As is the case with so many of my collections, my interest in the Aztecs and Conquistadors can be traced back to my childhood. What reading I have done on the subject in subsequent years includes hobby-related books such as Osprey’s Aztec, Mixtec and Zapotec Armies and The Conquistador 1492-1550 as well as Foundry’s Armies of the 16th Century with a focus on the Aztecs. I have also read more traditional histories such as The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico by Castillo, The Conquistadors by Innes, Cortes by Marks and Pre-Columbian Cities by Hardoy. But my childhood fascination was not driven by hobby or historic texts but rather by movies like Captain from Castile with Cesar Romero as Cortes (probably the only thing he ever did that I liked, but he was a great Cortes). It planted a seed very deeply in my imagination. In terms of the development of this gallery, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the influence of Duke Seifried’s Aztec City Parts I and II in the July and August 2000 Wargames Illustrated, and more recently the beautiful board done by Societe de la Gande Armee entitled Siege of Tenochtitlan at Crisis 2009 Antwerp, Belgium. Like Seifried’s and the Societe’s boards, my gallery is not intended as a presentation of the historical record. This gallery is a device for displaying my 15mm Aztec and Conquistador collection. As such I have thrown a bit of every event I could think of that would allow a dramatic (hopefully) presentation of the figures. There is the arrival of the Conquistadors with their ships at anchor and a blessing on the beach. There is also the return of Cortes to the Aztec capital following his march back to the coast having learned of the arrival of a new and potentially threatening Spanish fleet. And following Cortes’ return to the Aztec capital, a representation of his discovery that the garrison force he has left behind is under siege. I’ve even thrown in my own version of his brigantines. While most of the approximately 2000 figures for this collection were painted more than a decade ago, I spent the two months from early July through the end of August 2012 putting the finishing touches on terrain features such as the market place and agricultural islands as well as painting my Aztec villagers and canoes. During that two-month period I revisited Captain from Castile more than once and enjoyed several viewings of Apocalypto as well. Hopefully this gallery will be viewed as what it is intended (much as I viewed Captain From Castile and Apocalypto), an escape into the flavor of a remarkable time long past and not as an effort to present a precise history of those events.
Now let me take you through a review of the miniatures in this gallery. I do this because, as someone who paints and builds, this is the information I most want when viewing someone’s collection. My Aztec city is in no way as grand as that of the actual capital, but with more than 40 buildings, a market place and a walled temple complex housing six temples and a skull rack, it is a rather significant undertaking as 15mm layouts go. As stated above, much of this collection was put together more than a decade and a half ago so, in identifying manufacturers, I will be taking my best shot. For example, I believe most of my town buildings are by Battlezone with a few Musket Miniatures buildings included. The corn fields are by Musket Miniatures. The temples are modifications/reworks of toys that were included in a game called Back Off Buzzard. The game is terrible but it included a wonderful plastic step pyramid and several small temple-like structures. I ultimately bought about seven boxes of that game on ebay. I added the stairs to the pyramids using Evergreen Plastic. The temple complex walls, entrance and the enclosed walkway that forms a courtyard for one of the pyramids are also scratch built from Evergreen Plastic. The skull rack is another scratch built item as are the agricultural islands/again using Evergreen Plastic. The palm trees are cheap little cake decorating trees I bought online by the gross. The Spanish ships are Revell models of the Santa Maria. I cut them to waterline and surrounded each with Milliput to form a water-like base. The market place is scratch built from Everygreen Plastic and Milliput. The pots, pumpkins and parrots are also made from Milliput. I took that idea for the market place straight from the work done by Societe de la Grande Armee. My brigantines are SDD hulls with Essex masts and Peter Pig crews. My Aztec villagers are modifications of the African villagers in the Blue Moon 15/18mm Deep Dark Africa collection; basically all I did to make them Aztec was change their hair styles using Milliput and alter their outfits with paint. I made the same hair style change on the Blue Moon African canoes paddlers who I used along with their canoes. The one large canoe is sculpted from Milliput. The fire pots on the temples are beads with Milliput rising out of them to serve as flames. The large skulls on the corners of the platform holding the skull rack are also beads. The platform the skull rack sits on is by Stonehouse Miniatures as is one of the temples on one of the Back Off Buzzard pyramids. Most of my Aztec figures are by Gladiator but there are also figures by Minifig, Essex, Naismith and the modified Blue Moon Deep Dark Africa I mentioned earlier. I’m sure I have forgotten who made a couple of my Conquistadors, but probably 90% or more of the Conquistadors are by Essex. As I indicated earlier, I used Peter Pig pirates as my rowers when rowers were needed. The Aztec shield decoration is done with homemade decals as are fields on most of the Spanish flags.
The board used for this gallery is 5 feet by 7 feet in size and is the same board I have used on all my other galleries. The ground cover is a cheap indoor-outdoor carpet that I bought a quarter of a century ago and is long out of production. The murals are homemade and the water features are made from sheets of plastic I bought at the hardware store that are intended to be used as a covers for ceiling lighting. They come in 2’x 4’ pieces that are a little less than an 1/8” thick and cost about $10 a sheet. Once the plastic sheets were cut to the desired size, I simply spray painted them with a couple different shades of gloss blue by Testors.
As always, the pictures were taken by my daughter who has a wonderful eye and has really brought all my galleries to life. We’ve been posting these galleries for about four years now, and while I obviously hope viewers enjoy them, the galleries also offer me the opportunity to see my collections as I intended them to be seen, and after four years I still find great pleasure in going through them. Much of that viewing pleasure I’m sure is do to the great job my daughter does capturing those collections in photographs.
Samurai 15mm (31 photos)
FACTS ABOUT THE SAMURAI PHOTO SET:
Regarding the Backdrop and Environment:
-The ground cover is a very cheap indoor-outdoor carpet that I purchased about 20 years ago.
-The background mural is composed of five 2’ x 1 ½ ‘ pieces of masonite held in place by large clips. I painted the sky which is just a wash of light blue paint over an overall background sky of a very light blue, almost white base color. The landscape was painted by my daughter. We did it all on one warm October day. Photoshop hides the joints, nails, and shadows.
-The fields are by Musket Miniatures, and the rice paddies are scratch built using sheet plastic, putty and Woodland Scenics groundcover. (I typically use their Burnt Grass/fine and their Earth along with some fine ballast).
-The trees are probably Woodland Scenics as well, but I’ve had them for so many years I just can’t remember for sure.
-The raised earthen hills/mounds are made from small fruit cups cover with masking tape and paper mache.
Regarding the Buildings:
-The castle and outer earthworks are by Village Green, which is now owned by Stronghold Miniatures.
-The defensive walls on top of the outer earthworks are scratch built using plastic, putty, and Milliput.
-The buildings pictured in the Japanese village are by Hovels; several appear more than once but with modifications to reduce the problem of sameness.
Regarding the Equipment:
-The siege equipment is scratch built using plastic, wire, and Milliput. I got their design from a two-page drawing in Military Illustrated (June 1994, Number 73 pages 22 and 23) of a Japanese siege.
-The rice bundles are made from Milliput, and the ladders are made from wire.
-The short wooden mantlets are by Two Dragons.
Regarding the Samurai Figures:
-The vast majority of my Samurai figures are Two Dragons, but they also include Minifig, Old Glory, Essex, Naismith Design, and Peter Pig. (The Peter Pig line came out after I completed my armies, but I purchased several packs because they offered some very interesting and unique additions and are very compatible with Two Dragons.)
-The geisha and peacock are by Preiser.
Regarding the Timetable:
My Samurai collection took me just over two years to complete.
Wild West 15mm (24 Photos)
THE WILD WEST
In presenting this gallery, I approached it in four scenarios: a peaceful day in town, a gunfight in the street, a stagecoach robbery, and a cattle drive.
The peaceful day in town scenario is intended to highlight the town itself. There are more than 20 structures associated with the town. The vast majority of those structures are by Peter Pig; three are by JR Miniatures, and one is a scratch-built building frame made from Evergreen plastic materials. The Gunsmith tent is by Musket Miniatures, and the windmill is from Woodland Scenics.
The townsfolk and horses in the peaceful-town scenario are by Peter Pig, Old Glory, Minifig, Stone Mountain Miniatures and Preiser. The wagons in that scenario are by Jordan Products from their HO Highway Miniatures. The sidewalks are scratch built from Evergreen plastic materials. The outhouses and hitching rails are from Peter Pig. The corral is by Atlas. The signs are homemade decals that I worked with my daughter to produce.
The train is Peter Pig, and the rails are the cheapest HO scale rails I could find at Arnie’s Trains Shop. The background trees are by Grand Central Gems. I like the way they look. They come in a range of sizes; they are sold by the bag and are relatively inexpensive when compared with other brands of HO trees. Everything was given a base covering of Woodland Scenics’ Fine Earth and/or Fine Burnt Grass.
The gunfight scenario features figures from the Peter Pig Wild West range.
The stagecoach robbery scenario features a stagecoach by Minifig chased by mounted robbers by Peter Pig.
The trail drive scenario features modified Zulu cattle from Stone Mountain Miniatures combined with a few HO scale cows and calves I’ve picked up here and there over the years. The horses are Peter Pig, but I’m not sure who made the cowboys because they were given to me by a friend, and I never saw a manufacturer’s name associated with them. They came in one pose that I modified to produced the different looks you see. The chuck wagon is by Peter Pig.
The background mural was made by my daughter and me and is the same used as background for the Samurai Gallery.
Pictured in the above-listed scenarios are only a couple dozen of the more than 200 figures I have painted for the Wild West. The vast majority of those 200+ figures are from the Peter Pig Wild West range. They were wonderful to paint because they have great detail and a wide range of dress complete with dusters and all manner of hats.
This Wild West layout took three hours to do from set-up to take-down. Set-up began at 10:30 a.m. and everything was put away by 1:30 p.m. It was done in the backyard, and the photos were taken by my daughter.
Pax Romana 15mm (24 Photos)
PAX ROMANA/”THEY SAY NO!”
This gallery reflects the struggle of Imperial Rome with the Germanic tribes in the area of the Rhine during the 1st Century. It is also intended to reflect the opening scene from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. The figure riding between the lines is the decapitated Roman emissary whose misfortune caused Russell Crowe’s character to answer “They say no!” when asked by a subordinate Roman officer whether the Germanic tribes would submit peacefully to Roman rule.
The majority of figures on both sides are Old Glory Ancients, but they also include Essex, Corvus Belli, and Minifig. The Roman shields are completed with Veni Vidi Vici decals. A few of the Germanic shields also have Veni Vidi Vici decals, but the vast majority are handed painted.
Many of the Roman figures and some Germanic have experienced some modification. I am particularly pleased with the conversion of some Xyston Miniature Spartan generals into Roman officers. The decapitated figure is modified from an Old Glory Roman Officer, and the support structure rising from his neck area and shoulders is wire.
The war machines are by Old Glory and Hallmark.
The Roman marching fort is by Fire Base Miniatures. The Germanic village shown at the end of the gallery is scratch built by me using plastic, Green Putty, and Milliput. I made it many years ago, and still like it so I decided to put it in a the end even though it plays no part in the theme of the overall gallery, and frankly I didn’t do a very interesting job setting it out for this photo. In my defense that photo was a last minute idea and by that time I was pretty tired; the set up and take down for the Pax Romana Gallery took three hours.
The trees are from Grand Central Gems. I like the way they look, and they are relatively inexpensive when compared with other model-railroad tree products. The base cover used for the figures and trees is Woodland Scenics Fine Burnt Grass and Earth. The table cover is an old, much loved indoor-outdoor carpet that I had the wisdom/luck to buy a couple decades ago as it was going out of production. This was also used in the Samurai Gallery and the Wild West Gallery, and will be used in futures galleries as well. I have a tan indoor-outdoor carpet by the same company that I purchased at the same time, and that is used in desert scenes such as the Sudan in the late 19th Century and North Africa in World War II, but those remain to be photographed.
My thanks to my daughter for the photographic work.
Rorke's Drift 15mm (26 Photos)
My interest in the Zulus goes back to my childhood. At some point I came in contact with this warrior society that reminded me of the Indian tribes of the American Great Plains. Looking back, I remember searching for the book The Washing of the Spears for years (This was decades before the Internet made everything easily available.), and, even as a kid, I was not unaware that the great Indian victory at the Little Big Horn and the Zulu victory at Isandlwana were only three years apart. Both were victories of warrior societies over European-style armies, and both victories led to the ultimate defeat of the victors.
My Rorke’s Drift Gallery is not an attempt to capture accurately any particular moment in the battle. It is an effort to portray the defenses established at Rorke’s Drift and the basic look of the two confronting forces. The majority of the figures are by Old Glory, but they include figures from Essex and Minifig as well. I completed this grouping approximately fifteen years ago, and so my memory is not absolutely clear on where all the items were obtained. For example, I think that the buildings and mealie bag defenses are by Hovel, but I’m not sure. The mealie bag redoubt is something that I scratch built as is the case with the outhouse and the cookhouse. The water cart is something that I put together from odds and ends of things I found in my odds-and-ends box. I assume we all have one of those boxes. The wounded figures being help by fellow soldiers (whether British or Zulu) are conversions from figures by Old Glory (mainly from their Civil War line) and Battle Honours. The figure combinations in hand- to-hand combat are also conversions from Old Glory’s Civil War range.
I have long since forgotten where I got the wagons or the stone walls used for the two kraals. I have had the foam hill pieces for years and have no idea who manufactured them though I am sure that someone is making something better today. One set of trees is the same I used in the Samurai Gallery; the other group of trees is the first I ever purchased; I bought them more than thirty years ago, and I have no clear memory of the manufacturers. Once again the ground cover is indoor-outdoor carpet that I purchased for this purpose more than twenty years ago. The background murals were painted by my daughter who also took the photos. I used Osprey’s Campaign Series #41 entitled Rorke’s Drift 1879 ‘Pinned Like Rats In A Hole’ as my source for the overall layout. The table it was displayed on is 5’X7’. My Rorke’s Drift collection consists of about 700 or 800 figures. I guess I used about two-thirds of them in this gallery. Following the recommendation of the Perry twins, we do all the photography outside in the backyard. I began setting up a 10:30 a.m. and finished with the photography and take down about 1:30 p.m. That has been pretty much the case with all four galleries I’ve done so far. I expect that more time will be involved when I do my galleries involving Napoleonics, Aztecs and Conquistadors, the Sudan, and the American Civil War because those fours are more complex. Hope you enjoyed the gallery.
