“This is a find of world significance, on a par with discovering the Titanic.” —Jarosław Chmielewski, lawyer (discussing the discovery of a WWII Nazi “Treasure Train” in Poland)
Real-Life Events Now Unfolding in Poland Remind 1:6 Scalers of the WWII Train-Centric Dioramas Created by Famed “Kampfgruppe Von Abt” Customizer, Peter Shaw of the UK
When we read the recent AP story announcing the possible discovery of a WWII “treasure train” in Poland (see HERE), we were struck by the intriguing scenario’s similarity to a well-known series of photos taken by the UK’s famous 1:6 scale club—Kampfgruppe Von Abt (KVA) and thought we’d combine the two subjects into one article for today’s edition of The Joe Report.
The 1:6 scale custom trains, vehicles and photo-realistic dioramas produced by the KVA club’s membership have become almost legendary among action figure collectors and customizers around the world. And at the heart of many of the club’s most famous photographs rests the work of one VERY talented man—Peter Shaw.
Shaw’s customs are peerless and stand atop the highest pinnacle of 1:6 scale achievement.
Once you learn about Shaw and what other members of the KVA have accomplished, practically everything else you’ve seen before (in 1:6 scale) begins to pale by comparison. Because of their sheer size, the club’s dioramas are always situated outdoors and most of them have utilized Shaw’s hyper-realistic WWII locomotives with fully loaded rolling stock. In addition, the club adds a plethora of supporting 1:6 props including train track, water towers, telephone poles, station houses, artillery pieces, V2 rockets, lifting cranes, Panzer tanks and all sorts of supporting vehicles. Combined, each mighty collection enables the club to accurately and realistically portray places and activities one would have witnessed—including Nazi treasure trains—from over 70 years ago.
It’s easy to draw quick comparisons between Shaw’s 1:6 train-dominated dioramas and the original 1:1 scale WWII “treasure train” purportedly found recently in Poland. If you haven’t read the AP article yet, here’s just a snippet of what it revealed:
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Two men in Poland claim they have found a legendary Nazi train that according to local lore was loaded with gold, gems and valuable art and vanished into a system of secret tunnels as the Germans fled advancing Soviet forces at the end of World War II. Historians say the existence of the train has never been conclusively proven, but authorities are not passing up this chance at possibly recovering treasures that have sparked the imaginations of local people for decades.”
A subsequent article published in The Guardian (see HERE) also added these stunning facts:
“A deathbed confession from an unnamed man had led officials to the site…and the dying man was involved in the operation to hide the train 70 years ago.”
Holy, Hollywood! This is the sort of story that begs to be made into a Spielbergian-esque major motion picture. And it’s easy to imagine the screenplay’s opening scene reading something like this:
Project: GIANT—The Treasure Train
A screenplay by Mark Otnes
FADE IN: A very old, frail man reclines on his deathbed, somewhere in Germany. Weakly crooking a finger, he gestures to his eldest son, urging him to lean in and hear his final, barely audible words…
Little does the son know, but his father is about to break a life-long vow of secrecy and recount an astonishing tale that reveals the final resting place of some of the world’s greatest “lost” (i.e. stolen) art treasures and over $2,000,000,000 in Third Reich gold bars.
Before his secrets are lost forever, he’ll finally reveal the TRUE STORY behind one of Hitler’s legendary, almost mythical—Treasure Trains.
The Modern-Day Dangerous Realities of 1945’s “Project GIANT”
Of course, it’s common sense to believe that if the Nazis were stashing billions of dollars worth of gold and treasure somewhere, they would also have been determined to hide it well and deploy numerous booby traps around its location to deter the potential for its discovery. Such are (still) the fears haunting authorities in modern-day Poland. In the initial AP article, would-be treasure hunters thinking about approaching Hitler’s “Treasure Train” were seriously warned:
“Not only could it be armed with explosives, but methane gas underground could add to the risk of an explosion… The train is said to have gone missing in May 1945. Legend says it was armed and loaded with treasure and disappeared after entering a complex of tunnels under the Owl Mountains, a secret project known as “Riese” (or Giant) which the Nazis never finished.”
While gazing upon the marvelous images created by Peter Shaw and other members of Kampfgruppe Von Abt, we hoped that someone in the esteemed UK club would comment on those creations and the coincidental discovery of a treasure train purportedly found in Poland. To our delight, KVA’s Peter Shaw replied and kindly provided the following exclusive insider intel:
“I read the news item and the two men who say they have found an AT (armoured train) but what is not known is if they have the knowledge to tell the difference. If I had been given the task of hauling a load of gold (which was to be hidden from the Allies), I would have used a Class 52 with 2/3 heavy trucks behind it so that it would be easier to hide. That’s just my thoughts.”
“What does concern me is the definition of an Armoured Train. I did make an AT with a couple of trucks to go with it. I don’t think we had a specific diorama based on it, but it was used as back up for other scenarios. I think the locomotive you like is one of my Class 52 Krieglokomotive with splinter camo of Dunkelgelbe on a grey background. But it’s not an Armoured train.”
“As to my own background, I was a Marine & Aviation Underwriter in the insurance industry in the City of London. I retired at age 60 (I’m now 85), so I’ve had plenty of time to indulge myself in my hobbies. I started building WWII infrastructure in 2000, when Dragon started to produce 1/6 figures.”
“I started with tanks up to a half-size Tiger and went on to build 1/6 scale, mainly German infrastructure. A look at our club’s website will give you an indication of what I’ve achieved. The ‘Dora’ rail gun was the largest item I built in 1/6, at 27 ft long. It’s now in a military museum in Holland.”
“The Von Abt group was started by me and although we’re now down to 3 members, we still produce 3 or 4 photo shoots a year, with 2 in the can to ‘publish’ soon. As age has taken its hold, I’ve downsized to 1/30 scale.” —Peter Shaw, UK
Bottom Line: By now you’ve probably suspected we used the AP “treasure train” story simply as an excuse to talk about the amazing work of Peter Shaw and the Kampfgruppe Von Abt. And of course, you’d be correct. We are HUGE fans of those gentlemen! Our sincerest thanks go out to all past, present and future members of the vaunted KVA and especially to its founding member and master modeler, Peter Shaw. Through their combined efforts, they’ve produced a body of work that is rivaled by few others, revealing the absolute epitome of what can be created in 1:6 scale.
(Editor’s Note): For more photos detailing Mr. Shaw’s masterpiece (the 1:6 scale “Dora” rail gun), we highly recommend you view its slide show found HERE. And to view more pics of Mr. Shaw’s amazing 1:6 scale trains and other stunning creations of the KVA membership, go to their website HERE. Finally, we’ve embedded a short video of a rail gun with actual WWII footage, below: