Linked Dioramas

5.5mm Association ‘Linked Dioramas’ at Daventry MRC Exhibition 2019


The members of the Group who asked to participate in the “linked diorama” project are about to embark on the challenging task of building a series of modules without actually making social contact with each other. Des will supply a template if you contact him, and Brian and Stephen are going to produce a “master linker” which will be passed around and (after careful disinfection!) used to check that the boards all match. Watch this space!

24 MARCH 2020

Above arrangements need to be modified in view of increasing stringency of “lockdown” measures. Des was able only to post a couple of templates before closure of his manufacturing base, and the “master linker” can’t be passed around in the spirit of the new measures.  Advice therefore is to follow the specifications below (170mm from front of board to the foot of the front rail; 20mm (minimum) straight run to baseboard edge at 90 degrees; track underlay 1/8 inch) and to allow for slight modification later, by not ballasting and soldering right to the edge of the board.

18 MARCH 2020

Here is Malcolm’s “scenic” board with track laid out in “draft” form;

Two weeks later….


1 APRIL 2020:

Brian has posted plans of his proposed “scenic” board. Note that he’s going to add a few more boards of his own (but using our standard templates):

Beds & Bucks modular board

Porlock Weir fiddleyard

Porlock Weir terminus

John Szm is having difficulty finding enough cork sheet to make a start (and others have reported supply problems with Peco track) but is constructing buildings instead. Here are the results, a Metcalfe pub and a Wills chapel:

(John) Hywel Rees adds some buildings for his module:


5 APRIL 2020

Malcolm has replaced the Store building in his Whipsnade module (above) with the following:


Hywel Rees’s scenic module is going to be based on a Magstone quarry like the one at Stormy Down near Port Talbot. Magstone is a short name for Limestone with a high magnesium content used in steelmaking.
The crane is a Kibri Menck drag line excavator. It needs painting before rigging all the ropes to support jib and bucket.
John writes: The wagon has a chequered history. It started out as a Jouef-Eggerbahn 4 wheel box van that I tried to convert to a brake van many years ago. I rescued the chassis (body lost) and fitted low sides and ends using a double thickness of Slaters 2mm wide embossed planked plasticard. The lettering and number comes from a LNWR transfer sheet for wagons and the load is carefully selected road chippings stuck on  a card base. One end has a Greenwich coupling loop to replace the damaged original loop:
12 APRIL 2020:
Brian has laid the track on his scenic module and provisionally positioned a few structures. Note that the track is still loose at the baseboard edge, for adjustment later:

14 APRIL 2020:

Des sends a picture of progress on his module. At least two of our participants say that they have still to get started.



Hywel Rees has found a supply of cork and is pressing ahead with his plans. The red lines indicate the presence of baseboard cross-members that would interfere with the fitting of Peco point motors.

1 MAY:

Hywel Rees: I have now got all the track together and cut to length ready to lay. Special thanks to Malcolm and Tony who replied to my request for a turnout. The holes have been drilled through the top surface under the tiebars for the turnout operating rods from the point motors. The 2×1 across the back represents the cliff face that will hide turnout and magnetic uncoupling controls. Just to the right of the building is the first of three Snailbeach hopper kits I am building. This seemingly simple kit was quite a challenge in terms of the bevels and angles involved in the hopper shape. However I learnt a lot from building the first one and approach the next one with a degree of confidence!


2 MAY:

Not that it’s a race! – but Malcolm reports:  The backscene on “Whipsnade Central” is now in place – been waiting two weeks for it to arrive. Apart from fine detailing its just about finished. I still have the track wiring to do; this I will need expert help with, so it will have to wait till we all meet up. The points are controlled by wire rods.

