Sunday 3 September 2023

Lorraine Tavern and Factory

Hello again! Here's the tavern and industrial building I made as part of the ongoing Lorraine 1870 project. The scratch-built tavern is based on the one in a well-known painting by De Neuville, for which see below. The artist showed one corner of this inn/ tavern/ pub in great detail, though no clue is available for the rest of the building. The kit-bashed factory on the other hand is a generic thing, which is very typical of nineteenth-century industrial buildings, but not specific to Lorraine, or even France necessarily. More details in the picture captions.

I am now all done with the buildings part of my Lorraine project and am busy making simple bases to group things on. I'll make a few sections of wall and fence, and perhaps some small trees to complete the villages. Then I will be very glad to turn my hand to painting some nice figures (Perry plastic French), because I've been a bit too long on this project. 

Despite some long-winded processes on terrain, rules and figures, my enthusiasm for this period has received a much-needed boost recently in the form of a tremendous series of books, "The Destruction of the Imperial Army" by my pal Grenville Bird, published by Helion. Grenville has spent years putting together official accounts and personal narratives into a clear, even-handed and fascinating history, focussing on the battles of the "Imperial Phase" of the war. It's really very good indeed, despite some technical errors and overcrowded maps. I've been pleased to plug this book a little by leaving a review on Helion's blog, the page and various Facebook groups. If you wanted to read what happened in the battles of the FPW, this is the place.

If you know the painting, I am hoping this will already be ringing some bells with you: the railed stairway, the cross of Lorraine tavern sign and the crumbling render. I had to use educated guesswork as to the parts of the building which aren't in the painting. A unique feature is that the basement level of the walls, and some of the window frames, are painted grey, but this paint has faded and peeled off to show the render, which in itself is crumbing. I think I've got the effect, more or less.

The image suggest some posters and notices pasted onto this wall, which adds a nice bit of colour and interest. I found advertisements and official notices from the French Second Empire period online, scaled them down, printed them off, pasted them on with thinned PVA and gave them a soft outline. Colourful posters and painted adverts became a notable feature of the French scene later on, but in 1870 "brands" hadn't really been invented, so it's signs for local entertainments ("grand velocipede race"!) plus imperial proclamations.  

The tavern is built with the local vernacular materials, but has a more symetrical layout, there being no need for agricultural spaces. A challenge with this model was to make the tavern sign and the iron railings resistant to the careless handling that a wargames model always gets. The sign is on quite a thick piece of styrene and hung on brass rod, which is very solidly rooted into the building. Hand painting that sign was the most frustrating piece of work I've done in a very long time! The curly parts  are from a plastic dolls house fence. I made the handrail uprights in styrene but every single one broke during the painting process. In the end I had to replace the them all with 1mm brass rod. This material is just about soft enough to be hammered flat at the ends and have holes carefully drilled through with a twist drill.

Here's what I ended up with for the rear of the building. A door into the cellar and windows which tie in with the layout of the building's front. 

And here's the original painting. It's called "Le Porteur de Depeches". The story it tells is that a French soldier has tried to sneak through the German lines at the siege of Metz in civilian clothes carrying messages. He's been caught and is being roughly searched in front of the hard-faced German staff taking refreshments outside the tavern. As a soldier captured in civilian clothes he can reliably expect to be shot. So the theme is the despatch-bearer's proud defiance. The cross emblem and title of the sign is allegorical: this is a calvary and the man is sacrificing his life, for France! 

I needed a factory-type building for an eventual refight of the Battle of Spicheren, fought in a quite  industrialised area of the Franco-German border. I remember reading something about the Stiring Wendel ironworks in a Donald Featherstone book back in the mid-1960's, and being intrigued by the paradox of soldiers in bright uniforms fighting over grimy factories. This structure started as a model railway kit by the firm of POLA.  

All the walls are extended downwards to give a credible door height,  using Wills styrene brick sheets. The brick pattern on them is significantly smaller than the kit, but carefully put together and painted the same it's not noticeable. I added doors at both ends of the building from my stock of resin parts. 

The roofing on the kit is mostly fish-scale tiles, which aren't the exact thing for Lorraine, but they were common in adjacent provinces and nicely sculpted, so I was happy to use them. The tiles on the little tower are the "stripey" kind, which is the most common right across France nowadays. They are known as "tuiles mechaniques" as they're factory-made. They'd just about started to appear in 1870 as it happens.

I did wonder if I'd "drowned" the carefully-painted brick- and tile-work in black washes, but it shows up okay, certainly under the bright photographic lights. I paint very dark "shadows" into any corners to add to the three-demensional impression.

And finally, Prussians of the 7th Grenadier Regiment storm past the factory to show the overall scale.