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1/700 Scale
Ubon RTAB Runway Diorama

by David W. Aungst

 

Runway Diorama



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Introduction

 

When I was a kid, I bought the aircraft carrier ship models just so I could play with all the little aircraft. When I was just ten or twelve, a J.C.Penny store in a mall near my house had a built-up USS Enterprise (I think it was Monogram 1/400th scale) in a case. I stared at that model for hours just dying to get my hands on all those A-4 Skyhawks, F-4 Phantoms, and F-8 Crusaders on the deck. My love of playing with these little aircraft has survived the decades since back then.

This project is a dry-run for a larger project that has been rattling around the back of my head for many years. I want to make a diorama of my "dream air show". Since this would be impossible to create in any scale bigger than about 1/700th scale , this is where I have been turning my attention. I have spent more money than I care to admit accumulating the 1/700th scale aircraft to populate my "dream air show" diorama.

As a test, in a less ambitious size, I decided to create a diorama of the end of a busy runway during the Vietnam conflict. In books, I have pictures of the ends of busy runways with all sorts of aircraft grouped together, just waiting their turn to take-off -- fighters, transports, gunships, patrol aircraft, etc... I think it is interesting to see this mix of aircraft. One of my main inspirational pictures is this image from the Squadron Publications book Air War Over Southeast Asia, Vol.1 (Stock#6034 / ISBN 0-89747-134-2).

 

Documentation Image
Runway-Base00.jpg
Bien Hoa, December 1965
 

I prefer later war aircraft, though, which are also easier to find in 1/700th scale. I had just picked up the recent release of F-4J Phantoms from Trumpeter (for use in the air show diorama) and found them to be very nicely detailed. In this small scale, only the camouflage paint makes these F-4Js any different from F-4Cs or F-4Ds. This played into the idea to creating a diorama of the end of a runway. I could update the above picture to about 1972 and use F-4 Phantoms, then test some modeling concepts that would later apply to doing my "dream air show" diorama.

 

The Story Line

 

Good dioramas have some story line to help define the scene being created. This story line evolved as I selected the aircraft for the diorama and chose markings to place on the aircraft.

It is early evening, say 5pm, in late 1972 at Ubon RTAB. The mail plane for the next day's mail is just arriving (a C-141A) as an AC-47D "Spooky" is waiting to take off in support of a firebase that just came under attack. While the "Spooky" is waiting, a strike package of F-4Ds from the 8 TFW loaded with 2000lb laser bombs taxi up to get their last-chance checks done before taking off for a mission "up north".


The Kits and Supplies

Trumpeter gave me most of what I needed for the F-4s. The weapons on the Phantoms came from a 1/285th scale GHQ aircraft (500lb LGB in 1/285th scale made convincing 2000lb LGB in 1/700th scale). To get the other aircraft, I turned to Pit-Road (SkyWave). They have been making all sorts of 1/700th scale stuff in support of their line of model ships for a lot of years. Pit-Road (SkyWave) gave me a C-47 (which I converted to an AC-47) and a C-141B (which I converted to a C-141A). The trucks came from still another Pit-Road (SkyWave) set.

It is almost hard to think of the aircraft as "kits". The Phantoms, out-of-the-box, are all of six pieces -- a one-piece airframe, three landing gear legs, and two wing fuel tanks. The C-47 is three pieces without the propellers -- a one-piece airframe and two landing gear legs. The C-141 is the easiest to think of as a kit since it is comprised of fifteen pieces.

The last ingredient for the diorama was people. I was unsure how to deal with these, then a friend e-mailed me a link to an Eduard etched set of 1/700th scale people (stock#17-502). The people were even pre-painted! Unfortunately, the set was designed for ships with the figures painted in Naval uniforms, but this could be fixed.

 

 

Construction

 

Building the Aircraft

Building the various aircraft started out as being fairly straight-forward. It was not like the "kits" had too many pieces or anything. Although, my needle-nose jeweler's tweezers did get quite a workout. Many of the pieces were too small to be able to pick them up with just my fingers.

Using the provided pieces in the kits, I attached the landing gear to the AC-47 and Phantoms. The landing gear then provided a "handle" for me to hold as I painted them. I also attached LORAN antenna racks onto a couple of the Phantoms. These are just 0.010" brass wire, cut to length and glued to the aircraft spines. Careful painting gives this the impression of being a real "towel rack", but it is just a wire glued flat onto the spine.

