Mark Armor Dioramas

Model Making Artistry


Massive 280mm Railway Gun - Leopold

I was aware of Trumpeter’s 280mm K5(E) “Leopold” Railroad Gun for many years before attempting to build it. Whenever I saw examples, and many were exquisite, they were usually a singular trophy piece, and not a diorama. (To date, I have seen a nice Leopold diorama by John Ellingson ). But even before I saw Ellingson’s work, I became obsessed turning this kit into a diorama. Once I started delving into the kit, I discovered that Trumpeter also created a companion figure kit: Leopold Gun Crew. That’s when I knew a diorama was possible and I started gathering the cast of characters. I’ve never built a Trumpeter kit before, and I found the instructions frustrating at times, but the kit was otherwise sound. I regard their figures as having great poses (at least in this application) but the clothing and physical details are flat and crude. Either way, I ended up using many Trumpeter figures and the poses made up for the average sculpting. Hopefully, the painting does too.

I ended up having to buy two Leopold kits as I had an unfortunate thin CA glue accident that fused the adjustable barrel into the “down” position. One of my first decisions while casting the crew of this diorama was to use a 3-soldier “Propaganda Company” kit that I had kicking around for a few years. They were essentially a film and camera crew, and you can actually see the real work of such a propaganda company here. But when my first build ended with a gun that was flaccid, I couldn’t let the Company down; I had to buy another kit. This is propaganda dammit, the gun needs to be erect and firing! But I didn’t mind the glue mishap; this model was so fun to build, I was happy to build the gun section again.

I have a lot of spare parts of the bogies and railway if anyone is interested.

Here are some interesting facts about this massive piece of artillery:

  • Starting in 1934, Krupp created 25 of these guns, but only 8 were in service from 1940-1944
  • Mass: 218 tons
  • Barrel length: 83 ft 9 in
  • The standard high explosive projectile weighed 562 lbs. (thus the crane) and contained a charge of 67 lbs. of TNT. Another version weighed 584 lbs. and contained 98 lbs. of TNT.
  • Muzzle velocity: 3,675 ft/s
  • Effective range: 39.5 miles
  • The Leopold along with a brother gun Robert were used in Italy to counter the American Landing of Anzio in February 1944. The guns were ineffective and proved impossible to evacuate; both guns were partially destroyed by their respective crews, but eventually discovered by allies in June 1944, outside of Rome.
  • As of 2011, the Leopold resides at the United States Army Ordnance Museum in Fort Lee (Petersburg, Virginia).
  • For all its “shock and awe”, in the end, the mighty railroad-gun was more a vainglorious weapon than an effective one. (I don’t know if this is a fact…I just couldn’t find any evidence that the K5 made a positive difference where it was engaged.)

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