Bob Letterman

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(01) “Logistics” The Base & Buildings

August 28th, 2012 by admin

Since “Logistics” is a work in progress, (A long WIP, I admit), I have created five threads for this one build.

Logistics, My Last Superdiorama
Bob Letterman

I am ashamed to admit that I had started this way back in 2001. The last 6 years at VLS were rough ones. Susan and I worked many 70-80 hour weeks, rarely had a day off and I had to build and paint so much box art, (In the hundreds), there was really little time to model a superdiorama. I built the original “Legacies”, working part time in a single year! I have space available for this “Monster” in the museum, however, I don’t have room for another one of this size. Besides, I am getting up there and I am not quite as fast as I once was. Therefore, “Logistics” will likely be my last Superdiorama.

Now retired, it has taken some time to get back into the “Groove”, but I am getting there. These are photos taken of the base and buildings. Please remember nothing is finished and every building is in one stage or another of completion, and not a single one is even near finishing. It is a work in progress. The title came about as a result of the “Feel” it will have. It will be extremely “busy”, with vehicles, (48), and well over 300 figures. The story line is the 4th Armored division rolling through a German city in March/April 1945. The XYZ Express, the largest single express truck program in the ETO, (Even larger than the Red Ball), is converging at the “V” intersection. Patton and entourage will be trying to manage the traffic jam. Just below them in the cutaway of a train station will sit a BR-52 locomotive w/tender hooked up to a K-5E Railroad Gun. The huge train shed will span the entire front of the diorama, It will be collapsed onto the locomotive and RR gun at various places. On the major cross street, A US construction battalion will be clearing the massive amounts of rubble to make the road passable. On the street farthest back with the “OLD Town” buildings will have masses of refugees scurrying to the rear lines. There will also be ambulances carrying the wounded to the field hospitals and German P.O.W.s being trucked to the POW camps.

This diorama, while in progress, has been featured in the British publication, Military Modelling magazine. First the cover,

mm201001_p001

And then the article as a pdf. Click on the following to read the article.

mm201001_p042

Here are the photos.

The first few are of the train shed, a canopy that leads into the train station, It will eventually span the entire front of the diorama. The canopy only has a base coat of paint.

The diorama is in 1/35th scale. It is large, 8 feet by 4 feet, (152.4cm X 243.84cm). No structure is complete, one or two may be 80% finished. It will have 48 vehicles including a locomotive and RR gun, and more than 300 figures. I call it “Logistics”.

Click on image to enlarge.

This first shot is of the front of the diorama, A train shed that leads to the Hauptbahnhof, (Train station), will have a locomotive, tender and K-5e rail gun. The canopy will span the front and will be intact in some places and collapsed in others. The building above in the foreground is a large beer hall. Click on image to enlarge.

A statue of Hermann Von Balke in the plaza will have a blown German vehicle beside it. On the left is Old Town. Click on image to enlarge.

This is the Kaufhalle, (Dept.store). It is a total ruin and the biggest and most difficult building to build in the dio. Click on image to enlarge.

Part of the bomb blasts in the department store. there is bomb damage in several of the buildings.

I placed a deuce and a half in the street to give some size perspective. I will be putting literally pounds of rubble throughout the dio. Click on image to enlarge.

Several people have asked to see an Step By Step of how the buildings are constructed. I begin by cutting the corrugated cardboard shapes for the building facade. This building will be Greco-Roman architecturally, and will house a Roman/German Historical museum.

You will notice that after the facade is assembled, the lower part is much too long. That is because when I build the base, I start with a wooden frame. I screw a sheet of plywood onto the bottom, then vary the heights of the framing and the interior bracing. I use model rail road board to “skin” the top which will then have a rolling hill effect that will vary from place to place by as little as one inch, (25mm), and as much as 12 inches, (300mm). It gives the diorama that extra effect of topography. Cities built on a perfectly flat terrain are rare. Click on image to enlarge.

Here is the matt board cut outs ready to be veneered to the corrugated cardboard facade.

