This is a behind the scenes look at the construction of the Big Lou's diorama. I'll try to list any major changes from the original kit. And I suppose tips on building the kit would be good too huh? Click the images to view them larger in the viewer. Read on and if you are interested in your own Big Lou's kit, better hit eBay and pray ~ they're pretty rare now!
Well, the most obvious change is the paint job. I liked the look of white and red (like on old wood gas stations) so I decided to give it a shot. Changing the colors of a kit is one of the easiest ways to make a kit "your own." Try it out!
The "metal" cladding on the bottom looks amazing and is aluminum foil with lightly scored cross-hatching. It can be a little frustrating at first to get things right, but after a while you get the hang of it and it looks fantastic!
Everything was weathered by drybrushing with white paint. The main building was hit with a very light stain of black india ink/alcohol mix. I learned quickly (luckily on a piece of scrapwood- always test first!) that my usual ink stain was too dark on white paint. So I thinned it out quite a bit. Floquil Rust was used in a lot of places as well as weathering chalks.
Here is an invaluable tip: if you want a figure inside, which I assume you will, put him in before finishing the diorama! Don't ask. We'll just say it took a lot of effort to get Lou in there after I was done with everything else! Another tip is to read the instructions very carefully when you add the kitchen wall inside. It needs to be just right to line up the roof section above it. I'd recommend test fitting the roof piece over the kitchen wall before gluing the wall in.
I ended up finishing most of the model and really liking the embankment behind the grill and the billboard. If I added track the ballast would likely eliminate the change of elevation. I used to do a lot of track walking and usually there is a drainage ditch between the tracks and whatever is beside the right of way. So, I added another inch and half strip to the base. Thus I ended up with my "hobo highway." Changes in elevation almost always add a lot to a model. This is especially true in urban modeling where things can get very flat and thus a little boring. Try adding anything you can think of to add a little depth. This, by the way, brings the finished base to 10" x 11.5".
The track is Code 100 flex with random ties cut off for variation (there's that variation thing again!). The track is sprayed with rail brown then a light coat of flat black. Then a few ties are painted with oak and driftwood stains. When the ballast is down I added some black wash inside the rails and a light stain of rust on the outside of the track. I covered the nail heads with scraps of wood or old newspapers (this helps with realism a lot; those nails just don't fit in!)
The lot was supposed to be gravel- I went with real dirt. I then added chalks and a little dry brushing to get some variation. I didn't want to put weeds over the whole wall to hide the seam, so I added some small rocks and old newspapers. Most of the foliage is Woodland Scenics. I mainly used two colors, but I mixed them together first and after they were glued down I hit them with dabs of black alcohol and ink stain.
For the rest of the diorama two grades of dirt were used: a very fine powder and a rocky blend. (Sounds like coffee huh?) There are little patches of grass that are Sweetwater products. I really like them.
The patches in the street were a last minute fix (the best effects usually come by accident!). I touched the street and left some fingerprints in the charcoal I used for weathering. So, I just painted over the prints with Floquil's Aged Concrete and then very lightly re-weathered the patches.
You may have noticed I used a steel fence instead of the wooden fence supplied for the railing by the parking lot. Variation is a good thing. I figured since I already had a wood fence in back, I'd switch things up a bit. It is by Pola. The fence in the back is board-by-board and I originally thought of using a Central Valley plastic fence to save time, but I'm glad I didn't! The fence came out very nice and with a little weathering and a poster here and there ended up looking great.
I added some extra castings here and there, especially around the trash corral. There's also a good buildup of old boards, a tire and some misc. junk out back. There were additional details that were meant for the back, but because of my drainage ditch I kept them and instead used some old crates and pallets and other junk.
The roof has a lot of patches, as it is quite old. The patches are pieces of the roofing paper cut to size. A cool detail here is to take a sewing needle or very fine pin and make nail-hole marks around the edges of your patches. This looks great!
One other big change was in the carving of the sidewalk. I thought the squares were too big in the plans, so I made my own smaller squares. I then used a dull x-acto knife to carve in lots of cracks.
The billboard was tough (for me)- take your time.... I switched the sign for an old FSM sign I had. I very lightly sanded the front of the sign with 440 grit wet/dry sandpaper to give a faded look. There are many many signs on the diorama and all have been sanded very thin on the back and then lightly on the front.
The stucco addition was another change from the kit. After reading through the directions I was a little skeptical about having gaps around the window after mounting it backwards. So, I put in in like a regular window and since I don't like decals I scrapped the EAT decal and went with some old signs and posters. There are two Ringling Bros. posters- a new one over the old one.
Photography: These pictures were taken on my lunch break (i.e.: big rush!). I set the diorama up outdoors and put a simple backdrop behind it. The natural sunlight really adds a lot to model photography! The pics were taken on a Nikon Coolpix 995. Any retouching was done in Paint Shop Pro 7.2. It took about a week to get a sunny day (darn winter weather.)