I ended this gallery with a bit of poor taste that I titled “After Battle Report.” I hope it brought a smile and not offense. The figure “mooning” the camera is a Peter Pig figure I converted from American Civil War to British colonial . I hope the overall experience of this gallery was enjoyable. These are among my favorite figures. The childhood bond is a strong one.
The Sudan 15mm (31 Photos)
THE SUDAN IN THE 1890s
This gallery is focused on the period that follows the death of General Charles George Gordon at Khartoum in 1885. The gallery does not represent any specific event. The different layouts are an attempt to reflect the flavor of events that culminated in the battle of Omdurman in 1898. This gallery is really my effort at a tribute to Peter Gilder whose Sudan photo layouts in a number of issues of Wargames Illustrated more than two decades ago were a real inspiration in terms of my love of this hobby.
The gallery begins with shots of an armored train. The train is a major modification of the Peter Pig Wild West train (I love that train; you can see the original in my Wild West Gallery). It uses the Peter Pig engine, tender, and several of the flatcars. The engine has undergone major alterations and additions to give it the look of an armored train of the period. The flatcars have had their sides built up using sheet plastic. The machineguns located at the front and rear of the train are the Nordenfeldt guns from Minifig. The figures behind the flatcar defenses are Essex. The track is the cheapest HO scale I could find at my local train shop, Arnies’.
The walled town is approximately 3 feet square (perhaps a little more/keep in mind that the table is 5’x7’). Most of the structures (walls, towers, buildings and gates) are by Galia. Unfortunately, I do not believe they are still being made. Two the buildings are by a manufacturer I can no longer remember, two are by JR Miniatures and the rest of the buildings are modifications of two buildings made by Galia. The well is scratch built from Milliput. The market stalls are scratch built from sheet plastic and the food in the baskets is fruit and vegetables from the Preiser HO line. Most of the Arab civilians are modifications of odds and ends of figures I had left over from other projects. A few of the Arab civilians (approximately six) are Arabs from the Preiser line. The European civilians watching the troops march out from above the gate are also Preiser. The goats are HO scale farm animals. I’m not sure of the manufacturer. My guess is they were made by more than one manufacturer, but it’s been many years so I just can’t remember. The camel troops being reviewed in front of their tents within the town are by Essex. The Sibley tents are by Musket Miniatures. The palm trees in the town and along the river are the small birthday cake trees easily obtained at party supply shops.
The river/the Nile is made from a sheet of plastic I purchased at Home Depot (a hardware store). It comes in 4’x2’ sheets that are used to cover fluorescent lights in kitchen ceilings. I cut the sheet into four 2’x1’ pieces and built up the banks with scrap plastic and putty. I spray painted the underside of the rather than the top to allow me to move boats over the surface without scratching the paint. The banks are covered with fine tan ballast from Woodland Scenics. The boats are scratch built by me from sheet plastic, (by Evergreen), Legos (forming the core of the deck structures to give them strength), and HO scale windows and doors (purchased at the train store/I can’t remember the manufacturer). The hulls were built around foam bases that were originally Civil War boats with the paddle wheels were attached. The fact that the paddle wheels were attached and in generally good shape was a key attraction for me to those foam boats. The foam boats themselves were in terrible condition (the molds had clearly worn out). Beyond the good shape of the paddle wheels, other attraction was that the foam boats were of such poor quality that the shop I found them in was selling them very cheap. The men on the boats are mainly Essex with a few Stone Mountain Civil War figures modified for the purpose. The guns are Essex, and the gun positions are made from plastic and HO scale bags.
The battle scene figures (British, Egyptian, Sudanese, and Dervish) are made up of Essex and Old Glory with a few Two Dragon, Peter Pig, and Minifig. The Dervish flags are painted on Stone Mountain blank metal flags. Among these figures there are many, many modifications. Probably the modification I’m most proud of in terms of the figures is the camel ambulances used by the British. The buildings shown in the battle scene are the same as those used in the walled town. The ground cover is tan indoor-outdoor carpet purchased years ago for this purpose. The background mural is made of five 2’x1 ½ ‘ pieces of masonite held together with large clips. The desert ground is painted tan and the sky is the same combination of blue referenced in the information I provided for the Samurai Gallery.
This was by far the most difficult photo session so to date. It took about five hours from start to finish on a hot September day. The main reason it took so long is because it was photographed in four different layouts so there was a lot of set-up and take-down involved. Because the battle scene was the last thing we did, I was tired and used fewer figures than I had intended. Consequently, when we were finished, I was a little disappointed with my layout of the battle. I left more open space on the table than I should have which cuts down on the intensity of the image. I have about 2,000 figures for the Sudan (2/3 of them Dervish) so I could have made that battle really dramatic. Fortunately, my daughter did a good job taking the pictures and made the most of what I put on the table. Nonetheless, at some later date I may redo just the battle scene using many more troops on both sides. I think that will really be something to see. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this gallery as it is. The Sudan in the late 19th Century is a wonderful period for miniatures.
Little Big Horn 15mm (29 Photos)
BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIG HORN/BATTLE OF THE GREASY GRASS
The Battle of the Little Big Horn is known to some Plains tribes as the Battle of the Greasy Grass. But no matter the name, it is the iconic American conflict between the Plains Indians and the U.S. Cavalry. The battle took place June 25, 1876 between U.S. forces led by George A. Custer and Indians forces (Sioux , Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho) led by Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Gall of the Sioux, Two Moon of the Northern Cheyenne, and Little Powder of the Arapaho. I cannot remember when “Custer’s Last Stand,” the 7th Cavalry, and Sitting Bull were not part of my vocabulary. Like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln they are just part of America. Likewise, I can’t imagine my putting together a collection of military miniatures that did not include this iconic American conflict.
The gallery is intended to reflect the opening and closing phases of the battle. Prior to the battle, Custer divided his forces sending Major Marcus Reno (Reno was a decorated Civil War veteran, but had no experience fighting Indians.) forward with 175 men to initiate the attack with the following instructions, “The Indians are about two miles and half ahead. They are on the jump. Go forward as fast as you think proper, and charge them wherever you find them, and I will support you.” (quote taken from Osprey Campaign Series #39) Custer retained 221 men under his direct command. Ironically, the great fear of the U.S. forces was that the Indians would escape rather than fight. My gallery opens with the Indians learning of Reno’s advance and riding out of the village to attack him. After this initial confrontation and Reno’s surprise at the huge size of the Indian forces advancing on him, Reno panicked and ordered a retreat to a location that today is known as Reno Hill. Reno and his troops held this position until the arrival of General Terry’s forces on June 27. The gallery closes with the classic/stylized portrayal of the defeat of the forces under Custer’s direct command, “Custer Last Stand.”
I painted this collection about 15 years ago. It is made up of about 600 figures drawn from a variety of manufactures. The Indians are by Stone Mountain, Yellow Ribbon, and Minifig. The mounted Minifig Indians are some of the nicest 15 mm figures I have ever seen. I modified four of the mounted Minifig Indians by cutting off the lower portion of the horses’ legs, reattaching them to their bases and adding Green Putty to give the look of splashing water for the river crossing. In order to get the number of warriors I needed, all of the Minifig, Yellow Ribbon and Stone Mountain Indians have been repeated many times in this collection. My favorite Yellow Ribbon figures are actually from their Apache line and show Indians hanging off the side of their horses firing their guns beneath the horses’ necks. I modified several of those to give them the appearance of being Plains Indians. The U.S. Cavalry is composed of Old Glory and Essex figures from their Civil War lines. It is unlikely that the 7th Cavalry was carrying sabers during this battle. I think they had been collected prior to the campaign, but I needed to put that historic reality aside in order to get the numbers and variety of troopers I needed to provide an interesting look to my collection. I believe that all these figures are still available today. If I remember correctly, the dead horses are Stone Mountain. The figures involved in hand-to-hand combat are modifications of Old Glory Civil War figures from their melee pack. I have done similar modification with these figures in my Rorke’s Drift and Samurai collections as well. The arrows stuck in men and horses are thin wire.
The Indian village is composed of tepees made by Galia, a company that is no longer in business, but Peter Pig makes 15 mm tepees that I am sure are just as nice as the Galia were. I did one modification of a tepee and that was to cut the bottom off, raise it on wires like tent poles and use Milliput to give the appearance that the sides of the tepee had been rolled up to provide air on a hot summer day. It was then put on a Milliput base. The skins/hides that are being stretched on triangular poles are manufacturer made, but I can’t remember who the manufacturer is. The skins/hides that are stretched and dried on the ground were created by me from Milliput and wire. I have a lot of campfires that are supposed to be used with this gallery, but I couldn’t find them on the day we took the pictures. The river was purchased by me more than 20 years ago and even then I think the company had gone out of business. Today you can purchase a similar river from Pegasus Hobbies. (I own it as well; it comes pre-painted and is very reasonable in price.) The Pegasus river is plastic and straight whereas the one I used in this gallery is a hard foam with lots of twists and turns. I used the foam river here because the Little Big Horn has lots of twists and turns. The trees are the same I have used in my previous galleries as is the indoor-outdoor carpet I used for the ground cover. The background mural is in five sections and was painted by my daughter. I have used it with many of my previous galleries as well.
This gallery took about three hours to set up, photograph, and take down. It was photographed by my daughter. I’m extremely pleased with the way this gallery came out. I think it’s our best use of the space (the table top is 7’ x 5’) and figures so far. I hope you enjoy it as well.
Civil War 15mm (31 Photos)
PICKETT’S CHARGE/July 3, 1863
The figures shown in this gallery are the oldest in my collection. I began painting them about 23 years ago and finished (to the degree that any period is ever finished) about three years later. My Civil War collection consists of approximately 6,000 painted figures. Obviously, I fell in love with the Civil War. I have no other explanation for the huge size of my collection. As with all figures shown in my galleries, I painted each figure myself.
For this gallery, I selected Pickett’s Charge (the 3rd day of the Battle of Gettysburg) because the nature of the battle made for an excellent display of figures. For those not familiar with Pickett’s Charge, here’s a little background. This was Lee’s second invasion of the North. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had been successful against each Union commander it had met on the field of battle. General George Gordon Meade had been given command of the Union’s Army of the Potomac only a few days before the battle opened. On July 1, Lee’s army was drawn into battle by Union cavalry under General John Buford. That first day, fighting centered around Culp’s Hill, and the day ended without decision. On July 2, Lee ordered General James Longstreet (commander of Lee’s 1st Corps) to assault the opposite end of the Union line at the Round Tops. Once again, Lee was unable to gain a victory.
On July 3, against the recommendation of General Longstreet, Lee ordered Longstreet to organize an assault on Cemetery Ridge, the center of the Union line, using fresh troops from General George Pickett’s division. After a Confederate bombardment of the Union position by all available Confederate artillery, the Confederate attack began. Unfortunately for Lee’s troops, his artillery bombardment overshot the Union line and resulted in no significant damage to the Union defenses. The Confederate attack involved approximately 15,000 Confederate soldiers forming a front of about a mile’s width. To attack the Union position, the Confederate forces would have to leave their position on Seminary Ridge and move across ¾ of a mile of open ground. Lee was attacking a force that was holding the high ground and knew he was coming. In December of 1862, the Army of the Potomac attacked the Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg. In that battle Lee held the defensive position on the high ground, and the Union troops were slaughtered in their attack. This time the positions were reversed, and this was not lost on the Union troops of Winfield Scott Hancock’s 2nd Corps who from their positions on Cemetery Ridge chanted “Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg” as they watched Lee’s soldiers advance. With the exception of General Dick Garnett, the Confederate brigade commanders advanced on foot rather than horseback to reduce their exposure to Union fire. Garnett rode because he was too ill to walk and feared he would be thought a coward if he did not join the attack. He is not shown in this gallery because rather early on he was hit by Union fire; his body was never found. It is probably safe to say that this attack, as much as any event in the war, broke Lee’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Union. As to why Lee ordered this attack, perhaps the best answer came from Longstreet who said, Lee’s “blood was up,” and his faith in his soldiers was absolute.
This gallery shows the silent artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia along Seminary Ridge. Pickett’s advance has begun. They have crossed the Emmitsburg Road and are aiming at the copse of trees above the stone wall that marked the center of Hancock’s 2nd Corps. My roads are by Quick Reaction Force, but I believe that they are also available through Monday Knight Productions. I believe the fences are by Stone Mountian. I’ve had them for many, many years, and I’m not really positive of the manufacturer. There are three areas of structures on the board. The large farm and fields are the Trostle farm, the other house on the battlefield is the Codori house, and the building just behind the Union line is Meade’s headquarters. All these buildings are by Gallia Miniatures which, unfortunately, has been out of business for many years now. The farm fields are by Musket Miniatures. The wagon in the Trostle farmyard is an HO wagon, but I don’t know the manufacturer. The Union and Confederate supply wagons are by Peter Pig. Most of the limbers and caissons are by Old Glory although I do have some by Peter Pig as well. I don’t remember who manufactured my ammunition wagons. My ambulances are by Minifig. Most of the soldiers on both sides are by Old Glory, but include Essex and Battle Honours. The standard bearers standing on the Union line are by Essex as is the case with the Confederate command group back on Seminary Ridge. I can’t remember the manufacturer of my signal tower. The stone wall is the same I used in the Rorke’s Drift Gallery; I can’t be sure of the manufacturer, but it was probably Gallia. The trees are the same I have used in all previous galleries.
The flags are all hand painted. I mention this because today when I have complex flags I usually do all or part of the flag as a homemade decal, but when these figures were painted, I didn’t have that ability available to me. The flags on the advancing units (Union and Confederate) are metal blanks made by Stone Mountain. I selected Confederate regiments (from my collection) that took part in the attack: Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi.