Here is a shot of the base of “Logistics” and the square, triangular and rectangular holes cut for placement of the buildings. The buildings will then set down into those holes and I can be assured of their being “true” to the base. The large hole on the far right will be the resting place for this building.

Click on image to enlarge.

Next, I cut the matt board, a material found in either framing shops or art supply stores, to the shape and then veneer them to the corrugated cardboard structure using carpenters glue. The strength this gives the structure is surprising. I have buildings built like this more than thirty years ago and still look the same as the day they were built! The stairs were made of long strips of bass wood, then cut to fit each stairway. Balsa and bass wood strips were used to begin the gable for the planned statues. Also, some trim from doll house materials. Note the bare cardboard under the steps. That is the part that will lower into the hole on the base and rest on the plywood beneath. Click on image to enlarge.

Next, I cut some more cardboard and matt board for the sides, upper structure and roof.

I have added architectural shapes from my large stash. Over the years, each time I see something that could be useful for my buildings, I buy them. They have been from so many different sources. Doll house parts, parts from lumber companies, decorative wooden trim. picture frames, things I scratched and on and on. From the beginning, I put them in rubber molds so that I can cast them whenever I need them. Here is a shot of one shelf unit that is for these parts. There are two. I also have two large cabinets filled with RTV molds for this stuff. Click on image to enlarge.

Here, I have attached the sides and upper structure. The mosaic on the gable was made with Milliput and several Andrea 25 mm Roman figures. Then I gave it my standard base coat of Testor’s camouflage grey. It is a good base color for grey stone, granite, etc, because it is an earth tone without any of the unwanted blue tint. Another good base for buildings and concrete streets is Humbrol Matt 72. I see concrete simulated with gray paint a lot. The only time concrete is gray is when recently poured. In a short time, it becomes a color almost perfectly matched by Matt 72. I buy it by the case! Note the coat of plaster on the side and top. The entire building has received that treatment. The stones are then engraved in the plaster. Click on image to enlarge.

Here is a close up of the gable.

Here is the base coated facade. The Roman corinthian columns? A buddy of mine got married in the 70s. After the wedding cake had been eaten, I talked his wife out of the columns. I’ve been using them ever since. There were actually three sizes, it was a tiered cake, all came in handy from time to time. Click on image to enlarge.

Here is a triumphal arch that is connected to the museum building. Again, same type of construction and shapes from the stash, plus three Andrea roman figures. The mounted figure on the top. Click on image to enlarge.

A close up of the top.

Some cracks in the upper structure added as a result of a prior bombing raid. Then various washes of raw umber and some burnt sienna. Click on image to enlarge.

This is it in it’s current state. The burned out upper floor, also a result of the Allies flying thingies, shingles added. These were from the 135th Construction Battalion company, I once owned. It had so many architectural products and my dream of never having to scratch all this stuff as I did in all previous dioramas. Unfortunately, the new owner seems to have discontinued producing the kits. I believe they still have some stock as it is on their web site. This building, as the others, is not finished, maybe another 20% left to go. I think this shot does give you an idea of how it will look. Imagine tons of rubble from this and the destroyed building across the street. The blown up Panzer IV will be sitting in front. The nine Sherman tanks from the Fourth Armored Division will begin here emerging from the arch and the line will run the full length, (8 feet, 2.4 meters), across the front of the diorama.

p.s. You will note the difference in the quality of the photographs. All but the last one were taken with a Nikon digital bought in 2001. It cannot approach the technology of this relatively new Canon G-8.

Click on image to enlarge.

Black Dog Beer Hall Step By Step
Bob Letterman

When I began building “Logistics”, I intended to put a wedge shaped building with a cigar/cigarette/news stand as the first floor business. I actually built it to the point of 80% completion. It looked Okay, just okay. I kept walking by it and after awhile, I decided to pitch it. I could never make myself like it.

A shot from the side. Click on image to enlarge.