The AC-47 started as a WWII C-47. I converted it to being an AC-47 by drilling out the rear door, then drilling out the rear two windows just ahead of the door. Into these places I mounted 0.010" brass wires to represent the mini-gun barrels sticking out the side of the gunship. A little more careful painting highlighted and enhanced these modifications.

 

AC-47 Guns
Runway-C03a.jpg
AC-47 Guns
  AC-47 Rebuilt Landing Gear
Runway-C03b.jpg
AC-47 Rebuilt Lagging Gear
  AC-47 Propeller Disks
Runway-C03c.jpg
AC-47 Propeller Disks
 

Propellers in 1/700th scale are an interesting concept. The AC-47 will have its engines running in the diorama, so I did not want to just put props on the aircraft that would make it look like it was parked and not running. The "clear disk" concept has also never sat well with me. Models with this detail always look like they have plastic disks glued to them, not spinning props. Besides any clear styrene sheet I could find would be way too thick for the purpose.

I solved the problem one evening while clearing stuff off my modeling desk. I had a couple empty plastic baggies that different detail sets had come in. The thought occurred to me to use the plastic baggies to punch out some disks to represent the spinning props on the AC-47. The material is very thin, and unless the light hits it the right way, almost invisible. I drilled holes in the centers of the engine cowls and added prop hubs with 0.010" brass wire. Then I punched out some disks from a plastic baggie and pierced their centers with a needle. These where then super-glued onto the prop hubs on the AC-47. The effect was great, with props that were mostly invisible unless the light catches them just right.

I was going to leave the "lollipop" landing gear on the AC-47 as is, but some friends stopped by and convinced me that I should correct the landing gear. The C-47 (thus the AC-47) has dual landing gear struts that bracket the wheels between them. I punched out some appropriate size disks in 0.020" styrene, then glued 0.010" bras wire to eight side of the disks. Then, I cut away the kit-provided landing gear, drilled receiving holes for the new scratch-built landing gear, and glued the gear in place.

The nose gear on the Phantoms is a similar story. I e-mailed an image to a friend that commented on the nose wheels looking like the balloon tires on bush planes. So, I decided to cut the wheels off and replace them with punched-out disks of a more appropriate size and thickness. As a couple of the Phantoms are in the process of turning on the diorama, I mounted the nose wheels at an angle for these to better represent the action. Then, I could not leave the nose gear hanging out there "naked", so I whipped up some wheel well doors from 0.005" styrene and attached these in the correct places.

 

Phantom Bottom
Runway-C04.jpg  
 
The weapons for the Phantoms come from a few sources. The wing fuel tanks are provided by Trumpeter in the basic kits of the Phantoms. The centerline fuel tanks come from a Pit-Road (SkyWave) set. I stole the tanks from that kit and added them to these Phantoms. The 2000lb laser bombs come from 1/285th scale GHQ aircraft, an A-10 to be exact. In 1/285th scale, these are 500lb laser bombs. I cut them down in length by about a third and they made very nice 2000lb laser bombs for 1/700th scale. These were then attached to the appropriate wing hard point locations of the Phantoms. Two of the Phantoms also have Pave Spike pods which also came from the Pit-Road (SkyWave) set.  

 

  C-141 Wing Flaps
Runway-C01.jpg
 
The C-141 was supposed to be easy and right out-of-the-box. Then, a friend pointed out that for Vietnam-era, a C-141 would have been a C-141A (the Pit-Road (SkyWave) set provides stretched C-141Bs). I would need to back-date the kit to the earlier version of the C-141. This amounted to finding out the sizes of the fuselage plugs that were added in the "B" conversion and then cutting the fuselage to remove these. For the record, the plugs are 13'4" in front of the wing and 10'0" behind the wing. In 1/700th scale, this amount to 0.23" in front of the wing and 0.17" behind the wing. I got as close to these numbers as I could, although I think I took a little too much from the front section. I also needed to file away the aerial refueling point on top of the forward fuselage. Thinking that was it, I moved on to other topics.  