I hope you enjoy the gallery. As always, it was photographed in our backyard by my daughter. The set up and take down of this gallery took six hours from start to finish. It was a long day, but it was great to see it displayed. Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever seen these figures displayed in these numbers. I didn’t really count the number of figures I used in this gallery, but they probably represent no more than 25% of my Civil War collection.
The Bocage '44 15mm (40 Photos)
THE BOCAGE '44
Last April (2010) I completed my late-war American and German soldiers and equipment for northwest Europe in 1944-45. It is my plan to do three galleries using these figures: D-Day, hedgerow fighting/the bocage in 1944, and fighting in a bombed-out German city in 1945. To accomplish this I have been collecting buildings and hedgerow material for about seven years. Last week (June 2010), we photographed the hedgerow-fighting gallery, which is seen here. Like most of my galleries, structural and/or environmental elements play a large part in determining the focus of the gallery. In this case, much of the focus is on a French village (about 34 buildings) and the hedgerows themselves. Unlike most of my galleries, which reflect my tendency to paint huge armies, this gallery has relatively few figures involved (less than 200 soldiers and fewer than 50 vehicles). My W.W. II collection is much bigger than what is shown in this gallery, but I found that modern fighting does not lend itself to galleries showing thousands of figures because, while W.W. II involved millions of men and women in fierce combat, their war was often fought on a far more individual level, behind their own section of wall or in their own foxhole rather than as a line of regiments charging one another across a great field of battle. Consequently, this gallery has a different look than my previous galleries. I hope you enjoy what you see. I had a wonderful time putting it together.
The presentation of this gallery reflects three different moments: (1) a peaceful time in the village during occupation, but before the hedgerow fighting in the area engulfs the village, (2) the actual hedgerow fighting, and (3) the German and refugee withdrawal from the village.
As indicated above the village is composed of about 34 buildings: 25 by Landmark, 6 by Firebase Miniatures, and three by Peter Pig. The 25 Landmark buildings are produced in China and come pre-painted. They are very nicely painted and sculpted except for two problems: (1) they are a quarter inch too short and (2) the manufacturer left the bottoms of the doors unsculpted on each of the buildings. To correct this I used plastic to add another quarter inch of height to each Landmark building and while doing that I corrected the problem with the doors by giving them their missing bottoms. Because of this change, I also needed to repaint each of the buildings. I do not believe the Firebase Miniature buildings are currently available. I think the company was purchased by Brookhurst Hobbies, and they have not re-released the line. I purchased my Firebase buildings at Brookhurst Hobbies. They were pre-painted samples Brookhurst received when they bought the company. Because the paint jobs on these buildings looked very much like my painting, I did not bother to repaint them other than to clean up some chipped areas. The only flaw with my Firebase buildings is that they are plaster not resin.
My three Peter Pig buildings are from their Normandy line of buildings. I think Peter Pig has redone this line and while they are similar to mine, they are not they same. The village streets are made from sheet plastic scored with the back of a #19 hobby blade to make it look like cobblestone. The sidewalks are also made from sheet plastic. I painted the streets an overall dark gray (by Floquil) and then drybrushed them with Floquil Foundation (tan); the sidewalks are also overall dark gray and dryburshed with Floquil Concrete (light gray). The fountain is from some long forgotten D & D range. The walls in the town are Landmark. The signs on the buildings are mainly from the Flags for the Lads line and we have converted them to homemade decals. The French civilian population is from Preiser’s HO figure line. I use Preiser a lot to fill my need for civilians in different periods. I did not do much painting on them though I often do and may go back and paint them myself at a later time. They come nicely painted, but they do not look like my figures, and I like my figures to match one another. The German officer sitting in the café with the girl on his lap is by Old Glory. He was originally a French Napoleonic general with a girl on his lap. I did some modification, and I am pleased with the results. Their table and extra chair are by Peter Pig. They came from their HQ and Stuff pack. I did some modification there as well (cut off the things that were on the original table, added a plastic tablecloth, an HO bottle of wine, an up-side-down, lampshade to act as a bowel, a couple of thin pieces of plastic painted as bread, and a German officers peak cap cut from another figure.
The hedgerows are of two types: (1) the pre-made, lump-like bushes are by J.R. Miniatures. As you can see, I like them and purchased many. They come 4 to a pack for $6.00 a pack, and I think they paint-up well; (2) the hedgerow pieces that have trees and bushes are homemade using sheet plastic for the base, Milliput to give some texture to the bases, and trees and bushes from HO train lines. I used both types because while the J.R. are relatively cheap and cover a lot of area, I thought they needed the homemade pieces to give my bocage a little more character.
My soldiers and vehicles are by a number of companies: Command Decision, Flames of War, Peter Pig, QRF, and Quality Castings. Most of what you see in this gallery is Command Decision. The ambulance-jeep is a modification of a Command Decision jeep with wire supports added and stretchers from their wounded pack. I might note that I found it very difficult to find an American ambulance. The one shown here is by either Quality Castings or QRF, and it needed a lot of work. The scissor scope is from the Peter Pig HQ and Stuff pack. The PK Volkswagen is by Busch. They make a number of military cars for the Germans. Nice stuff but expensive. The camera came with the car. I am not sure what line of figures I took the cameraman from. The best German officer peak caps are by Peter Pig. Therefore, I bought quite a few of their officer packs and cut the head off for use wherever I needed a good peak cap. The Famos and disabled Tiger I in tow are by Flames of War. In terms of my equipment, wherever you see gear that has been covered with tarps, it is likely that what you are really seeing is chips of plastic covered by paper tissue and then painted. The vehicle decals are by Decal Details aka I-94 Enterprises. My refugees are by Preiser although Peter Pig makes good refugees as well. I have some. Two of the bombed out buildings are by J.R. Miniatures and the third is from Firebase Miniatures. The trees not used as hedgerows are the same I have used in my other galleries as is the ground cover and the background murals.
Thanks again to my daughter for her photo work. We hope you enjoy this gallery. In the next year or so, we will add the other two W.W. II galleries mentioned above, but I think I will posts some other periods first.
Germany 1945 15mm (64 Photos)
About seven or eight years ago I decided that I wanted to build the layout of a generic German city in 1945 for my late war German and American forces. At the time, that was a pretty big leap given the fact that I had no late war German or American forces. In the intervening years I have painted about 2000 pieces of German and American late war troops and equipment. I have also put together a layout for fighting in the bocage in 1944 which included a French village of about 35 buildings (none of which are in this gallery). That layout was posted on my website about a year ago. But throughout the years, the plan for the German city in 1945 has remained very much on my mind. To that end I collected a large number of destroyed buildings as well as a few that were untouched by Allied bombing. In the last three years I not only completed my late war men and equipment, but built, modified, and painted more than 60 structures for my city. Although the work on this period was not constant, I devoted about one year of the last three to the German-city project, and when I finished my Medieval Gallery in late June of 2011, I jumped into putting the final touches together for “Germany 1945.” We shot the photos yesterday, and I made my picture selections this afternoon. I’m extremely happy with the outcome and hope you will enjoy them as well.
I’m sure it will come as no surprise to wargamers that a large number of the structures used in this gallery are by JR Miniatures. Their range of W.W. II ruins is extensive, and I bought a lot of them: the Reichstag, Casino, four factories, Stalingrad blocks, Arnhem ruins, St. Lo ruins and Normandy ruins. In fact I bought multiples of the St. Lo and Normandy ruins: about 14 of those. I did major modifications to the St. Lo and Normandy ruins because I felt they were too small as cast but perfect for conversion to the size I wanted. Just as I modified some of the JR to be larger, I did modifications to some 20mm ruins by Hovels and Scenic Effects to give them a smaller appearance. To my collection of ruins I added about 10 HO buildings that I felt had a European look. I wanted my city to have some structures that had survived Allied bombing. Most of the HO buildings I purchased off the recycle table at Arnie’s Trains. They usually needed a lot of work (they were either broken or originally built by less-than-skilled model makers), but they offered the potential for the look I wanted and at very reasonable prices. I did three practice layouts for this gallery in order to map out what the city would look like and figure out where my building collection left holes/gaps in the city layout that needed to be filled. Where I found these gaps, I scratch built small ruins to fill the hole or added scratch built parks which offered the city a little color and interest value as well as defensive positions for my German forces. Arnie’s was also my source for great HO iron fencing for my parks and large government building. The manufacturer of that fencing is Mouse Models, and it is wonderful stuff.
During the month and a half to two months that preceded the photographing of the city, I devoted myself to the construction of gap fillers (mentioned above), bomb craters, shell craters, lamp posts, signs, an open sewer, and other general debris. The large bomb craters are modification of craters I got from Stonehouse Miniatures. I added Milliput and broken bricks from Pegasus. Smaller craters and shell holes were often made by me using Milliput, my thumb or finger tip to form the crater, the brush end of an old tooth brush to texture the Milliput, small bricks from Pegasus, and whatever odds and ends I thought might look good on the streets of a bombed-out city now under attack on the ground. I purchased the eastern front barricade from Flames of War. I did some small modifications to it. For example, I thought the doors were too short so I replaced them with HO doors I purchased at Arnie’s, and on one of the two barricades that come in the box, I shifted some of the pieces from one side to the other to give some variety. Using Milliput and Pegasus bricks, I eased the slope of the barricade’s base so it would meet the table surface more gradually and be less obviously base-like. I also bought a late 1960s HO VW Bug from Arnie’s recycle table for a dollar and rounded the front of the roof, cut off the turn signal lights on the front fenders, and used Green Putty to make the front and rear windows smaller and to make the divider for the rear window. I hid everything else that looked modern under rubble, the Bug becoming part of my barricade. I made numerous street obstacles and barricades from Evergreen Plastic, Milliput and Pegasus small bricks. (I put the bricks in a baggy and hit them gently with a hammer to give more variety in shape and size.) I also blocked my streets with trams used as barricades. Over several months, I was lucky to find six HO scale trams at the swap meet for a dollar each. I put rubble around the bases of three of these using Milliput and Pegasus bricks, and they became street blockers. I left three others in “running” condition to be left abandoned on their tracks. As it turned out I used only two of the barricade trams and two of the abandoned trams. But I have the other two just in case the need arises.
Normally the ground cover for my galleries is either a tan or pea green indoor-outdoor carpet that I purchased years ago, but they would not do for this project. I decided to go to my local hardware store and buy clear plastic rectangles (2’x4’x1/16”) that are used in kitchens and bathrooms to cover ceiling lighting. One side is bumpy while the other is smooth. I scored the smooth side to give it a textured look (I hoped) and then bought the cheapest spray primers and flat colors I could find at the hardware store. I put a base coat of black over the entire area and sprayed gray, red-brown, and bronze-tan randomly over the entire surface of the black. I’m pretty happy with the way it came out.
My German and American soldiers are by Command Decision, Flames of War, Peter Pig and Preiser. My military vehicles are by Command Decision, Flames of War, Peter Pig, QRF, Quality Castings, Preiser, Ricko, Rocco, and Busch. I wanted to do a couple of unique things in this gallery, and so I did something I seldom do which is make a few pieces (men and equipment) specifically for this gallery as opposed to just using what is available in my general collection for the period. The two special projects I was particularly excited about undertaking were a German field kitchen using Preiser figures, and a German field repair unit using whatever I could put together. I’m very happy with the Preiser field kitchen: great cooking unit, and very interesting variety of figures. The field repair unit took some time to bring together since, to my knowledge, no one actually makes one for either 15mm or HO. I used a Command Decision Opel Maultier, cut one side out of the rear area, and added a piece of plastic to serve as the new side in the down position. I found some HO gas station/garage pieces on Arnie’s recycle table to give me a workbench and some interesting and appropriate equipment for the unit, and got lucky in finding the perfect portable crane (again on the recycle table at Arnie’s). I also found an engine on the recycle table as part of one of the kits by Jordan Products’ Highway Miniatures line. I had a Stug III that was missing a part or two. I covered the areas where the parts were missing with Kleenex stiffened with clear enamel to give the appearance of canvas (I hope), and the Stug became my vehicle under repair. I didn’t attach it permanently to the base in case I find something better or need to repair another vehicle in the future. The German soldiers who are surrendering are Preiser as are the German general and staff officers walking to the staff car marked with the division commander’s pennant. I think that car is by Busch, but I’m not sure.
The gallery opens with a set of pictures of staff cars leaving the city. I have entitled these pictures “Exit the Elite.” I included them simply because I wanted to showcase some very expensive and great looking staff cars I purchased at Arnie’s. Those cars include a 1933 Horch Pullman and a 1938 Horch 930V, both by Ricko and a Mercedes 170V by Busch (in camo). The Reichsbahn truck and trailer are Roco. The field police directing traffic are by Preiser.
The last picture in this gallery is a photo of the whole layout. I thought it would offer an interesting insight into the viewing experience. The twelve pictures that precede that photo are of the city with the soldiers and equipment removed. I did that because I believe some of you might be interested in pictures that focus on the city rather than the soldiers – something for everyone.
This was far from the largest project I have undertaken in terms of figures, but it is by far the most complex layout I have ever done. The board is 5’x7’ and held nearly sixty buildings and dozens of pieces of rubble/craters and defensive positions. I believe I used four boxes of Milliput (yellow gray) on this project and huge amounts of Evergreen and Plastruct Plastic. Set-up for the photo shoot began at 7:30 am and take-down wasn’t finished until after 3 pm. Because the day we scheduled for photographing the gallery proved to be very sunny and very hot, we shot the pictures in the garage with the doors open so we would still have the benefit of natural sunlight without the glare of the direct rays. I think that worked out well. It certainly attracted visitors from the neighborhood including the mailman. As always the credit for the photography goes to my daughter. I give her very little direction as to what pictures to take or how to take them. If there is something unique like the field mess and field repair unit, I point those out to her, but short of that, I leave it to her eye to photograph what I have put on the board. I think it is an arrangement that works out well. As always, I hope you enjoy this gallery. Putting this one together has been a challenging and exciting experience for me.
