Introduction: Night Shift at the Diamond Mine- N Scale Train Diorama in a Suitcase
I was given an N scale locomotive, three hopper cars, a caboose, track and ballast by a friend from the Thunder Creek Model Railroad Club. He asked if I would like to make a diorama to display at their annual train show. Of course, I said yes!
This diorama is my representation of a sleeping little girl's dream 'Night Shift at the Diamond Mine'.
Step 1: Construction of the Land and Painting the Sky.
The lack of photos prevents me from showing the original suitcase that I started with. It was beige/tan color, hard sided, leather covered, circa 1950 or so. It had a cloth interior that smelled quite musty. After removing the cloth material, the smell disappeared
I painted the exterior of the suitcase and the inside of the lid with acrylic flat black paint that I purchased from the dollar store. I painted over the brass hardware hinges, locks, etc. , thinking that I would clean it all up when I finished. In hindsight, I should have taken the time to tape over them to protect them, it took me many hours of polishing in the end to get them cleaned up again. Also, in hindsight, the flat black paint showed every mark and scuff and looked quite nasty. When I was finished building the diorama, I ended up painting the exterior of the suitcase with a sequin black that I was much happier with.
I then painted the sky on the inside of the lid. I used only white paint for the moon and clouds, trying to cast light from the moon onto only the tops of the clouds. I used a couple of shades of green to paint the land behind the train tracks.
The land area is made from a large piece of styrofoam that was securely glued to the inside back lid. I then hot glued smaller randomly cut and ripped up pieces of foam pool noodle that I made the 'rocks' with. I painted it all the same black color, then after it was dry, I used white paint to highlight the tops of the rocks. I also added brown and greys to make it look more realistic.
The tunnel is made from a cut up Pringles can that is laying on it's side, the interior of the tunnel was painted black also. The exterior is covered and hidden with the foam pool noodle 'rocks'. I used a piece of blue plastic girls headband to make trim for the mouth of the tunnel and to give it some extra bling.
The track was leveled and glued down next. After gluing down the ballast, I then used a white glue/water mixture to permanently seal it all into place, as I did not want bits of ballast falling into the suitcase when it was closed or being transported.
The pine trees are from the Christmas section at the dollar store. I scraped off most of the white 'snow' that was on them, but left enough to look like reflection the light from the moon. The other bits of greenery are random pieces from silk flowers, landscaping greens, twigs, etc.
I softened the edges of the scene by gluing a black and white feather boa around the inside exterior of the lid.
The raccoon at the top left is a button that I purchased at the dollar store.
Step 2: Flooring, Walls, Door and Window
I cut the 'carpeting' to size from the back panel of an old fleece jacket and glued it down onto the floor of the bedroom. I applied the glue evenly to the bottom of the suitcase with a paintbrush to adhere the material to the floor securely. As things are glued onto this material later, it must be secure to the bottom in all areas. I then cut thin cardboard to fit the walls from side to side and covered it with striped scrapbook paper. There were wood pieces under the hinges on the back wall and under the locks on the front interior of the suitcase, so I made those walls thicker to hide this wood underneath. I scored a light line on a piece of cardboard with a blade and then folded it over a long thin piece of wood to make a consistent straight line on the fold over part. I used plain pink paper to cover those walls and the bent back part of the cardboard is glued onto the suitcase sides.
Bamboo coffee stir sticks are used to make the baseboards and trim around door and window. The window is made from a piece of starry sky picture, mounted onto a piece of cardboard, then covered with a clear piece of plastic to resemble the glass. I then framed it with the stir sticks.
The door is made from a thin piece of cardboard covered with scrapbook paper. The hinges are long thin gold beads. The doorknob is also a bead. I gathered some lace onto a piece of rigid wire for a decorative look above the door and window. I bent the ends of the wire 90 degrees and glued them into beads, which I then glued the bead part to the wall.