Then, the same friend pointed out that a landing C-141 would have its wing flaps deployed. Argh! OK, out came some styrene stock so I could scratch build some wing flaps. I used 0.015" sheet styrene for the flaps, themselves, and 0.005" styrene for the ribs/actuators. The adding of the flaps to the kit was fairly simple. Since the Pit-Road (SkyWave) set provides the C-141s with one-piece wings, I considered how I might carve out the flap wells, then I realized that the completed model would be a scant inch or so over the base, making it very hard to see anything on the underside, so I ignored carving out the flap wells and just painted them a darker color to simulate the well.

The last added detail on the C-141 was a late addition when I realized that the prominent pitot spike on the front of the horizontal tail was missing. I added this using some 0.010" brass wire and faired it into the tail with super glue.

 

 

Painting and Markings

 

I used Testor's Model Master enamel paints for most of this project. Any color references here that do not explicitly state the manufacture are Testors Model Master enamel paints.

For the AC-47 and Phantoms, they are finished in S.E.Asian camouflage -- Tan (F.S.30219), D.Green (F.S.34079), and M.Green (F.S.34102) on top with either black or Camouflage Gray (F.S.36622) on the bottom. After the initial painting of the AC-47, I found the contrast between the two greens was not enough to even tell there were two greens, so I substituted Marine Green (F.S.34097) for the Medium Green. This made the colors different enough to see the difference.

I started by air brushing the bottom-side colors on the AC-47 and Phantoms. The AC-47 and two of the Phantoms are black on the bottom. The other four Phantoms are gray on the bottom. I then carefully air brushed the tops using the lightest of the top-side camouflage colors -- the Tan. By keeping the brush always shooting from the top of the aircraft, I could keep from painting the already painted bottom of the aircraft. This worked good and gave me a nice even paint coating of the base colors.

Next, I hand brush painted the green colors of the upper camouflage. It was a bit troublesome to get all the right camouflage patterns, but in the end, I was satisfied with the look of the aircraft. I took a little time to plan the Phantom camouflages and included a few accepted deviations in the patterns so the aircraft would not be totally identical.

The C-141 was a little easier as the colors were simple masks (if you can consider anything in 1/700th scale to be "simple"). The majority of the aircraft is Aircraft Gray (16473) with a white upper fuselage. I started by painting the white. I masked off what was to remain white, and then I painted the Aircraft Gray. Various leading edges are left in bare metal, so I masked off the leading edges and painted them in Steel metalizer. The last item was the wing walkways. These are some dark gray color -- I chose D.Gull Gray (F.S.36231).

  Custom Decal Art Work
Runway-DecalsAircraft.jpg
You would think that aircraft this tiny would not need decals, right? Well, you would be wrong. I found that the aircraft were not quite small enough to make the markings invisible, so I whipped up some art work on my PC and printed it using my ALPS printer. It is only the big markings like tail codes, serials, and national insignia, but having them present really improved the look of the aircraft. The image to the right shows my completed decal art work (reduced in size to save space).

As you can see from the art work, I sized and spaced the tail codes and serial numbers to make them work as one decal on the aircraft. Basically, the whole of each side of the AC-47 and Phantom tails is just one decal. Concern over print register forced me to print the national insignia as two decals with separate white backings for each insignia. I needed to make new national insignia as the ones in the Pit-Road (SkyWave) and Trumpeter sets were too large.

I created the C-141 wing walkways as one big decal, carefully sized to match the wing panel lines. The cheat lines on the side where simple black stripes. I printed the blue stripe for the MAC sash on the tail, painting the yellow first, then applying the blue stripe and the MAC letters.

The scale of the aircraft did not change my weathering style. For weathering, I used my typical style of thinned down enamel paint washes. Highlighting the panel lines added some depth to the aircraft, even if the panel lines are a scale two feet across on the airframes. I finished the weathering with some dry brushing to pop out the surface details. For a more complete discussion of what I do to weather my models, see my posting on "Weathering Aircraft".

The following images show the aircraft after the major painting and decaling was completed. I still needed to dry-brush them to tone down the camouflages and enhance some detailing. The US quarter dollar coin provides a good sense of scale to the images. Depending on your screen size and resolution, the images show the aircraft two to three times their actual size.