Medieval 15mm (46 Photos)
MEDIEVAL CASTLE SIEGE IN 15MM/THE CALL FOR SURRENDER
This gallery has been in the making for nearly ten years in the sense that the collecting of its figures, equipment and buildings began nearly a decade ago, but the actual construction/ scratch-building, structure preparation and painting started in mid-January of 2011 and ended the last day of June 2011. It was an intense six months, and the process seemed to take on a life of its own with the number of figures involved growing from an initial plan of 250 to 300 figures to nearly 800 at the time of completion. In fact, I discovered another group of interesting medieval figures from Donnington after this gallery was photographed, and they arrived in the mail today which means this collection is still growing.
The gallery is of a castle siege, but it is generic not historic in nature, hopefully reflecting events that could have taken place in France or England during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. I have no doubt that the roots of this collection/project go back to my childhood love of knights and Robin Hood, Vikings and castles. I decided on a siege as the gallery’s context because it allowed the incorporation of both a castle and siege engines of the stone throwing variety. I selected the time period I did both because of the stone throwing siege engines of that period but also because full plate armor had not become the norm; colorful crested heater shields were common as were knights on beautifully barded horses. The gallery itself reflects the moments before the battle has actually commenced and thus allowed the tidy displayed of the attacking forces as well as the town located within the outer bailey of the castle. I make no pretense as to my purpose with this gallery; it is to showcase the figures, buildings and equipment. Without a doubt the most interesting element of this project for me was the scratch building of the hoardings and the boulevard defensive gate stockade, but I will speak more of them later. I loved every minute of this project, and I hope you will enjoy the gallery that grew out of it.
In only one previous gallery did I intentionally show a photo of the table as it is laid out in the backyard for photographing, but I thought this gallery called for a similar approach so I included one here as well. The castle walls, gates, towers, and large keep are by Village Green which is now owned by Stronghold Miniatures. The exterior of the castle walls measures approximately 30 inches in width by 35 inches in length with each wall section measuring 3 1/8 inches in width, 3 inches in height, and 1 inch in depth. The walls are made of a very hard, dense, heavy resin that made the shipping cost from the UK extremely high. Because I purchased the castle nearly a decade ago, I have forgotten the cost, but it was expensive. I remember that. But the fact is, ten years later I’m still very happy with it, so no regrets. Within the castle walls are an outer and an inner bailey. The outer bailey encloses a town of 26 structures. The buildings in the outer bailey are by Hovels, Ian Weekley, and Monolith Design. Seven of the structures are scratch-built market stalls and one of those is an outdoor tavern. The market stalls are made from sheet plastic by Evergreen. The goods shown in those stalls are from Baueda, Preiser, and Essex plus some things I made from plastic and Milliput. The wicker fence is by Fire and Sword. The chickens, pigs, and sheep are Preiser. The farm fields are by Musket Miniatures. The inner bailey contains a large keep by Village Green/Stronghold, a smaller keep by Ian Weekley, and a stable by Hovels. The walls and towers that flank the outer bailey’s main gate are toped by scratch-built hoardings made of sheet plastic from Evergreen. They took just over two weeks of full-time duty to build but now that they are done, they are my favorite apart of the whole collection. Because the main gate opens side-to-side rather than as a drawbridge and has no moat for defense, I needed a further defense for the gate and that problem was solved by a wonderful website entitle Harness and Array. The solution offered by that website is called a boulevard or stockade defense. Using the model I found on the Harness and Array site, I scratch built a boulevard of my own, and I’m very pleased with the outcome. It is made from sheet plastic by Evergreen with a base of Milliput. Though the gallery contains no battle scenes, I did include pictures of the breached wall I built just because I thought it looked good. The wall is one of a few extra walls I purchased when I bought the castle. I knock a hole in it and formed the breach with Green Putty and small bricks from the Pegasus Military Museum Collection. Since I mentioned having purchased a few extra wall sections, I probably should also say that because the hoardings are permanently attached to the walls, I purchase an additional 13 sections (8 wall sections, 4 towers, and a gate) so I could have the hoarded wall area without hoardings as well.
The siege engines (counter-weight trebuchet, perrier, mangonel, onager, siege tower/belfry and ram/penthouse) are mainly by Museum Miniatures, with a few by Essex. The two cherry-picker style buckets are scratch build again using Evergreen plastic, Milliput, and a little wire. The crossbow figure in each cherry-picker bucket is by Peter Pig as are the two men controlling the swing of the bucket pole on the ground. They are actually Peter Pig billmen. I’ve cut the blades off their weapons and painted the remaining pole as rope attached to the counter-weight at the bottom of the pole on the cherry-picker arm. I got the idea for the cherry-picker siege engine from a picture on page 63 in Volume I of Le Costume, L’Armure Et Les Armes Au Temps De La Chevalerie by Lilane and Fred Funcken. I also scratch built what I hope will pass as a mining project used by attacking forces to undermine a section of wall. My mine consists of a patch of Milliput with a gradual upward slop toward the castle. Each side of this patch of Milliput ground is supported by wicker fencing (in this case not by Fire and Sword but I can’t remember the manufacturer). At the top of this gradual slop I created a square hole in the Milliput to act as the opening of the tunnel shaft, and I added the top of an Essex scaling ladder coming out of the hole. The mining work is hidden (hopefully) from the view of the castle by a scratch-built plastic mantlet. The defensive, pointed stacks protecting the archers are all scratch built using plastic for the stakes and Milliput for the bases. The mantlets, other than that used to shield the mining operation, are not scratch built, but I have no clear memory as to the manufacturer(s). I probably got them from Museum Miniatures or Essex, but I am not sure.
The encampment of the attacking force is made up of 15 tents by Ian Weekley, Minifig, and J.R. Miniatures. The clerical wagon is by Essex and the bell tower wagon is scratch built based upon online pictures I saw of one displayed at Salute 2007. The tables and benches with food and equipment are scratch built from plastic. The knights being dressed for battle by their squires are modification of Essex figures and the squires are modifications of Corvus Belli Roman figures. The ox roasting on a spit is simply an Essex ox figure I didn’t think was the correct size so I cut off its head and legs and hung it over a Milliput fire on a wire spit.
The figures used are Essex, Peter Pig, Old Glory 15s and Corvus Belli. The wagons are Essex and Hallmark. Most of the villagers are Essex and about half of those are modifications of Essex figures from other Essex lines such as Middle Eastern figures. I did some cutting and gluing and added some putty and paint. I’m really very pleased with the collection of villagers that resulted. I think it came to about 40 civilian figures.
The ground cover, trees and background mural have been used in my other galleries.
As always, the photography was done by my daughter in our backyard. I began the set up at 8:30 a.m. and my daughter began taking pictures at 11:40 a.m. The picture taking lasted about an hour, and we had everything put away by a little after 2 p.m. The set up and take down of a gallery layout is a long, draining process, but I love seeing an idea I’ve been working on for six months come to life. I was going to say it gives me cheap thrill, but the truth is there’s nothing cheap about it. Nonetheless, I do love the hobby, and it is exciting for me to see the photographic results when the process is complete. I hope you enjoy the gallery too. I think this gallery is a little unique in that during my research for the project I did not find a castle siege done in 15mm on this scale in terms of number of figures, number and types of siege engines, size of castle (30 inches x 35 inches), size of town, or size of layout board (5 feet x 7 feet). I want to offer special recognition to the website Harness and Array which was a true inspiration for me and to my daughter who takes wonderful photographs.
Napoleonic 15mm (34 Photos)
FRANCE VS. AUSTRIA, 1809: A BATTLE NEVER FOUGHT
When one combines the Napoleonic Wars with the year 1809, the natural outcome should be Aspern-Essling or Wagram, so why the title “A Battle Never Fought?” I have decided to approach this gallery in this fashion to avoid frustrating those of my gallery viewers, although very few, who are prone to see a gallery as a history lesson rather than a figure display set in the context of a historical event. I enjoyed putting together Pickett’s Charge and Little Big Horn but never thought of the galleries as real attempts to recreate authentic history. I’m just having fun and sharing what I hope you will find to be an interesting 15mm display. So this time, I will not call upon the names Aspern-Essling or Wagram, but it is 1809, and these figures do represent the forces of Napoleon and Austria.
Now on to the figures. At 4,300 figures, this is my second largest figure collection, the Civil War being the largest at 6,000. The vast majority of my Napoleonic figures are Old Glory, but Essex, Minifig, and AB (Battle Honours) are also included. In fact, my Napoleon is by Naismith Design. My collection includes three Napoleons: one sitting with his feet resting on a drum by Old Glory, one mounted by AB (Battle Honours), and one standing by Naismith Design. I found it very difficult to find a standing Napoleon so I was very happy to discover the Naismith figure. Unfortunately, he was Hobbit size, so I cut him in half, added about an 1/8 inch of Milliput to his middle and shaped it as needed. I’m very pleased with the way he came out. In fact, I originally purchased two of that figure because I wasn’t sure how the first would come out. I still have the untouched second copy to remind me how small that figure really was when I bought the two of them. Napoleon’s coach is a Preiser HO scale coach painted to give, what I hope provides, a convincing look. As far as I know, no one makes a 15mm coach for Napoleon though I did see one in 25mm many years ago in “Waragames Illustrated.” In fact, that may also have simply been a 25mm coach done-up to serve as Napoleon’s. Whatever the case, I am grateful for having seen it because it planted the seed that led to the one displayed in this gallery. For this gallery, I decided to go with the coach rather than the Napoleon on horseback because I have read so many accounts that this greatest of military minds was not comfortable on horseback and his guards lived in fear of him falling off whenever he elected to ride. I have surrounded Napoleon with staff and the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard who accompanied him on his travels. There are three other French command groups in this gallery, two mounted and one with a Berthier-like aspect in the courtyard of a farm sending ADCs to the different sectors of the battlefield.
I believe I used about 800 figures (of the 4,300) in this gallery; a few more French than Austrians, but that was largely due to the fact that I set the French on the field first and the Austrians had to make due with the space I had left; not a very historical approach, but having done nine of these galleries now, I have learned that while planning a layout is important, it is an imperfect science. I have arranged both the French and the Austrians in the formations common to the day, the line and column. As my friend Rocky pointed out to me several time as I worked through this project, by 1809 Napoleon’s enemies had figured out many of his organizational and formation devices. I have used a variety of cannon and cavalry placements ranging from front to flanks, to rear. My French cavalry include two regiments of Cuirassiers, two of Dragoons, the Grenadiers a Cheval, and the Empress Dragoons. The Old Grenadiers are also near at hand.
My Austrian infantry are composed of both German and Hungarian fusilier units. I’ll let you in on an unintended consequence of an outdoor photo shoot. On the day we took these pictures, the clouds rolled in unexpectedly, and it looked like rain so I was hustling to get it photographed and in the rush I forgot to include some Austrian grenadier units I had planned on using. Oh well, the “fog” of war has undermined many a well-made plan. There are four Austrian cavalry units, all Dragoons. A board that is 5 feet by 7 feet looks really big when there is nothing on it, but believe me it can fill up fast. Consequently, I did not include light cavalry on either side; just didn’t have the space. There are two mounted Austrian command groups. I think the most interesting feature of my Austrians is their flags. I completed these Napoleonic figures about 10 years ago. Until that time, I hand painted all my flags on metal blanks (mostly from Stone Mountain). But the Austrian flags were going to present a problem. The central emblems on those flags are extremely detailed and complex, and while I thought I could do a few, I was sure I’d have a breakdown before I finished painting about 70 Austrian flags (which would actually be about 140 emblems since they are on both sides of the flag). So I turned to my daughter, who used her computer skills to make decals of those central emblems for the flags. I painted the backgrounds of the flags and the border of flames, but the central emblems are decals. These figures were my first use of homemade decals, and I’m really very happy with the way they look.
Because I did such a detailed presentation of the French village in “The Bocage ‘44” Gallery, I decided to keep the village in this gallery in the background, but keeping in mind that this is 1809, France versus Austria, there had to be a town close by even though I’m not claiming this as any specific battle. The village buildings used in this gallery are by Landmark and Peter Pig. The walled farm complex is by Landmark.
The trees, ground cover, and background mural are the same I have used in my other galleries so nothing new to share there. My daughter is the mural artist and photographer. Since the first of these galleries was posted around October of 2008, many of you have commented on how great the photos look. I agree completely; she does a wonderful job making the 15s come to life. As I said earlier, I’ve had these figures painted and waiting for action for about 10 years. This is the first time I have seen them arrayed for battle. While I was setting up this, a neighbor came by to have a look. He’d never seen them before. I loved his comment. He said, “It’s not that the scene looks real; it’s that it doesn’t look fake.”
It took three years to paint the figures and five and a half hours to set this one up and take it down. I hope you enjoy it. It is always fun to see a gallery come to “life.”
French and Indian War 15mm (95 Photos)
FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
When I was eight years old, which is to say well over a half-century ago, I wrote to Marx Toys to request that they produce a French and Indian War toy set among their many boxed collections. I received no response to that letter. The French and Indian War became important to me as an eight-year-old largely because of the movies Northwest Passage with Spencer Tracy and Robert Young and The Last of The Mohicans with Randolph Scott. I’m sure the Classic Comic The Last of The Mohicans played its part as well. In the many years that followed, the French and Indian War remained an interest… there was simply something majestic about it with its dark forests and Woodland Indians, the independent-minded frontiersmen and the European forces dressed in uniforms that were out of place but nonetheless added to the mystery and majesty of it all. In more recent years, my interest in this childhood romance with history was fed by Allan Eckert’s Wilderness Empire, the reading of Kenneth Roberts’ Northwest Passage, and Daniel Day-Lewis in a new version of The Last of the Mohicans.
I never lost hope that one day some manufacturer would give me the figures I had been denied by Marx Toys, and about a decade ago my dreams were realized when Blue Moon 15mm-18mm came to life and among its first offerings was a French and Indian War line of figures with 64 figure/building packs. It was as though my letter had been misplaced all those years ago and had somehow been found and delivered not to Marx but to Blue Moon. They were giving me almost everything I had ever wanted from the French and Indian War… forts, Indian lodges, cabins, blockhouses, canoes, Indian villagers, European colonial settlers, Indian warriors, British troops, French troops, rangers, French marines… It was/is wonderful, and I began to buy!
