Bob Lawson, modeler of the Southern Railway is famous for his dioramas that can fit into his Southern Railway layout. One of the most frequently asked questions people ask is how he goes about building a diorama with elevation changes. For diorama materials, he likes to begin his diorama with foam, mapping out what he wants to do using marker and drawing on the foam. He maps in everything from the roads, the buildings, and the scenery. In addition to the normal tools used with foam, Bob uses a woodworking tool which saves a lot of time when cutting denser blue foam, which he demonstrates.
Bob likes to paint the foam the various colors for the different aspects he has plans to include so he can better visualize what the scene will look like. For example, he paints green for grass, brown for dirt, and black for roads. After the paint is dried, he will go on to try to visualize the proportions of the buildings. Before building the entire structure, he will first test it out with paper. After that, he will lay down some of the first ground diorama materials. For dirt, Bob has found that nothing works better than the real thing! He uses two different colors of dirt and sifts them through two different tea strainers for a variety of color and textures.
Using a mixture of 50/50 white glue and water, he liberally applies glue to the road. Bob scatters the finer clay dirt over the road with a spoon. For the green areas, he uses the same glue mixture and adds the dirt that resembles topsoil. To see how Bob completes the diorama, watch the full video. For more tips and ideas for superior scenery like how to create a realistic backdrop, visit the Model Railroad Academy archives.