 

Phantoms and AC-47 -- 70 Decals in a Three-inch Square
Runway-C02a.jpg
Phantoms and AC-47 -- 70 Decals in a Three-inch Square
 

 

C-141A -- 33 More Decals
Runway-C02b.jpg
C-141A -- 33 More Decals
 

 

The Base

 

  Initial Concept
Runway-Base01.jpg
Initial Concept
I wanted to tie all these aircraft together into a small enough area to keep the diorama a manageable size. The end of a runway seemed logical to make this happen. To the right is the initial concept diagram I put together to share with a friend.  

After determining the aircraft markings and doing research on runway and taxi way sizes, I substantially revised this layout.

Once I chose the 8th TFW for the Phantoms, I started looking for information regarding Ubon RTAB (home of the 8th TFW during the Vietnam conflict). I found an aerial view of the base in the Squadron Publications book Air War Over Southeast Asia, Vol.3 (Stock#6037 / ISBN 0-89747-148-2). Based on this image, I could get a good feel for the layout of the runway end. I used this picture to plan the diorama base layout. This is the revised layout.

 

Improved Concept
Runway-Base02.jpg
Improved Concept
 

 

Ubon, Late 1972
Runway-Base03.jpg
Ubon, Late 1972
 

Each aircraft in the group has a reason to be there and a reason to be so close to other aircraft.

  • The C-141 is landing.
  • The AC-47 is holding short, waiting for clearance to take off (presumably once the C-141 clears the runway).
  • The Phantoms are all lining up to have their last-chance checks done.

This would make for an exciting five minutes with all this activity on the end of the runway.

Just as I was getting ready to decide how to construct the diorama base for this project, my wife found an old picture in the bottom of a box in the attic. The picture was junk, but the way it was framed held promise for my diorama. It was a wood plaque with the picture trapped under a plexiglass cover. The plexiglass cover was precisely the size of the diorama I was planning. When my wife agreed that she had no need for the thing, I took it and chalked it up to fate that such a perfect wood base would turn up just as I was going to need it.

I decided the best approach was to use the piece of plexiglass as the diorama base and construct the diorama on the plexiglass. Then, when I was done, I could simply attach the plexiglass (diorama and all) to the wood plaque. This way I could keep the wood plaque nice and clean while I was working on the ground-work and painting of the diorama base.

Considering the small size of the diorama subjects and difficulty I would have dusting them in the future, I also decided that it would also be a good idea to construct a plexiglass cover for the diorama. The lip around the edges of the plexiglass diorama base would make a natural locator for the plexiglass cover.

I drew and cut out a poster board runway and taxi way. This poster board cutout would be the template for me to layout and cut a piece of 0.080" sheet styrene as the runway and taxi way. The following image shows the poster board template on the plexiglass base resting on the wood plaque with the aircraft sitting in their tentative positions.

 

Base Beginning
Runway-Base04.jpg
Base Beginning
 

Using the poster board template, I traced the outline of the runway and taxi way onto a sheet of 0.080" styrene. I then scribed the outline onto the plastic. I also scribed the outline of the blacktop edges to the runway and taxi way as well as the grid pattern of the concrete slabs.

With the outline established, I started creating the terrain. I built up a blast deflector hill along the outer edge of the last-check ramp. I built a lower hill along the inner edge of the last-check ramp. I then cut away the areas were the terrain level was going to fall below the runway level. I used assorted thicknesses of plastic strip to build up rough slopes. I applied liberal amounts of super glue and accelerated it so it would cure without shrinking away to nothing.

The image below shows the base prior to priming the surface. The dots along the runway and taxi way edges are from me doing planning on the locations of runway and taxi way lights. I did these with a Sharpie marker. I found it amazing that while sharpies are impervious to most things, they did soak off and into the Mr. Surfacer I used for priming.

 

Unprimed Base Terrain
Runway-Base05.jpg
Unprimed Base Terrain
 

If you look carefully at this image, you can see the lamination of styrene I used to build up the terrain. With super glue being clear, it made things difficult to tell when I had effectively built the terrain. The clearness does help show the styrene lamination, though.