Around January of this year (2015) I completed my African Adventure Gallery for my 28s and began organizing and painting my 15mm-18mm French and Indian War collection. As I write this, it is now the first week of October 2015, and my work on my French and Indian War collection has come to an end… approximately 1500 figures are painted, and I’ve brought to life a Woodland Indian village (reflecting the Abnakis village burned by Rogers on the St. Francis in 1759 complete with 17 lodges, several European style cabins, a meeting house, a church, a blockhouse with an elevated gun position, scalp poles, a large village drum, a fish drying rack, lean-to’s, lacrosse goal posts, beached canoes, and two Indian watchtowers), a British colonial farm community, two forts, a fleet of French whale boats and canoes for the assault on Fort William Henry, and French siege entrenchments with cannons and mortars.
In presenting this gallery, my principal aim is to display my collection. I say that up front so that no one will be left with the impression that I am attempting to present history. This gallery is not devoid of a historical relationship but that relationship is loose and the historical events loosely portrayed have been selected as a means of meeting my central goal of displaying the collection. My references for figure painting have ranged from long viewings of John Jenkins’ French and Indian War figures, to the French and Indian War on Pinterest, to the Funcken Lace War volumes, in addition to a lot of Osprey material.
This gallery includes four main table layouts and some small vignettes. Each table is 5 feet x 7 feet. I work with two actual tables so when my daughter finishes photographing Table #1 (the French and Indian attack on a British farm community), I take down Table #1 while she is photographing Table #2 (the French attack on Fort William Henry/1757) and Table #1 becomes Table #3 (the ranger/light infantry attack on the Abnakis village on the St. Francis/1759). Once Table #2 has been photographed and my daughter moves on to Table #3, I take down Table #2 and use it to set up Table #4 (the unsuccessful British assault on Fort Carillon/1757). I intentionally did not follow a historic time sequence in presenting these tables because I did not want two fort-related layouts to come one right after the other.
As indicated above, most of my figures and structures are from Blue Moon 15mm-18mm, and most of those are from their FIW collection although I did pick some wagons and mortars up from their AWI and Napoleonic lines. The largest number of non-Blue Moon figures are from the Old Glory 15s SYW line (British and French infantry and artillery), and the whale boats (pirate longboats), oarsmen, and seated infantry are from Peter Pig (great stuff). I also have some Woodland Indians from Peter Pig as well as Frontier Miniatures. There are a few SYW officers from both Essex and AB Miniatures included as well. The animals (farm animals, deer, bears and turkeys) are by Preiser. The spruce and pine trees are by Grand Central Gems. The fields are by Musket Miniatures. I think the fences are from Stone Mountain Miniatures, but I got them a couple decades ago, and I am no longer sure. The grain stands are HO, but I have no idea who made them… again purchased many, many years ago. The entrenchments I’m pretty sure are Gallia. The waterfall is a resin décor piece I picked up at the swap meet a few years back. I got it for $3. It required a lot of cleaning up and patching, but I really wanted a waterfall for this collection so I’m very happy I found this one. The church is a repurposed resin music box I picked up at the swap meet for $3. I did some minor modifications and gave it a new paint job. The scalp poles, dock, fort gun platforms, ladders, lacrosse goal posts, fish drying rack, lean-to’s, village drum, wells, cannon hoist (my name for it), and Indian watchtowers are all scratchbuilt by me… mostly using Evergreen plastic and some plastic HO scale telephone poles I got off the bargain table at my local model train shop. The lean-to foliage is from Bachmann Scene Scapes and is called Wire Foliage Branches. The scalps on the scalp poles are made with floral wire. The rock portion of the wells is Milliput over Evergreen tube and the rope is floral wire. The village drum is Milliput over a water bottle cap.
The ground cover is indoor-outdoor carpet I purchased on clearance about 30 years ago. It is terrible carpet but great ground cover. The mural background was painted by my daughter who as mentioned above did the photography. She has done the photography for all my galleries and really makes them come to life. We photograph the layouts in the garage with all the garage doors open so we can get the benefit of natural light while allowing me to set up the first two tables the night before… I couldn’t do the night before set-up if we took the pictures in the backyard.
After six decades, a little boy’s dream (my dream) has come true with the completion of this collection. It feels great! Hope you enjoy it, too.
Pirates 28mm (76 Photos)
25MM/28MM PIRATE RAID
For more than 30 years I have focused my miniatures’ attention on 15mm military subjects, but about seven years ago 25mm/28mm pirates caught my attention and wouldn’t let go. During those intervening seven years I have collected figures, buildings and ships for a pirate collection, and in October 2011 I began painting. This was a double first for me in that I was doing 25mm/28mm figures rather than 15s, and I was using water-based paints rather than the oil-based paints I had used for three decades. By October 2011, when I began work, I had lost track of exactly how many figures I had gathered for my pirate collection but I guessed it would be about 300 to 350 figures divided into four groups: pirates, government forces, civilians, and cannibals. I completed this project on June 12, 2012 having painted between 650 and 700 figures in the above four categories plus five ships, a wharf with fortifications, a town of twelve buildings (maybe more; I should count), a kraken sea monster plus sinking ship, and a sea serpent. Over time they will be displayed on this website in three different galleries. The first gallery is the pirate raid. In the future that gallery will be followed by a cannibal/treasure-island gallery and finally a gallery that focuses on dangers from the sea and will include the kraken, sea serpent, sharks, and those ships I haven’t finished yet (there are others).
The Pirate Raid Gallery represents a pirate attack on the fictional Caribbean port of San Cristobal on the fictional Caribbean island of Lagrimas de Dios. San Cristobal was originally a Spanish colony but at the time of the raid it belonged to England. The gallery opens on a peaceful day in San Cristobal. The townsfolk are going about their daily lives. In the harbor are two government ships, Seraphim and Walrus. They are preparing to leave on a pirate-hunting cruise. Once the government ships have sailed off, the raid portion of the gallery begins as two pirate ships, Calliope and Hispaniola, attack San Cristobal.
The town is composed of a stone wharf that is approximately four feet in length anchored on each end by stone fortifications. I made the wharf and fortifications from Duplos and covered them with JTT plastic (for the stone) and Evergreen plastic (for the wood decking). I use Legos and Duplos a lot in my building because they offer both strength and good, dependable angles. The rock formations in front of the fortifications and to the side of one of them are makeovers of broken/lost toys I bought cheap at the swap meet. The town includes six Miniature Building Authority buildings from their Spanish Main range. About all I did with them was a quick drybrush of Vallejo Beige to give them more of a cream color than the color they were originally painted. That also allowed me to tidy up the Miniature Building Authority paint job which in some cases was a little messier than I like. The stable from Miniature Building Authority comes in three versions (all the same except the roofs). I bought the shingled roof version and built a tile roof for it using JTT plastic. I did that because I thought the tile roof would be an easy thing to make and having the version with the shingled roof would allow me to use the building in a variety of other layouts. Oddly enough the stable walls were already painted in a beige color and required no additional work by me. Three other buildings are by Old Glory. They are the church, the two-story cantina, and another two story structure. The flat roof building with the courtyard and clay oven is by JR Miniatures. I’m not sure who made my blacksmith shop. I bought it as a broken/incomplete item at Brookhurst Hobbies. There was no box or tag associated with it, but it was exactly what I was looking for and repair work on it was relatively simple. The streets are drybrushed JTT plastic. The palm trees are toys I picked up over the last six or seven years at the swap meet for about 25 cents each. They painted up well. I probably bought and painted about 70 two-tree bases over the years. The gallows is by Fenryll. The well and mill are by Architects of War. I think they are beautiful pieces. I’m not sure who made the fountain, but I think it is Hovels. Three of the market stalls are by Miniature Building Authority (repainted) and one is by Fenryll. Some of the tavern furniture is by Old Glory and Mega Minis, but most of it is scratch built by me from Evergreen plastic. The two carriages are by Blue Moon. The four-wheeled wagon and sedan chair are by Foundry. The tumbrel is by Perry. The man carried in the hammock is by Trent. Any solid-wheel carts you see are scratch build by me from Evergreen plastic. Most of the pigs are by Architects of War. The chickens are by Berkshire Valley Inc./O scale. I don’t know the manufacture of the ducks/O scale. I got them on the cheap table are Arnie’s Trains. There are lots of barrels, bags and boxes from Architects of War, Pegasus Hobbies, Hovels, and “unknown.”
All of the ships used in this gallery are broken/discarded toys I picked up at the swap meet and repaired and reworked to meet the needs of my 25mm/28mm figures. Actually they were wonderful finds, and I like them as much or better than any of the ships actually made for 25mm/28mm gaming. Of the five ships, four are Disney toys made in conjunction with the release of the different Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Three of the ships were versions of the Black Pearl. One of them (my Hispaniola) was marketed with the release of the third movie. That ship required the least repair and modification. It was a radio-controlled toy with a rocker bottom to make it look like it was rocking on the sea. When the bottom was removed/unscrewed, it was a perfect waterline. Other than painting it and adding a name ribbon, the only changes I made to it were modification of the helm rail and addition of the anchors and cat heads.
I have two other Black Pearls marketed with the release of either the first or second film (not sure which). They were also radio-controlled toys but have a different look from the ship marketed with the third movie. These two ships (my Calliope and Walrus) required much more work than the Hispaniola. I had to cut the bottom off each to make those ships waterline. The masts were broken or missing and had to be scratch built. I added a cabin area around the main mast on both and added the wall facing and door areas seen at the stern of the ships. I also added most of the cannon barrels seen projecting from below decks. There are three sets of steps on each of those ships that were oddly shaped so I extended each of them to look more realistic. I also added a hatch cover to both ships and added their anchors and cat heads. I made the sails out of Evergreen plastic, Milliput (yellow gray) and floral wire. The largest ship is from Disney’s fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie and is supposed to be Queen Anne’s Revenge (my Seraphim). I got her at the swap meet for $10. She’s a big ship (about 31” from the tip of the bowsprit to the stern) and required a lot of work: new masts, new sails, raised the deck half an inch, added a new front to the main cabin plus doors and lamps, new rail around the helm, new hatch cover, new anchors and cat heads, new stern lamp, new bow lamps, new figurehead, and new bowsprit. In addition, a great deal of work needed to be done on the hull which had a lot of fun kids stuff sticking out that had to be cut off and patched up.
Honestly, I had a great time repairing and painting all four of these ships and when you consider that the largest cost me $10, one cost me $8, one cost me $5 and one cost me $3, they were wonderful bargains. Add to that another $50 in materials. That is still a good deal for 4 ships. The fifth ship is a Playmobil toy that I got at the swap meet a couple months ago for $1. When I bought it was just an empty hull, no deck, no cabin, no mast, no anchor, but it looked like it could be the perfect merchant sloop and for $1 it was certainly worth buying. I made the deck, cat-head, bowsprit and mast out of Everygreen plastic. One of the sails is out of Evergreen plastic, Milliput, and floral wire, and the cabin is made of Legos covered in Evergreen plastic. The other sail, the anchor, and the hatch cover are odd pieces I picked up at the swap meet for a few cents. Actually that plastic sail I found at the swap meet and used on this ship (Saucy) was my inspiration source for all the sails I made from Milliput. None of my ships have attached helms. This allows me to add the type of helm (with or without a helmsman) that I want in terms of what the ship is doing. My daughter made all the name ribbons for the ships from Sculpy, which is clay that can be baked in the oven, and it comes out like plastic. She did a great job. She also made all the decals with the names for the ships. She’s actually quite an artist.
This is getting quite long so I’ll keep the piece about the figures as brief as I can. Most of my pirates are Old Glory 25s. But my collection does include 10 packs of Foundry pirates. In addition to the Old Glory and Foundry pirates, I have a few Dixon and Reaper pirates. The captured pirate in the barrel standing in the town square is a modification of a Foundry Civil War figure. I have over 200 civilians. A huge percentage of those are Foundry, but they also include Perry, West Wind, Blue Moon, Outpost, Reaper, Front Rank, Fenryll (big but beautiful figures) and Eureka. Some of my favorites are from Eureka and include the wheelwright, bakers, blade sharpeners, musicians, and seated aristocrats. The government forces are almost entirely Old Glory with the exception one pack of Foundry/a boarding party and the figures in the government longboats, which are London War Room. In total, I have four longboats with crews. Three of those boats are Old Glory and one is Britannia. The Britannia and one of the Old Glory longboats are crewed by London War Room figures while the other two Old Glory longboats have their Old Glory pirate crews. I surrounded all the longboats with Milliput bases to give some protection to the oars.
The only other figures I have done for this collection don’t appear in this gallery. They are my cannibals. They are all painted and, with the exception of one Foundry pack (DA10/Women and Children) modified to be members of the cannibal tribe, all of the cannibals are Old Glory. At a later date, I may modify a couple of the Eureka female African prisoners to be members of the cannibal tribe as well. I have three of the Old Glory cannibal canoes as well, but that’s for a future gallery.
The ground cover is one of the old indoor-outdoor carpets I use with all my layouts. The water is made from 2 ft.x 4 ft. clear plastic sheets intended as covering for ceiling lighting. I bought it at the hardware store and sprayed it with different shades of blue canned spray painted/quick and simple if not artistic. Frankly, by the time I got around to doing the water, I was getting pretty tired. I’d been at this project eight months. As always my daughter took the pictures. Hope you like what you see. I really came to love this collection, but I guess I could say that about all of them.
Victorian 28mm (118 Photos)
I should begin by saying that this gallery has no story or theme other than my fascination with the period and the miniatures. I join the long line of those who love Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and the master criminals of the Victorian era, and I admit to sharing the century-old fascination with the mystery and horror of the Jack the Ripper murders as well as the dark world of vampires, werewolves, and those other creatures that go bump in the night. With that in mind, I think it is not difficult to understand how I was drawn into that world by way of my miniatures. I took my first step down this dark path about a decade ago, perhaps a little less, with the purchase of several of the Victorian packs put out by Foundry. I bought Bill the sandwich-board man, the rat catcher, Holmes and Watson, Moriarty and Moran, Queen Victoria with a shotgun, the Old West Victorian Gents, the Christmas Passers-by, and the Dickens’ characters, but the list of what was available was not long in those days. However, in the last few years the world of 28 mm Victorian miniatures has exploded, and last October I reviewed my 28mm Victorian collection, and it was clear that my collection had kept pace with that explosion in available figures. It was now time to bring those figures to the brush. Thus in mid- October 2012 I began my work and finished, to the degree I ever finish, the figures and scenics for this gallery one year later in 2013 on the eve of Halloween.
