Men At Work

If ever there was an example of "scope creep" in modeling form, here it is. It started with just the gas station, excavator and dump truck. Then came the road compactor, the cement truck, the tow truck, etcetera, ad infinitum. I kept trying to rein in the scope creep, but each time I did, I came up with yet more things to add. So... rather than fight it, I just said, "Fine, bring it." I even made the diorama bigger: I added an inch to the back so I could model the elevated double track main, instead of just half of it.

Presently, this ambitious 12" x 18" diorama has an awful lot of stuff crammed into it:

1. Dump truck dumping
2. Excavator
3. Dump truck slamming its gate repeatedly (or stuck in the mud)
4. Worker with tamper
5. Road compactor
6. Portable tower light
7. Worker with shovel
8. Cement truck with rotating drum, moving chute and 4-ways
9. Barricade barrels with flashers
10. Chain link fence gates and junkyard
11. Tow truck with parking lights, work lights and light bar
12. Mail truck in tow with 4-ways
13. Spano's Service Station with car lift, welding effect, flickering shop light and oscillating desk fan
14. Car with wheel off and work light underneath
15. Car with open door and dome light
16. Rotating lighted sign
17. Traffic light
18. Police car with light bar
19. Type G signal
20. Worker with flashlight
21. Grade crossing gates
22. Tractor-trailer (lowboy carrying bulldozer) stuck on grade crossing with 4-ways, headlights and marker lights
23. Concrete overpass with low clearance warning sign
24. Road flares
25. Portable message sign
26. Barber shop and laundromat ("World's most animated building")
27. Streetlights

The tan area demarks the construction site.


Like the rest of my dioramas, the goal is to present an assortment of models I've animated together in a plausible setting. Before even starting this diorama, I was taken to task for having "too many" items in one scene to be realistic. Well, as it happens, not long ago there was an even busier scene in the middle of the town near where I live, plus far more hectic scenes play out elsewhere all of the time. So, I'm not at all concerned about having "too much" stuff. Actually, I'm okay adding even more; indeed, as an example of "scope creep," this diorama excels, and I've been adding to it almost continuously since beginning construction—right up to my most recent additions, the workers with shovel and tamper. Plus, I'm always adding non-animated effects, such as the worker with flashlight.

Besides, one must temper any thoughts of what constitutes "too much" with one of the realities of the diorama: it was never intended that every single animated object would all be running at once. And even if I did turn everything on, many of the animations are so subtle that they'd barely be noticed; you must go hunting in order to see some of them. For instance, many of the animated items in the barber shop and laundromat are only visible if you carefully peer into the building; they're not dancing up and down the street for all the world to see. My overarching philosophy on model animation has always been to be subtle.

One other purpose of this diorama has grown out of the "rebirth" of the gas station: it's allowing me to recapture, in vague, tiny ways, some of the best parts of the White River & Northern IV and, for whatever reason, for me the gas station is among them. Better still, I now have the opportunity to improve things, in particular the proximity and orientation of the station to the viewer; I'd always regretted the fact that the station was quite far from the layout edge, making it difficult to enjoy its animated and detailed interior. At any rate, I'm still of the mind that the WR&N IV represented the pinnacle of my modeling career. I may have gone on to do more "impressive" work, but that layout captured the best of all worlds for me; that it wound up in Great Model Railroads 2000 may perhaps be acknowledgement of this.


All of these lights and motors need a lot of controls—so many, in fact, that the diorama has three control panels:

Why external control panels and power supplies? Because there is virtually no room left inside the diorama case for them; it's pretty well packed with mechanisms and wires and such.

The Name

The name of the diorama is not intended to be any sort of social statement. Quite simply, the temporal setting of the diorama is somewhere in the mid-80s to late 90s, back when "sexist" phrases such as "men at work" weren't met with the overwhelming scorn they are now. The name of the diorama was chosen merely to help suggest the time period, not stir a debate. Admittedly the precise time is somewhat rubbery, due principally to practical modeling constraints, such as the era of available vehicles.


2 September 2022: Began work on the concrete overpass.

23 August 2022: Traffic light is finished and installed.

9 August 2022: Streets are getting paved.

6 August 2022: Scenery has begun.

3 August 2022: Added an inch to the back of the diorama so I can model the elevated double track main. This was a purely cosmetic move, and not meant to allow me to cram in more stuff: in addition to the two elevated tracks, it increased the depth of where the road goes under the line, which hopefully will allow me to make something a bit better-looking in the way of a "set extension." I've been toying with all sorts of ideas, including forced-perspective building flats and other potential tricks. We'll see.

1 August 2022: Created a little junkyard to go behind the gas station.

30 July 2022: Installed Spano's Service Station.

23 July 2022: Installed the grade crossing gates, and even laid some track.

6 July 2022: While making repairs, I also made a few changes. Specifically, I replaced the Bobcat with the original dump truck repurposed for a different animation.

2 July 2022: Tragedy struck: I dropped the diorama. Naturally it landed "butter side down." The Excavator took the brunt of the damage; the road compactor and the brand new dump truck sustained moderate damage.

1 July 2022: Began permanently installing animations. So far: dump truck, excavator and road compactor. Each device must be 100% complete, prewired and tested before installation.

11 October 2021: Made the display base for the diorama from ˝-inch Gatorfoam.

See the individual project pages for loads of more images.



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