With the base terrain established, it was time to apply some paint and see how well the terrain looked. I primed the base using Mr. Surfacer 1000. After the first coating, I fixed a few minor issues in the terrain details, then applied a second coating of Mr. Surfacer. The following image shows the base after priming it.

 

Primed Base Terrain
Runway-Base06.jpg
Primed Base Terrain
 

Better seen in this view are the grid lines of the concrete pad. Through dumb luck or fate (not sure which), my runway and taxi way sizes worked out just right to be multiples of the concrete pad sizes. I should have calculated the size of the concrete pads first, then made the runway and taxi way size work from that. Having it work out just right, even though I did it backwards was unusual. I was not going to argue, though.

Sixteen feet in 1/700th scale is roughly 1/4". Flight lines I have walked on seem to use sixteen foot squares as the breakdown of the concrete slabs, so I made the grid scribing 1/4". The concrete covers the last-check ramp and two inches of the runway and taxi way. This would be enough to cover the areas were heavily laden aircraft would be turning. The straight stretches of the runway and taxi way would be asphalt.

At the advice of a couple friends, I re-worked the hill on the lower right of the diorama board, then re-primed the base. Happy with the results, it was time to paint. The image below is after an afternoon of masking and painting the various portions of the base. The paints are as follows:

  • The concrete color is a mix (1:1:1) of Floquil Railroad Color Foundation, Floquil Railroad Color Concrete, and Flat White.
  • The asphalt areas are Air Motility Gray (F.S.36173).
  • The black-top areas are a unmeasured mix of Interior Black and Air Motility Gray.
  • The ground is a base coat of Military Brown (F.S.30117). Highlighting was done in Wood. Shadowing was done with an unmeasured mix of Military Brown and Interior Black.

It was so great to finally have colors on the base.

 

Base Terrain with Initial Painting
Runway-Base07.jpg
Base Terrain with Initial Painting
 

I was not completely satisfied by the even tone of the concrete and asphalt sections, so I took some time at this point to "distress" the colors, adding fresher concrete sections and over spraying the areas in various contrasting colors. The end results were much more pleasing to me.

 

  Custom Decal Art Work
Runway-DecalsGround.jpg
Who says decals are only for vehicles and aircraft? I needed a bunch of markings for the runway and taxi way. At first I considered masking and painting them, but the yellow taxi way lines changed my mind -- they should be only 0.008" in width. While I could probably mask that small, it would be easier to use decals. So, I whipped up some art work. The image to the right shows my completed decal art work (reduced in size to save space).  

So, the next step was to gloss coat the base in preparation for the decals. I printed the decals out on decal paper and was a bit apprehensive about the yellow items. There was what seemed to be significant pixelations in the yellow. For a time I considered if there was any other method to make the yellow markings, then I remembered my own advice to others concerning ALPS decals. "They never look as good when naked on the decal paper as they do once applied to the model." So, I test applied some of the yellow items and was pleased to find my advice was true.

After applying 119 decals, the following was the result.

 

Base Terrain, Gloss Coated with Decals
Runway-Base08.jpg
Base Terrain, Gloss Coated with Decals
 

The next step was to add vegetation. I stewed on this for eight months before I got up the courage to give it a try. As nice as things had turned out so far, I did not want to ruin the diorama with poorly done vegetation.

There would be no trees in the area of the runway, so that was simplified, but there would be lots of grass. I needed to come up with a way to do grass in 1/700th scale. Any commercially available grass material (for model railroading) would be twelve to twenty feet tall in 1/700th scale. I did not just want to paint the grass, though. While that would get the thickness right, I wanted some texture to represent the grass.

What I ended up trying was a thin tan-colored felt. I ripped some pieces so the edges would not be too well formed, then soaked the felt in a diluted white glue solution. This allowed me to apply the grass to the diorama base and make it stick. It also gave me the ability to soak it off if the effect was not what I wanted. The end result, before doing any painting, was as follows. It almost looked like the base had grown mold.

 

Base Terrain, Felt Grass Applied
Runway-Base09.jpg
Base Terrain, Felt Grass Applied
 

I was pleased with this result. If I could carefully paint this "mold", the effect would be the different texture I was looking for in the high grass areas.

Three shades of green and one shade of tan later, I had what you see below. While this is not exactly what I had in mind when I started, I am happy with the outcome.

