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the Wemyss Layout - build a Diorama


the finished diorama, ready for use

I decided to build a Diorama to allow me to have a better way to photograph engines or wagons. Below is how I went about building this diorama.

It’s a great way to practice and learn some modelling skills as you go.
Its a small project, both in size and time and great for a newbie to modelling.

I have not previously done any modelling in my life so this project gave me the opportunity to build an embankment, to lay some track, ballast track, add grass effect, add bushes and finally add a backscene.

The two carboard templates  were built to allow me to check the hight and width of the bridge.

The hight for the sections was
2.75” and looks ok.

From what we could tell most modellers appear to go for a hight from 2.5” to 3.00”.

The idea for the diorama came about as I wondered what to do with the sections that had been build. Did not want to waste.

wemyss castle station Bridge test hight and width

This is the base for the diorama laid out ready to start work.

Behind is the carboard embankment sections. The following will show how to make these and put the whole diorama  together.

WCS Diorama  base and embankment 01

This is the base of what will become the diorama.

Why this base? Well, I had dismantled a cabinet and put the drawer ends in storage till I could dispose of them. I realised that the size was perfect, the wood was solid and even came with its own little plastic feet that would help when picking up and moving the diorama around.
(Possibly change these for wood feet). Once again using what is available and at no extra cost.

WCS Diorama base bottom

The first thing I did was to lightly sand the upper part of the base.

This was to give a key for the glue to stick to.

WCS Diorama base sandpaper block

Draw out the sections for the embankment.

The sizes for each section would be; hight 2.5”, width of the top for the track would be 3” and the bank would be xx away from top.

This angled part was not too scale, as most embankment sides were at an angle of 90 degrees.

The final embankment would be;  hight 2.75”, 3” wide and both embankment sides would be at approx 90 degrees. This would give the finished embankment a foot print of approx 9” wide.

The length of each embankment section would be the length of the baseboard.

WCS Diorama draw out card sections

Simply cut out each card section.

Note: Do not be tempted to make one long card type construction for the Diorama Embankment as there would be a good chance of sections sagging. Keep the sections a reasonable length to give strength and stability especially to the rail track.

WCS Diorama cutting card sections

Score the lines where you want to fold the card with the edge of one blade from a pair of scissors and a steel ruler as a guide.

Be careful not to push too hard or you will go right through the card.

WCS Diorama scoring card sections

Fold up the sections to see how they fit together.

Use sticky tape to hold in place.

WCS Diorama folding card sections

Measure and cut out a small rectangle of card to use to provide support between the top and bottom parts of the embankment.

WCS Diorama card end section

Small rectangle of card in place and again everything on the card is held in place with sticky tape.

WCS Diorama card section folded

Two sections made up and complete. The support card on either end of the sections can also be used to spread glue to glue each section not only to the base but to each other.

WCS Diorama building sections and tools

View of the sections so far built and placed side by side with a section of rail placed on top.

WCS Diorama all sections complete plus rail

All of the sections brought forward to the front edge of the baseboard.

The first section is lifted up to allow glue to be spread on the base.

WCS Diorama laying out sections on base

Glue on the first section of base.

WCS Diorama glue on base

Spread the glue out using an off cut of card.

I have drawn a pencil line on the base to guide me on where to spread the glue.

WCS Diorama spread glue

Remember to spread glue on the ends of each card section to hold them together.

WCS Diorama more glue to spread

I realised that as I had only built part of the embankment for test purposes.

I now had a section of base with no card. I decided it best to build and glue some card to fill in this gap.

WCS Diorama full length adding rear sections

Sections being glued on the back part of the embankment.

I only measured for a base, back wall and top section that were prepared in similar way to the original embankment parts.

WCS Diorama placing rear sections

Putting the back part of embankment together plus nearest camera decided to fit an end piece that would seal of and support each end.

WCS Diorama folding in sections

Glue on top and side end piece.
Glue on support and strengthening card.

