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1/700 scale Tamiya Gato
"Tipping Over the Boat"

by Val “Don’t touch that lever” Bueno


"Tipping Over the Boat"

Tom's Modelworks' 1/700 scale Gato detail set is available online from Squadron




Why is it that something interesting catches your eye and you only ever get less time than necessary to get it accomplished?

When Submarine Night was announced at the January meeting, I knew I wanted to do a diorama of a submarine being launched sideways off of the drydock. The photos I have seen show a great big splash which would be an absolute nightmare to model. Being the big chicken that I am, I decided to model the submarine moments before contact with the water. That way I can show the sub at a precarious angle, the dockyard, the spectators and the dignitaries. Buk buk buk bukaaack!





Dock, Dock, Goose

For the base of the diorama, I used a picture frame I picked up at the local Costco, three for $9. These have a glass cover that I left in place and a nice dark finish. I cut a piece of 0.040 sheet plastic to cover the top of the picture opening. For the dock section of the diorama, I cut two pieces of plastic at an angle across the base. These were glued together and the edges cleaned up with CA filler and sandpaper. I picked up a 1/700 scale factory set from the Armchair Adventurer, assembled 1-1/2 buildings and added these to the base parallel to the edge of the dock. Two pairs of groves were scribed into the base parallel to the edge of the dock, one all the way across and one leading into on of the factory doors. These are meant to represent railroad rails.

The steel beams that the submarine rests on were cobbled together from strip plastic to mimic what I saw in photos off of the internet. I didn’t strive for total accuracy here; I just wanted to get the impression of the launching system. Flatbed trucks, covered trucks and miscellaneous jeeps were glued all over the dock. These came from Tamiya’s Ohsumi kit and Skywave’s Modern vehicle set. I didn’t have any WWII trucks on hand, so I made do with what I had. You can’t really tell it’s a Humvee down there unless you really look for it.



The entire base was blasted with Tamiya Neutral Gray from a spray can. This became the color of the concrete dock. The river was painted wet on wet with Polly S Oliver Drab, USMC Olive Drab and Desert Yellow. If you ever take a really good look at a river, it is never blue in color. The water is usually clear and the color of the bottom of the river comes through. When I say wet on wet, I mean I had the three bottles of paint open at the same time and I would dip the wet paint brush into the next color after applying the previous color to the surface and blending the two wet colors together. Figure painters use this technique to blend shadows and highlights on figure uniforms.

The factory walls were painted Dark Sea Blue, the roofs Metallizer Magnesium and the vehicles in various shades of Olive Drab, black and yellow. A sludge wash was applied to everything deepen the shadows in the corners of everything and to add some stains to the concrete in front of the factory. After this had dried, I lightly drybrushed everything with white oil paint. MIG European dust and Rust weathering pastels were dropped and smeared here and there on the base to add a dust bowl look to everything.

Aoooooooogah! Dive! Dive! Dive!

While things were bumping along on the base, construction of the submarine followed apace.

I had the Tamiya Gato Class Submarine kit in my un-built stash along with the Tom’s Modelwork’s Photo Etched set. This kit comes with two complete Gato class subs and IJN sub chaser. I had already built one Gato out of the box just for the sheer fun of it. Now I had a chance to detail the other one with the PE set, except that the submarines were essentially launched unfinished! Thus a lot of the really neat details were not used. I did use the PE propeller guard, the two bar rails, lookout platforms and the propellers. The rest of the PE parts weren’t needed for this diorama. One thing I wished was on the PE set, but wasn’t, is a set of hull strakes.


I spent some time flipping through my Squadron US Subs in Action only to find what I was looking for on the back cover, a colorful submarine camouflage. The boat was painted with Polly S Red Oxide for the Hull red, Scale Black for the deck and rear hull, Intermediate Blue for the blue section and Dark Gull Gray for the rest. A dark sludge wash to deepen the shadows in the limber holes and a drybrush of white oil paint to highlight the texture of the deck planks completed painting of the sub.

Oh the Humanity!

I wanted to add as many figures as I could to this diorama. I had picked up the pre-painted 1/700 scale figure sets from Eduard a few months ago in preparation of a 1/700 scale diorama of the USS Arizona with the entire crew complement on deck for a crew photo, but I sacrificed one fret of 400 figures to this project. I’ll do that diorama someday, as soon as Tamiya releases a kit of the Arizona in 1/700 scale…….

The figures are pre-painted in various colors, blue dungarees, dress whites and khaki uniforms. I cut and trimmed all the figures at one time and dropped them all into a matchbox. I then used a sharpened eyeglass screwdriver to make dents in the plastic base. The feet of the figures were glued into these dents.



I randomly picked figure up out of the matchbox, dipped their feet into a puddle of CA glue and attached them to the diorama base. It took me three hours to do 100 figures. I did create a grid of all white figures to represent the band playing at the launch.

Picture Perfect

Ship models are the hardest things in the world to photograph. I used an older digital camera, a circa 2001 Olympus 2100UZ. This is a 2 megapixel that can get within 2 inches of the model. With closeup filters attached to the end, I was able to get within 1 inch of the model. So close, all the dust is visible! Acck!



I had a Godzilla gashapon figure so I had to pose him near the diorama for at least one or two shots.



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2006 by Valentin E. Bueno
Page Created 16 May, 2006
Last Updated 15 May, 2006

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