And Brian says: I have now wired up and tested my scenic board. A connection remains to be made at one end, but this is on a currently temporary section of track. I’m not going any further with this project until we can meet again, but the buildings and structures are ready to go. It was nice to get a couple of engines running today!!
15 MAY:
(Hywel Rees): I have been working on the quarry rock face at the back of my module. The profile layers are corrugated cardboard covered with plaster and emulsion paint. The cardboard is fixed to a long hollow plywood box section, behind which I will fit the layout control switches. The rock face is not the final colour yet. I have ordered some Woodland Scenics ground foam turf to cover the ground on top of the quarry face and some of the ledges.
I have now built 3 of the Snailbeach hopper wagons, just need to add the support strapping to 2 of them and sort out one wobbly wheel set. I have Greenwich couplings made up for them but am trying to decide whether to run them as a fixed rake of 3 with Greenwich couplings at the outer ends and simply hook and loop in between:
20 MAY 2020:
I have now painted the rock face at the back of the quarry and applied Woodland Scenics fine turf – burn grass shade – which I think gives a nice not too bright finish. To paint the rock face I used a Crown “On the rocks” colour emulsion paint tester tube. I have found it a good match for the Woodlands Scenics fine grey ballast as used on my Old Oak layout and I intend to use this same ballast on this layout.
The loco in the picture is an “Airfix Pug chop” tram engine I did many years ago and is just push along. That said it is useful for posed photos and testing track alignment which reminds me I must bite the bullet and stick the track down! The two WD bogie wagons are a Bachmann Nocton Estates van and a Dundas D class open. The body of the open has been given 2 extra points of contact with the bogie at one end by sticking two small pieces of plastikard either side of the pivot. This means that the body effectively has three main points of contact with the bogies and this makes it ride more steadily without the “shimmer effect ” sometimes seen on moving bogie stock. This technique is widely used on standard gauge models.
UPDATE 2 July. You can read more about the quarry building in 009 News for July.

Here is the module with the Gaugemaster backscene in place:

26 MAY:

(Brian Key): As a diversion from coach building, I have scratchbuilt an L&B style permanent way hut  from Wills stone sheet and Evergreen ‘corrugated iron’ styrene sheet. I’ve also built a waiting shelter from Wills cement rendering and pantile sheets. This is based upon the one at Snapper Halt. Both of these buildings will be used on my linked module and the passenger terminus I intend to connect to it at home.


(Tony Clarke): I have drafted up the proposed layout of a station with passing loop and very modest goods yard and engine shed. There is  70mm of plain track at the left end to allow the engine to run forward and reverse onto the loop but it will have to run onto the linker board at the other end. I have only  completed the main station building which I constructed from Wills coarse stone sheets.  I have yet to start building  the other structures but have put pieces of paper cut to the correct shape onto the board in the attached photographs. It is fairly cramped but I hope it will look OK when finished. I am waiting for some turnouts from Hattons so will have to delay the laying of track until these arrive. I can continue working on the buildings. They will keep me busy for some time as I have other projects as well.



Here is the module being built by Bob Menzies:


6 JULY 2020:

With the slow easing of the “lockdown”, we have now entered the next phase of our modular project. Brian has completed the “master” link board and this is available for the next person, who will I believe be Hywel Rees. With the board is a straight Tracksetta and a limited quantity of copper-clad sleeper strip, and a supply of latches to connect the boards.  Please use this linker board only (the track on which has been set using a template supplied by Des) to set the track AT BOTH ENDS of your link and scenic boards. The track on the links should be laid up to the edges of the board, with the isolating gaps being accommodated on the scenic boards. If you ask for the master linker it is on the understanding that you can use it within seven days and (preferably) drive it to the next person. You do of course need to observe hygiene procedures: a gentle wipe with an antiseptic solution should be more than enough. Here is the “master linker” in action (latches not shown):
Brian is building a traverser type fiddleyard (picture attached) to fit at the left hand side of the scheme, when viewed from the rear. The traverser is 600mm long. Someone else might want to consider building a right hand fiddleyard or terminus:


17 JULY:

News is that Brian and Hywel have now finished with the master linker and are about to pass it on to the third member; so there will be three modules ready for through running, if not scenically complete. Please contact Brian or Hywel if you are ready to make use of the linker.

(Tony Clarke reports):  I have now completed the cutting and fixing of the track on the scenic board apart from the last few cms at each end. The turnouts are controlled by rods under the board. These pass through a hole which I drilled in the top part of the 2 way switches which change the frog polarity. I have also installed the electromagnets for remotely actuating the couplings. The backscene is also fitted.

The next  job will be to start locating the buildings etc.

22 JULY:

(Hywel Rees sends an update):  Now that I have used the master linker board and so got the track correctly aligned on my scenic board I have started on the ground work around the track. I have stuck down card profiles to get the basic levels and the next step is to apply polyfilla to smooth out the transitions and create a texture before painting with emulsion paint.

The gaps in the fencing will be filled with bushes or hedges in the final scheme. The backscene is temporary until I stick the chosen version onto a piece of board – ply or MDF.


2 AUGUST 20:

(Brian):  I have fitted the scenic side and end boards and have started to lay the road and yard surface bases. I now need to shape the side and end boards to their finished profiles and install the level crossing before starting on the landscaping.and backscene.









