The Dioramas

On the home page of ExactRail.com we have a section where large images of highlighted products change every few seconds, we call them the slider images.  We like to use photos of our cars in their "natural habitat", usually photographed on a diorama in the outdoors or on a layout.  This adds a warmer and more colorful image than the cars on a white background.

I use two different dioramas to photograph the HO scale cars on.  One is three tracks going through a generic location & the other is a desert scene with our 72' Deck Plate Girder Bridge.  To photograph N scale I will use my home layout or mock-up something (I really need to get an N scale diorama built).  Both HO scale dioramas were built a few years ago for various reasons other than what we use them for today.

Triple Track

The triple track diorama is used the most often and it shows.  I built it for some photography that was needed on the original release of our Trinity TRINCool Reefers about five years ago.  Along the back left corner I had a few trees and a fence that was built from strip wood.  In the foreground I scratch built an electronics box.  I used sifted dirt from the nearby rail yard and some ground foam for the scenery.  After being used for its original purpose it sat on a shelf and gathered dust.

ho scale module 1

Today the trees, fence & electronics box are gone.  Little by little the trees would blow away in the wind and then I pulled the remaining ones out.  The fence and electronics box were destroyed when the diorama decided to take an unplanned trip to the floor.

Overall the little 12x24" diorama has earned its keep but the day will come when it gets the boot.

Bridge to Nowhere

I built the bridge module for a blog post that never happened.  I must have been pulled away to something more important because I never finished the diorama.  As you can see in the photo, the dry riverbed was never put in and the fascia was never finished.  Like its triple track brother, this diorama spent some quality time on top of a shelf collecting dust & dead bugs. 

exactrail.com ho scale bridge diorama

For this I wanted to make a desert scene and so I acquired some reddish dirt from the side of a highway in a nearby canyon.  The diorama was built on the same 12x24" sized sheet of plywood as the triple track display.  I scratch built the concrete abutments out of sheet styrene to go along with our 72' Deck Plate Girder Bridge.  The little bit of vegetation is ground foam.  As I always shoot below or level with the bridge, I have never needed to finish the dry river bed.

The Setup

When I go out to get the needed photos I like to find locations that have little to no items that will be in the background such as power lines and buildings. On occasion I have used both with great results.  I have also used the Wasatch Mountains or trees in the background but most often it is just sky.

When I have my location I put the diorama on the roof of my car, position the product, get some funny looks from people driving by and get a few shots from different angles.  Next I upload the photos, do a little clean-up in Photoshop if needed and crop the photos for the slider.

I like to do the photography on partly cloudy days but occasionally I have no time and I have to shoot regardless of the weather.   There has been times I have done the photography in snow or light rain.  From past experiences, I have learned that if there is any wind, I need to prevent the cars from moving, I have had cars get blown off (sometimes I have caught them, other times I didn't).  I use a very special rock to prevent disasters from happening anymore.

Before

exactrail.com diorama setup

 

After

exactrail.com ho scale diorama clean

I would like to get a few new dioramas built at some point.   When the time comes, I will post their construction here.

Happy Railroading!

Chris Brimley


11 Responses

Juerg Rueedi
Juerg Rueedi

September 05, 2016

I love Dioramas! I’ve used them in Z scale 10 Years ago and now in H0 Scale too.
Here is Video showing my Engines and Cars on different Dioramas outside in the Sun.

https://youtu.be/Ut-0nke2hrE

Paul Liddiard
Paul Liddiard

August 22, 2016

I too am working on some dioramas. I have a couple of buildings done, just need ot figure out the track work and scenery. I do like that bridge scene you have done! Great work as always…

Keith McGee
Keith McGee

August 22, 2016

Nice blog with some good information. You really can’t beat real daylight for a realistic shot.

Now that I’ve seen the two dioramas you use and how they came together, it’s a lot of fun to watch the sliders and pick out which one was used and how you varied the camera angles and backgrounds to create unique shots of each product.

Thanks for sharing your techniques!

Dave Howard
Dave Howard

August 21, 2016

Well done, the photography is excellent. I really should do the same thing, build a small diorama to use for photography and to try out different scenery “climates”. I’m really looking forward to the N scale one…

gary wise
gary wise

August 21, 2016

very nice

William Dunn
William Dunn

August 21, 2016

Thanks for taking the time to write about this. It gave me some good ideas until I get a layout built.

Dale Trongale
Dale Trongale

August 21, 2016

Aged or not, the dioramas still look great. Extremely desert looking. Even the water you think is not finished looks remarkably like the streams in southern Utah and Arizona where the dirt has more iron (red tint) to it that makes it look like what you have in the diorama. I’d keep them around for future shots as well as constructing some new ones for more variety in your pictures. Possibly in the east and south east, say, the Pohantas Sub (?) of the Norfolk Southern. Anyway, those dioramas are still functional in my book and still look great. Dale

John Huey
John Huey

August 21, 2016

I’ve been thinking of building something to use for my freight car photography besides the unsceniced layout trackage. I need to cull my cars down to a more narrow window in time; my problem has always been I like too many things in this hobby. I suffer from severe ECS (Era Creep Syndrome) and need to find a way to deal with the extra’s.Your dioramas look like just the thing to give the cars I must move along to new homes, a better send off. Thank You for the inspiration.

Dan Loy
Dan Loy

August 21, 2016

Very enjoyable Read! Thanks

Robert Weinberg
Robert Weinberg

August 21, 2016

Obvious solution to a realistic photograph only wish I had thought of it first

Philip Ciaffa
Philip Ciaffa

August 21, 2016

Realistic results with some skillful photography! Your new Diorama Blog is a nice addition. Keep up the great work!

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