Newbie tip: Try a diorama approach to building your first Trainz layout


Trainz route developer
Many route developer newbies often struggle with making high quality detailed Trainz routes. I have seen so much route junk on the DLS that I know this is so. Many times these new route developers begin with very unrealistic goals like trying to build a new route hundreds, or even thousands, of baseboards in size.

Most people who are new to Trainz start trying to build large layout construction projects and quickly become overwhelmed when they realize just how much work, often months of tedious effort, that even a modest sized layout requires. Usually in about 98% of the cases after just a few baseboards, and sometimes only just one baseboard, of design effort, they give up and never finish the project. As a result, many of these projects never get completed and are quickly abandoned. Folks, smaller is often better, especially for your first creative efforts.

Actually COMPLETING one or more small projects will serve to build your confidence and help you to move to bigger projects over time.

Having 14 high quality routes on the DLS at present I can personally vouch for the fact that even a relatively small high quality route takes a large degree of creative effort to complete over a period of several months of time (at least).

A very successful approach used by Model Railroaders all over the world for many years that you might consider trying is to build, instead of a full sized layout, a diorama. A diorama is a way to build an exciting scene in a small space. Dioramas usually display a historical time period, a nature scene, or a fictional situation, and allow a lot of room for creativity and innovation. They have been used for many years to create small but highly detailed model railroad scenes. For those new to layout construction they are an excellent way to get your feet wet in the construction process while keeping the project small and manageable.

An example would be to create a single baseboard diorama project which shows a highly detailed 1920 steam era coal mine or logging scene. In the diorama you would basically have a small number of buildings and highly detailed landscaping and texturing. The intent here is to make it as realistic as possible within the smallest number of baseboards. Such diorama based layouts are ideal for merging into larger projects.

Here is a Wikipedia link on the concept of Dioramas for those who want more information.

Here are some photos of model railroad dioramas that give you an idea of what I am talking about here:

and of course my own four baseboard Trainz diorama effort, along with more constructions tips, here at:

BTW tips posted by other layout designers on creating Trainz dioramas are welcome in this thread!
Well said and true of a lot of artistic and creative efforts. When studying music whether for the piano or another instrument, we tend to set our lofty goals for those pieces which will never become reachable, or if we do work on them we do a shoddy job, and in the end the projects, note the plural, end up abandoned. This is something that I call biting off more than I can chew and like us all I've been there and done that more than once.

Over my Trainz years, I have had a few big routes go to the trash bucket, but I've also had some that have remained in my inventory. What I have found that keeps the interest going on these routes is working on tiny bits. Sure the route might be a 50 mile long branch line, but working on a small portion at a time and ignoring the whole length makes the project a bit easier to consume. Maybe this is how those guys eat the 72 oz. steaks at the Big Texan! :)

Anyway there's an interesting article in this month's Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine., which is absolutely appropriate. You need to sign up and then you can download the magazine. It's an online/digital model railroad magazine with phenomenal photos, an awesome forum, and something that actually rivals Model Railroad magazine! (A bit off topic, but it's worthy for ideas which are just as appropriate for us in Virtual Railroading as it is in the real model world).

In this month's issue is a nice quote by the famous John Allen that sums this all up well.

“I’d rather do it small and do it well ...” – John Allen
One could make a diorama route and make Spruce Creek, Tyrone, East Altoona, Altoona, Horseshoe Curve, MG, Tunnelhill, Galitzin, Cresson, Lilly, Cassandra, South Fork, Johnstown a total route ... cutting out many hundreds of miles of redundant route
What's the short distance between A and Z ...? :hehe:

Keeping it simple, and sweet, and build from there!

Are we all getting philosophical now!?:mop:

Or take a model/miniature railway plan and build it out, albeit not necessarily in the model railway "style". Unless of course you look to make the (in)famous Train Mountain in Oregon up to full size which would be as if not more challenging than a prototype linear route. You could also take a real world station or yard and represent it in full size, but simply tag fiddle yards or return loops on the outgoing tracks rather than having to make mile after mile of lineside scenery.

Find a self contained island route - a couple of years ago some of us were looking at Bermuda, but there are loads of potential prototypes out there - Isle Of Man, St Kitts, Barbados (which I'm currently studying).
Many dioramas I have seen in the past are fairly small, highly detailed, and usually just cover one or two industries and a few adjoining structures. When it comes to dioramas QUALITY is far more important the QUANTITY. The following link to a set of photo images from a real world model railroad diorama gives you a good idea of what I am talking about here:

A diorama doesn't even have to have a single bit of track on it. An example would be if you designed a one or two base board very small town or portion of a large town or city. This could be used by others as a merge module when a small town is needed for a layout.

A Trainz example: The following link is to a TRS2004 diorama layout module by jkeenan depicting a large flour mill typical of Midwestern US. Grain is brought into the facility in covered hoppers and flour is shipped out in several types of covered hopper cars. He intended for others to merge this module into their own routes. It is an entire single industry with roads, landscaping, texturing, track and supporting structures. FYI I merged this module, with a few changes and updates, into my own Kiowa County Southern layout some years ago:

This is very true. I started out doing scenes just to see if I could do it, and I suppose I succeeded. XD I never uploaded them though.
I really enjoy making dioramas and have made a few on just one board, including one with no track - just a hall (large country UK residence) and it's grounds. My current project is making a virtual model railway version (one board) of my first TRS2004 layout/route which had five stations on seven boards and was based on a 4 metre by 3 metre model railway plan, so a room over 30 feet square should be enough space!

Even this with the speed (?) at which I work will be a long job.

Not sure if my small routes Ashburton-Windrush, Lavenham and Much Murkle count as dioramas, but I am a great believer in 'small is beautiful' - a few boards with super-detailing, maybe based around a prototype. Despite their small size, it still takes me years to work on them!

Not sure if my small routes Ashburton-Windrush, Lavenham and Much Murkle count as dioramas, but I am a great believer in 'small is beautiful' - a few boards with super-detailing, maybe based around a prototype. Despite their small size, it still takes me years to work on them!

Patience is a virtue that experienced Trainzers have XD