Thursday, 13 March 2014

Making a Scratch Built N or OO Gauge British Wartime Pillbox Part 2 Painting and Detailing

Scratch built N gauge British wartime pillbox placed in a miniature copse
Pillboxes were camouflaged in many ways.  Some simple methods of concealment included digging them into the ground, embankments or hillsides so that the profile did not stand out against the skyline or surroundings.  Many pillboxes had soil piled around the sides and on the roof.  Pillboxes were also placed in hedgerows and copses to hide them.

Painted camouflage effects and netting also helped to alter the appearance so that the angular outline of the structure was less obvious.  Hooks were incorporated into the sides of hardened defences to attach the nets and hold them in place.

As stated in my blog post dated 08 March 2014, local materials were used in the construction of hardened field defences.  Concrete made with stones and pebbles from nearby beaches saved on materials and also enabled structures such as pillboxes and dragons teeth to blend into the local landscape.

In urban areas many pillboxes were designed to appear as though they were part of an existing building, covered with matching brickwork or render and a false roof added.  In some cases, pillboxes were even built inside existing buildings.  Other pillboxes were constructed to resemble everyday structures such as a bus shelter, shed or garage.

Most of the British wartime defences have now been destroyed.  Surviving structures are usually those which were constructed using concrete.  Though extremely sturdy, even many of the concrete defences have been lost to coastal erosion, housing developments, road improvements etc.  Some pillboxes have been restored and others are in use as storage buildings or cattle sheds on farmland.  Other pillboxes which are prone to damp have been converted as roosting sites for bats.
Scratch built OO gauge model pillbox painted with grey acrylic paint
Rear view of the scratch built OO gauge model pillbox
I painted the OO gauge pillbox with a base coat of medium grey acrylic paint.  It should be noted that at this point, the application of additional coats of paint can be used to alter the surface texture.  Each additional coat of paint creates a smoother surface finish. To create a brand new freshly cast concrete pillbox, good quality smooth card can be used with no texturing materials added, the card surface painted light grey or camouflage colours with little or no weathering.
OO gauge British pillbox weathered with washes of acrylic paint
Rear view of the weathered OO gauge model wartime pillbox
I allowed the grey paint to dry overnight and then applied washes of black, green, brown, and yellow acrylic paint to create the colours found in old, weathered concrete.  The paint effect was graduated so that the base of the pillbox is darker coloured.  This was to emphasise that the lower parts of such structures are often damp in comparison to upper surfaces which are regularly dried out by wind.

The doorway and embrasures can be left open or pieces of cardboard painted black can be fixed over the back.  I blacked out the windows on the N gauge model in case any colours could be seen through the doorway.  This was because I used brightly printed cardboard from an old cereal box when constructing the N gauge example.
Slab of removable model scenery for the OO gauge pillbox roof
Many pillboxes had soil or turfs placed on the roof to camouflage them, particularly from reconnaissance aircraft.  As a result many have a variety of weeds and bushes growing on them.  I cut a piece of thick cardboard to shape and chamfered the edges.  I then used modelling putty to create the appearance of a pile of soil.  Scatter and foliage materials were used in the normal way when constructing model railway layout scenery to produce a small, irregular shaped slab which could be placed onto the pillbox roof if desired.
Piece of removable model scenery placed on the OO gauge pillbox
The small patch of scenery creates the impression of some soil still left on the top of a concrete pill box, held in place by the root systems of all the different plants growing in it.  Bare areas of concrete can be seen where rain and wind often erode soil away around the edges of the roof.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Cramford Trains 44

N gauge class 42 D815 Druid travelling light engine
Class 42 D815 Druid hurries through Cramford light engine.

Cramford is one of my N gauge scenic model railway layouts.  To see more model railway layout baseboards I have designed and built visit my website

The N gauge class 42 model locomotive photographed is product number 371-603 from the Graham Farish range by Bachmann.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Cramford Trains 43

N gauge class 04 shunter D2258 partially reflected in a yard puddle
Class 04 shunter D2258 partially reflected in a puddle in Cramford goods yard.

Cramford is one of my N gauge scenic model railway layouts.  To see more model railway layout baseboards I have designed and built visit my website

The N gauge class 04 model locomotive photographed is product number 371-051 from the Graham Farish range by Bachmann.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Cramford Trains 42

N gauge class 03 shunter D2011 in Cramford quarry sidings
Class 03 shunter D2011 ready for work in Cramford quarry sidings.

Cramford is one of my N gauge scenic model railway layouts.  To see more model railway layout baseboards I have designed and built visit my website

The N gauge class 03 model locomotive photographed is product number 371-050A from the Graham Farish range by Bachmann.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Making a Scratch Built N or OO Gauge British Wartime Pillbox Part 1 Construction

Scratch built pillbox in a copse on an N gauge model railway layout
A model railway landscape can be made more convincing if structures are added which help to illustrate the history of a location.  Local and global events can result in changes to the landscape which can endure for many years.

I added a model pillbox to my most recent N gauge model railway layout, detailed in my blog post dated 07 January 2014.  The scratch built pillbox was placed in a commanding position overlooking a railway bridge and surrounding countryside.

