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.