Gettysburg Diorama and History Center

James N.

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The Confederate assault rages on Little Round Top.

I've always been a sucker for things like this, so when I spied the Gettysburg Diorama and History Center on Steinwher Avenue ( the Emmitsburg Road to the knowledgeable here ) in Gettysburg while on my trip there last month I simply had to stop. One of my very favorite attractions on my early trips back in the 1960's was the famous/infamous Confederama at Chattanooga which we have discussed here fairly recently; and a similar knock-off of it at Murfreesboro during the Centennial which depicted the Battle of Stones River. I remember another earlier one here at Gettysburg as well called the Dobbin House Diorama, but though its larger 54mm scale figures jammed into that much smaller space was delightful to a kid like me, it was not as effective in portraying the battle.

A similar venture was "the famous Electric Map" a long-time feature of the so-called Gettysburg National Museum, which the NPS continued to operate as part of that museum after they acquired it back around 1980 but eventually did away with for the opening of the current and PC non-NPS Visitor Center. The old Electric Map was less a true diorama, however, than it was a simple flat road map with electric Christmas tree bulbs marking the positions and movement of divisions, pretty low-tech in this age of fiber optics.

This large diorama is pretty low-tech too - and not a thing wrong with that! Unlike its predecessors named above, it's in HO scale, using a variety of commercial and scratch-built structures and model railroad scenery. I was at first dismayed to see the "armies' were nothing but cheap plastic soldiers made by the British Airfix company, originally sold in boxes of 48 for $1; but decided on further examination that the little fellows were admirably ( and reasonably ) suited to the purpose! The blurb in the travel brochure proclaims it to be ...Carefully researched and meticulously assembled, the diorama contains over 20,000 hand-painted soldiers, horses, cannons, and buildings.

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Above and below, two views of the Lutheran Seminary on the first day of the battle.

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The fight for Devil's Den above, and Little Round Top below.

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The huge model features an approximately half-hour narration and lighting effects that highlight various parts of the battlefield, and which looked especially impressive in "night" views with the overhead lights subdued and interiors of the buildings lighted and "campfires" outside them. Below, the field of Pickett's Charge.

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For some unknown reason, one corner of the small exhibits in the History Center included this life-size manikin of My Hero and His, Dan Sickles!

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AndyHall

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Wonderful photos, as always!
This large diorama is pretty low-tech too - and not a thing wrong with that! Unlike its predecessors named above, it's in HO scale, using a variety of commercial and scratch-built structures and model railroad scenery. I was at first dismayed to see the "armies' were nothing but cheap plastic soldiers made by the British Airfix company, originally sold in boxes of 48 for $1; but decided on further examination that the little fellows were admirably (and reasonably ) suited to the purpose!
I remember reading a model-building magazine article about creating this diorama long, long ago; using the Airfix figures was the only practical way then to get the many thousands of figures required at a manageable cost. (Which, I believe, also drove the decision to use HO scale, which is close as dammit to the scale of the figures.)

There are lots more options for CW figures now in that scale, but not (30?) years ago.
 

James N.

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Wonderful photos, as always!


I remember reading a model-building magazine article about creating this diorama long, long ago; using the Airfix figures was the only practical way then to get the many thousands of figures required at a manageable cost. (Which, I believe, also drove the decision to use HO scale, which is close as dammit to the scale of the figures.)

There are lots more options for CW figures now in that scale, but not (30?) years ago.
My old friend I was traveling with is a dedicated table-top wargamer and I believe uses some figures smaller than this ( N gauge? ) for his "battles." I didn't know just how old this diorama was, though I was told it no longer belongs to its builder - I only knew I'd never seen it before. The brochure describes it as being "Adjacent to the American Civil War Wax Museum" which I have seen, though that particular attraction's now defunct.
 

AndyHall

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The wargamer likely uses 15mm figures, a bit over a half-inch tall, which is about as small as they can make them that still actually look like something. Those would be about 2/3 the size of the Airfix figs.
 

James N.

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These are 10mm/N Scale miniatures.
Thank you, Mark, and welcome to the forums! I like your avatar too - I once painted a 54mm Jeb Stuart by the old and now long-defunct Bussler Miniatures in Wollaston, Mass.; what maker and scale is yours?
 
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Thank you, Mark, and welcome to the forums! I like your avatar too - I once painted a 54mm Jeb Stuart by the old and now long-defunct Bussler Miniatures in Wollaston, Mass.; what makeer and scale is yours?
Thank you James. My avatar is a picture of a Perry Brothers 28mm General Longstreet miniature that I recently completed.

I do believe I have found my long lost tribe here at CWT.
 

James N.

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Thank you James. My avatar is a picture of a Perry Brothers 28mm General Longstreet miniature that I recently completed.

I do believe I have found my long lost tribe here at CWT.
My mistake - your Longstreet looks bigger than that in the photo; and he looks a bit too active to be Longstreet, not to mention the redness of his beard! I fully realize these aren't toys - at least not in the conventional sense - but here's an old thread you might enjoy anyway:

http://civilwartalk.com/threads/toy-soldiers.80913/#post-594971
 

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