Re-modeling 3.0 – Part 8

At last my third diorama has been completed! The final phase dealt with painting, assembling, individualizing, and siting the figures that would populate the scene and tell its story.

This overhead view shows where each of the Resistance members ended up. I’ll use the next two photos to say more about each of them.

In the foreground we see a fighter armed with a captured German MG-42 machine gun. To his left is a sentry box, whose occupant declined to surrender to the Frenchman, with predictable results.

Parked in the center of the cobble-stoned street is Citroen Traction Avant 11 CV sedan, which the resistants captured back from the occupiers who had appropriated it. This holzgas (wood gas) powered vehicle was used by a German kriegsberichter, or war correspondent; its license plates were painted out by the French. In hopes of preventing Allied aircraft from strafing the camouflaged auto, the Tricolor is being painted onto its roof, by a female fighter whose pistol is to her left, near at hand.

The fellow watching his comrade’s artistry is armed with a British STEN submachine gun, likely delivered in a parachuted container. He’s wearing a U.S.-style steel helmet, perhaps acquired from a member of the French 2e Division Blindee, commanded by General Philippe Leclerc, which was given the honor of liberating the City of Light.

The fellow on the left is in charge of this detachment of Resistants. He, like the fighter armed with the MG-42, sports a brassard (armband) on his left sleeve. These helped identify them as Resistants. In addition to the French national colors, the brassards feature the Cross of Lorraine, a vertical line with a pair of horizontal bars. (This symbol, and the “V” for victory, have been painted on the Citroen’s rear doors.)

Finally there’s the man wearing the blue beret. He is carrying MAS-36 rifle, and a German “potato masher” hand grenade.

I enjoyed conceptualizing and putting together this unique diorama. I hope you found the journey to its realization – it sure took a heck of a long time – interesting and educational. Of course I look forward to receiving your comments regarding the project!

Re-modeling 3.0 – Part 6

Faithful readers know that work on the Citroen 11CV that’s my third diorama’s centerpiece was completed some time ago. This post covers how I’ve wrapped up the next “big piece,” the diorama’s base. Doing so meant creating the ticket office and entryway of this Parisian Deutsches Soldatenkino (“German Soldier’s Cinema”).

First up was the ticket office, which I constructed of the same light cardboard utilized for the building itself. I cut out a window for the ticket seller, scored the cardboard and folded back the side and top extensions.

The bracing you see made the ticket box retain its shape, once I’d glued it in place. A piece of material from the copious scrap box (suitably dirtied by being rubbed with graphite) served as window glass.

Next on the docket? Doors through which patrons would enter and depart from the building. The addition of cardboard door hinges and handles, plus windows, add to the illusion of actual doorways.

Poster boxes are displayed to either side of the entrance. The one to the left is for an actual 1944 German production, which was in circulation at the time of Paris’s liberation. The right hand box publicizes a weekly newsreel that propagandized the war effort, from ’39 to ’45.

This perspective shot illustrates how I’m preparing for the final scene, once I have assembled and painted the diorama’s figures, putting them and the automobile in their places.

Stay tuned as I turn my attention to these elements of the diorama, won’t you? As always I would be delighted to hear your opinions regarding how the project is progressing. Thanks!

Re-modeling 3.0 – Part 5

Viewers may remember that my second diorama (see the posts regarding Modeling 2.0) featured a section of pavement, whose bricks I painstakingly set, one-by-one. I didn’t mind the work and I was pleased with the result. This time around I decided to some save time by purchasing a slab of resin with a cobblestone pattern. Once I’d primed the surface and brushed a reddish acrylic wash over it, it came out looking just fine.

One funny thing is, the resin came with a sewer cover – which I promptly misplaced. After scratching my head over how to replace the cover, I came across an English six pence piece (dating from 1956): it was a perfect fit!

To either side of the cobblestones I set plaster of paris sidewalks that I purchased online. Painted with thinned feldgrau-color acrylic and dirtied up with whitish acrylic powder, the result resembles the urban scene I intend for the diorama. More on that as things progress . . .

The diorama’s background will be a French movie theater. During the Occupation it became a “Soldatenkino,” a cinema that was restricted to German military personnel. I am constructing the building from thin pastry box cardboard. The theater’s ticket office and doors will plug the big hole in the center.

Here is a view of the building’s “interior.” You can see how much bracing was required to stiffen the walls and make the edifice stand up straight. After the entrance and ticket office are in place the interior won’t be visible and I will paint the interior flat black.

It won’t be long before I put up the next post about this project, so stay tuned!

Re-modeling 3.0 – Part 4

At last work on the Citroen 11CV that’s to be the focus of my third diorama is done. You’ll notice that the automobile’s roof sports an almost finished Tricolor. It was common for Resistance fighters to paint the national flag on the roofs of captured German vehicles, in hopes that their comrades would refrain from firing on them. (In time the reason why the Tricolor is incomplete will become apparent.)