This gallery will be a little unique in several respects. First, it is only my second venture outside the realm of 15mm military figures. Second, we have only once before done the photography in the garage rather than in the natural light outside in the backyard. As with the previous garage shoot (Germany, 1945) this is being done largely because there are so many buildings, street and sidewalk sections, and vehicles that carrying them outside would add additional hours to the set up and takedown process which will be lengthy as it is. The third unique element to this gallery is that it will involve two major and many minor alterations of the board. The two major alterations arise from the fact that the gallery will represent the city in both day and night, so that once the daytime version has been photographed, those figures reflecting the normal daily life of the city will be removed from the layout and replaced with figures that represent the darker side of Victorian life, and will range from ladies of the night, Jack the Ripper, grave robbers and common thugs to mad scientists, vampires, rat swarms, escaped lunatics, werewolves, zombies, and the possible or impossible ghost or two. Those figure changes of the night represent the many minor alterations of which I spoke. At this point, you may have noticed that I am referring to what we intend to do rather than what we have done. This may constitute a fourth unique element in this process in that I am writing this a week before we do the photographing rather than the week following the photo shoot which is my normal custom. I have no explanation for that at all.
As always the table is 5 feet x 7 feet in size. I am using the five background mural sections that were used in the Sudan and Pirates galleries, but because this is an urban environment I have made urban roofline silhouettes from black construction paper that will be taped to the original mural sections. The master for the silhouettes was drawn by my daughter. I just traced the silhouettes onto construction paper and cut them out. For the night version of the gallery, the light blue sky of the mural will be covered with dark blue construction paper. I went with the dark blue because the roofline silhouettes are black, and I wanted some chance of the silhouettes showing up against the dark night sky. I’ve also included a sun and a moon that were made from Christmas decorations I picked up at the swap meet for 50 cents each. They required a small bit of modification and painting; nothing difficult. The sidewalks are made from the same 2 feet x 4 feet sheets of plastic used to cover ceiling lighting that I have used for water in my Aztec, Pirate, and Sudan galleries. The cobblestone streets are made from JJT plastic. Both the streets and the sidewalks have been sprayed black and then dry brushed with gray.
The buildings are from a variety of sources that include the Old Glory 25s’ Chicago Gangster Buildings, the two Old Glory 25s’ Empire Block buildings from their Old West line, an O gauge building from Design Preservation Models, O gauge buildings from RailKing and Walthers, and the church from Pegasus. The Whitechapel row or terrace houses and pub are scratchbuilt using Duplos for the inner structure covered with JTT, Evergreen and Plastruct plastics. To give the Old Glory Chicago buildings a more London look, I have added scratchbuilt pitched roofs and chimneys. The roofs were made from JTT, Evergreen and Plastruct plastics. The chimneys are Legos covered with JTT plastic and caped with Evergreen plastic. The pitched roofs and chimneys are removable. The cemetery is mainly composed of fence from two of the Garden of Morr kits from Warhammer. The fences have been highly modified with Milliput to cover all the skulls. I did the same thing with the Garden of Morr mausoleums. The park fence is O gauge by Model Power and the park gate is a highly modified Cobblestone Corners piece that I picked up at the swap meet for $1. The park fountain is another swap meet item I got for 50 cents and repainted, and the puppet theater is another highly modified Christmas piece I got at the swap meet for $3. In front of the RailKing brownstone buildings that face the cemetery I have added removable iron fencing to add to its London look (HO from Mouse Models). My wife and I were in London in 2011 and saw a lot of that iron fencing. The street troughs and bollards are scratch built from Evergreen plastic and toothpicks. The sandwich-board street advertising signs are scratchbuilt from Evergreen plastic with homemade decals. The street lamps are by Miniature Building Authority. The subway/underground entrance is by Lemax. It required a little modification, but it’s a great piece for only $11. Because I loved the bareknuckle boxing in the first Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock film, I included boxers (Foundry) and a scratchbuilt ring in my collection.
I have made five interior settings from Evergreen and JTT plastic. Each is composed of a floor, and two walls plus the figures and other items that provide each with their particular character. The five interiors represent an opium den, a mad scientist’s laboratory, a church interior, a grand ballroom, and the grand staircase of a mansion.
The opium den cots are scratchbuilt using Evergreen plastic and facial tissue. The opium den customers are Old Glory 25s’ casualties from the Boxer Rebellion and the Plains Indians Wars. The ballroom dancers and musicians are Eureka. The grand ball was inspired by the second Downey Holmes film. Bit of a trend there. The laboratory is composed of items/figures from West Wind, Wyrd, Pegasus, the swap meet, and my scratchbuilding. The church alter and pews are Armorcast. The choir loft is scratchbuilt. The choir is West Wind and the choir director is Foundry/Darkest Africa. The Greek/Roman columns are plastic cake layer supports that my wife found for me at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. These interior sets have the added beauty/benefit of the fact that the walls and floors come apart and can be easily stored in a small box. Over the years storage space has become a real issue.
The vehicles are from a variety of sources. The carriages are all 1:43 scale by Brumm. The hansom cabs are by West Wind and Eureka; the paneled work wagons are from the Blue Moon Wagon Ho collection as are the Black Mariahs and the hearse. The signs on the wagons are homemade decals based on signs in a wonderful picture book of Victorian London by Peter Jackson entitled Walks in Old London. I got it at the swap meet for $3, and it proved to be a treasure. The fire engine is a subscription gift item from Readers Digest that I picked up at the swap meet for $1. The flatbed wagon is something I got off the cheap table at Arnie’s Trains for $3 and modified to be what you see. All of the horses are by Phoenix 43. At the time of this writing, I intend to include one horseless carriage complete with large umbrella that I bought at the swap meet for $1. It was originally painted gold and was a Christmas tree decoration. It actually painted up nicely and is a perfect match for a Eureka hansom cab driver. I bought a lot of those hansom cab drivers from Nic at Eureka. Victorian drivers are not easy to find. I used the same Eureka driver to pilot my steampunk “chopper.” That toy is from the Atlantis the Lost Empire collection and was a great find at the swap meet. I got it out of a box of broken toys for $1. The repairs were pretty easy, and it painted up great. I bought the steampunk tank and the “Freak Show Jack-in-the-Box” at Brookhurst Hobbies’ flea market sales for $5 each. When I bought the tank, it was in pieces in a baggy, and the previous owner couldn’t remember the manufacturer’s name.
The figures are by Foundry, West Wind, Eureka, Reaper, Blue Moon, North Star, Perry, Old Glory, Artizan Designs, Woodbine Design, Wyrd, Mutton Chop, Obelisk, Mantic/Kings of War, Artista, Dixon, Black Scorpion, Fenryll, Horrorclix, Hundred Kingdoms (the “Freak Show Jack-in-the-Box”), Hawthorne Village and Cobblestone Corners. To state the obvious, I love civilian figures that show people just going about the routine things of life. My Victorian figure collection now numbers about 900 figures (still growing) and quite a few have undergone modification. Personal modification favorites are my man shoveling horse droppings from the street and my suffragettes. The Cobblestone Corners’ 2012 collection offered a lot of easily modified figures which to my initial surprise looked great once they got a new paint job. They helped fill my streets with activity at very little cost. I looked at the 2013 Cobblestone Corners Christmas Village collection and was not impressed. But I’ll check them out again in 2014 because you never know. My thanks to Steve and Ludwig at Brookhurst Hobbies for teaching me how they paint zombies. They are talented guys and always willing to share ideas.
As of the time of this writing, I have set my Victorian city up three times over a period of several months in order to map it out and get the best look with the terrain items I have. As always, my daughter will be the photographer. She has the artist’s eye. I must also acknowledge Thunderchicken from Lead Adventure Forum whose wonderful talent in scratchbuilding Victorian buildings has been a huge inspiration for me. I constantly referred to his work throughout this project. When painting a collection, it is my habit to focus on that one collection, period, or theme until I have reached a point where I consider it done (though they never seem to be complete as I will keep adding figures to this collection long after this gallery has been posted). I simply become obsessed; it is a wonderful obsession but an obsession all the same. That process seldom is less than six months in length and often lasts several years. I fall in love with each of my collections which probably goes a long way toward explaining why I do them in the first place. After more than 30 years of collecting and painting, they still surprise me when they are done. This collection is no exception. I have fallen in love again. I hope you enjoy them, too.
Pulp Egyptian 28mm (110 Photos)
28MM PULP EGYPTIAN DIG/THE TOMB OF MEN-HER-RA
This is my third 25mm/28mm project and my first involving the Pulp Era if that is defined as being the period between the wars. The Mummy with Brendan Fraser is probably the film that had the greatest influence on this project. I love the look of that film. I’m sure the Indiana Jones movies (Lost Ark and Last Crusade), Alien (probably less obvious), The English Patient and Legend of the Lost (The Duke and Sophia) also had some influence though less direct in nature. I like the idea that my archaeological group has found an ancient Egyptian site that has previously gone undiscovered. The idea that something as large as this could have gone undiscovered until the first half of the 20th Century despite the fact that it is within reasonably short driving distance of modern civilization hinges on the vast emptiness of the desert. I remember that during the First Gulf War Saddam Hussein ignored the fact that the Coalition massed huge forces along his desert flank because he believed that to move an army through that desert was folly since it would simply get lost in the desert’s vastness. He had no concept of GPS. The 1920’s/1930’s equivalent of GPS is the post-WWI airplane. In the years following WWI it seems reasonable that a plane flying over the desert could accident upon an unknown ancient Egyptian complex that had gone undiscovered simply because there had been no modern reason for traveling by land out into that part of the desert, but from the platform of an airplane that which was unknown to those bound to the earth could be seen by those with the freedom to fly. In fact, that is actually taking place in Egypt today. A year or so ago I watched a cable show that centered on an archaeologist (Sarah Parcak) whose area of interest is ancient Egypt but whose search tool is satellite imaging of areas of the desert that had not been investigated previously. From the platform of space she has been able to find topographical evidence of 1250 ancient Egyptian sites including 17 possible pyramids (two of which have been researched in the field and confirmed) unknown until now even though they are only short distances from the Nile.
This gallery is set on two 5 ft. x 7 ft. tables. This is the first time I’ve used two tables for a gallery. One table has an Egyptian town (22 buildings and an independent minaret) and my Nile. That table is really about the fact that I love buildings, boats and people going about their daily lives. The other table has the large temple complex (2 ft. x 4 ft.) and two Playmobil pyramids (each 20” at the base and about 15’ tall). That table also includes the encampment of the archeological team from the Gordon Institute for Archaeology and Paranormal Study. It is on this second table where the Pulp action will take place.
As is my practice, this collection was put together over several years before I began any painting or building. In fact, I have probably been collecting the pieces for this project for about eight years. Early on in the collection process I made a conscious decision not to take the historical/technical side of Egypt or archeology too seriously. In fact, a simple look at the entrance to my temple complex with its smiling sphinx head will tell anyone that my tongue was in my cheek when putting this together. In keeping with this I decided that most of the wheeled vehicles used in this gallery would be toys marketed with the release of the Disney film Atlantis the Lost Empire. I love those vehicles, but I acknowledge there is a cartoon quality about them. In putting together my two Playmobil pyramids, I added a fourth side wall to both (the Playmobil toy comes with only three walls so that the kids can play inside through the open fourth side). I was able to get the two additional walls on ebay for $24 which included shipping. I’ve been looking for the Playmobil pyramids at the swap meet since 2009, but as yet no part of one has shown up. Consequently, both of my pyramids were purchase at Toys R Us. I left one of the pyramids with the look that Playmobil gave it (again not historically correct, but fun), but I think that despite the fact that it doesn’t have the look of a traditional pyramid, it painted up great and is a nice addition to the look of the table. The second Playmobil pyramid is significantly modified to give it a more traditional pyramid appearance. That was a little risky because it is an expensive piece, and I wasn’t sure how it would come out, but I’m very pleased with the finished product. I added to that pyramid a removable section that gives the appearance (I hope) of an opening in the pyramid complete with scaffolding. That was done with Evergreen plastic and yellow grey Milliput. It is through that opening that the archeological adventurers join the world of the undead and perhaps find themselves in a breeding chamber for alien baby pods (the influence of Alien now evidences itself). There are several interior layouts most of which are based on five PetCo fish tank rooms/décor pieces I picked up during a going-out-of-business sale at one of their shops… they were cheap ($1.98 each). Each of those rooms is 7” W x 8” L x 9” T, and they have a very ancient Egyptian ruins look to them/perhaps more in flavor than in fact. I modified them so that two can be put together to form a larger room. They thus form the sarcophagus room, the treasure room and a space where the confrontation between the archeologists and the mummy forces takes place. For that space I have included some victims bound as mummies. I took that idea from Hammers of LAF who took it from the Tin Tin adventure Cigars of the Pharaoh. Hammers consistently produces absolutely wonderful vignettes, and I have borrowed ideas from him before.
