A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

January 31, 2024

D-Day Diorama Taking Shape

This is the view the US soldiers would have had at the eastern end of Omaha Beach
at Colleville-sur-Mer.

I 'm making progress  Keith Rocco's diorama. This diorama is also situated at Colleville-sur-Mer like my 75mm diorama, but this one focuses on the beach landing in 1/100th scale. The overall diorama will be 5.5 feet wide by 6 feet deep. The ground scale is about 1/500, while the vertical scale in slightly exaggerated at 1/393.  The models in the  foreground will be 1/100th scale. There are a few structures on the land side. They might be a smaller than 1/100th scale to better match the ground scale. It will depend on how it looks when we start mocking up that part.

Aerial recon view of this area before the invasion and before the Germans built most of the fortifications.

Before I shaped the hills

January 25, 2024

Bocage Hell - Ambush at Colleville-sur-Mer

A few months ago, before we started the dioramas for Keith Rocco,  I began  work on a diorama set on June 6, 1944, D-Day. I was inspired to try this project by some very nice WW2 figures from Speria Miniatures from Sweden.  I have used several of their figures for my 1/48th scale Civil War layout. However, this project would be in a larger scale, 75mm or 1/24. I originally planned just a small 3-figure vignette  centered around a soldier dragging a wounded buddy. However, I decided to expand the scope of the model when I saw a painting by Keith Rocco of soldiers advancing past a dune at D-Day. So I ordered 7 more figures. I thought that would be more interesting than the beach scene.

Before I started to painting the figures I did some research on D-Day uniforms. I realized that the Speria figures did not have some of the special D-Day equipment that the soldiers wore. Those items were the life belts, gas mask and gas brassards on the upper arms. Adding those features to the figures at this point would have been quite time consuming. 

So I decided to move the diorama to a point further inland because the US soldiers would have discarded the special D-Day equipment as they moved off the beach. I had read an account of how C Company of the 26th Infantry, First Infantry Division was ambushed by a German machine gun team about one mile from the beach. The ambush occurred at the start of the bocage terrain. The US lost seven soldiers, while the Germans lost one in this ambush, but the whole US infantry company of about 200 men was delayed by the ambush. Such was the fighting in the bocage. It is terrain that favors the defenders. It's a little appreciated fact that the US Army lost about 10 times as many men fighting in the bocage as they did on the beach.  The bocage fighting was a brutal, bloody slog.

The diorama depicts the lead elements of the company trying to fight their way through the ambush in a sunken road in the bocage country. In front there is a US casualty lying on the ground at the intersection of the sunken road and a cross road. The US soldiers would quickly  learned that those were danger areas.  One soldier is returning fire, while the squad leader is directing the others.  In the rear of the diorama there is a medic treating a wounded, panicking man while the assistant squad leader helps control the panicking soldier.  Next to them is another soldier dragging his buddy to cover. 

I think the diorama does a good job of depicting the chaos of combat with soldiers running in different directions. The expressions on the figures are really well done, especially the wounded man being treated by the medics and the soldier running forward.

I am almost done with the diorama. These are some photos showing the figures once they were secured in their final positions.

January 3, 2024

D-Day Diorama Project Planning Meeting

A sample of Kent Rocco's D-Day artwork

Mark Fastoso and I visited Keith Rocco at his home and studio in the Shenandoah Valley to continuing planning for the D-Day Diorama Project. (I mentioned this project in an earlier post here.)   

Rough cardboard mock-up of the first diorama 

Keith had assembled a very rough mockup of what he planned for the first iteration of the diorama.  I brought some of my 1/100th scale figures, plus a new 1/100th scale model of a LCVP that I printed to use in the mockup. With those we were able to finalize the basic design of the diorama. Keith will send me a drawing showing the exact terrain features that will be included so I can start building it as a fine scale model.

  Keith has recently completed two large murals depicting the 1st Infantry Division on D-Day for the First Infantry Museum in Cantigny, IL. He wishes to continue working with this theme in a diorama format. Keith's vision is to build a series of dioramas depicting the action on Omaha Beach on D-Day to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of D-Day this coming June. He plans to make them a traveling exhibit that he can take to various locales to display along with his artwork. 

The first diorama section will focus on the 1st Infantry Division on the east end of the beach near Colleville-sur-Mer. This was the area where some of heaviest fighting took place.    Eventually there will be 3 more dioramas depicting other areas of Omaha beach. The dioramas will feature 1/100th scale figures in the foreground and will reduce in scale as one approaches the dunes and cliff.  Keith plans to paint a backdrop for each diorama with the correct geographic features.  I will be building the diorama bases and the terrain. Mark will be producing video segments that visitors can watch on their phones using QR codes. The videos will help tell the story of what is going on in each diorama.  We also have Michael Akkerman advising us on details. He is an expert on the D-Day landings. 

It should be de a first class exhibit.  


This is where you can help contribute to the project. To build this and the subsequent dioramas will require a significant number of 15mm scale US figures in the D-Day uniforms.  We are looking for people that have painted or unpainted 15mm US figures and vehicles appropriate to this battle and would be willing to contribute to the project. The figures should be US soldiers in D-Day appropriate uniforms. Sherman tanks with deep water fording kits, landing craft including LCVP, LCA and others.  We also need figures in unusual poses such as soldiers wading with weapons overhead, prone, and wounded. We will be doing conversions on some figures to match the scenes.   If you wish to contribute to the project please send an email to me at bkempins@yahoo.com

All contributors will be acknowledged. This is a unique opportunity to contribute to fascinating project.

A French cavalryman that Keith
 is almost finished painting 
PS. I also had a chance to visit Keith's art studio. Wow, it is amazing. 

Keith and Mark by one of Keith's latest work.

Keith's studio would rival many museums with original uniforms and artwork

Test photo

Test shot with trees added in Photoshop

Backdrop trees in progress
I continued work on the scenery and backdrops at Mueller's Creek. I suspect it will need about 30 more trees to capture the effect I want. In the meantime, I took a test shot with a train on the trestle. Then I used PS to add some trees to get a feel for the scene.  This photo angle is the main reason I added about 4 inches to the foreground scenery.

Wet scenery - ground leaves and twigs. Looks like a
mess now but will be OK when dried
This has potential to be a very nice scene. It will greet viewers as the come down the stairs into the layout area.

The top of the hill might be a candidate for an HO or N scale farm house and barn.


January 1, 2024

Making some progress on scenery

The scene is starting to come together. The next step it to make a bunch of trees, which can be somewhat tedious. But worth it when they are done.