 

Base Terrain, Flat Coated with Grass Areas Painted
Runway-Base10.jpg
Base Terrain, Flat Coated with Grass Areas Painted
 

I got this effect by first applying a medium green and a dark green with an air brush. I purposely did not attempt to get complete coverage, I wanted the colors to show through each other and even in places allow the brown ground to come through. I then dry-brushed a light green and the tan color to highlight things and provide a different texture to some areas. All this messing around paid off with what I felt was effective ground work for 1/700th scale.

The last thing to do, just like on any model is to do weathering. Typical runways have a rather dark stripe that runs down the centerline. This is from the soot of jet engines and the screeching of tires as the aircraft touch down on landing. I also noted a lot of dirt in the last-check areas from heavily laden aircraft turning and twisting on their tires as well as general dirt from fluid leaks.

I accomplished most of this with a misting on of Interior Black, thinned out with about two drops of paint for every dropper-full of thinner. While I was at it, the grass color seemed too bold, so I toned down the green with a misting of gray and light tan over the grassy areas. Also, in this last image, the taxiway and runway lights have been added.

 

Base Terrain, Weathered and Ready for Aircraft
Runway-Base11.jpg
Base Terrain, Weathered and Ready for Aircraft
 

It was time to get back to the aircraft and finishing details.

 

 

Finishing Touches

 

With the base coming together nicely, it was time to turn back to the aircraft and related items. First on that list was people. In 1/700th scale, people are more than just trivial. I needed to come up with some ground crew for the Phantoms. As I mentioned earlier, Eduard makes etched metal people in 1/700th scale for use in model ships. I bought a set (stock#17-502) and found they even came in multiple poses. The images below give some detail to the people. The inclusion of a US ten cent piece in the right image provides some scale. The people are about the size of a grain of rice.

 

Eduard 1/700 Scale  People
Runway-C05a.jpg
Eduard 1/700th Scale People
  Eduard 1/700 Scale  People
Runway-C05b.jpg
Eduard 1/700th Scale People
 

Eduard has the people pre-painted, but they are in Naval uniforms. I needed to re-paint them into what would be appropriate for Air Force personnel on the flight line in Tailand. To paint the people, I cut them free and mounted them to 0.005" brass wire. This would allow me to hold the people as I painted them. The wire would also be the way I would mount the people in the diorama by drilling holes at appropriate places and inserting the wires. The wire is visible on the people if you look for it, but some excess super glue and a heavy coating of paint helped to hide the wire.

I had some specific poses in mind for the ground crew as they marshall the Phantoms into place for their last chance checks. Most of the poses were present in the Eduard etchings already. For the few poses that were not in the set, I found I could take some of the existing people and bend their arms to create the pose. This also made some of the people seem more three dimensional.

Mounted on wires, I then painted the people into proper colors for Air Force personnel in Tailand. I used SAC Bomber Green (F.S.34159) for the uniform color. Some of the people have white T-shirts in place of their uniform shirts. I used Armor Sand (F.S.30277) for the flesh on white crew and Field Drab (F.S.30118) for flesh on the black crew (yes, I accounted for both blacks and whites in the diorama). I also gave them all black boots. My Optivisor magnifying visor got a real workout doing this painting.

 

Painted 1/700 Scale  People
Runway-C05c.jpg
Eduard 1/700th Scale People -- Painted as USAF Ground Crew
 

Now, these people could not get to the end of the runway just walking. Well, I guess they could, but it is a long walk from the Phantom revetments to the end of the runway. Anyway, in many of the Pit-Road (SkyWave) aircraft sets there are support vehicles to go with the aircraft. One of the sets provide Air Force crew vans. I clipped these out (they are just one-piece items) and cleaned up the mold marks.

To allow some of the ground crew to interact with the van more realistically, I decided to open the rear doors on the vans. This would permit me to have some crew at the back of the vans like they were just getting out. I used some strip styrene to create the doors and punched out the windows with a my Waldron Micro-Punch set. I then painted the vans in dark blue and glued them in place on the diorama.