Step 3: Accessories
This is the sleeping little girl. Her head is made from a stuffed piece of pantyhose with simple stitched features and a bit of blush on her cheeks. Her blonde hair is made from crafting curly hair. Her body consists of more of a shape than realistic features. As she is under a blanket, the general shape was all I needed. I made her body from a wire shape covered with stuffing. I made the bed by covering a small box with various pieces of material to resemble a boxspring and mattress. I used an oval piece of wood, which I covered with material and then added the row of 'pearls' to give interest to the headboard. I glued her body onto the mattress and glued her head onto a stuffed piece of ribbon pillow. Then I tucked a blanket over her and glued the blanket down in certain areas to make wrinkles.
The telescope is made from 3 different diameter pieces of wood doweling. It is supported by a piece of Lego that is glued to the top of a cap. I painted the entire piece black and added yellow strips of quilling paper to look like brass rings. I coated the entire piece with a few layers of clear nail polish to make it shine. The dial is made from a piece from the inside of an old watch. There is a silver sequin on the end to look like the lens. I added a small piece of gold paper to look like a label on the bottom piece.
The telescope table is made from a small cardboard box covered with scrapbook paper. I painted wood doweling for legs, glue equal length pieces inside the corners of the box, easy! The chair is made from a single length of bent wire with a wood seat and backrest covered with cushions.
The pieces on both sides of the window are from an old bracelet. I liked the black and sparkles on them and thought they fit perfectly, so I glued them onto the wall. On the table is a star chart, an actual working compass, and a wee glass mouse who is eating the cookies on the plate. I printed the star chart, wall plug-ins and lightswitch with the computer printer, the compass is from a broken survival tool, the cookie plate is paper, covered with clear nail polish to make it shine, (Cut a circle from cardstock, center it over a button that is smaller than the circle, bend edges of paper over edge of button to make a rim for the plate.) The cookies are made from Fimo. Mouse was treasure from a garage sale. The decoration on the door is an attachment from a keychain. The skateboard is a child's toy that I painted and dressed up with a bit of bling. The cat is a small figurine that I had, he's checking out that mouse! haha On the wall is a world map, again printed using computer. I cover the paper with clear plastic to make it look like more than 'just a piece of paper stuck to the wall'. I purchase clear plastic document covers at the dollar store and use that to cover the 'posters' with. With miniatures, one cover goes a long way.
The round tabletop is a made from an empty cardboard round that once held a roll of fabric ribbon. There was a hole of course, in the middle of the roll, so I first covered the top with cardboard before applying the decorative scrapbook paper on top of that. It's one central leg is made from smaller plastic rounds, stacked on top of each other. I glued a length of lace to hide the bottom edge. The table sits on a mat that originally was a large placemat. It was constructed with a running stitch, so was easy to unravel until I achieved the diameter that I wanted for my scene. The mat is glued to the carpet and the table is glued to the mat.
The bookcase shelves and sides are made from thin wood paneling. The thicker top and bottom pieces are wood pieces from a child's game. They have an animal picture painted on one side of them, so sanded that off. (I bought this game at a garage sale for 50 cents. I then had 24 consistently sized wood pieces that have come in very handy in many projects, for a really good price too! The thin panelling I obtained from an old monthly organizer. It had 31 panels separating the days and it was 2$ at a thrift shop. I took it apart and had lots of nice panels for again, a really good price.) I applied brown paper to the inside of the tall bookcase and marbled paper to the inside of the shorter one. They both have gold paper on the tops of them.
The make-up table sides are made from two pieces of a silver cardboard jewelry box. The top is also a box, covered with pink foam sheet. The drawers are thin cardboard covered with scrapbook paper and a small bling in the center of each for a pull.
The fancy lights above the table are a bit difficult to describe, but I will try. The light was started by taking a 5 inch long plastic that had 4 rounds attached along it's length. This piece used to be 4 buttons in a digital clock that I once used. Clock died, I took it apart and this was something that I'd saved. I painted it with pink nail polish. I dressed it up with adding some clear acrylic flowers to the bottom of each round, then added a 'diamond' for the lightbulb and a pearl on the top of each. Glued the 5 inch long plastic back to a painted piece of wood for support and glued that wood piece to the wall. I also added a cord made from thin wire, I painted it with nail polish also. The cord runs down the wall and is glued onto a receptacle.
