Sunday, September 21, 2014

Neu-Moschi German Boma: First Buildings

I've started working on my government administrative offices/boma for German East Africa, and I now have two buildings ready:
Administrative Offices/ Officers' Quarters
Askari Barracks
While searching for old photos of Neu-Moschi (Moshi), I came across a fantastic Flickr account belonging to Mih Peh (Michael Pesek), which is jam packed with images of Germany's colonial territories.  Among those were two images of the German boma:
Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr
The boma was rather large; in fact, much larger than I expected and bigger than I could hope to fit on my table. As such, my plan is to build a scaled down boma.  I  decided to pass on the Germanic-style back end and instead focus on the lone building seen on the left side of the first picture, along with a single barrack.  I may add in a few small outbuildings once I get some walls put together and figure out how much space I actually have.

 As with my previous hotel, the building core will be a Middle East townhouse from Najewitz Modellbau. For this project, I'm going to rotate the building 180 degrees and use the single-door back as the main entrance. Since I've previously discussed the Najewitz kits, I'm not going to go into detail on its construction in this posting.

The addition to this building is a two-story veranda and a metal roof. Since the single-story veranda on the hotel had issues with fragility, I needed to make this taller one much tougher if it was going to hold together during use. I made two design choices to help with this: the posts on the ground level would be a heavier, masonry style; the veranda would share a roof with the main building instead of having it's own (this would also make it easier to place figures on the upper level).

 For the lower posts, I started with 1/4" x 1/4" basswood strips from Mt. Albert Scale Lumber, obtained at the local train shop. In an attempt to get them all about the same height, I clamped several strips together for the final cut, then used a file to render the ends flat.

To give them a bit of texture, the posts were coated with Liquitex ceramic stucco finish and allowed to dry overnight. For the two posts that would be up against the building, only three sides were coated, so as to allow a tighter fit.

After drying, the posts were run across some medium grit sandpaper to smooth out some of the really rough spots and have them better match the building texture.

Both floors were created using 1.5mm thick art board.  For the ground floor, I used the edge of the building as a template to get a tight fit.  I didn't worry about this as much for the upper deck, as I was going to add boards to the floor that would cover any gaps. The first four posts were glued to the upper deck, and I used some Lego blocks to hold them in position as they dried. My boys were adamant that I not get glue on their Legos, so they were coated with a layer of plastic tape before use.

After drying, the deck was flipped over and the bottoms of the posts glued to the ground layer.  I also added the internal posts as well, with their positions determined by where I would need to add the posts for the second level.  There would be one upper post that would be right above the front door, but I decided not to add a post to the lower level to make it easier to move figures in and out.

Before adding the upper railing, I painted the lower section, including a bit of brown to the card on top.  Though I am adding wood slats, I didn't want bits of white card showing through that I wouldn't be able to easily paint.

The railings are plastic O Scale items produced by Grandt Line (Item 3505).  The project required two packets for the veranda. There is an actual front and back to the railings, so you want to make sure you have the correct side facing outwards during your build. Since sturdiness is needed on this project, I trimmed down the overhang on each end of the railing so that I could also glue the slats up against the posts. Even though the railings are supposed to be 1:48 scale, they were a bit short on their own when placed next to my figures. Rather than raise the railings up and leave a gap underneath, which would weaken the structure, I decided to insert an additional strip of plastic rod under them.   This is the same materiel as the posts, which is Evergreen Scale Models 2.5mm x 2.5mm strips (Item 175). The railing are about the same thickness, so they are a really good match together. For the posts, I cut them approximately 1.5mm short of the roof height, so that the roof would not actually rest on them. This was to prevent any downward pressure that might cause the posts to bend and potentially snap out of place.

I built the railings in sections: two for the sides, and a long series for the front, using a straight edge to keep everything even and superglue for the plastic parts.

The railings were attached to the card floor using wood glue. I added a side section first, using the building to hold it in the correct position.  Then came the front (with some additional superglue for the plastic on plastic connection), and finally the remaining side. After drying, planking cut from a basswood sheet was added. Everything was painted dark brown, then dry brushed with leather brown and earth brown.

For the hotel build, I heard from a few people who mentioned they were a bit intimidated about taking on the roof construction  for their own scratch builds. As such, I'm going to provided a much more detailed guide on how this roof is built.  First up, is another bit of art card cut just a bit bigger that the building.  The reason for this is to allow the plastic strips seen earlier to be glued around the edges to hold the roof in place, and also provide a small gap for sections of the building that aren't perfectly square.  Additionally, this edge will also hide the gaps between the roof and the veranda posts. As a final bit of security to prevent the roof being pushed back against the veranda posts, I used some scrap plastic strip to create a groove to lock the roof onto the back wall.

The roof panel fitted to the building; no gaps visible above the posts.

