Hi and welcome! My name is Stephen. Also known as Vision Scale Modeler, I create scratch-built Thomas & Friends locomotives, & film working dioramas and sets.
It inspired me to read railway history and learn about model railroading. Since I was little I made things with my hands, but as I grew up and my skills broadened, I began creating models of toys I would have liked growing up. I used what I had and what I could find locally to construct locomotives, buildings and ships out of card-stock from the Thomas show.
As a fine-scale modeler, I've enjoyed making some of my favorite railways and scenes from the Island of Sodor as a response to the high standard of creating the world of Thomas & Friends by hand. I model both in HO/OO scale, and large scale in 16mm narrow gauge. This blog showcases the process of current projects and finished work from my hobby.
I love the charm and appeal of narrow gauge railways, and the little engines of Sodor are no exception. Featuring moving and replaceable parts, these locomotive characters are entirely scratch-built, using materials that are easy to find in craft, hobby and art stores. Over the years I have practiced making them in a way that combines specific features, inspired by studying original photographs of their prototypes, the live-action models from the classic TV series as they appeared from season 5, and the current CGI character renders.
The body shell is made out of Bazzil Basics card paper, braced with Midwest Products balsa or strip wood, and glued together using mostly super glue and white glue. Scotch tape is used for holding together circular and cylindrical shapes.
Faces are sculpted and carved from Sculpy oven-bake clay, painted when cooled. Eyes are stickers to reposition for photographs.
All narrow gauge loco customs run on a LEGO engine chassis using LEGO's Power Functions operating system. Added onto custom LEGO engine wheels by Big Ben Bricks are working coupling rods made from balsa, card facets, and toothpicks that slide in motion. Rolled card strips hold them in place.
You can read in detail how I make the custom chassis system work in detail here.
Cab details include controls, gauges, pipes, and handles made with Darice Craft Designer 16 and 12 gauge craft wire in gold, brass, or silver, with strips of paper for facets and glued in place. Bolts are made from peelable gems that are primed for painting. Name and number plates are lettered by hand or designed in Photoshop, then printed and cut to either glue or tape for optional designs.
Studying stills from the classic TV series, I construct temporary “live” sets and dioramas to recreate favorite locations of the Island to run my model railroad. Then I construct the scale model structures I need for each scene, and dress the set with my hand-made scenics and figures to add life and color to the layout. Each of these scenes were created between 2007 - 2010.
This gives me the freedom to change the layout in anyway I wish. If I need to I can reconstruct the set again in different variations. I sometimes don't have the space or provision to build and store "complete" model railroad sets or a huge house layout, so it actually is a benefit to me to work this way.
In addition to Woodland Scenics, I use lichen and reindeer moss of many different shades and sizes for bushes, hedges and overgrowth.
My Dad and I painted the walls of my model room as a backdrop for photography and filming to add sky and distant hills for the layout dioramas.
Then I film using a digital camera the scenes I want to make, with the white light that comes through the room's windows for the day, then at night there is a large lamp with a blue bulb with any additional lights for sets and buildings.
Scratch-built structures are constructed using Bazzil Basics textured cardstock, and braced with glued Midwest Products balsa wood, or kit-bashed from spare model kits. They are each painted and weathered using acrylics. Drain pipes are made using 12 gauge craft wire with strips of office paper for the facets glued in place.
I plan each one I need for a location I want to model, and after researching stills and railway photography, I have batches made to create a pleasing scene appropriate to the place of industry, for yards, stations, harbors, and villages.
All figures and props are hand-made to scale, with painted and modified model accessories. Here are some small-scale figures in Tidmouth Yards with a assortment of labeled crates and boxes ready for loading and for storage.
The figures are made from Sculpy oven-bake clay, made in both small and large-scale. Each are painted and decorated with acrylics with ink pens. Sometimes I like to use metallic pens for metal details like gold buttons, accessories etc.
With some of my newest large scale scenes, I've started implementing large moss mats and accents by Ashland. It has proven to be quite an improvement in adding that touch of realism to dioramas with a larger area to cover. Clumps of reindeer moss and Spanish moss in addition to mats add variety to each scene with naturally found stone, dirt, and ballast.
I now have a freelance position collaborating with my friends in a fan production group called #ThomasCreatorCollective, creating content for the Thomas & Friends YouTube channel and Mattel. Work includes facial animation, color grading, and effect overlays in post production. I have also made custom models to be included in story sequences, with fine-scale model locomotives and working diorama sets. This custom of Proteus, pictured above, was made with working head lamp for the closing of a special series on Halloween.
With a freelance art career after my education at Art College, I have so many good things going on in my life right now that has kept me busy, but with maintaining a workable balance in my schedule, and with the support from fans and the industry, I plan on expanding further into making new projects. Making drawings and planning new content, I aim to make new scenes and rolling stock, for nostalgic environment sequences showcasing the dioramas I make with my working models, how-to videos on model-making, and new stories.
The narrow gauge railways I've been working toward modeling are:
- The Skarloey Railway
- The Mid Sodor Railway
- The Culdee Fell Mountain Railway
- The Arlesdale Miniature Railway
- The Peel Godred Power Station Light Railway
I would like to share my appreciation for your continued interest in my hobby. I feel very passionate about the ideas I've been planning out to model and film, and have been on my mind to develop while showcasing current work. So while I can't upload as much with a career and a busy schedule, thank you for following and sharing!
I hope everyone who visits this blog will like and support the work I do, and gets the feel the memories and nostalgic feeling from childhood.
YouTube | SudrianRailwayModeler
Blogger | Sodor Model Railroading