The mirror is made from an old compact, edges painted with same nail polish. I used a sticky strip of bling around the edge. On the make-up table are fancy glass beads with wee gold beads for lids. These bottles of perfumes, toiletries, etc. are sitting on an inch square piece of mirror. I printed and made the tissue box. I cut the hole for where the tissue pokes out and glued a wee piece of clear plastic over the hole on the inside of the box. I cut a slit in this plastic and after I folded and glued it into a box shape, I put a piece of real tissue poking out, There are on the table too, wee bottles of nail polish. They are made by using a very small round bead for the bottle part and the tall cap is made by using a tiny flat topped screw glued head side down onto the hole on the top of the bead. Add a wee paper label to the front and there ya go. There are also a few tubes of make-up on the table. I used an empty metal tube from an old pen, cut it to the sizes I wanted, pinched one end closed with pliers and put a bead on the other end to serve as the cap. There is also a hairbrush on the table. I made it by painting a small section of pipe cleaner black and attached it to a wee length of wire that serves as the handle of the brush. I cut out a small flower from paper and glued it to the handle to dress it up a bit.
The chair is made from a plastic round that I painted pink with a fabric covered seat glued on top. On the wall are things that once were decorative paper clips. I took the clip part off and replaced with a wire from old ear-ring to make hooks. In the photo, dangly ear-rings are hanging on them. I replaced those with wee purses later on in the project.
**It is important to note that the items in the bottom of the suitcase must not be placed where they can hit the items in the scene of the lid and prevent the suitcase from being closed. Some items in the bedroom, I would have prefered in a different area, but could not because they bumped into the scene in the lid. I get down to eye level in front of the case and shine a flashlight through the crack in the mostly closed lid to see if they were going to hit anything in the top part. **
Step 4: More Stuff
The desktop computer is made from a battery compartment door from an old clock. I glued it onto an oval piece of wood to serve as it's base and painted it all black. I ran wires from the back of it across the desk down to the tower below where from there it goes to the wall plug. Using computer, I printed a small Windows desktop picture and then attached it to computer face. I then covered this with a piece of clear acrylic plastic to make it look like glass. I printed also a keyboard and attached it to an appropriate sized piece of wood also painted black . The mouse (wireless, sitting on a fabric pad) Is made from a long flattish bead.
I printed the book covers off, cut them out, and folded them and put a square of wood in each to fill in where normally the pages would be. I painted the wood white before I wrapped the paper cover around them. I coated them entirely with clear nail polish to give them a bit of gleam.
The dreamcatcher on the wall beside the bed is made with an old ear-ring. I added a few things to it as originally, it was just plain. The doll sitting on the shelf is a child's toy. The plant is in a toothpaste cap that I painted pink. The plant is made from dried greenery of some sort, unsure what kind it is.
The bedside table is made from a silver box turned on it's side,with the open part glued to the wall. I covered thin cardboard with scrapbook paper to make the drawers with a bead serving as the drawer pulls. There are also beads glued onto the bottom corners for it's legs.
In the corner is a dirty clothes hamper full of dirty clothes. I was going for a wicker look so this is the easiest thing I could come up with. I made the hamper by attaching a rectangle of burlap to clear acrylic plastic to stiffen it somewhat and then formed it into a tube, I then glued and added the trim at the top and bottom. The clothes inside are just cut pieces of material, but I did make one sock (that looks like a sock) hanging over the edge, as I found it just looked like rags inside without one identifiable piece that actually looks like clothing.
The slippers are basic shapes cut from pink leather, I glued the strap that goes across the toes under the pink sole, before adding the final bottom black sole. I added a small bling onto the strap to dress them up a bit.
On the bedside table is a lamp. It is actually the button from a liquid laundry detergent container. Pull one out, you will see that it looks like a wee lamp! I painted the button part of it with the same pink nail polish and painted the base with silver nail polish. I added a small screw to make a switch and a wire to serve as the plug-in. I added a row of flowers along the bottom edge of the shade.
Also on the bedside table, are various items that a girl might have in her room. The Eiffel tower is a wee replica, the glass ball with blue inside is actually the back part of a weird pair of earrings. The wallets and the purse are made with leather. Constructing the wallet was easy, purse was a bit tougher to make, thank goodness for internet instructions! There's lots of different kind of styles of purses to make, some easier than others, mine are pretty basic.
