Reflections on a Liverpool diorama – and there is not a train in sight!

Barry Allen’s encased diorama of a Merseyside street scene from many years ago shows just what can be achieved in O scale within a very small space indeed, with figures so realistic you could almost jump inside, step over the omnipresent horse manure on the cobbled streets and share a conversation with them. Pete Kelly reports.

If you’ve been a railway modeller for some time, you will almost certainly have built up a cache of discarded items and left-over materials – and a great way of using them up is to construct a small, but highly detailed, diorama.

A comedian in the 1950s once said: “There’s not much of it about these days”, and when the listener replied: “What?”, the answer came: “Dobby-horse muck!” Before, during and just after the war, horse-drawn traffic of all kinds was a familiar sight in Britain’s towns and cities, and as two Shire horses by Duncan Models meet at a typical yard, there’s plenty of evidence of their ‘presents’ (made from pliable Milliput material) on the cobbles, which Barry has enhanced with grids from Langley Models. Loaded with flour bags behind the fence is an old lorry that Barry picked up at a swap meet, and beneath the bollard advertising Turf cigarettes and CWS jams, an old man waits for a bus while another studies the day’s racing form on a bench. As was typical at the time, the streets are scattered with discarded cigarette packets and other litter, which armies of Cleansing Department employees with handcarts and wide brushes constantly swept up. In some places Barry has deliberately made indentations in the cobbles to fill with resin and give the impression of puddles. The Victorian industrial building in the background, mounted on card to stick out a little, is actually part of the paper backscene.

In an idle moment Barry Allen, who’s been modelling in O scale for as long as he can remember, and has written several books and innumerable absorbing features about his lifelong interest in railways and their re-creation in miniature – always laced liberally with Scouse humour – decided to see what he could do with nothing more than a pile of leftovers and a vivid imagination.

For the full article and to view more images, see the October edition of Modelling – available now!

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