Fisherman Wharf

The following is Chris Lyon's description of how he designed and built the "Martine Fish Hut Build" which was submitted in the NFR 2014 Regional Convention Shoe Box contest.

I always wanted to build a diorama of a fishing scene on the east coast. So I decided to scratch build this project as best I could based on the knowledge I received from kit building, craftsman clinics and following the builds on the Railroad Line Forum.

Here is a final shot to wet your appetite.

A new contest for this year (2014) Niagara Region NMRA Convention was developed just for the Grapevine Express by Chuck Faist.
Judging was by popular choice.
The rules for this contest were few and simple.
  1. The diorama can be any scale or gauge from Zn15 to G. Can be steam, diesel, traction, rural, urban, any time frame, any place.
  2. The diorama must be in a shoebox*. With the lid closed the shoe box’s internal dimensions cannot exceed 13 inches long by 9 inches wide by 5 inches deep.
  3. The complete diorama and its base must fit in the shoe box with the lid fully closed.
  4. The diorama must contain a section of track, a structure, a rock formation, and one of the following: A brick wall; a brick driveway; a concrete footing; or a retaining wall.
  5. The diorama had to be newly built and must not have appeared at any other NMRA National or Regional convention, or a Division meet.
This got my creative juices flowing, I got to try something new, and had great fun!
So the first thing I did was sketch out a plan that seemed to provide some sense of dimension to the land, water, peer/dock, platform and track work.

I had to search around in the old shoe boxes downstairs and was lucky to find one with the right dimensions. I then cut the Gatorboard base to fit. I then transferred my ideas onto the base which basically determined the proportions for the land sea and dock work. I decided to use HOn3 track which provided for a bit more space around the fishing peer and gave me enough ocean out front to get the feel of the waves maybe a boat and buoy.

Next I used 2 inch pink foam to the size I had sketched on the Gatorboard in order to form the cliffs and molded some rock work using dental plaster. It was glued on with "Household Goop" a product you get at Walmart (purple tube)which is flexible, dries clear and fixes most things to each other.

Well it was fun doing the next step. Being a scratch build I need to determine what sizes of wood I would need. For the most part decking was done with 2X8s and the piers were two inch long so they would match the height of the pink foam. Also had some 6x6 to support the piers to the deck and 4x4s for trip rails.

I roughed up all the wood with my seven blade Exacto tool.
I stained the wood using Chocolate and Black Saman Waterbased Stain thinned with water. I soaked all the wood then ran them through a cloth and set them to dry. I like it better than AI as you get some brown in the black and seals the wood.

Next I cut out a piece of card stock for my pier deck. Then laminated to 2x8s to it. I used 8 ft 6ft and 4ft lengths to produce an irregular pattern. I glued them in place along the long side of the pier from the outside in.

I used a container of black waterbased stain filled to the muck line level and then dipped each one in to get the same height. This was a Doug Fos strategy I saw on one of his videos.

I just continued building the components. A loading dock, a floating dock, a door, and the hut.

Then I had some fun building the eroded rock on top of the plaster cliffs using celluclay which is a paper mache mixed with white glue and water. It trowels on and is easy to shape.

It is fun to place things on the diorama to enjoy the progress and also it inspires you with new ideas about what is still needed and potential details.

In this picture you can see that I added sand to create barnacles on the piers. I just dipped in very thin white glue water mixture then sprinkled. The sand was sifted through pantihose.
I add rust colour using Bragdon Powders to create that transitional look you often see. Further south the colour can be green. I believe it is sea weed and algae that combines for this colour.

After framing the bottom of the dock I added the piers making sure the spacing and angles were equal on each plain.

Here are closeups of the shack showing the effects of roughing the wood, using waterbased stain and adding nail holes using the monster nailer. The door was scratch built. I used a pin head for the knob.
After laminating the 2x8 boards onto the cardstock template, I made the nail holes. Then I framed the door with 1x6 then glued in the door.

This side was interesting as I used Rusty Stumps peel and stick 8ft double doors. You may have noticed the shack looks similar to Brett's lineside shack.
I used his building as the main idea but I moved the doors and windows for my needs and changed the dimensions to make it look right on the dock.

The back side has a single window (Rusty Stumps) placed so that the upper edge was 8 ft from the floor. This left plenty of space under it for details.

The 4th side did not have a window as it faced out over the water and would have been tough to clean. The shack was mainly used for storage and a place to get out of the bad weather.

Now to turn to some really interesting stuff. I really have to thank Troels Kirk and his painting video. Also combined with some of Doug FOS strategies. After making a plaster cast retaining wall, I integrated it into the rock face so that it would be the support for the dock which will extend beyond the cliff edge. The retaining wall was part of the optional components set out in the contest rules.

I then followed Troels suggestion to paint everything black. This ensures an even undercoat for his next technique.

Just like figures you drybrush the surface with cream white so you can see the details. Then you drybrush your rock colours. I used some creams, umbers and siennas. Then some white.

Doug FOS video suggests you get into the cracks with some dark brown Bragdon powders and then use light earth tones to blend into the upper rock surfaces. Like showtime makeup techniques to enhance the deep areas around the eyes.

The end result is rock that has very nice tones and ties all the surfaces together.

I placed the dock onto the diorama to determine the muckline along the shore. I painted it in with a wash of black Saman stain and then used rust bragdons to match the pier colours.

The final step here was to glue in some scenic express and woodland scenics green bush material and then hit it with the Black Saman stain to tone it down.