Here’s a view from the opposite side. Note that both doors are open; the model came with driver and front passenger doors that could be displayed open or closed. I also chose to cut away the driver’s side rear door (a laborious task), in order to further customize the vehicle for the diorama’s scene.

Finally, this view shows markings that Resistance fighters typically applied to their vehicles. On this picture you can see how I have dirtied up the windows and windscreen. To achieve this effect, I lightly sanded the “glass,” after which I applied a wash of powdered acrylic, simulating dust.

On the rear door is seen the “V for Victory” symbol, surmounted by the Cross of Lorraine, a French royal – and subsequently national – symbol dating from the late 12th Century. The front door has the letters “FFi.” This indicates ownership of the Citroen by “des Forces françaises de L’Intérieur” (French Forces of the Interior). FFi was the name favored by Charles de Gaulle. Also, the German license plates would be obscured by being daubed with paint.

This diorama is moving right along! The remaining parts include the figures, the road on which they and the car will be displayed, and any background building(s) I decide to construct. Stay tuned!

Re-modeling 3.0 – Part 3

In this post I’ll wrap up my account of constructing the holzgas system grafted onto an ex-French, ex-German Citroen 11CV sedan. I have written before about my habit of making use of “found” materials whenever possible. The big reveal here is that . . . wait for it . . . major parts of the system on the car were sourced from a used COVID-19 home test kit!

The item on the left in the photo above is the plastic tube into which the test strip is placed to determine a positive or negative reading from the COVID test nasal swab. Before I painted the tube I wrapped a couple strips of painter’s tape around it, to simulate retaining bands I’d seen on photos of holzgas precipitating tanks; I closed up the tube’s end and added items from the “leftover parts box” that bring to mind typical fixtures seen on the tanks.

In the foreground is the gas cooler, a component that is typically mounted on the front of vehicles. I constructed the cooler from “leftovers” that resembled a radiator, whose function the cooler replicates.

And what about the test kit swab? Nipping off the swab itself left a sturdy, hollow tube whose diameter replicated the pipes that delivered gas from the precipitating tank to the engine, where it was burned to propel the vehicle.

The second picture shows the lengths of tubing that link the tank to the engine. Also visible are the holes I bored into the Citroen’s fenders (“wings” to folks that prefer British automobile nomenclature), through which I threaded the delivery tubes.

The next post will be concerned with the Citroen’s final assembly and painting details. I’d appreciate knowing what readers think about this project. Thanks!

Re-modeling 3.0 – Part 2

As I mentioned before, I have to scratch build the holzgas setup featured in my third military diorama. I like to scratch build and utilize “found” materials in my projects. It stretches my abilities and it helps keep down the cost of modeling! I had no choice but to carry out some scratch building for this project, as I could find no 1/35 scale holzgas resin kits on the internet.

Images of holzgas-equipped World War II vehicles reveal that, while the science behind holzgas was the same everywhere, the appearance of the power generating systems that were cobbled together for it across Europe and the British Isles were anything but standardized.

Photos I gave me a good idea of a gassifier tower’s dimensions and appearance. I cut a 1/2-inch dowel to the height that looked correct to me. To obtain a metallic look I glued Mylar from a Maxwell House International Coffee container around the cylinder (not a product endorsement!), using thin strips of adhesive HVAC metal foil for the top and bottom bands to help keep the Mylar in place. Then I clipped a length of coat hanger, twisting it to match the down pipe on the cylinder’s side, super-glued the pipe into a hole I drilled into the tower.

Gassafiers featured a top hatch, by which wood chip fuel that generated the gas were shoveled in. Given that the holzgas rig would be located in the Citroen’s trunk area, I fashioned the hatch from the trunk lid’s spare tire bump out. Cutting it out with my trusty X-Acto knife was a laborious process but once I’d sanded the edge, and added a handle and hinge (courtesy of the spare parts box that’s a must for every modeler), it came out okay.

Its difficult to see in this picture but I glued several fittings from the parts box onto the gassifier. The flat black paint I brushed on the tower streaked nicely on the Mylar and the clothes hanger “pipe.”

The gassifier’s fittings are more visible in this shot, taken after I mounted it into the auto’s open trunk area. I decided to place the tower before I finished assembling and attaching the car body. I constructed a shield of sorts between the tower and the back seat, to mask the gassifer from view. It looks pretty rough-hewn but it serves the purpose.

I close this blog post with a picture of the automobile from a different angle. Of course, the interior remains in the colors in which it left the Citroen factory in Paris, as only the exteriors of German-appropriated vehicles were re-painted.