Hywel Rees shared these notes with the Group:

As you might expect from laser cut board parts the master linker board fitted fine on the ends of my scenic module. I used a sheet of melamine coated chipboard as a flat work surface to help align everything. What I found was that my cork tracked was a little bit thicker than that on the master linker so I sanded a very slight slope on my scenic board trackbed to get everything to line up vertically. I think that there must be some variation in thickness for what is sold as 1/8″ cork, probably anything from 3 – 3.5mm! I also noticed that Peco have made slight changes to the exact profile of the rail they use, the newer lengths have a slightly wider flatter rail head than the older stuff. I have a mixture! The newer track is very slightly wider to gauge – you don’t notice when using fishplates but when you line up free ends there is a very slight visible difference but not enough to affect running.
The clips to join the boards went on no problem following Des’ instructions and give a really firm connection with no discernible movement between boards when so joined. I stuck some pieces of 10mm x 10mm softwood into the inside corners of the boards so the fixing screws didn’t show through on the inside. I used 4mm over the thread round head screws with about 1/2″ of thread.
A neat little trick I learnt from Brian was to drill the ends of the copper clad sleepers and pin them in place for a more secure fixing. I drilled 0.5mm and used Peco track pins  that penetrated the baseboard plywood end quite easily and also allow some vertical adjustment of the track end of required! (Peco track pins are like what you get as pivots in Greenwich couplings).
I had to do rather more work on my own linker board which was then set up from my completed scenic board. My lateral and vertical track alignment both needed adjustment. Fortunately I hadn’t stuck the track down very firmly.
I think my experience goes to show the value of choosing a laser cut baseboard system and also the use of a master board from which everything else is set up. I would have said that I had made everything correctly but if I am typical  I fear that had we not adopted our chosen approach we might have ended up with twelve boards and eleven linker boards that didn’t!
So in summary I think we have a robust system. To my mind the only potential variable will be how thick your 1/8″ cork really is!
and John Szm adds the following:

1.       Trust Des’s measurements for the latches, they make for a very tight fit betwen the boards.

2.       I had to buy a box of screws for the latches so I will put them in the bag for anyone else to use.






We are planning a group activity to create ‘pop up’ modular layouts. Members will create their own scenic module and these can be joined together to form larger layouts for exhibitions, open days or running sessions.

Working in 009, each modeler can model any theme, location or time period. These can be joined together to form a series of ‘linked dioramas’ and the stock will run through a variety of different scenes. For example, it might be possible to see a train run from the Lincolnshire Potato Fields, into Darjeeling and then the rolling Devon countryside. It will depend on what each modeller decides to create and who brings a module to the running session.

We like this idea because it allows each modeler to do what they want (an existing topic or to try something new…) and will create a bigger group ‘layout’ for meetings.

It’s not a new concept and we must give credit to the 5.5mm Narrow Gauge Association Modular Group who inspired us to start this project.

We are currently working on a set of standards to ensure that everything will fit together and work properly.


Notes to the Beds and Bucks Members 24th Feb 2020

The current version of the standards is shown below. This was approved by the group on 23th Feb 2020.

Actions to be completed for our Meeting on 29th March

There were a few actions from our February meeting. Many thanks to those who agreed to help with this project.

  • David to buy some 1/8″ thick cork mat and bring to the March meeting.
  • Des to buy sufficient side latches for the group modules and bring them to the March meeting (the group will reimburse him)
  • Des to make a height guide so the latches can be positioned at a standard height on the linker boards and bring it to the March meeting
  • Des to make a template for the position of the track (170mm from front of board to foot of front rail) that we will use to lay the track on the linker modules and bring it to the March meeting.
  • Stephen S to bring copper clad for 14 linker boards to the March meeting
  • Brain to buy some quick drying PVA and bring it to the March meeting
  • Stephen C to buy sufficient plug and socket terminal blocks, DPDT Centre Off switches, and red, black, green and blue wires for 14 linker boards and bring these to the March meeting.
  • Everyone assemble your linker boards, paint them black if you wish, and bring them to the March meeting.
  • Everyone bring your own Peco 009 track (mainline or irregular sleeper) to the March meeting.

Linker Board Assembly Session in our March Meeting

Our meeting on 29th March at Simpson Village Hall will be a group session to lay the cork matt, lay track and wire up the electrics on all 14 linker boards. We may set up a production line!

Please remember to assemble your linker board and bring it and a length of Peco 009 track (mainline or irregular sleeper) to the March meeting.

It would be helpful if people could bring some suitable tools, soldering irons and weights to the meeting too.

Baseboard Assembly Instructions

The instructions for assembling the 900 x 400mm scenic boards can be downloaded here. There are no specific instructions for assembling the linker boards as these were a custom build for our group, please follow the principles described in the assembly instructions for the scenic boards.



