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3DVallley Forge from Silent Running

star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
edited August 2010 in Work in Progress #1
It seems I'm starting more projects than finishing anything these days. That's because people keep asking me to design/engineer models for them or create patterns for subjects that will be made into garage kits. That's perfectly OK with me, since I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing! :) Oh well, I'll get around to finishing my own stuff eventually. :lol:

I started drawings for the Valley Forge several years ago for a friend. Someone else has since requested help with this subject, so I'm now getting back to it and trying to finish them up. So far, I've managed to "decode" the complex geometry of the core structure or "spine." I'm building this structure in Rhino 3D.

I had already figured out the geometry of the central spine and made 2D drawings of the structure near the bow of the ship (where all the domes are attached). Since it's modular, once you figure one part out, a lot of it just repeats.

Yesterday, I started turning my original drawings into 3D patterns. I chose to work strictly from photos of the original, since I don't know this subject that well and so I have no idea how accurate any existing plans are. (Although I must say the ones drawn by the late Alan Everhart, Jr. sure look good!)

It was quite challenging to figure out the structure for this ship out in 2D. When I made the original plans, I had not yet made the leap to 3D tools. Building it in 3D definitely helps you figure out a lof of things which is why I now rely on 3D tools when designing or engineering a project.

Right now, I'm pretty satisfied that I figured out the basic geometry of the spine layout. Still, it's been a while since I did my original drawings, so I didn't recall exactly how I determined the scale that was chosen for them. So, to be sure it's done right, I went back to the drawing board.

Today, I made a detailed proportional analysis of the studio model based on the best side view images I could find. Using an estimated overall length of about 26 feet, I set out to determine the dimensions of the modular pieces/parts that make up the ship.

Based on published info, we know the acrylic domes were about 24 inches in diameter and the domes overall nearly 30 inches at their widest points. Using this and the info extrapolated from analyzing the photos, I believe a single "module" of the spine was a bit over 3 feet long. (I also recognized a bunch of large-scale tank parts used to detail the underside of the domes.)

This helped me determine the dims of the pipes and other parts. I'm going with the assumption they used standard IPS pipe. Based on my experience designing and building armatures, I've found that tubing comes in totally different sizes than pipe and tubing is not always as readily available. Tubing also seems to cost more, so it would make a lot of sense if they chose IPS pipe.

As with most of my projects these days, this is not being built as a "pretty" 3D model with textures and every detail added. It's meant to be a pattern for a physical model, and a reduced-scale replica at that -- assuming such a model can actually be built without grossly simplifying the structure. That's why some details such as the numerous bolt heads are omitted since they aren't really needed.

Images of my progress so far are attached. The coloration is to help distinguish the different parts since they all tend to get jumbled together in some of the views. This makes it look like the structure is built from Tinker Toys, or maybe similar to one of those molecule models made for a science class. :eek:

BTW, if anyone knows the dimensions of any of the parts that were used to build the studio model, please let me know. Also, while I'm at it, I'm still on the lookout for any clear, close-up images that show some of the little details in the various fittings and connectors that make up the spine. If you have any references that might help, please let me know. Thanks! :D

I'll try to keep this thread updated. For the latest info on this project, be sure to check out the thread over at my site:

Valley Forge -- WIP and reference help needed! -
Post edited by star-art on


  • nyrathnyrath0 Posts: 0Member
    What can I say? You wrote the book on this. Utterly stunning. I wish I had some dimensions for you.
  • LarsenLarsen171 Posts: 0Member
    Sweer project... I assume you've checked the dvd! I really can't remember much other than I think they mention something about the stucture being a copy of some pole!?!...

    Anyway... gonna keep an eye on this one... The Valley is one of the sweetest designs ever made... They even yoinked it for bsg:D
  • ClawhammerClawhammer0 Posts: 0Member
    Looks like a nice start!

    I got your book also, it's very handy! :)

    I'm looking forward how you are going to do the greebles on the domes etc. (in such a way that they can be fabricated afterwards... :p )
  • nyrathnyrath0 Posts: 0Member
    Clawhammer wrote: »
    I'm looking forward how you are going to do the greebles on the domes etc. (in such a way that they can be fabricated afterwards... :p )
    Well, obviously it is possible, since the original was fabricated. I wonder if any of the people who created the original miniature could be contacted for information?
  • BEMEUPBEMEUP171 Va BeachPosts: 0Member
    Unless they're hanging around here, they'll generally avoid being contacted.
    Brickhead tried to get a hold of Gerry Anderson and only got a canned reply saying he couldn't (or wouldn't) provide any information on his models.

    I almost did this instead of the Cygnus. Can't wait to see how you manage the structure. When I last looked at the refs, I had planned to count the span sections and apply the X number of spans to the hull areas to establish the proportions.