 

Unmodified Crew Vans
Runway-C06a.jpg
Unmodified Crew Vans
  Detailed Crew Vans
Runway-C06b.jpg
Detailed Crew Vans
  Finished Crew Vans
Runway-C06c.jpg
Finished Crew Vans
 

Runway and taxiway lights were something I thought about quite a bit. I one point I was going to have the lights be functional using fiber optics. After a few minutes of thinking how to hide a light and power source under the diorama, I regained my senses and decided to just use thin brass wires stuck into pre-drilled holes in the base. I planned to paint the wires in yellow to represent the mounting, then just the very tip in blue, red, of silver to represent the light.

Then, one afternoon, I found a better alternative. It is funny what you can find when you are not even looking for it. I was with my wife at the fabric and craft store that she frequently visits. In the isle that covers scrap-booking, I came across small tubes full of tiny glass beads (0.5 mm) in assorted colors. They are intended as a form of glitter for glueing onto scrap-book pages. My mind started racing, "These blue, red, and clear beads would make excellent lights on my runway diorama". I picked up three tubes, one in each color, and used them on the diorama -- blue for the taxiway lights, red for the threshold lights, and white (clear) for the runway lights.

 

Glass Bead Tubes
Runway-C07a.jpg
Glass Bead Tubes
  Glass Bead Detail
Runway-C07b.jpg
Glass Bead Detail (The camera flash lit them up.)
Threshold Lights Detail
Runway-C07c.jpg
Threshold Lights Detail
  Taxiway Lights Detail
Runway-C07d.jpg
Taxiway Light Detail
 

With the lights attached in place, it was time to start attaching the rest of the stuff. I started with the ground crew. I placed (without glue) the aircraft in their final positions, then started drilling holes at the appropriate places for the ground crew. I attached the crew men with super glue, slipping the wire pegs I had attached to the crew men into the holes I was drilling.

With the crew men being permanent on the base, I next attached the Phantoms and the Spooky. The crew vans came after the Phantoms and the Spooky.

To have the C-141 suspended over the runway as it was landing, I drilled a 1/16th inch hole in the diorama base and in the bottom of the C-141. Since I did not have any clear rod in 1/16th inch size, I took some 1/8th inch clear acrylic rod and used a candle to melt and stretch it to get a 1/16th inch size. It took a couple attempts before I got a rod I could use because I usually am making thin antenna wires when I stretch sprue. Not wanting to make such a thin piece meant that I had to be careful not to overheat the acrylic before I pulled it. The third attempt was the charm.

I cut the stretched acrylic rod to the appropriate size, then glued it into the C-141 belly. The effect was fantastic on the diorama. The clear rod suspends the C-141 and is nearly invisible in the shadow of the C-141, unless the light catches it just right. I left the C-141 sitting loose in the hole on the diorama base until I was totally done everything else. I had broken the wing flaps on several occasions and did not want them broken again with the C-141 stuck permanently into the diorama base.

Adding airport signs and the runway threshold light pads finished the diorama portion project. The only thing left was to create a clear case to cover the diorama. The last thing I wanted to do was to have to dust this diorama. I am certain that dusting the thing would probably remove half of the fine details...

 

Plexiglass Cut -- Frame Pieces Created and Painted
Runway-C08a.jpg
Plexiglass Cut -- Frame Pieces Created and Painted
  Assembled Dust Cover
Runway-C08b.jpg
Assembled Dust Cover
 

The case is 1/16th inch clear Plexiglass. I cut it to size and used strip styrene (painted black) to create a frame to hold the Plexiglass. Safely underneath the dust cover, I glued the C-141 into place and declared the project complete.

 

Conclusion

 

This was a fun "little" project. While the project took almost a year to complete, I did not work full time on it, completing three other models throughout the year while I worked on this one. It was a great stretch of my abilities to see how well I could pull off details in this tiny scale. And, while it did not seem like it, a friend pointed out that this was a massive scratch-building project for me since the entire base was created without any kits (or even directions).

 

 

I got to relive some childhood and play with the little airplanes one more time. And, I am feeling more prepared to take on that "dream air show" diorama, if only I can get up the courage to do 50,000 people in 1/700th scale. But, I think my next tiny-scale project will be an aircraft carrier with a deck full of Tomcats at sea ... someday.


Model, Images and Text Copyright 2007 by David W. Aungst
Page Created 31 December, 2007
Last Updated 30 December, 2007

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