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MINIATURE WORLD

Picture 1: Fairmont Hotel, Victoria, BC, home of Miniature World
Picture 1: Fairmont Hotel, Victoria, BC, home of Miniature World

A few years ago, my good friend Verne Johnson was kind enough to send me some photos of a visit he had made to Miniature World in Victoria, British Colombia. I was very impressed with the images of the models and figures he sent me. While spending a few weeks in Seattle last summer it seemed like a good opportunity to make a side trip to Victoria and see them “in the flesh”. I am very pleased to say it was worth the trip, as I hope you will agree after reading this report.

Based in the famous Fairmont Express Hotel on the waterfront in Victoria, Miniature World is a must see for anyone interested in military and other figures.

The Battle of Saratoga, October 6th, 1777
The Battle of Saratoga, October 6th, 1777

The main points of interest are the many very large dioramas, depicting human conflict and ambition over many centuries.

The exhibition opens with scenes from Star Wars or something similar. Unfortunately, this was not working as intended during my visit. Moving swiftly on, my disappointment was soon forgotten as my eyes feasted on a wonderful diorama focussing on the War of Independence, Battle of Saratoga, using Britains Swoppets and a few other figures (1/32 scale). This diorama depicts the Americans confronting the British across a sunken road, with artillery and infantry engaging at point blank range. You can almost smell the gun smoke!

Battle of Saratoga, detail - the British
Battle of Saratoga, detail – the British
Sopwith Camels and other aircraft
Sopwith Camels and other aircraft
Logistical support, including AA gun
Logistical support, including AA gun
30 Years War, assaulting the walls
30 Years War, assaulting the walls
Battle of Saratoga, detail - the Americans
Battle of Saratoga, detail – the Americans
Maintenance going on in the hangers.
Maintenance going on in the hangers.
News of Wellington’s victory arrives in London
News of Wellington’s victory arrives in London
30 Years War, bringing up the artillery
30 Years War, bringing up the artillery

The First World War display focusses on the rise of air power rather than the stalemate in the trenches. This diorama depicts a WWI British airfield in 1/72 scale. A full squadron of Sopwith Camels, together with other aircraft, is shown with supporting logistics, and truck mounted AA guns to protect the airfield, while infantry and artillery march past the airfield towards the front.

The Napoleonic wars are not represented directly. Instead, we are treated to a scene in Chelsea, London, 1815 as reports of the victory of the Allies at Waterloo arrives. This is in 1/32 scale, focussing mainly upon civilian rather than military figures.

The 30 Years Wars which devastated many parts of Europe in the 17th Century is represented by a wonderful diorama in 20-30mm scale depicting the siege and assault of a fortified town.

The US Civil War is also represented with a battle scene showing Union and Confederate forces scrapping over a river crossing. Based on Britains 1/32 scale Swoppets this scene shows infantry, cavalry and artillery all engaged in a pitch battle.

Detail, raising the drawbridge just in time!
Detail, raising the drawbridge just in time!
Detail, Confederate cavalry charge
Detail, Confederate cavalry charge
Trappers and fur traders meet “the locals”
Trappers and fur traders meet “the locals”
US Civil War, the Battle of Bull Run, 1861
US Civil War, the Battle of Bull Run, 1861
Britains hollowcast on parade, including Fort Henry Guards
Britains hollowcast on parade, including Fort Henry Guards
Arrival of early immigrants, disembarking from ships and about to get on board the train travelling “coast to coast”
Arrival of early immigrants, disembarking from ships and about to get on board the train travelling “coast to coast”

Britains Hollowcast toy soldiers are also on display with a small selection of Canadian and other troops.

Early Canadian history is illustrated by scenes of trappers and fur traders, together with military figures, engaging with the indigenous population. This is in 1/32 scale, with excellent models of river scenes, including early log houses, canoes, and totem poles.

The role of the railways in the development of Canada is illustrated by a huge diorama stretching many yards. This shows how the train helped to open up the huge areas of the continent to European settlers. This diorama, like the circus one described below, adds interest by switching between night and day scenes in a very imaginative and clever fashion. This one is in 1/76 scale.

World War II is of course not forgotten with two more dioramas. The first depicts Canadians invading Germany following D-day. Infantry, supported by tanks, make their way through a shattered urban landscape, while German troops carry out a rearguard action, again supported by various AFVs in 1/35 scale.