    Seemed to work with the Cygnus.

    btw nyrath, your site continues to amaze me! Keep it up there buddy!!
  • star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
    Thanks guys! :D I don't have to worry about the details at this point, just the overall shapes and proportions. That should make it easy to complete a decent model in short order since so much of this ship was modular.

    The detailing is a whole other phase. I'm leaving that to others for the moment. I found sufficient reference to recreate the domes in precise detail though. It appears they made three different master patterns for the underside and then cast two copies per dome. I see what appear to be large scale tank parts (Tamiya 1/16 or Bandai 1/24??) and Plastruct domes and tanks under there.

    The real problem is that wedge-shaped center section. Because one of the domes survived, we have decent photos of it today. But I have not seen very many pics of the center section that would be sufficient to figure out all the details on there. And its chockfull of detail! :eek:

    I also can't seem to get a clear look at the structure on the stern of the ship.

    About the DVD, yeah I need to get that as well. Funny thing is, I've never seen this movie! Well, I've never seen the whole thing. It was so slow, I only watched part of it. :lol:
  • LarsenLarsen171 Posts: 0Member
    star-art wrote: »
    About the DVD, yeah I need to get that as well. Funny thing is, I've never seen this movie! Well, I've never seen the whole thing. It was so slow, I only watched part of it. :lol:

    That IS funny... amazing that you dare start this thing without even having seen the movie:D

    Keep it up!
  • star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
    So far I've found adequate references on the domes and spine structure. What is really needed are images of the wedge-shaped mid-section and command tower. Does anyone reading this have the July 1972 American Cinematographer or Cinefex #8? If I could get 300 dpi scans of the images published in those mags, it would be a huge help. Or, if you have one of these and would be willing to part with it, please let me know.

    Thanks! :thumb:
  • star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
    OK, time for a major update. It took just one afternoon to build the geodesic dome structure from scratch, yet it took two full days to build the bottom structure of one dome. Surprisingly, this was actually the hardest part of the entire project so far! The structure underneath the domes is quite complicated -- and that's without any of the detailing!

    I made a serious attempt to build this area with rounded corners just like it is on the studio model, but I eventually gave up. I finally realized that, since the goal was to figure out the correct dimensions and structure using a CG replica that could be used to make patterns for an exact recreation, to do this I needed a model with sharp corners anyway. This would allow me to explode the model into all the various parts and make construction patterns from them. Plus, rounded edges would just get in the way of generating drawings from the finished model anyway.

    I'm sure the edges of this model could be properly rounded over if it was converted to a mesh. As it is, the version of Rhino I'm using just can't seem to handle the job. :(

    The bottom of each dome on the studio model was divided into six sections. One master base structure was built, probably from wood, and then styrene panels were vacuum formed over this male mold. This gives each section a distinctly "soft" appearance. They then created three different sections for each structure. Different details were applied to each section. I noted three different variations under each dome, with two copies of each version, yielding six wedge-shaped pieces per dome.

    I noticed the most prominent detail appears to be a PVC cap for a section of plastic plumbing pipe! I'll have to figure out what size they used. There are also a bunch of details from large-scale tank kits. I'll have to take some measurements to try and see what the actual scale might have been.
  • star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
    I'm building this CG model actual size to the original studio miniature. The dome is approx 25 inches across, slightly wider with the "skirt" surrounding it. I did this so I could figure out the actual dimensions of all the details. For example, the railing on the underside is Plastruct T-molding. I was able to recreate this exactly and use it as a measuring stick of sorts to determine the sizes of the other parts.

    The top surface of the dome is a 3/8 geodesic dome. The frequency chosen was 12 which seems to closely match the original. I realize the actual dome structure on the studio model was "cheated" for effect, but I wanted to build a real geodesic structure. Once this was done, I discovered the actual dome on the studio miniature was a bit taller than a "real" geodesic dome would have been, so I stretched it vertically until it looked right.
  • star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
    I had actually already built the dome connectors. This is what I am calling the tube-like structures that connect the domes to the main spine framework. I found it very tricky to work all this out using only photos as a guide. (In fact, everything you are seeing here was made completely from scratch using only photos. While I do have some blueprints and renders of another CG model available, I chose to work from the photos as much as possible so I could ensure the most accurate results.)

    After some trial and error, I discovered the "clamps" that hold each dome in place are in two symmetrical halves. Together they form a hexagonal cross section. Each half has three "leaves" that fold together and lock in place. It appears they built two versions of these clamps -- one closed and the other open. The reason I guessed this is because the detail inside each clamp is so small (even on a 26-foot miniature) it would be impractical to make a working hinge for each one.

    BTW, I built one connecting structure with the clamps closed and another one with open clamps. Only the one with the closed clamps is shown here.

