How to display your model buses

16 February 2024
Display your bus collection
Dioramas can vary greatly in size depending on your available space and budget, and can range from adding a few simple touches to a full blown layout with lighting and scenery.
How to display your model buses Images

Dioramas can vary greatly in size depending on your available space and budget, and can range from adding a few simple touches to a full blown layout with lighting and scenery.

How to display model buses

Starting with the simplest of displays, particularly useful if you collect at larger scales, I’ve chosen to display my 1/43 scale AEC RT with just a bus stop and a pair of same-scaled figures. The bus takes me right back to my earliest days, carrying Red Bus Rover advertising, reminding me of the times when I would ride around London all day from my home town of Sidcup for just a few pence. This model is even more relevant though as route 229 came right past the end of my road and would regularly whisk me up to the High Street or down to my favourite model shop in nearby Bexley village. This was a recent part-work release, part of the ‘Autobus et Autocars de la Monde’ series. The bus shelter is a 7mm ‘O’ gauge (1/43 scale to you and me) pre-printed card kit from Purple Bob's Hobbies and provides a perfect setting for the two figurines by Norev. The gentleman waving his newspaper is letting the driver know that he wants the bus to pick them up at the request stop.

This ‘less is more’ approach works just as well at 1/76 scale too, as demonstrated here with my colourful Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 by Creative Master Northcord stopping at a bus stop by EFE with a scratchbuilt shelter featuring vintage Merit railway accessory figures and bench. I’ve yet to decide if my sizeable 1/24 scale Sun Star Routemaster would benefit from similar treatment but at the moment I’m tending to side with the thought that it has enough presence on its own.

Related article: Top tips for displaying your diecast toy collection

Adding accessories to a diorama

The next step up the ladder on the level of accessorising is to add a relevant building or two. The obvious choice for buses is a depot but it could easily be a string of shop fronts on a high street too. John Howe’s Kingsway Models is my first choice when it comes to depots though and I make no apologies for there being quite a few here. First up is the versatile 1/76 scale bus depot kit by Superquick, which could also be made as an airfield hangar, a fire station or a small truck maintenance workshop. I’ve used this to display my Corgi Original Omnibus London Transport Bus Set. Now onto that bevy of Kingsway kits, with some bordering on being a full diorama, mounted on baseboard and landscaped. John’s range is ever-growing and already covers many fleets so was an obvious choice when I was looking for visual inspiration for the Southdown Centenary article that appeared in Diecast Collector a few years ago. A trio of kits were acquired by me at the time, two of which are from Kingsway – Portsmouth Hillsea and Hayling Island. The real buildings have suffered differing fates in recent years: Hillsea is sadly no longer with us but the Hayling Island depot remains, albeit as a DIY store these days.

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At 34 inches wide in 1/76 scale, Kingsway’s mighty reproduction of the Southdown Portsmouth Hillsea depot requires a big shelf but when it’s finished will make a great display for the various EFE, Pocketbond Classix, Corgi and Oxford Diecast models shown here. I’ve chosen to light the interior of the Hayling depot, using a ready-made battery-powered LED set up from Captain Jacks Models, but these can be easily made yourself if you have a little electrical know how and access to a suitable component store such as Maplin Electronics. I’m intending to modify more of my buildings this way in the future as it turns a display into a real talking point. I’m also working on a design to modify that big Sun Star Routemaster to have interior lighting and working headlights and tail lights – but that will be a whole different article!

Three more Kingsway kits in my collection are two London Country garages (neighbouring Chelsham and Godstone) and the London Transport depot at Hackney, although I don’t have any relevant models for that particular garage yet, so it’s displayed here with a random selection of London Transport buses. Chelsham and Godstone are a different matter though as EFE have released perfectly suitable models for both. A Chelsham bound AEC RT on route 403 and a route 709 Green Line Routemaster with a destination of London’s Baker Street, exactly as it would have left Godstone back in the day, sit very well on their respective displays. Godstone garage’s route 709 was the last to run regularly scheduled double-deck Green Line Routemasters so this fact makes for an even more pleasing display.

Now onto that third Southdown display. Corgi released an excellent series of pre-printed and pre-cut card kits manufactured by card kit specialist Metcalfe. This Southdown depot and terminus isn’t modelled on an actual building, although there are hints of Portsmouth’s Pevensey Road depot and the Pool Valley bus station in Brighton, but provides a great backdrop for a brace of early EFE releases and Oxford Diecast’s 2015 Southdown Centenary Set, complete with finishing touches provided by EFE’s telephone box and postbox, plus suitably green benches from the old Merit OO/HO gauge railway accessories range.