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.

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