Drumheller - Alberta

An S (1/64th) scale diorama by Philippe Coquet

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« Grain Elevators », also named « Prairie skyscrapers » or « Prairie sentinels » by Canadian people are structures that always impressed and attracted me. Designed to receive, store and ship grain in bulk, the elevator was strictly utilitarian buildings with a height of 80 to 100 ft. These structures, erected in the 1920's, for most of them, were scattered along the Canadian prairies skyline of Alberta and Saskatchewan in the years 1970-1980. During the last thirty years, many of them were razed - and the railroads that served them were abandoned to make room, during the 1980's, for much larger units mixing concrete and steel. Among the 1435 wooden « elevators" » listed in Alberta, in 1972, only 247 of them were still standing in 2007 !

Drumheller is a locality in Alberta, located at about 60 miles east of Calgary on a Canadian National Railroad line. In this village, there were up to three « elevators » active simultaneously. The gray-blue building managed by United Grain Grocers (UGG) has been active until its demolition in 2001. The white building didn't exist as it is, in Drumheller. It was inspired by the architecture, the color and the weathering of many UGG or Paterson silos, in the area.

At right are two photos of the prototype at the time of its splendor.

Making of the buildings

The buildings have been conceived using a CAD tool then laser cut in 1/16" basswood clapboard by Bill Banta in the USA. In order to stiffen the structures and avoid warping the wood siding was laminated on a building core made of MDF. The other wooden elements were made from scale lumber. The whole roof was made using very thin wood shingles from Builder-in-Scale (truewood® shingles). Both building required a total of 15 sheets of these self-adhesive shingles !


Made with acrylic paints (Polly Scale or Model Master), the weathering of the white silo was made by following step by step the technique worked out by Chuck Doan. This technique, so-called « hair spray technique » allows, by inserting good amounts of hair spray between the base layer (dark wood stain weatherproofed by an heavy layer of flat varnish) and the final coating (acrylic white), so that the final coating can be peeled very easily using adhesive tape. (the recipe however requires that each step be strictly observed, so as to obtain a full final success).

Making of the scenery

The weeds have been straightened up by using a Grass Master from Noch on a mix of earth and diluted white glue. The fibers used are mostly 6mm from Mini-Natur brand (hay) or remains from GPP stock (Chaume). A few straw-yellow fibers from Woodland Scenics have been cut to a 10-12 mm length to give the feeling of tall grass, in some places. At last, in order to vary the volumes, a second coat of flocking has been made at places after having sprayed diluted Matte Medium on the original grass (be sure to rinse thoroughly the sprayer after use or it may be definitively clogged).

The background is a photomontage made by stacking a sky (from Paris), a highres paronamic photo of a North Dakota prairie that i found on the Internet after many researches.

Rolling stock

Covered hopper of the type ACF 4,650 cu.ft. with 3 bays. Plastic model from Pacific Rail Shop superdetailed (brake system, roof walks,...).

Track plan

Thre is no track plan per se, because of the simplicity of the trackage which crosses this diorama. However, in order to get a better idea of the thing, here is a top view of the diorama :

The photo album...

(Click on the photos to see them full size)

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Personal background


After numerous trips to the United States and 20 years of model railroading (exclusively American) in HO scale, I discovered in 1999 «S scale», this rare but fascinating scale, in term of detail capability, thus realism. I, since, dedicate to this scale. « Drumheller, AB » is my fourth accomplishment in 1/64th scale, after « Bighorn Sheep Canyon », « 1300 RR Dr », exhibited at the World Model exhibition in Paris, in 2000 and 2004, then in Gennevilliers in 2005 and « Odessa Texas » built in 2005-2008.

Diorama Rainbow Canyon Merchant Row System

Page created by Philippe Coquet
Last update : 07/03/2013
© 2003-2013, Philippe Coquet