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.