Here's a site that's well worth visiting, with photos of some of the most realistic looking models and diaramas you're ever likely to see:
Especially the 'Layouts & Dioramas' page.
Dioramas are not something I've really considered all that much to date, with most of my energy being focused towards planning a full working layout. OK, so I've talked about building 'test pieces' to try out various techniques etc. but why not take that one step further and actually create some 'proper' dioramas?
I don't honestly know how long it will be before I actually get a layout built. Part of me is starting to think that I should wait until I have more space available - perhaps if we can afford an extension sometime in the future, but that means I need to settle for a reasonably long period of modelling without a layout as such, certainly not anything of any size anyway.
And that might not be such a bad thing actually. It would allow for a much longer period of developing skills and techniques rather than trying to rush into something and ending up les than entirely happy with the end result.
I can still build up a stock of buildings, locomotives and rolling stock, and even various bits of scenery such as trees and other bits that can be used in dioramas but then 'transplanted' into a larger layout sometime in the future.