“Driving the last spike”, completing the transcontinental railroad
“Driving the last spike”, completing the transcontinental railroad
The invasion of Germany, a “Firefly” Sherman supports the infantry advance
The invasion of Germany, a “Firefly” Sherman supports the infantry advance
Battle of Britain, aerial dogfight
Battle of Britain, aerial dogfight
Putting down the Riel Rebellion, the railway brings troops to suppress the rebels
Putting down the Riel Rebellion, the railway brings troops to suppress the rebels
More Shermans cross a canal bridge
More Shermans cross a canal bridge
European castles, Pierrefonds, France
European castles, Pierrefonds, France

A very different diorama brings the Battle of Britain to life, with an aerial scrap between British Spitfire and Hurricane fighters and German Heinkel bombers, with their Messerschmit escorts. The viewer is right in the middle of the fight, with a mixture of 1/32 and 1/72 scale aircraft being used to provide a sense of perspective.

Earlier history is also not forgotten, with a large diorama showing lots of European Castles in minuscule Z gauge scale. However, this is a modern scene, with a diesel-electric locomotive drawing a passenger train carrying tourists through a mountainous landscape that includes quite accurate models of many famous castles from all over the continent.

The “Opening up of the West” is also covered by a large diorama in 1/32 scale. This is in many respects a more stereotypical and cliched vision of “Cowboys and Indians”, with a stagecoach being attacked, a small log fort providing a safe refuge, “pioneers” making their way westward, etc., However, there are a few figures depicting the indigenous people in more peaceful poses.

More castles, reset into new river and mountain landscapes
More castles, reset into new river and mountain landscapes
The “Wild West” - Pioneers tackling a river
The “Wild West” – Pioneers tackling a river
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Native Americans moving camp
Native Americans moving camp
1930s vintage car display
1930s vintage car display
A “bird’s eye” view
A “bird’s eye” view

The century of the automobile is celebrated by a diorama focussing on cars and other vehicles from the 1930s.

This more modern theme is complemented by various street scenes from London in the latter half of the 20th century. This very detailed model in 1/76 scale provides lots of scenes focussing on architecture and transport, but inevitably my eye was taken by the one focussing on the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

Probably not of such great interest to most of our readers is the extensive series of dollhouses and related items that are also a feature of Miniature World. However, “Home Sweet Home” with its charming portrayal of a Western homecoming shows the quality of the modelling. This also applies to some of the other fantasy and fairy tale scenes, such as Gulliver’s travels, which are very well done and ensure the exhibition appeals to all tastes. The two final sets of dioramas as the visit comes to a close are also worthy of close attention. The first series focuses on the era of the circus, focussing on the heyday of these magnificent events.

“Home sweet home”
“Home sweet home”
Parading through town to advertise the show
Parading through town to advertise the show
A key feature of many shows - Buffalo’s Bill’s Wild West Show
A key feature of many shows – Buffalo’s Bill’s Wild West Show
Unloading the elephants from railroad cars
Unloading the elephants from railroad cars
Queuing up to enter the “Big Top”
Queuing up to enter the “Big Top”
Arthur withdraws Excalibur from the stone, while in the foreground
archers practice
Medieval jousting scene
Medieval jousting scene
Magnificent medieval castle with feudal village scenes in the foreground
Magnificent medieval castle with feudal village scenes in the foreground
Medieval battle - foot knights engage in a life and death struggle!
Medieval battle – foot knights engage in a life and death struggle!
Close up of the castle, with another joust taking place within its walls!
Close up of the castle, with another joust taking place within its walls!
Mounted knights about to join the fray
Mounted knights about to join the fray

Before the advent of TV and cinema, they were probably the prime source of entertainment for the masses for almost a century. The various dioramas in 1/76 scale depict: the preparation in winter camps; the excitement of the circus coming to town (transported over hundreds of miles via the railroad); grand parades through large cities; and of course setting up and opening their doors to thousands of visitors for the
spectacular shows.

Finally, we come to Camelot. This is centered around the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. But this has provided a good excuse to focus on the medieval period. The various dioramas include a magnificent castle in 1/76 scale, plus in 1/32 scale scenes of archers practicing at the butts, a joust, and a full battle – War of the Roses, “Bosworth” style. The pictures speak for themselves.

Illustration of Buckingham Palace

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