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.

Watching Thomas and Friends growing up, the craftsmanship of the working models and sets from Shepperton studios captivated me. Director David Mitton and his modelmaking team captured the nostalgia and the emotional atmosphere of the Railway Series books and British steam railways in a unique way.

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.

I have a 4' x 8' table with a piece of 1" thick foam the same dimensions. The foam allows me to pin any track securely into place with no glue, then loosely ballast them.

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

More is also planned for the standard gauge engines too!

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.


You can follow my work on social media through these platforms:

Twitter | SodorRyModeler
Follow for live updates and process.

YouTube | SudrianRailwayModeler
 Watch and subscribe for model reels, effects, and remakes

Blogger | Sodor Model Railroading
Process blog

Consider supporting the development for new and ongoing projects using PayPal!

PayPal.me | Tip Jar
Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated.


  1. Hello Stephen. Your work is truly amazing. Can you show me step by step how you made the card-stock crates please?

  2. Yes, sure!

    On a sheet of Bazzill textured card stock paper, I sketched the sides and top of the crate, then drew in pencil the wood grain. After using a pair of scissors or a craft knife to cut them, I assemble it in a whole crate using tape. Now I use thin Balsa wood and glue as I find it makes a stronger bond.

    I finally cut thin strips for the crate's cross braces, then glue them on the top and down the sides, depending on the size and style, 2-4.

    I hope that helps. Thanks Justin for your kind comments! You are welcome to post more questions anytime.

    1. Oh thanks! I've made a few crates of my own already! How did you get permission to send your beautiful Rheneas model to Nitrogen Studios? I've always wanted to see the original models of Thomas and Friends! But they don't give public tours unfortunately.

    2. Sound's great! I'm glad you made some, it would be great to see the crates you've made.

      Well, as I really wanted to show the studio my modeling skills, I just mailed my starch-built Rheneas with a resume, portfolio, and one of my videos of the layouts I love to make. Greg Tiernan really loved it, and last year he generously emailed me the photograph of the two models together, which he later posted on the studio's Facebook page! It was amazing, and he said I could share it on my blog. It was very generous of him and that was what inspired me to share my love of realistic Thomas modeling. It was very inspiring indeed!

    3. Yes indeed, that must have truly been amazing for you to have your creation put together with a piece of Thomas the Tank Engine history! I've always wanted to see the original models of the show, but I guess the only way to do that would be to travel to Drayton Manor in London.
      If you have the time, can you post pictures of your troublesome truck faces that you made out of clay please?
      I'm currently building a dockside crane out of cardstock as inspired by your work!
      Thank you very much