Because my diorama is train themed and my dreaming girl is a rail fan, I wanted her to have the necessary items to have a layout herself. So on the shelving unit by the door are boxes labeled with the items that I thought would be needed. I just folded those boxes from cardstock and labeled them with help from my printer, it's easier to wrap paper around an actual piece of wood or something, rather than just folding and gluing an empty box. Edges, consistent height, width etc are usually cleaner looking then too. The round containers are made from cut pieces of plastic tubing with a sequin and bead for a lid. I put landscape material inside of a few different colors. The ballast is in a cap off of something, couldn't tell you what, I save all sorts of stuff like that.
The tools on top of the shelf were purchased from the scrapbook store. They were silver, I painted them with pink nail polish. The cup is also painted and it is a cap from a white glue container. The bendy straw is a very small coiled metal spring that I painted and bent. The lemon slice is a leftover piece from a miniature kit that I did a few years ago. The train behind the cup is a broken flashing light pin that you would wear on your clothing. The clock is made from the face from an old wristwatch, glued onto a button that I had painted pink. I then covered it with a few coats of clear nail polish to make it shine and also to make sure the hands didn't fall off of the face later on.
The tractor is off of a keychain. It's a CASE, it used to be red. Pink nail polish made it look right at home here. I just removed the chain and key ring part of it, then glued it to the floor.
The calendar I printed and because this diorama was to be making it's debut at the Model Train Show that is held annually at my workplace, the weekend of the train show was highlighted on the calendar. The open box on top of the shelf contains parts to make a train station. I printed off the box cover on the computer, then folded it to make the box top. Inside the box are various pieces that look like you could make a station with. Wood, plastic film etc.
The Canada flag on the wall is a fabric sticker.
Step 5: Even More Stuff
I used a flat piece of balsa sheeting to build the girls train diorama upon. It is supported underneath by 2 X shaped legs cut from same sheeting. There is a length of wood glued underneath the top between the X's to give support. The land behind the train tracks was made by first painting 3 blue areas (ponds) on the balsa. I then applied hot glue to form the land. I put one layer on, let it dry, then added more here and there to make high areas and low areas on the land. When I was happy with how it looked, I used white glue to cover the dried hot glue and sprinkled green grass landscaping material over that. To the front of the tracks, I painted the balsa brown to mimic a farmers field on one side and made a farmyard on the other side. In the field, I applied white glue and sprinkled yellow landscaping material over that then pulled a metal ruler through it to make it look like rows. I made the house and barn from balsa, they are basic but identifiable. The barn especially because of the color red. The hedges and trees are made from wee pieces of green florist foam. Add a contrasting color green only to edges to give them depth. For the train tracks, I used coarse sand that I'd added black paint to darken it and glued it to the balsa surface in a straight line from one side to the other. When it was dry, I glued onto that, 2 lengths of thin wire which I twisted together underneath to tighten them down. There are no ties on my train track as I just couldn't think of anything that I had that was small enough and looked realistic enough. The train is an old lapel pin with the pin part cut off glued down between the wire tracks. I made a border around the edge of the scene with a length of burlap ribbon to hide some rough areas around the edges. I colored the scenic backdrop onto a piece of watercolor paper with pencil crayons and then covered it with clear plastic film. I then glued it to the wall before I glued the diorama in place.
On the shelving unit, there are various beads and doodads to fill it up and give it interest. Nothing is more boring than an empty shelf right? The unicorn is a pendant from an old necklace, I affixed it to a round metal piece from the back of an old wristwatch and added a crystal from a broken earring to sparkle it up.
The cat bed was made by covering a rectangle piece of foam with cloth and adding trim around the edge. I made a wee grey pom pom into a mouse and added it along with a small jingle bell on a string and a few other pom poms that look like cat toys into the cat's bed.
The hand chair at the computer desk is made from a broken metal back scratcher that I painted with pink nail polish. The chair frame is made from stiff wire. (Bend over a piece of wood to get accurate bends.) I stuffed a wee cushion to sit on it.
