paints, to simulate. Blend in and spread out as needed so it looks as realistic as possible.
Add some mold and other effects using a thinned down green paint. Do this to the lower sections of any vertical surfaces — like where the platform meets the track ballast.
Add to other areas like any steps, or the base of columns, etc. You can also add some textured weathering powders to things like the track rails too.
This will give them an aged and realistic look.
Let the rust powders overflow a little onto the ballast to simulate rust flecks and debris. You can also add some rubble and dust powders to the platform surfaces too.
With that, your train station diorama is effectively complete. You can add model passengers, seating, and other details like handrails too if desired.
Now all you need is a train to add to your wonderful diorama. Be sure to place it somewhere prominent to show off your hard work.
You'll also be looking for a new project no doubt. How about a replica DeLorean from "Back to the Future"?