Now the main roof construction starts. Again this is done using art card and wood glue.  You may wonder why I am using paper card instead of plastic. The reason is it's easier to cut and trim paper of equivalent thickness, with a final product that is still fairly sturdy. I draw out where all the roof supports will go and start with the center support. This is again held up with Lego blocks.  Once it is dry, I measure the length needed for each of the supports for the next phase, noting the lengths on the board. This is done to accommodate the thickness of the main support and any spots where I was off in my alignment.

Side supports go in, again using the Lego blocks to hold positions while the glue dries.

The angled supports are the trickiest to cut, as the thickness of the card will prevent them from sitting completely flush in the corners.  Most likely you'll need to knock of a millimeter or two off the measured length to prevent any overhang. The same holds true for the small side supports that come off of them.

 The plastic sheets with the corrugated metal pattern are relatively thin and floppy, so I like to build a card surface underneath for them to be glued down on. I use the underlying supports as a cut guide, making sure not to completely cover the angled supports as I glue down the first two card surfaces. I also do not use glue on the sides at this point, as I want a smooth surface for the remaining two sides to sit on. When the last two pieces are added, I'll run wood glue down the seams to lock all four pieces together.

Once the card has dried in place, The plastic sheets are added to the top, again using wood glue.  I am using Evergreen sheets (Item 4530), and two packets are needed to cover this roof.  The sheets are not wide enough to cover each panel, so care will need to be take to make sure the seems are lined up properly between pieces so as not to disrupt the pattern.

After the plastic sheets have dried, I use strips of manila folder that have been scored down the middle to cover the roof seams. I use strips longer than necessary, then trim them back with hobby scissors after the glue has dried.

 Next up is painting the roof.  I like a grungy, rusty look to mine, with a pattern to make it look like the roof is made of individual sheets. After a coat of grey enamel primer, first dry brush the roof with some natural steel. After letting it dry, I tape off rows of panels using hobby masking tape.  In this case, I will have three rows on the wide sides, and two on the small. Due to the thickness of the tape, I mark out alternating rows.  Here I've added some diluted dark grey craft paint, followed by diluted saddle brown.

Next I retape  to paint the rows I skipped.  Make sure you let the initial rows dry fairly well so you don't pull off the paint you just put down.

After the tape comes off, I add some more diluted grey and brown paint to areas previously covered by tape.
With this dry, I dry brush with light grey, followed by rust highlights of red leather and orange brown.  This is then sprayed down with flat sealant.

The Najewitz building comes with one wall that has no windows, which would put the occupants at a serious disadvantage in a firefight, so I decided to use some free Turkish balconies that were generously included in my order. These are laser cut fiberboard, and I painted them the same as the other wooden elements on the building.  As I didn't want the white wall to be obvious though the slats, I glued some black paper to the back of each balcony before using wood glue to attach them to the building.

An here is the finished product. As you can see there are actually no doors leading out to the upper balcony.  I considered building some that could overlay a window, but I though the final product would look rather wonky and decided against it.  My hope is nobody will really notice that issue when it's on the table.

For the askari barracks, I decided to use the Rorke's Drift hospital. This is produced by 4Ground, but I bought it through Warlord as they will let you buy individual buildings instead of the full set. In this case, I decided to make no modifications to the kit.  Most likely the boma building would have had a metal roof as well, but I like the variety a thatched roof  brings to the gaming table and I think it looks better if I want to use it as a stand alone farm.

The kit is very well designed, and the fit is so snug you almost don't need glue for some of the connections. It comes unpainted, but mine included the teddy bear fur thatch roof.  I know many people like to use diluted  glue and paint on their fur roofs, but I decided to leave mine as it rather than risk messing it up.

The kit includes a detailed interior and a removable attic space.  There is a little give in the attic floor position, so sometimes it can be difficult to get the roof to fit properly with the upper floor in place. The kit did not include any doors, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it looks like doors can be ordered  separately.   That minor annoyance aside, it's a great kit and I recommend it.

To finish out my boma, I'll need to build some walls to enclose the compound, but haven't decided yet on if I want to make them from scratch or buy some MDF walls from one of the many vendors out there. I'll put some thought into in and come back with an update once everything is done.


  1. Wonderful work! The rusty metal roof looks very realistic.

  2. Awesome! Thanks for the how to as it's stunning to see how much work you put into it.

  3. These are wonderful creations. You have inspired me to consider something similar for German Southwest Africa, my particular area of interest. The Schutztruppe barracks in Omaruru and a German farmhouse would seem to be good starting points. Well done!

  4. Thanks Everyone! Glad to hear these projects are giving other people ideas for their tables. Hopefully if enough people start scratch buildings African buildings, it will get the manufacturers to realize there is a market for this stuff and we'll have more options.

  5. Outstanding work, inspired and so realistic!!