The red on the pilings represents a type of seaweed and algae called Rhodophyta. The rocks have also some iron content.
I was following something I saw in Troels layout pictures and I liked it. I guess I found the green seaweed was enough and anymore would overpower the scene.

After the stain had dried on the scenic material I applied a good coat of Gloss Medium with varnish. This gave the seaweed that wet look.

Then it was time to paint the water surface. I used Troels Kirk's Colour pallet. You can get this from his super DVD.

For the deep water I used Artist quality acrylics: Ultra Marine Blue, Mars Black warmed (cut) with raw umber. Then as I got closer to shore I added permanent green to the mix. I also went back into some of the deeper water with this mix so there were areas of dark and light. Closer to shore more permanent green was added. Then right at the shore some Naples yellow and raw sienna was added to make the shallows. Not to much in my case as the cliffs are steep.

I used the number 12 china round brush to apply the paint. I moved from left to right using long strokes following the line of the waves. I went from the deep to the shallow areas.

Of course you can play with this to achieve the look you want. I recommend that your waves come in on an angle. In this case I chose about a 30 degree angle from the direction of the sea coming into the cove.
Near the shore they can bend slightly to follow the contours of the cliff as the pier and underwater structures do effect the colour.

The Acrylic Gloss Gel was applied by stippling a fair quantity over the surface with a number 12 china round brush Following the line of the painted waves.

Then an artist knife was used to generate the wave shapes. The slope was steep on the shore side and gradual on the ocean side. Sloped them at the tips toward the shore.
I wanted to create low waves in high wind. Something you might see in a protected harbour. I also varied the distances between the waves keeping them close and irregular.

After the waves were created I carefully set the piers, dock, buoy and boat into the gel. I used the knife and tooth picks to generate the splashes on the shore, pier, docks, buoys and boat. Also the wake behind the objects and boat.

The Gel takes about three days to dry: the last area being the wave tips. It will eventually be completely clear. There's lots of time to play with the water and you can add more where you need it.

Make sure you keep it in a clean place without dust for the best effect.

Now is a really good time to shift gears and modify and paint doodads and figures. I have over 200 set aside for this project and it was pitter patter lets get atter.

It may be a better option to use the super heavy gel from Liquitex as it doesn't shrink when drying.

After 3 days of drying I dry brushed the top of the waves with white and also added some of the lighter ocean colours to the higher back sides of the waves. Then I added gloss medium with varnish to make it shine.

Also I finished the backside of the diorama by using dirt, ballast made from sifted pulverized granite and scenic materials. The platform was glued in place at that time.

I decided to have four mini scenes that would tell the story on the diorama.
This being a fish hut the main activity at this point of the day was bait cutting.
I used an SS ltd sink, with scratch built shelf framing and shelf.
Then I found two characters that would look like they were cutting fish. Aprons on etc.

The fish were grains of rice painted silver and blue. The box with fish on the sink was a metal casting of a box of corn. The bigger box was a 1/35 scale ammo box filled with individual grains of painted rice.

The bait buckets were white metal castings as well as the cat admiring the scraps. The Scale was from SS Ltd. I did add blood from the cut fish and in the sink later.

This mini scene is a fisherman moving one of Jill's (BEST) small blocks to a pile. He was originally a modern street worker with a jack hammer.
I sanded the helmet into a cap, cut off the jackhammer and added the block. Then painted him like a fisherman.

The rest of the doodads were from several manufacturers including Sierra West.
The large box was a 1/35 scale ammo box with a painted bead to look like a buoy. The rope was made with heavy thread/chord I got from Michael's and painted to look old and salty.

In this loading dock scene there are lots of details to see. A four-way foghorn mounted on a styrene block with air tank behind. The ramp is from the walkways found in Tichy fuel tank kits. Another ammo box, Best trains blocks, chain, scrap wood etc etc.

Right behind the shack is my pride and joy. The Fish net scene was made from 1/35 scale camouflage netting.
A close look and to me it looks like green dyed cheese cloth. I took some of the thread and fed it through some cut styrene rod gluing them in along the length. Then I dipped the netting in diluted white glue and shaped it into the pile and placed the floats/line around the outside overlapping with the net in places. I tried to shape it as natural as I could. When I was happy with the shape, I laid it in place.

The fisherman was a German Street Cop that was painted to look like a fisherman. When he was glued in place, I touched some canopy glue to his left hand and pulled the netting to it.
Everything was tacky and it stayed on the hand and the net had stretched to him in a natural way. I now have a fisherman examining the net for holes.

In the floating dock scene, I like the modified track side worker who's helmet was sanded to make a cap and his track prying tool was painted to look like a gaff. Again bait buckets, line and cleats were made from scratch.

The dory was one of Brett's castings. I made thwarts from scrap wood. The bait buckets again and of course my rice fish.
The oars were paddles from Full Steam Ahead. They were laser cut so I could lengthen the shaft while cutting. The macon shape of the blade was perfect.
I placed one oar in the boat and had the fisherman hold the other over the water as if he was guiding the bow at a 30 degree angle to the floating dock. It was critical to get the angles right and also to get the figures to look natural in their tasks.

There are 38 seabirds including gulls terns and cormorants. Nine figures, three cats, a dog and lots of doodads.
The structures were scratch-built and the scene matched the specifications of the shoebox challenge.
I really enjoyed this process as it took me places in the hobby I had not been before.
I am glad you enjoyed this build. Looking forward to the next one.

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Grant Knowles and was last updated on July, 2014.