This diorama began with a part built Airfix 1/72 A-26 Invader that had been kicking around my workshop for a couple of decades. The design of the kit itself showed its age, with very clunky detail, thick trailing edges and dockyard rivets, but was an ideal candidate to be cut up and become part of a larger scene. I found a wartime photo of what appeared to be an A-26 wing on a Queen Mary trailer, and that gave me some detail and indication of how to cut up the airframe.
I made additional detail on the firewalls, fuselage breaks and the engines. The engines had copper wire exhaust stacks soldered up and each made to fit; a job that seemed to go on for ever! The canopy was cracked, so I cut out the damaged part, which happened to be in the hatch, and formed a new one from some clear sheet.
A trip to the local aircraft museum got me two Airfix Queen Mary trailer and crane kits, and a Willys MB and GMC 6x6 truck were bought from my local model shop. Each model in the diorama was built to completion, rather than having multiple kits on the go at once.
Thorneycroft Truck and Coles Crane.
The truck and crane were built almost straight from the box. I made some small changes to the kit, such as adding glazing to the vehicle as none was included, and replacing the plastic elevation rod with an M2 threaded metal rod. When the kit was almost complete, I found out that Airfix got the crane wrong. Apparently the crane with the screwjack to operate the jib had a shorter jib. The long jib as included in the kit should be pully operated. The jib was cut, shortened and reglued and the paint touched up.
GMC CCKW 353.
The 353 is the long wheel base CCKW with the canvas roof. The kit went together ok, though I did do a little extra detailing in the cab before closing it up. I added a scratch built Number 7 Set crane on the back, based on some photos of the real thing I saw at a military vehicle show.
3 Ton Queen Mary.
I started with the bedford tractor. After some advice from the military vehicle world, I cut the cab and bulked it up a bit as even at 1/76 scale, the vehicle is on the small size. Airfix also made a bit of a mess up of the Queen Mary trailer research. There were two types, a 3 ton and a 5 ton capacity. What Airfix seemed to have done, is combine both designs into one fictional trailer. I couldn't leave it like that, and had to do lots of chopping and changing of the lattice framework to correct the first into a proper 3 ton trailer. This involved cutting out many of the diagonal braces and replacing them in the correct positions. The hitch also needed work to match the 3 ton design.
5 Ton Queen Mary.
The 5 ton trailer is longer, has a different wheel position and much more cross bracing. I had a photo of a real 5 ton trailer, and enlarged it on my laptop screen to match the model, to work out the new length and wheel position. A complete new base was made and extra bracing added to the modified sides using microstrip, tapering at the rear as per fullsize. The hitch was butchered and reworked for the 5 ton design. Both tugs and trailers were painted in slightly different wartime camo.
Once again, the kit was built more or less out of the box. I removed the black out light from the fender and reworked the head lights. I also used thin copper wire to replace the plastic roof bows. The trailer just had the addition of the front steady so it would stand level when not connected to the Jeep.
Accessories and Base.
There were several accessories made for the diorama. The first shown below are the "Egg Box" stands used for storing airframe parts. Felt covered square timbers were slotted into the holes to make stands for wings, fuselages and control surfaces. They were layered up from styrene strip and sheet as one big piece, then cut into each egg box. The wooden base was coated in dilute PVA woodworking glue before a coat of first coat wall plaster. This has a nice gritty texture, good for a recently ploughed field and the furrows caused by the force landed aircraft.
Fencing was made from styrene strip, while hedges were from a scouring pad cut into strips and painted. A twig formed an old tree and the base was painted with household emulsion tester pots. The RAF and USAAF figures came from both the Airfix USAAF ground crew set and the Queen Mary trailer kits. The figures from the trailer kits were hard styrene, and this allowed me to cut and change the poses of those figures and motorcycles.
Complete ( almost ).
After the 'complete' photos were taken, I added a wooden framework in the empty 5 ton trailer to support the A-26 wing. Unfortunately I never got any decent photos of the complete diorama with that in place. I didn't have space to keep it, and the model was donated to the local aircraft museum, but I believe it was destroyed in a shelf collapse! Oh well, I enjoyed the build and I have the pictures to remember it by.
Stephen A. Carr
Photos and text © by Stephen A. Carr