Rainbow Canyon

An N scale diorama by Patrick Froucht


The article by Gordon Glattenberg in the May 1993 issue of PRN about the UP LA&SL route north of Las Vegas was the starting spark. Today the line has a very light traffic and has been abandoned by railfans (except Trains September 2000 page 43 photo) and modelers. This line deserve more attention from rail enthusiasts and therefore it will be the theme of my diorama for The Rainbow Canyon. The LA&SL route in Nevada passes through some of the most scenic and treacherous territory in the west. It's a land of rainbow canyons and valley washes. The appeal of the LA&SL in Nevada has resulted from the combination of its rugged beauty and the motive power especially those impressive DDA-40X Centennials. The most dramatic scenery is represented by the aptly named Rainbow Canyon section of Meadow Valley Wash, the tunnel portal wit the UP shield, the silver girder bridge and the harmless-looking dried creeks.
The above (real) photo was the starting point for my Rainbow Canyon diorama.

The diorama

Because I already had an N scale DDA40X and the lack of place, I decided that fitting an N scale diorama in an aquarium, built as a shadow box, would be neat for the project and dust proof solution. I found one measuring 2x1x1 feet. It's small size was a good match for its integration in our lounge (hard negotiation has been conducted with the general manager: my wife).
To balance the different volumes of the diorama I placed the right of way 32 scale feet above the bottom of the creek and half way of the depth. The module includes from the left to the right a shallow part of track, then the bridge, and the main track then the tunnel. The tunnel shall hide the bottom of the locomotive to prevent adding a second motive power and most of all to make it looks as blasting out. I wanted to emphasize the bridge to see the close spacing of the ties and the impressive overwhelming of the cliff over the right of way and the locomotive and the portal. The right side of the diorama has a mirror above the tunnel slightly oriented towards the cliff to increase the depth and to prevent it reflecting the track and the locomotive.


Due to the limited depth of the module, I choose to model a dried creek instead of the road under the bridge. I placed the three main components: the canyon, the bridge and the tunnel to fit the small space available. All he scenery was build over roughly shaped Styrofoam layers covered with plaster. I used only one rock mold, the Woodland Scenic C 1244. I used it in one piece only in two places. I made other casting with the mold and broke them in two , three or four parts to fill smaller areas. I also tried a technique with stones of my garden. I wrapped them or part of them with a thin aluminum foil borrowed from the kitchen dispenser. I pressed as much as possible the foil in recessed parts of the stone even if I crumpled to much the foil it self. Then I reinforced the mod with a thick layer of molding clay to ad strength and stability to the mold and I poured the plaster of Paris in. The mold were note reusable but I was pleased with the result. Then all was hand carved and wire brushed to get all the fine details. All was painted with acrylic artist colors.
The tunnel portal is scratchbuild from styrene to match the prototype. To get a real looking texture, when the paint was still wet, I sprinkled over a very fine layer of real cement!
The bridge is an Heljan 662-1 through girder modified into a silver painted deck girder

The Backdrop

Using blue Styrofoam as structural material for the diorama, it was a natural choice for the backdrop. I painted it light sky blue color for a hazy summer day. I also painted on the backdrop the dried creek valley cliffs with the scenery colors mixed with light sky blue where they meet the sky.

The Track

The track is a flex track code 55 weathered Micro Engineering element. Over the bridge, I removed the standard ties replaced them with ties made from matches to have thicker and closer look on the bridge. I painted them Polyscale tie brown. The guard rails are made with code 40 weathered Micro Engineering rails.
The ballast is Woodland Scenic gray fine with an addition of fine sprinkled reddish dust which I collected during holidays in south of France.

A few pictures.

(Click on the photos to see them full size)

Click to enlarge

Photo #1 (63 kb)

DDA-40X at Rainbow Canyon

Heading towards SLC, a DDA-40X heads a heavy train through Meadow Valley Wash.

Photo #2 (64 kb)

The Amtrak to SLC

The daily Amtrak to Salt Lake City runs through the colorful Rainbow Canyon for the delight of the passengers.

Cliquer pour agrandir
Click to enlarge

Photo #3 (63 kb)

Towards SLC

Emerging from a tunel, a DDA-40x (and sister following) gets ready to cross Rainbow Canyon.

Hope these few photos can give you some modeling ideas, even if your space is restricted.

Lakeside diorama 1300 Railroad drive diorama

Page created by Patrick Froucht
Last update : 04/24/2003
© 2003, Patrick Froucht