WCS Diorama glueing and spreading

End piece stuck down and held in place with sticky tape.

WCS Diorama end cover added

All the back parts of the embankment have been glued down... time to move on to top.

WCS Diorama folding rear sections in place

Glue top parts into place and again hold in place with sticky tape.

WCS Diorama all folded and stuck down

Time to move on to the Mudrock. That will cover the entire embankment to give it strength.

Cutting out pieces required at correct length.

WCS Diorama mod rock

Placing test pieces to check how many I would need to cover from end to end.

WCS Diorama laying mod rock

First piece of Mudrock in water to soften the plaster. Leave it in the water for 30 seconds.

WCS Diorama mod rock in water

Take out of water and drain slightly. Then place over the area to cover and smooth down.

WCS Diorama placing first piece

Remember to overlap each piece slightly as its added.

WCS Diorama almost finished covering

Work quickly to cover the whole length. Make sure each piece is patted into place.

Leave overnight to dry.

WCS Diorama completed mod rock in place leave to dry 24hrs



Placing the basket liner, which was cut into sections, onto the front and top of the diorama.

This was to check if I had enough material and see how it looked.

WCS Diorama laying basket material


WCS Diorama tools material

Spread glue onto front and top and stick the basket liner in place using PVA glue.

Only sticking basket liner over the edge onto the top... not all over the top as track and ballast will be laid in middle of top.

WCS Diorama top glued side ready

Moving onto the second half of the diorama.

WCS Diorama glueing second half of basket lining

Once again plenty of PVA glue to be spread evenly over the surface then flip down the basket liner.

Once again leave overnight to dry.

WCS Diorama ready to stick basket lining in place

First thing I did was to spread the liner material to cover any of the lines that were showing. If needed a little glue was then used to hold in place.

Laying the track down on top of the embankment to see if it is level and looks good.

WCS Diorama test track laid on top

Putting glue down and spreading out, ready for the track to be placed on top.

WCS Diorama glue for track laid and spread

The track placed on to the glue and pressed firmly into place.

WCS Diorama sticking track down

Ballast is immediately spread over the track and pressed into place with fingers.

WCS Diorama adding first layer of ballast

More ballast is added on top of the first layer and again pressed into every area so that as much as possible will stick.

At this time I placed a piece of wood 2”x1”, flat side down on top of the track. Then places some heavy books on top of the wood to press firstly the track down and get a good flat even rail surface and secondly to keep the ballast in place. Leave over night to dry.

WCS Diorama lots more ballast added

The next day remove the weights and wood and excess ballast.

WCS Diorama 24 hours later remove excess ballast

I then moved on to add the grass affect to the top rear portion of the diorama.

The initial basket liners had a plastic backing. This I removed from the liner material and set about sticking the tufts of liner down.

WCS Diorama prepare basket liner for rear section

Tufts of liner being glued to the top. Having tried both ways, I would now recommend  keeping the backing in place. It proved very difficult to get a good covering after removing the backing. The backing did hold everything in place and allowed for easy stretching of the grass material to cover any joins.

Diorama glueing tufts of grass to rear section

Overhead shot looking down on the track and ballast and grass affect.

diorama view of track from above

Back view of the almost complete Diorama.

diorama from back with bushes on either side of track

Back view of Diorama but low down.

You can see the edge of the Diorama base board to which the backscene will be fixed. The black marks are where I plan to put the screws.

diorama low back view

The card backscene screwed onto the back of the Diorama.

Do not glue the backscene onto the back of the Diorama as you will not be able to remove to do repairs or change the backscene image.

diorama temporary card backscene

Shot showing a Wemyss wagon sitting on the track. Bushes have now been added.

There is nothing on the card backscene at this time.

diorama image without backscene image

Exactly the same view as above except that the back scene image has been added.

You can see immediately the effect I was looking for and how it will improve the photographing of wagons.

diorama with backscene image in place



diorama finished and ready for use

Above is the completed diorama with card back scene.
The only things to be done now, to wire up the track, allowing the diorama to be used as a programming track for DCC engines.