Linked Dioramas Standards 24th Feb 2020


Scale and Gauge – 009 or Hoe (= 9mm gauge, 4mm or 3.5mm to the foot)


The ‘Mainline’

Definition: The mainline track is the track that runs from board to board

The standards only apply to the ‘mainline’

Outside of the ‘mainline’ the modeler may do whatever they want


Linker Modules are Grainge and Hodder 400mm wide, 300mm long modules

Scenic Modules are Grainge and Hodder 400mm wide, 900mm long modules

The standard Grainge and Hodder dowel / bolt pattern at the end of the boards is used to connect the modules

Linker modules are used to connect the scenic modules together (And, in the future, hide the train as it passes from module to module).

The scenic modules are the ones we model on

We will operate from the rear and view from the front.


Connecting the modules

The modules will be located together using the round locating dowels provided by Grainge and Hodder.

The male connector will go on the scenic modules. The female connection goes on the linker modules.

The modules will be latched together using side latches, one at the front and one at the rear of each module

Des will buy sufficient side latches for the group modules

Des will make a height guide so the latches can be positioned at a standard height on the scenic and linker boards.


Mainline Track on Scenic Modules and Linkers

Peco Code 80 (Mainline or Irregular sleeper – both are OK)

Minimum radius of curves and points on mainline = 304mm (12 inches)

Points: Minimum radius is Peco Irregular Sleepers, Small Radius, Turnout Radius: 304mm (12 inches) SL-E491 or SL-E492

Other acceptable points include:

  • SL-E497 Y Turnout, Medium Radius, Radius: 457mm (18 inch)
  • Peco Mainline points with 457mm (18 inch) radius (SL-E495, SL-E496)

Point control is up to the modeler (hand operated, wire in tube, motors etc are all acceptable)

Track mounted onto cork mat or cork tiles. They will either be self adhesive or we will glue in place with PVA or Copydex.

David will investigate and source suitable cork mat or cork tiles

The first 20mm of track at both ends of the scenic and linker modules must be straight and at 90 degrees to the joining edge of the module. To ensure a smooth transition into the module and reduce derailments.


Off the ‘mainline’

Outside of the mainline modeler can use any type of track, any radius curve and any type of point they want.

If a modeler uses really tight curves or unusual track work it would be helpful if they can make a note of this on the rear of their module to inform / alert other users.


Position of the Mainline

At both ends of each scenic and linker modules the distance from the front of the board to the foot of the front rail of the mainline track will be 170mm.

Des will make a template for the position of the track (170mm from front of board to foot of front rail) that we will use to la the track on the linker modules


Loading Gauge / Clearances

Loading gauge will be a minimum of:

  • 50mm high above rails height
  • 20mm either side of the outside of each rail

Platforms: maximum height is level with the top of the rail




Red to the rear, Black to front. When viewing the module from the front, the viewing side of the module, red (positive) to rear rail of mainline, black (negative) to front rail of mainline.

The green (positive) and blue (negative) wires connect all of the boards together (see below)

The electrical system has been designed to allow local control of each scenic board, together with selective control of the link boards either side. In addition, it is possible to control the whole layout from any of the scenic boards

Each scenic board will have two control points (local and main) plus a double pole / double throw switch to select local or main control.  ONLY ONE  ‘MAIN’ CONTROLLER MUST BE PLUGGED IN ON THE ENTIRE LAYOUT. AT AN AGREED MAIN CONTROL POINT.

To allow people to use their own favourite controller, the control points will comprise plug and socket terminal blocks, with the male connector fitted to the controller and the female to the board.

Section switches can be  incorporated as desired.

Each linker board will have a double pole / double throw switch to enable it to be controlled from the scenic boards either side as required.

The DPDT switches on the link boards should have a centre off position so that these boards can be completely isolated.
The local controllers on the scenic boards should be removable. As we will use standard pin and sockets as with the inter board connectors, this will be the case

Inter board wiring connectors will be  via Plug and Socket Terminal Blocks 10mm pitch. eg:

The connectors on the linker modules are the female connectors (those with a hole in them). The scenic module connectors are the male connectors (those with a metal pin on them)

Connectors can be attached to the module or not (left dangling). The modeler can choose.

Sections outside of mainline can have isolating sections or not. The module owner decides.

17 AUGUST 2020: Some members have reported difficulties getting their heads around the wiring diagram, to the extent that they have only wired their module on a temporary basis. Hywell thinks that this diagram might help:



Backscenes and Lighting

Backscenes: The modeler may do whatever they want (no backscene, backscenes of any style and height, straight or curved everything is acceptable)

The modeler can decide whether they want to light their module or not.

If included backscenes and lighting must not stop the modules being joined together.