A large number of small fortified structures known as pillboxes were built all over the British Isles during the Second World War as part of a defence network in case of invasion.

Pillboxes were built to many designs to suit local requirements using whichever building materials were available in a particular area.  The variety of building materials used meant that pillboxes built to the same design could have a very different appearance.

Pillbox wall and roof thickness varied considerably from approximately 12 inches which were designated bulletproof, to approximately 3 feet 6 inches which were designated shellproof.

Many pillboxes were made using reinforced concrete poured into shuttering.  Timber shuttering was removed when the concrete had set.  Where corrugated iron shuttering was used this was sometimes left in place for added protection.  If bricks were used to create shuttering they were usually left in place after the concrete was poured in.  Rebars were used to reinforce concrete, though sometimes, pieces of scrap metal such as angle iron from bed frames, old railings etc. were also used.

I have chosen to blog construction of a OO gauge model pill box as the components are much easier to photograph than ones required for an N gauge version.  The construction process I use to construct a pillbox for N gauge model railway layouts is the same, though the sizes, thickness of components and surface finishes are different.  I used 1mm thick cardboard taken from a broken box file to create all of the components for the OO gauge model pillbox.
Scratch built OO gauge model pillbox roof
The roof of the pillbox was marked out and cut to shape.

The roof measurements for this particular OO gauge pillbox were:

Measurements marked in red 60mm

Measurements marked in blue 30mm

Measurements marked in green 25mm

Measurements marked in purple 27mm

Measurements marked in black 50mm
Strip of cardboard marked out for the OO gauge model pillbox walls
A strip of cardboard measuring 260mm x 35mm was cut.  A line was marked along the strip 12mm from the top and a second line 19mm from the top.
OO gauge model pillbox front wall fixed in position with a temporary support
A piece of cardboard 27mm long was cut from the long strip to create the front wall of the model pillbox.  PVA was used to fix the front wall to the front edge of the pillbox roof.  Whilst the glue dried the pillbox front wall was taped to a block of wood to ensure that it set at a right angle to the roof.

When the glue had dried the next wall of the model pillbox was fixed to the roof and to the side of the first wall.

I gave each pillbox wall component about half an hour to set before fixing the next.
All walls fixed to the roof of the OO gauge model wartime pillbox
When all sides of the OO gauge model pillbox were glued to the roof I used a thin paint brush to apply PVA along the joints on the outside of the pillbox to strengthen them.  To strengthen the structure further I later applied a coat of PVA all over the interior of the pillbox.
OO gauge model pillbox ready to mark the position of embrasures
I marked the centre of each wall between the two lines which had been marked on the  cardboard strip earlier.  I then marked outwards to create embrasures which were 10mm wide by 7mm high on the front and side walls of the OO gauge model pillbox.
Embrasures and doorway marked out on the rear or the model pillbox
In a similar manner I marked out the doorway and embrasures in the rear wall of the pillbox.  The pillbox doorway measured 10mm wide x 22mm high and the rear embrasures 5mm x 5mm.

An appropriate hobby knife was used to cut the waste cardboard away to create the doorway and embrasures.

Some embrasures on pillboxes I have seen are simple square or rectangular shapes which are the same shape and measurement front to back.

Other pillboxes have stepped embrasures which gave a wider field of vision from inside the structure.
Stepped embrasure components for the OO gauge model pillbox
To create the stepped embrasures I cut some cardboard squares approximately 15mm x 15mm.  I then cut into the square for the middle layer to create a gap which was 3mm smaller in width than the apertures already cut in the front and side walls.  I then did the same with the cardboard for the inner layer, again creating a gap 3mm smaller in width than the one for the middle layer.
Middle and inner layers of stepped embrasures glued together
Embrasure components fixed in position inside the OO gauge model pillbox
OO gauge model wartime pillbox with finished stepped embrasures
I glued the pieces of U shaped cardboard together and then fixed them to the inside of the pillbox over the back of the apertures already cut.  The result was a realistic stepped arrangement for each front and side wall embrasure.  The rear embrasures on the pillbox I researched were not stepped.
Creating a thicker rear wall by adding extra layers of cardboard
To create a thicker wall at the rear of the pillbox a second layer of cardboard was added.  I then cut through the rear embrasures and doorway following the edges of the features on the outer layer of cardboard.  I added a third sheet of cardboard to the inside of the rear wall and repeated the process.  The model pillbox looked much better when this work was complete because adding the extra layers of cardboard straightened a slight bow in the rear wall.

Modelling putty was used to fill any gaps or irregularities and allowed to dry overnight.  I then painted PVA all over the model pillbox to seal the bare cardboard.
Scratch built OO gauge model pillbox with sand added to texture outer surfaces
Rear view of the OO gauge model railway pillbox with surface texture added
When the PVA had dried, I applied another coat and whilst wet, sprinkled fine sand onto it to create texture.
Example of alternative surface texture using stippled modelling putty
For the N gauge model pillbox, I used modelling putty to create a different textured effect.  I added a very thin layer of modelling putty to the walls and roof, then used a stippling action with a stiff bristled brush to create a texture which resembled old, weathered concrete.  I did not add modelling putty to the embrasures as I did not wish to lose definition in such areas.