Let me know if you find the record of progress on my third diorama to be of interest!

Re-modeling 3.0 – Part 1

I have begun work on my third diorama. It will illustrate a street scene in Paris when the City of Light was liberated – by French armored forces – in August 1944.

The centerpiece of the diorama is to be a Citroen Traction 11CV sedan. After France fell in 1940 the Germans captured all manner of British and French tanks, trucks, and automobiles, which they put to use in their service. The need for these resources rocketed during the invasion of the Soviet Union: Germany couldn’t produce enough new vehicles to replace battle losses, or parts to repair those damaged while traveling the ramshackle Russian road network.

The Citroen I’ll be assembling represents one such captured French civilian car. Generally speaking, all that was done to refit autos like it was to repaint it in the appropriate German service colors; I will also be making several modifications to the model, as it came from the box.

The illustrations above show the biggest modification I intend to make to the sedan. Let me explain it to you. The Allies knew that petroleum, which was soon rationed in all combatant countries, was the life’s blood of any modern nation’s armed forces. Great efforts were made to choke the German’s access to oil, through aerial bombing campaigns and the destruction of railroad lines and tanker cars.

Early on the tightening fuel situation led the Third Reich to seek alternatives that would enable its vehicles to continue operating. Plants for manufacturing synthetic fuels were developed but demand far outstripped the supply. Another, more rudimentary, though effective method that became popular for powering vehicles was called holzgas, i.e., wood gas.

Wood gas can be used in furnaces, stoves, and vehicles. It is produced by a gasifier into which wood chips, sawdust, charcoal, coal, rubber and similar materials are placed. These burn incompletely in a fire box, producing wood gas, ash and soot. The gas, having been filtered to remove tars and soot or ash particles, can be cooled, stored in tanks, and subsequently directed to an engine. By the middle of the war hundreds of thousands of military and civilian vehicles across Europe and in Great Britain relied on holzgas. Gassifier towers and supplies of chips were a common sight.

Scratch-building a holzgas system for the Citroen will be challenging but I am confident that it is within my capabilities. Stay tuned for further developments!

Re-modeling 2.0 – Part 12

As the photo above shows, my second diorama, “Ein Volk Steht Auf,” has reached completion. I enjoyed conceptualizing the scene, gathering, assembling and painting the items needed to bring it into life, and how the layout evolved, even as I worked on it. I hope you find the end result interesting, too. As with my first diorama, I decided to construct mini-scenarios within the over all design; I’ll describe these next.

Remember I said that the Volksstrum was armed with a hodge-podge of weapons from both World Wars? One of the men in the background here is instructing the other in the operation of an MG 08/15, a machine gun in the Great War. The man in the foreground is puzzling over how to insert the magazine into the modern MP-44 that he’d been issued.

One of the Volksstrum troops had the misfortune of being accused of cowardice. Tried and found guilty by a kangaroo court, immediately after the verdict was pronounced he was hung. A placard around his neck proclaimed the reason for his execution, likely to deter other German men from considering the avoidance of their duty.

The final vignette illustrates the distribution of Panzerfausts. This simple, highly effective single-shot antitank weapon had directions concerning its use printed on the warhead. This was done in the belief that anyone picking up a Panzerfaust on the battlefield could effectively operate it.

As ever, it you’d like to comment on my modeling work, I would be happy to hear what you have to say.

Re-modeling 2.0 – Part 11

As my latest diorama is moving toward its completion, I’m attending to various details that are intended to add to its verisimilitude (i.e., the appearance of being real or true).

The first thing I worked on was “dirtying up” the Steyr 1500A truck that’s an important element in the scene. Given that the diorama is set in the late winter of 1944/45, the ground is, to a high degree, muddy. To simulate this, I applied watered-down white glue to the wheels, undercarriage, running boards, and lower edges of the doors. On these surfaces I then liberally sprinkled a mixture of earth blend modeling turf.

I let the white glue dry thoroughly, after which I sprayed the modified parts of the vehicle with Dull Cote, which ought to keep the modeling turf from flaking off.

Next I wanted to give the diorama scenery a late winter appearance. I applied a liberal amount of watered down white glue all over the base. Then I sprinkled modeling “snow” to the wet areas. I took care not to put down too much snow, as I didn’t want to totally obscure all the hard work I had put into the landscape; anyway, a late winter scene wouldn’t be completely covered in the white stuff.

Before putting down the fake snow I thought about how it would look on different surfaces. As you can see, it only covers parts of the barn roof. To illustrate that the hapless Volkssturm man whose cowardice led to his being hung had been there a while, I dusted his cap and shoulders with snow.

As work on this project progresses, I have found myself thinking about further modifications that I’d like to make to the diorama, so stay tuned. Of course, I’d welcome your comments or questions regarding it.