by: Tom Cromwell [ ]
In his book 2 degrees West, Nicholas Crane buys an umbrella and finds within a poem:
“The rain it falleth on the Just
And on the Unjust fella.
But mostly on the Just, because
The Unjust has the Just’s umbrella!”
Bronco has given the 1:35 scale world a handy model of this ubiquitous device along with two types of luggage to help spice up most dioramas that are set between the late 1800s and late 1900s.
Inside a 6” box I found two small poly bags holding three sprues – two for the luggage and one for the brollies – and a small photo-etched brass fret. There are 13 plastic parts moulded in tan, but oddly the brollies are a slightly different colour to the luggage. Since the two identical luggage sprues are both marked “Ba” and the umbrellas are marked “F” I wonder if they came from other kits and are just being re-brigaded here? The parts make up two identical hard-sided suitcases, two identical attaché cases, a closed umbrella and an open one.
The moulding is sharp, with no flash. Some of the attachment points are a challenge to deal with while avoiding damage to the parts.
Modern steel-framed umbrellas have been with us since the mid-1800s, and by the start of the 20th century they were to be found all over the world. They took a beating after WW2 when collapsible telescopic models were introduced, but the good old walking-stick brolly is still with us whenever it rains. The kit has a one-piece model of a folded-up umbrella, but to my mind the cloth is too “straight”. Sure, it could be in a slip-cover, but I’d have preferred to see a bit more contouring to it. The open brolly is made up of an amazingly thin and detailed casting into which the PE struts are fitted before the plastic handle gets inserted. It would have been better if the PE was stainless (so it resembled chrome), and I’m not sure how long the shaft will survive before I need to replace it with steel rod. (I found it all a bit top-heavy when attaching it to the figure.) There is a very delicate point on top of the brolly that really brings it to life!
I think the plastic shaft may represent wood, since even today the high-end of the market uses wooden sticks to add strength. Metal shafts are cheaper to make, so are more common even in a WW2 timeframe. Be aware of the difficulties the PE struts can cause – they are very soft and tend to bend just by looking at them. I found it best to slip the PE onto the shaft and superglue it before cementing the shaft in place. Only then could I carefully bend down each strut until it touched the canopy where it got superglued. The box art shows a more complicated strut arrangement than we actually get.
The suitcases are hard-siders meant to have bound edges and a leather body. Inside, there should be a cloth lining with pockets on both lid and main body. While typical of the 1930s, they certainly survived in use into the 1980s – in the 1980s I wore out more than one charity-shop bargain in my travels! Since the lids are separate it is possible to pose them open, but aside from the missing lining there is a problem with the latches. The photo-etched latch parts contain both the latch (from the lid) and the lock plate (from the body), which is fine if the case is closed but not if it is open. However, these are truly tiny, so it probably isn’t worth worrying about.
Colours for the suitcases could be very bright – remember the world didn’t get drab until the war started. The raised edges acted as bumpers, so were usually a darker colour like cured leather or rubber.
The attaché cases come as two halves, but the fit is a bit poor and I had to file the joint on all sides. The box art shows a nice raised edge to the flap, but unless you like whittling you won’t get that particular detail. Given that these cases worked by a flap covering an open body they could (and did) expand or even distort depending on contents, but the kit parts are a typical “display model” shape. In particular, the front pockets would often bulge. Ambitious modellers could alter them with a bit of sculpting…
Luggage is always welcome, since civilian objects give a nice contrast to the usual GI stuff. The suitcases may be a bit scale-specific, but the attaché cases could represent bigger bags in 1:48, while the brollies could become café-table awnings with a little surgery to remove the curved handles. All of them would work in 1:32 or 54mm scale.
The one thing that sticks in my mind is that the mouldings seem a bit dated design-wise. The iffy fit of the attaché cases is very 1970s, while the smooth suitcase interior isn’t much better.
My only real gripe is the cost – there seems to be a lot of empty box for what the going rate for this set is. If they doubled the contents it would better justify the price.
This set adds some much-needed life to 1:35 dioramas, even though it is a bit pricey. The open umbrella will certainly become a feature on contest tables for the foreseeable future!