The beads spell out 'I Love trains' with a lapel pin train glued onto it. Beside that, there is a boxful of craft paint. They are made from cut pieces of small diameter doweling with an even smaller diameter piece on top as the cap. I painted then each a different color and added the same size and shape label to each. Paint brushes are made from a teeny wee metal spring coil with a few plastic bristles poked into the end. They sit on a cupboard made from balsa wood that I painted pink. Drawers are not functioning, they are just glued on the front surface. Their knobs are made from decorative metal brads.
My girl is a crafting kinda gal along with being a rail fan, so as you can see, she is making a diorama scene inside a suitcase, much like the scene you see in the photos! haha The suitcase is made from black painted balsa. I made the landscape inside the lid by shaping a piece of foam pool noodle into a shape to mimic the land and then carved out a small hole where the train tunnel would be. Into this hole, I poked the wires to look like tracks coming out. I then glued small feathers around the edges of the lid. The interior of the bedroom is in a state of construction, I used mostly pink and grey paper to make the flooring, bed, dressers, etc. On the table are various items needed to craft with. The box is a simple folded kind filled with wood pieces. The white glue tube is made from a painted piece of doweling with a red piece of plastic as the cap. In the folded paper envelope are pieces of paper. The scissor handles are made from bent wire and the blades from silver glitter paper. The ruler is made from silver paper, I scored small marks on it to look like measure marks.. Pencil is a painted toothpick. On the floor under table is a wicker basket full of cloth material. I made the basket by cutting a + shape from burlap, them brought the edges up and glued into a square shape. The handle and top trim are made from twisted paper. I folded various colors of fabric and glued them inside.
Step 6: Locomotive and Cars.
Most of the people who participate in our annual train show are men, whose dioramas look quite 'manly'. I wanted my diorama to look very 'girly', so I painted my hopper cars with two shades of acrylic pink paint. I had three hoppers, so decided to paint one with contrasting colors than the other two. I removed the heavy metal workings inside the locomotive, as I was concerned about the weight of it pulling the glued down engine off the tracks when the suitcase was closed and laying on it's side. This made it very lightweight so it wasn't a concern to me then. I distressed the caboose a bit by applying very lightly white paint and then wiping most of it off. I debated on painting the locomotive pink too, but decided that it had too many small details that I wasn't willing to deal with. Inside the hopper cars are the 'diamonds'. From the dollar store, I purchased 1/2 inch wide strips that had silver and pink shiny things stuck randomly all over them. I cut a short length that fit the hopper cars and glued it in. The cars were a bit too wide to accommodate only one strip to fill them, so there are two strips in each. I put the back one in first, then the front one to overlap and cover the edge of the first one. When I was finished painting and dressing up the cars, I glued them all onto the tracks using a glass/metal glue
If you look closely in the top left side of the sky, there is a spaceship. (made from bead) There is also an alien behind a tree on top of the tunnel watching the train. It's a dream, anything can happen in a dream right? haha I didn't want the alien or spaceship to be too prominent in the scene, so you have to look fairly closely to even notice them.
Step 7: Finishing Up.
I glued a small piece of white fabric batting with a black feather attached to it, above the sleeping girl's head to tie into the feather trim. It's supposed to make it look like a 'thought bubble' of sorts. Meh, best I could come up with. I've never made a dream before. haha
After first painting the exterior of the suitcase with flat matte paint and it showed so many scuff marks, I then repainted it with sequin black paint which is shiny. This was much better and not so easily marked and scuff up. I painted the contrasting trim with sparkle black paint. The handle of the suitcase is leather covered and was in good shape, so I painted it gold, then glued onto it a length of gold cording. I printed the title labels onto gold paper, again covering them with clear acrylic before affixing them to the exterior of the suitcase.
I used my Dremel, polishing tips and metal polish to brighten up all the brass hardware on the suitcase. That took forever and was quite tedious, but worth it in the end as they were quite shiny.
My friend that gave me the train said that never in his wildest dreams did he ever think that I would come up with something like this! I took that as a compliment! haha My diorama was a hit at the train show too. I think it's one of the cutest things I've ever made. Hope you like it too!
Any questions? I will do my best to answer!
Thank you for taking the time to look at and read this Instructable!! Have a great time making one of your own!