The temple complex walls and the inner temple are from the Great Adventure of Lost Kingdom Playset. Over the years I have been able to pick up three of them… two from the swap meet and one from a fellow I know who had lost interest in it and just wanted his money back. In all three cases I got them cheap, and they proved to be outstanding additions to my collection. The entrance to my temple complex is a Fisher Price toy entitled Great Adventures Hidden Treasure Pyramid. I tend to think of it as the smiling sphinx, and while it will never be thought of as having an authentic look, it fit perfectly over one of the large wall sections of the Great Adventure of Lost Kingdom and after some modification and paint, I think it is a great addition to the temple complex. I modified the inner temple by covering its original entrance and adding a modified Egyptian Gate by Scotia Grendel as the new entrance. I also attached plastic backing to the columns that surround its entrance area. It was intended as a toy and as such the manufacturer left the backside unfinished. I also sanded off the figures molded on the front of those columns because they didn’t work well with the look of the complex. The “doorways” (openings without doors) throughout the temple complex were more finished on one side than the other so I used pieces by Scotia Grendel (3 more modified Egyptian Gates and the Pharraoh’s Tomb). The two obelisks in the temple complex are by Summit Collection. The two large seated pharaoh statues are resin bookends I bought at the swap meet… lucky finds. The large columns in the first courtyard of the temple complex are fish tank décor from PetCo. They are beautiful pieces… not cheap but beautiful. Between two of them I added a connecting cap piece using Duplos covered with Milliput and then scribed with lines and symbols and painted to match the columns. Because of the size of these columns, I had to widen the complex, and I did that by making several inserts out of Duplos covered with cut pieces of Evergreen plastic. In front of the entrance to the temple complex are two sphinx statues that I bought at Pet Smart. They are fish tank décor that I modified with Milliput in order to close some of the holes in each piece; holes that existed as swimming passages for fish that I didn’t need for this project. Once the holes were filled and the Milliput hardened, I touched up the figures by adding paint to match the original coloring of the pieces. I liked the original paint work on those and decided to retain it. The third large sphinx on the table is also a piece of fish tank décor; it looks like something that PetCo would sell, but I’m not sure. I picked it up at the swap meet. The treasure came from several sources including Reaper, Toobes, Crocodile Games and an Egyptian chariot by Hinchcliff that I bought more than 30 years ago.
My “modern” Egyptian town is made up of 22 buildings with one separate minaret, some random connecting walls, a well, a couple fountains, some palms, several market stalls, two wharves and a treadmill crane. Eight of the buildings are by Kobblestone Miniatures, seven are by Architects of War, a mosque and separate minaret are by Miniature Building Authority as are the two arcades, the merchant’s house and the fountain in the town’s center. Two buildings and a patio are by JR Miniatures, and one small domed building is by Monolith Designs. The walls, wharves, and treadmill crane are all scratch built using Evergreen and JTT plastic. The wharves are built around Duplos to give them both strength and uniform structure. The market stalls are by Kobblestone Minaitures and Miniature Building Authority. Most of the merchandise in the shops (not the market stalls) is modifications of the pieces found in Mega Minis’ Bazaar (#21001). The well and small fountain are by Kobblestone Miniatures. Most of the palm trees are from the Lemax spooky town collection and two are from Kobblestone Miniatures.
The dhows or sambuk are from the Old Glory 25s Shipyard collection (Colonial and Sudan MCL10) and the colonial river steamer is by Miniature Building Authority. I couldn’t decide on an alternative color scheme for the river steamer so I left it as it came from Miniature Building Authority. Normally I paint everything to provide a uniform affect but in this case all I painted on the river steamer was the stern awning because the original paint job on that awning was poor. The hippos and crocodiles are toys I picked up at the swap meet for 25 to 50 cents each and modified and painted… the water surrounding the hippos and crocs is Milliput. I used Milliput and floral wire to make the reefed sails on the dhows as well.
As stated above, most of the wheeled vehicles are toys that were marketed by Disney when Disney released the film Atlantis the Lost Empire. As you might expect based on their origin, they have a cartoon look to them but the moment I saw them I knew I had to find a place for them in at least one of my galleries and this seemed the perfect place. I have six of them. Actually I purchased a seventh Atlantis truck at the swap meet the morning we took the pictures for this gallery, but it needed modification and paint so it will have to wait for another day before making its gallery appearance. The two 1911 Model T Fords are Entex 1:43 scale models I picked up off the bargain table at Arnie’s Trains for $1.99 each. The drivers are the Eureka hansom cab drivers. I replaced the head on one to give it a different look. The 1923 Fordor Sedan is by ERTL, and I got it at the swap meet for a couple dollars. The truck used by my Paragon Studios film crew is another piece I got for about 50 cents at the swap meet. I purchased another broken car that offered better wheels and added those wheels to the Paragon Studios truck to give it a better look. All-in-all, that truck probably cost me about $3.
The archeologists’ camp is composed of tents and work awnings, many of which are by Miniature Building Authority although I added a few more tents that I had sitting around doing nothing and needed the opportunity to be part of some gallery. The baggage is made up of odds and ends I’ve picked up over the years. A couple of the suitcases are scratch built from Evergreen plastic and the hat boxes and two of the suitcases are from the Foundry Darkest Africa line of figures. When Eureka came out with its line of 1920’s jazz dancers, I loved them immediately and decided to include them in this collection as well… all work and no play must apply to archeologists as well as the rest of us. The victrola is by Scale Structures Ltd. It’s HO scale and a bit expensive, but it was the only one I could find and though a little small I’m pleased with the way it looks.
Last but not least is a review of the figures used. I’ll try to be thorough, but I am sure I will leave something out because there are about 300 figures involved in this collection. When I put this collection together I decided I wanted it to have a two period option: Victorian and Pulp Eras. In terms of the mummies and Egyptian civilians this was no problem. Those figures work in both periods, but the Europeans were not as flexible. The big problem was with the females. Their outfits simply didn’t transfer neatly from one period to the other. Although I painted figures for both periods, I had just completed a huge Victorian gallery so my focus for this gallery was the Pulp Era. Thus most of the Victorians remained in the box… painted but largely unused. For the record most of the Victorian figures are from the Foundry and most of those are from their Darkest Africa line… wonderful figures. I also have some nice Hinterland pieces as well. For the Pulp Era figures I used some of the Foundry (males), as well as figures from Copplestone Castings, Pulp Figures, Old Glory 25s, Artizan Designs, and Blue Moon. The diggers are from West Wind, Blue Moon and Askari. The Pulp Era Egyptians and mummies are largely by Reaper, Crocodile Games, Eureka, Blue Moon, and Mega Minis (their now oop Arabian Nights pack). The figure being carried in the sedan chair is by RAFM (Wizard in Sedan Chair, Fantasy 3750). The Alien mother, birthing sack, columns and pods are by Horrorclix. I got them at a website that appears to do close-outs of Horrorclix figures. I picked up two of the Alien vs. Predator packs for $13 each. They are really nice pieces. I repainted and rebased the pods but I left the Alien mother and the birthing sack as it came.
I began the actual work on this project the first week of November 2013 and finished all the building and painting in the middle of May 2014. It’s been a great project that offered me a wonderful six months of fun. As always my daughter is the principal photographer but my wife brought her photographic talents to this gallery as well. We took the pictures in the garage with the doors open to allow as much natural light as possible. We used the garage instead of the backyard because I wanted to set both tables up the day before shooting the pictures and living as I do in a beach community, the sea air can get a little damp so it doesn’t lend itself leaving buildings and figures out overnight. As previously stated, this project provided me with years of enjoyment through the planning and production stages… really a wonderful experience. I hope you enjoy it too.
African Adventure 28mm (100 Photos)
28MM DARKEST AFRICA GALLERY
Since completing my Egyptian archeological dig in June, I’ve been working on my 28mm Victorian era Darkest Africa collection. The gallery is a series of random vignettes with no overarching theme other than I love the figures and needed a stage for their display. Let me say from the outset that this is Hollywood Africa not historic Africa. If I were to sort through the inspirational motivations for this collection, they would probably be the wonderful Darkest Africa figures from Foundry, the Cornel Wilde movie “Naked Prey” filmed in the mid-1960s on location in Rhodesia/now Zimbabwe, the Disneyland Jungle Cruise (I rode it for the first time in 1955 and have loved it ever since), and the great figure painting and information I have seen and received on Lead Adventure Forum (particularly the work of Dylan aka Plynkes on LAF). The only book I have spent any time with for this project is Safari, A Chronicle of Adventure by Bartle Bull. In order to aid in the flow of the gallery there are a couple of recurring elements: the safari as it progresses through herds of animals and the lone hunter on a donkey supported by his two loyal porters.
This is the second time I have used two 5 ft. x 7 ft. tables for a gallery, but this time it was done more to facilitate ease of photography than because the scenic features demanded that much space. Since this will be a series of vignettes, using two tables rather than one has allowed me to set up a new vignette on one table while my daughter photographed a different one on the second table. Without the use of both tables, there would have been a lot of wasted time and this process can eat up a great deal of time under the best of circumstances.
I began putting this collection together about a decade ago. The Foundry Pirates and Darkest Africa figures were what initially drew me into the world of 25mm/28mm. While I still love the 15s for my military collections, the larger scale is what I have selected for my worlds of Pulp/Adventure/Victorian Gothic... and that division of labor between the scales has worked out very well for me.
Since this gallery has no central theme beyond being an African adventure, as indicated above it will be presented as a series of vignettes intended as display vehicles for my figures and terrain features. Consequently, I will not be offering any storyline or theme as part of this write up. Instead I will concentrate on presenting a listing of the figures and materials used in the gallery.
The greatest number of figures in this gallery are by Foundry from their Darkest Africa collection, but other Foundry figures are included as well. There are also figures from Old Glory, Eureka, West Wind, Brigade, Copplestone Castings, DeeZee, Mega Minis (the dead zebra), Hinterland, Reaper, Pulp Figures (the man with the butterfly net) and at least one Clix (The Tracker and a couple snakes). Except for the two dead lions, the lion leaping, the chimps, the dead zebra, baboons, tropical birds, the flamingos and vultures, the animals are all toys I purchased for between 10 cents and a dollar at the swap meet over the last decade. The flamingos are Yard Flamingos by Gut Bustin’ Games. I picked them up on Amazon.com. The dead elephant is simply a modified swap meet toy. I think the collection includes upwards of 200 animals.
The boats are by John Jenkins (the two sidewheelers/Lilly and Minnie), Miniature Building Authority (two steam river launches/only one used in this gallery), a small African Queen-style river launch by Brigade (nice boat but didn’t make it into the gallery), and the sternwheeler by Lemax (Miranda/forgot to make the decal name in time for the layout, but it will happen). The two dugout canoes are by Frontline Wargaming.
There are two African villages. The pygmy village is composed of five huts by Frontline Wargaming and two raised huts or granaries that are modifications of Carl’s Jr kids’ meal toys. The larger native village is composed of eight huts by Old Glory (their Cannibal Village from the Pirate line of figures) and two granaries by Monolith Designs from their Aztec collection (I thought they looked good). I got the idea for the color patterns on these huts from the work of Bill Witthans. The multiple drums set on a rock base is by Monolith Designs as are several of the statues, the stone throne, and ovens. Three of the statues are items I picked up cheap during a family trip to Hawaii a couple years ago.
The jungle bar and trading post are by Miniature Building Authority… two of the nicest pieces they have made in my opinion. In terms of work done on those buildings, all I did was to tidy up the paint jobs that came on them. The colors were great but the original painting was a little sloppy. I also made a removable hollow pile of bags that can slip over the stack of tires on the trading post deck. I did that because I didn’t want to remove the tires completely, but I didn’t think they looked appropriate for the Victorian period. Nearby those buildings are two huts that are also by Miniature Building Authority. I am sure they would be more appropriate to the Pacific Islands, but I like them so here they are. The jungle bar and trading post are both made to be entered either from the land or water side, thus one side of each building has steps and the other has a wharf area. I placed these two buildings along a river and added additional scratch-built wharf areas. These scratch-built wharves are located between the two buildings and at both ends thus extending the trading post/bar frontage by an additional 18 inches. The scratch-built wharf that sits at the outer end of the trading post is a slightly modified version of the other two thus allowing the inclusion of Kobblestone Miniatures’ treadmill crane. The scratch-built wharves are made from Evergreen plastic… V-groove for the decking and tubes for the posts. I wrapped each post with floral wire to offer a rope effect similar to that which is present on the MBA trading post and jungle bar wharves. The camp tents are by MBA and an unknown manufacturer… unknown because they were purchased at a flea market sale and came in a baggie with no identification.
The tree for Tarzan, Jane and Boy is a broken toy I purchased at the swap meet for $1 or $2. It was actually in great shape in terms of what my project required although unknown pieces were clearly missing. It had two cave openings in the front which I covered with yellow gray Milliput and “sculpted” in the shape of foliage (I hope). I then repainted the whole thing. I am really happy with the way it came out, and it gives the collection a rather unique terrain piece.
The fortress is by Hudson and Allen. It’s their desert fort, and I admit to having had my eye on it for years but lacked an excuse for buying it. When I began this project nearly six months ago, one of the first things I did was re-watch “Naked Prey.” In the opening scenes of that movie I found my excuse for buying the fortress because the safari led by Cornel Wilde is departing from a fortress very much like the one I wanted from Hudson and Allen. The Hudson and Allen fortress came pre-painted but it didn’t suit me so I repainted it. And for reasons I don’t really understand, the Hudson and Allen fort does not come with a main gate. It has a small entrance opening but no gate. I wanted a nice big gate for my fort so I scratch built an exterior and interior gate from Evergreen plastic which I think look pretty good.
In my Egyptian archeological dig, I borrowed an idea from Hammers who posts really wonderful stuff from time to time on Lead Adventure Forum. He is a great talent with a wonderful imagination. For one of the LAF Painters’ League contests he posted a vignette of a campsite in Africa with cages containing small African animals, tropical birds and snakes. It is wonderful, and while I could not match his creative talent, I could not resist adding such a collection of cages to my collection as well. Hammers was also the source of the idea to include flamingos in the gallery (taken from his “Chicken Race On The Arumbaya”). My great thanks always to Hammers for sharing the products of his wonderful and creative mind.
As always the ground cover is an indoor-outdoor carpet I purchased for this purpose three decades ago. The river is cut from 2 ft. x 4 ft. plastic made to use as covering for ceiling lighting. I’ve simply cut it to size and sprayed it with a couple of shades of blue… the water features in these galleries always seem to be something I get around to doing at the very end when I’m tired and consequently I keep them pretty simple. The removable riverbank is made from the same plastic edged with Milliput to give it an irregular edge. I liked the outcome of this riverbank so much that I went back and made a version of it for my Egyptian collection. Most of the tall grass plants are by Ashland. They come in one-foot square mats and can be pretty expensive, but fortunately, Michael’s Arts and Crafts has regular 40%- and 50%-off sales, and I get them when those sales come around. The trees are simply taken from the large storehouse of trees I have gathered over the years.