    Once the clamps were done, I finished the connectors and installed them inside the spine framework. There is a bracket attaching the central core pipe in the rear, but that hasn't been added to my model just yet. The area where this pipe connects to the front of the framework is hard to make out in the reference images. It's obscured by a bunch of those geometric solids mounted inside the spine framework. I'll have to figure that part out.

    All that's really left to finish the front of the ship is now the antenna on the bow. This is a very tricky looking structure -- mostly because it is hard to see in any of the reference images I have. I've ordered the DVD and am hoping I can get a better look at it by watching that.

    I'll be taking a break from this for the remainder of the week. Then I'll be working on the stern section next. Once that's completed, I'lll tackle the central command section. I'm still hoping to find that American Cinematographer issue I hear has some good images or perhaps someone who can send me high-res scans. That command wedge looks pretty complicated! :)

    PS, to make my domes more closely match the originals, the next step would be to add the standoffs to one section, then connect those with line segments. This would strictly be for the purpose of generating accurate blueprints and not for "show." Once the lines were added representing the copper wire, the whole thing could be cloned all around the dome. This detail could then be inserted into each view. . . :D
  • HelotHelot331 Posts: 0Member
    Nice job so far - looks real good.

    I actually had an opportunity to correspond with Douglas Trumbull, a couple of years back, about the VF model. He was very open to questions, at the time, but was apologetic that no plans or detailed info on the ship survive today.

    He knew of the Cinefax piece and agreed that the article they did had the most information available on the work done on producing the ship.

    The kits use were mostly 1/35 scale if that helps (a Cinefax photo of a pile of tank kits show that).

    Sean Kennedy did a pretty good version some years ago which can be seen here.
  • star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
    Thanks! If that's the model that was posted over at the LW3D User's site, it's amazing. I can totally appreciate all the work he put into it. He built every little detail, including all those bolt heads. Since I'm making a model to create plans/patterns for a scaled replica and not a full-scale recreation, I was able to omit those kinds of fine details for now.

    I'd be a bit surprised if all the tank parts were 1/35 scale. Several sources mention "large scale tank kits" and that typically means 1/24 or even 1/16 or 1/15 scale. Of course, it's very hard to judge sizes accurately from photos, so I could be totally wrong. . . :)

    At any rate, I have a lot of tank kits for my Galactica project so I'll check it out.

    I'm on the lookout for that Cinefex issue. Those are getting really hard to find! I'm still hoping to get scans from it if I can't find the actual issue in hardcopy. Same goes for the American Cinematographer issue on Silent Running.
  • star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
    BTW, anyone interested in the Valley Forge should check out LunaDude's awesome reference site here:

    Valley Forge - Plans

    This is the best site I've ever seen for reference on this miniature. Be sure to check out the Models page. He just posted a boatload of awesome reference pics. These are linked at the very bottom of the page. . .

  • HelotHelot331 Posts: 0Member
    All the images found in the Cinefex #8 article are found on's reference page if you have not yet been there.

    I could be wrong (more often than - well, usually) but when this movie was made the most common tank kit scales were 1/72, 1/48, and 1/35. The size of the kit boxes (as seen in the images referenced above), the manufacturer of the kits in same said images and the tanks apparently used would be 1/35. Even today the larger (R/C scale) kits only have very limited tanks and not of the type seen in the images.
  • star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
    I saw a pic with all the boxes. Now I know what you mean! Like I said, it can be really hard to judge size from photos. :)

    I was told recently that 1/48 kits from Tamiya, now being newly manufactured, used to be available in the early '70s as well. Working mostly with 1/35 kits, I wasn't familiar with this fact. So, it could either be 1/48 or 1/35! I'll have to check the fit against some parts in my collection to try and narrow it down. . .

    Thanks! :thumb:
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User]2 Posts: 3Member
    Pretty awesome
    I built the ship a couple years ago have lots of reference images, pics

  • chronochrono0 Posts: 1Member
    A member did one of these in LW a few years ago. E-something... was their name.
  • Cdr_HensleyCdr_Hensley0 Posts: 0Member
    I'm a newbie, How do I view the model? For that matter where is the model link?
  • star-artstar-art0 Posts: 0Member
    Boy, this is an old thread. I never got back to work on that project. My site has been down for some time now and I have not yet had a chance to put anything back online.

    One cool note, though. Douglas Trumbull saw this model and had some nice things to say about it. A friend sent me a snapshot of Doug viewing my work on a laptop computer. That was a real honor to be sure! :D
  • Cdr_HensleyCdr_Hensley0 Posts: 0Member
    Thanks for the thumbs, it really looks great in the preview pics. I really loved this movie and when it came out on DVD, I bought it. I hope this means that the thread is still alive, but I understand if it's not, I apollogize if I resurected a dead thread that has lost interest.
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