So, what should I replace it with? What else, a German Brauhaus! I called it the Schwarze Hund. (Black dog). I wanted to put a floor above the street and an arch for traffic to pass. I began with my usual corrugated cardboard frame. You may note the resin brick sheet glued to the first floor of the structure. The lower half will remain as only cardboard as it will fit into the opening of the base and never be seen. I also used Grandt Line windows. Yes, they make other things besides bolts and rivets! I cut the openings to fit. These two pieces, with the arch complete the rear facade.
Black Dog Beer Hall SBS
August 21st, 2012 by Bob Letterman

When I began building “Logistics”, I intended to put a wedge shaped building with a cigar/cigarette/news stand as the first floor business. I actually built it to the point of 80% completion. It looked Okay, just okay. I kept walking by it and after awhile, I decided to pitch it. I could never make myself like it.

A shot from the side. Click on image to enlarge.

So, what should I replace it with? What else, a German Brauhaus! I called it the Schwarze Hund. (Black dog). I wanted to put a floor above the street and an arch for traffic to pass. I began with my usual corrugated cardboard frame. You may note the resin brick sheet glued to the first floor of the structure. The lower half will remain as only cardboard as it will fit into the opening of the base and never be seen. I also used Grandt Line windows. Yes, they make other things besides bolts and rivets! I cut the openings to fit. These two pieces, with the arch complete the rear facade.

Next, the arch is built using the same materials. At the bottom of the picture, you will notice three sheets of matt board. The upper floors will be laminated with this material as it gives the structure much more strength and will accept the plaster which will be added later without harming the corrugated cardboard beneath.

The dormers were another product of that company. I made wedges from plastic sheet to span the space between the dormers and the roof. The gutters were converted from some wooden doll house material, then, someone, sorry, I can no longer remember who, sculpted a dog that I casted and modified, (Two each corner and attached to the gutters.) I used thin plaster and a tiny spatula to approximate the texture of the stucco between the open timbers. I heated sheets of the resin bricks in boiling water, then slowly bent them to fit the contour of the inside of the arch.

The plaster being applied.

Here we see the back and sides complete with the resin and matt board laminates in place. It has been fitted into the hole in the base for proper fitting. I used balsa strips to simulate the open beam construction of the second floor. The third floor is a mansard style roof. The shingles being cut from the 135th Construction Battalion sheets. I am not sure if they are still in production.

Here is the front of the building facing the main street. I have simulated Allied bombing runs throughout the diorama and the Black Dog is no exception. The majority of the facade has been blown out. Inside, I created the three floors. I used microscope slips, not slides, (They are far too thick), for the windows. I cut them to size using a brass tube with a diamond phonograph needle soldered on. It cuts the very thin glass just like a real glass cutter. Then using tools I have found over the years at doll house shops to create the curtains, 135th Const. Bn again for the wall paper and flooring. The final picture in this SBS is only about 70 to 80% finished.

Here is a shot of the interior in progress. When complete, it will have much more of a brown or earth tone to the colors, plus some more details. The bay window was again a product of the 135th Const. Bn. The micro slips were also used in that. I usually attach them with superglue and after secure, break then with a sharp point until I achieve the look I am seeking. I made the walls thicker where exposed by using a cork sheet in between the corrugated cardboard and the matt board interior walls. Then at the edges, I used 135th Const. Bn bricks to simulate the torn walls. There will be huge amounts of rubble added to this and all the other buildings when complete.

Here is a shot of the Black Dog in it’s current state of construction. The stone chimney is from, what else, 135th Const. Bn. Boy, will I miss that company. I designed it to market the materials that would make my work, and hopefully, other modelers, to scratch their model buildings. Alas, I don’t think the current owner of all the old VLS lines wants to continue with them.

Another angle.

And a slightly different one.

About 80% complete, it makes a much more imposing structure for the front of the diorama, albeit the back of the building. After the 48 vehicles and the 300 plus figures are completed, I will return to the buildings and complete them one at a time. No real reason to do it that way, just always have.

Hope you like it!