As I said earlier, my daughter did the photography as she has on all my galleries. She is a professional artist in the film industry and has a great eye. While this gallery is not as complex as my other 25mm/28mm collections have been, I nonetheless have taken a great pleasure in collecting, constructing, and painting this collection because it is one of the first groups of figures in this scale to really catch my attention, and it was a great joy to assemble and paint. Hope you enjoy it, too.
Gangsters & Stuff 28mm (151 Photos)
About a decade ago my attention was drawn to 28mm figures. Until that time I was a dedicated 15mm guy, but the Darkest Africa and Pirate figures of Foundry grabbed my attention, and I was hooked. That is not to say that 15s are not a big part of my miniatures’ world today, but that world is now divided into military (15mm) and Pulp/Adventure/Victorian Gothic (28mm). From Darkest Africa and Pirates, I was next drawn to the Gangster/Pulp figures of Bob Murch’s Pulp Figures and Mark Cobblestone’s Cobblestone Castings, and that is where the Gangster thing began, but 28mm figures offer so much opportunity for wonderful diversions that my Gangster thing ultimately became Gangsters “And Stuff” thus allowing me to add other marginally related figures with this collection. Those include my Gordon Institute for Archeology and Paranormal Study, Batman (a stretch of the time period but Batman was with us in the very late 30’s and 40’s and, after all, this is just for fun), and my Ghostbusters… why not? After all, you can’t tell me that if you take ghosts seriously you can’t have Ghostbusters in the gangster era… sure you can or at least I can.
In terms of area used for the display of this gallery, this was one of my largest. I am using two 5 ft. x 7 ft. tables, and the photography required two days for picture taking. On the first day one of the two tables represented my gangster city and the second table represented my harbor area. On the second day the tables were used to display the campus of the Gordon Institute for Archeology and Paranormal Study, the Batman Cave and Wayne Manor, the city sewer system and a number of room interiors. The city buildings (more than 35), streets, vehicles (more than 80 painted cars and trucks), a trolley, vessels (a freighter, tugs, a fishing boat and speedboats), a park, a cemetery, a huge dock area, 3 warehouses, a dock crane, a fish cannery, and more than 650 figures for the collection were completed on the last day of October 2016… pretty close to one year after work began.
As I indicated above, this collection is rather wide ranging, so I’ll begin with the city portion of the collection In the collection there are obviously lots of figures with lots of guns, but I have gone to great lengths to include as much of the everyday stuff as possible. I believe that was central to the look and success of my Victorian city, and I think it will prove a standout feature of my gangster era city as well. About half of the buildings I am using in the gangster city were also used in my Victorian city. When I built the Victorian city I used a lot of American buildings (RailKing and Old Glory Chicago Buildings), but I added some removable features to those buildings to give them a more English look… removable peak roofs and removable English style chimneys, and removable iron fencing in front of the upper class residences. Those removable features were removed for this project so those buildings now have their more American look. I made an intentional decision in putting this city together to include a wide variety of sources and materials for the buildings incorporated in the city… resin, plastic and porcelain. I supposed it was kind of a personal test to see if I could pull it off. I hope that because they were all painted by the same guy (me) and in the same basic style they will have a compatible look despite the different materials that went into their manufacture. Whitechapel was a real area of pride for me in my Victorian city because at the time I put that collection together I had to scratch build the row houses and pub for that area, and I love they way they turned out, but the gangster city has no Whitechapel so that entire street had to be replaced with other buildings. I decided that would be exactly the right place to use as the setting for my porcelain Lemax and Dept. 56 style buildings (with the exception of the Deli, they are all swap meet finds; the Deli is a 60% off post-Christmas purchase at Michaels from a couple years ago). As I indicated earlier most of the other structures in the city are by RailKing and Old Glory 25s, but there are also buildings by Plasticville, Design Preservation Models, Pegasus, and repurposed toy buildings from The Cars Movie. The light posts are Old Glory; the fire hydrants, mailboxes and trash cans are by Model Power. I think the telephone poles are also Model Power, but I am not sure because I got them in a baggie on the bargain table at my local train store.
Most of the cars are repainted die cast 1:43 scale cars I picked up at the swap meet for about $3 each over many years. I bought a few of the vehicles at a model train show and a couple on eBay, but those represent a very small part of the 80-plus cars and trucks in this collection. Early on, before I really got a feel for what I could get in 1:43 scale vehicles, I bought quite a few of the Blue Moon Highways and Byways cars and trucks… expensive, but really nice pieces. The trolley is O gauge by Bachmann… got it at the swap meet still in the box for $7 (that was a very nice find). The shoeshine stand is Pulp Alley (beautiful piece). The iron fence around the park is by Model Power and the gate is probably Cobblestone Corners or something like that (swap meet find); the pond is Milliput, and the Mozart statue is Dept. 56. The news stands (I have two on the table but only one shows up in the gallery) are from toys marketed with the release of Shark Tale. Most of the trees are by Grand Canyon Gems. The cemetery fence is by Games Workshop/Garden of Morr (lots of Milliput to cover the skulls). The mausoleums are scratch built using Evergreen Plastic over Legos. I didn’t use the Garden of Morr mausoleums in this layout because I wanted to give this cemetery a slightly different look from my Victorian cemetery.
The figures are from a wide variety of sources: Pulp Figures, Copplestone Castings, Steve Barber, Heroclix, Horrorclix, Blue Moon, Artizan Design, Eureka, Reaper, West Wind, Foundry, Dixon, RAFM, Crooked Dice, Brigade Games, Hawthorne Village, Model Power, Knuckledusters, Mega Minis, Clue Game Figures by Hasbro, Artista Accessories, and Woodland Scenics. The 11” Stay Puft man is a plastic bank I bought at Walmart ($18), and the 9” Gumby is a toy I picked up for $1 at the swap meet (Prema Toy Co.). The streets and sidewalks are made from 2 ft. x 4 ft. plastic rectangles that were originally made to cover ceiling lighting… often used in kitchens. The cityscape backgrounds are photocopies of wooden supports used to support a game (unknown name) in which objects (unknown) are rolled down wooden slides presumably as part of a race. The wooden cityscape pieces are 21” tall x 13” wide. I really know very little about this because I picked it up at the swap meet, and all I got was what I described above. My plan was to mount the photocopies on corrugated cardboard backing covered with railboard (heavy construction paper) in light blue (for day) and black (for night). I copied them in color (the primary colors used reminded me of Dick Tracy) for day and the black and white photocopies are for night… that was the plan. I’ve made 10 of each. In the end the plan changed as plans do during these projects. The color copies of the background just didn’t work… drew too much attention away from the miniatures on the table. So I decided to go with the black and white for the whole thing because it added a film noir feel to the board without being a distraction.
The harbor area has a dock or wharf composed of 84 blocks that are 2 ½” x 5.” The blocks are made from Duplos that are glued together with their upper connecting knobs cut off and sanded smooth. Each block was then covered with a piece of Evergreen V-groove plastic (4125). The V-groove was scored to give it a wood grain appearance. The 12 blocks that face the ocean also have a facing of stone blocks made from JTT plastic. This part of the project was hell… absolutely boredom for more than three weeks. Nonetheless, I’m glad I got it done. The 17 1/2 inch x 5 ft. dock area holds three warehouses (2 by RailKing and 1 by Old Glory 25s Chicago line of building). The crane is a modification of Cranky by Thomas Trains (purchased at the swap meet for $1) and the fish cannery is by Lemax (also purchased at the swap meet for $1/broken and repaired and painted). The freighter is by Old Glory 25s. The two tugboats, one by Lemax (purchased at the swap meet for $5) and one by Lindberg (required a lot of modification to make it work with 28mm figures) are personal favorites… I love tugs. I also have two fishing boats; one is by Lemax… another swap meet purchase for $3. The second fishing boat is a wooden display piece that I got at the swap meet for $10 (big money in terms of my swap meet spending). I gave it my daughter’s nickname. It required a lot of repair work because cutting it to waterline was a destructive process, but in the end it came back together and painted up well. The speedboats are marketing toys put out by Chevron. I got them at the swap meet for between 50 cents and $1 each. The lighthouse is a repurposed toy I got at the swap meet years ago for $2, and the land it sits on is by Lemax… purchased at a Michael’s after-Halloween clearance sale. The small dock is Miniature Building Authority. The dockworkers and forklifts are by Artista (O gauge). The fisherman is a Hawthorne Village figure.
One of the “And Stuff” elements of this gallery is the Gordon Institute for Archeology and Paranormal Study. The Gordon Institute has been on my miniatures radar for years. It first showed itself in my Pulp Egyptian gallery where one of the vehicles at the archeological dig site has a Gordon Institute sign on it. The name of the Institute is a result of my being so old that as a child I watched Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon on TV Saturday mornings. The Gordon Institute is a practical research and teaching institute in the fields of archeology and paranormal study (obviously). For this gallery I have created the Gordon Institute campus consisting of six of the now out-of-production Pegasus resin buildings: the large mansion-like structure, the large domed structure, and three of the towers (2 of the two-story towers and 1 of the three-story towers). The three-story tower has my observatory on its roof. The telescope element of the observatory is made of a telescope-like tube from a broken toy and an orange juicer modified for my purposes. The Gothic ruin was included because it was a gift and a wonderful piece, and since archeology is central to the institute’s purpose, a ruin seemed appropriate. The Institute includes a classroom interior complete with seated students (modified Reaper figures) and desks taken from 4 or 5 Hogwarts playsets I have been lucky to find at my local swap meet for a $1 or $2 per playset. On the campus grounds I have fenced and covered areas protecting the golden fleece and flesh-eating plants. The grounds also sport several Egyptian, African, Pacific Island, and pre-Columbian artifacts as well as some other crazy odds and ends I liked. A few of the professors are engaged in playing the game “Life” which I found at the swap meet (originally a Christmas decoration), and inside the ruins a staff member gazes at a table representing an ancient siege (a toy found at the swap meet for a dollar that I just had to include somewhere on the Institute’s grounds). In addition to the classroom interior setting there also is a store room which holds rare artifacts such as a small model of the Temple of Ramses III (from the History In Stone collection) similar in size to the model found in the Well of Souls in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Victorian era space capsule, or could it be a deep sea capsule… oh, the mysteries. Anyway, lots of treasure can be found stored behind the doors of the Institute.
One of the unique elements of the campus is the fact that among its teaching staff are three witches who serve as adjunct professors and conduct classes in magic outdoors. The witches’ class is held in front of one of the Pegasus towers and that building changes shape through magic thus shifting from being the traditional campus structure to the shoe house of the Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe fame and finally to a gingerbread house… I had them and wanted some way to use them. Students for the witches’ class are seated in desks on the campus lawn. The campus itself is surrounded by a stone wall made of Pegasus stone walls. The original Pegasus stone walls are 6” long and 1” tall. The 1” height was a problem so to increase their height I glued them on top of three levels of Legos which I then covered with Milliput and shaped to look like an ivy wall covering. The Institute entrance gate is by Lion Roar and entitled European Style Park Gate. I bought it on the clearance table at Brookhurst Hobbies years ago. The Institute has its own version of Ghostbusters. The Institute’s “Ghostbuster” team is a specialized team of paranormal investigators. The Crooked Dice paranormal exterminators provide the figures for the team, and they are supported by a modified version of the command car from Atlantis the Lost Empire. I have lots of demons, spooks and monsters from Reaper, Games Workshop, Horrorclix and Foundry to test their skills against within the city and below its surface in the city’s sewer (from Old Glory 25s).
This collection includes a total of seven interior settings: a boxing arena, a speakeasy, a bank, a hotel lobby, a hotel room, a classroom, and a storeroom for rare artifacts held by the Gordon Institute. The structure of these interiors is generally based on two walls and a floor although the speakeasy has three walls. These interior settings are built in such a fashion that they can be taken apart for easy storage. The main construction material that goes into the making of these interiors is Duplos, Evergreen Plastic and JTT Plastic. As indicated previously, the exception to the 2-wall structure is my speakeasy. Because I wanted to retain the end wall with the entrance, I added a second wall at the opposite end of the room for the stage. Discarded/broken toys are key elements to both the bank and the speakeasy in the form of a large bank vault door and the stage curtain in the speakeasy.
Somewhere during my year of working on this project I fell in love with the Batman cast of characters, and when I found that Fisher Price made several versions of the Batcave and one of those versions could be repurposed for use with 28mm figures, I couldn’t resist including Batman in the collection. This attraction was further enhanced when I found that Corgi made an early Batcar (late 30’s or early 40’s version). Once I had the Batcave repurposed, I needed a Wayne Manor, and that was made possible through the Pegasus plastic modular Gothic buildings. The grounds of Wayne Manor also include a beautiful fountain from the Hawthorne miniatures’ line found at the swap meet. The Wayne Manor and Gordon Institute driveways are by Lemax (50% off sale). I hadn’t tried these before, and they worked really well.
As always, my daughter was the photographer. We completed the photographing of this collection Sunday (Dec. 4, 2016). The initial set up of the first two tables (the city and harbor) was done on Friday, Dec. 2 and took 7 hours. My daughter came over on Saturday to photograph the first two tables and that lasted about 5 hours. I then did the initial set up of the second two tables (Wayne Manor, the Batcave, and the Gordon Institute). That took about 2 hours, and my daughter came over again on Sunday to do the final photo session which lasted another 5 hours, and included the additional set up photographing of the sewer and the seven room interiors (the boxing arena, the speakeasy, the bank, the hotel lobby, the hotel room, a Gordon Institute classroom, and a Gordon Institute storeroom for artifacts). The immediate after- photographing takedown lasted about 2 hours. Normally the only Photoshop work we do on these projects is to hide background joints/seams and similar issues in terms of ground cover or water so they don’t become distractions. This time I must admit that we’re using Photoshop to correct an error I made due to exhaustion from this long, long project. Near the end of an 11-hour day on Saturday (I began before my daughter arrived and worked long after she left), I accidently used a Cobblestone Corners’ piece that hadn’t had the Christmas wreath removed… it was sitting next to the one I had modified, and I simply grabbed the wrong one. I saw the problem during the takedown phase on Sunday, and so we are using Photoshop to hide it. At the time of this writing, the picture selection is complete. I have watched it a couple dozen times in slideshow form while listening to Tony Bennett in the background. I’m a very happy guy. Hope you enjoy it, too.