Adding the 6mm plywood backscene board.

Drilled holes and part screwed the screws in using a power tool.


diorama plywood pre drill

Finish off putting the screw in by hand.

Sometimes a power tool can be too powerful and damage the wood. I think its best to finish of with a normal hand driven screw driver.

diorama plywood screwdrive to finish

The new plywood backscene in place. I have used 4 screws to hold in place.

I have not used glue to hold the ply backscene in place as I may want to remove from time to time to change the backscene image.

diorama plywood backscene fitted



Removing the screws holding the original plastic feet to replace with 2 x 1 wood batton.

The diorama has been tipped onto its back with the plywood backscene in place.

note: should have done this before starting work.

diorama base remove plastic feet

The two 2 x 1 wood battons after being cut down to size ready for attaching to the base.

diorama base wood feet cut to size

Drill pilot holes for screws.
(remember to countersink so screw heads do not damage table tops)

Use power tool to drive home screw almost all the way.

Finish of using a hand screwdriver.

Tip up the Diorama onto its new feet after both are secured.

Image below shows completed diorama including the addition of a plastic strip to protect the edge of the plywood and the backscene image. (white strip on top).

diorama base new wood feet screwdrive to finish



diorama finished project full view completed

The completed Diorama, ready for action.

diorama tools and materials

List of Tools and Materials:

Some materials like card can cost nothing, use old cerial packets or card box.

Some tools you may not have but try and get a loan of any to save buying. Second hand tools can be bought very cheap at car boot sales.

Remember joining a Model Rail Group can help here with the loan of basic tools on a club evening. Also you will find that they will have scrap pieces of wood and other materials that may be of use to you.

Ruler plus Steel Ruler
Paint and brush for rail weathering
Power drill
Screw Driver
Wood Rasp
No-nails glue
PVA Glue
Basket Liner
Material to make small bushes
Trees (if required/needed)
9 mm Plywood board 2’ 6” by 9”

Spirit level not shown on image above

Diorama Sizes:

Width = 8"
Length of board = 34.5"
Length of embankment = 32.5"
Hight of ground = half inch
Depth of base = half inch
Carry hand holds - Top 1” both ends, bottom 2.5” both ends.
(area left at each end to enable easy pick up and moving).

I realised early on that it would be important to design in some form of basic hand holds that will allow the Diorama to be moved, lifted with ease. This is impotant as this is not a super strong structure and dropping or knocking it will do the diorama no good. Also important that you or anyone else can feel comfortable and secure in moving the diorama around.

Strength of structure
It is important to accept that this is only a structure for placing engines and wagons on to allow the taking of photographs. It is not and never is meant to be used for heavy items.

Modelling skills
Will give you an easy and quick project to build. Allows you to learn modelling skills.

The track can be wired for either DC or DCC or both.You can of course add power to the track to allow the track to be used as a programming track for DCC engines or If using video you can then run an engine, slowly along the diorama.

Diorama rail stops
Suggest adding small stops at either end of the track to stop any rolling stock from rolling of the end. This could be done by cutting a plastic strip and glueing onto rail either end.

Materials used:
Free items, Diorama base (drawer back), card for basic structure, card for test backscene.
Bought previously, in storage, basket liner, modrock, glue, brushes, track, track ballast, paint rust colour for rail edge, scissors, pencil, steel ruler, spirit level.  Printing diorama backscene with colour printer and obtain permission to use image (if not yours).

Actual expenditure at the time off building - none 

his project will take about a week to complete. Mainly because it is best when gluing items like track and ballast to leave overnight before continuing work. Some things you can't rush.
If using glue best to lay project aside and continue next day.


This is a great project for anyone starting out in modelling. Giving you the opportunity to practice some of the basic skills and techniques needed for railway modelling.


Image used on the back scene is taken by Fife, Photographer, Charlie McCartney,
who has kindly given permission for his image to be used.
You can view more creative images by Charlie at:


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