Wednesday 17 February 2021

Chief Mechanic Thorleif Petersen

Thorleif Petersen was chief mechanic and workshop manager at Nystrup Gravel in the 1940's to well into the late 1950's. Now he is once again keeping a watchful eye on all things mechanical at the gravel company, only in 1/19 scale. He is a 3D-printed figure from Modelu, item 1446 sold as 'Fitter with tea'. 

My interpretation of Thorleif Petersen, workshop manager at Nystrup Gravel here seen standing in front of the petrol pump.

Born in Copenhagen and trained as a mechanic at the Burmeister & Wain shipyard, Thorleif went to fight in the Spanish civil war as a volunteer. Upon his return to Denmark he looked for employment away from the capital and began working for Nystrup Gravel. He kept his socialist preferences and was part of a communist resistance group during the German occupation between 1940-1945. He and his group conducted small scale sabotage against the Germans around Nystrup. They even teamed up with a conservative resistance group and built the largest home made armoured car used during the liberation.

Modelu figure 1446 in a computerized illustration. I like the relaxed stance, coffee cup in one hand and the other in the pocket. Photo: Modelu website.

Modelu's figure is of the usual quality needing very careful painting to do satisfactory service in my 1/19 scale world. Where details were soft or lacking I tried to add them with files, sandpaper and a sharp scalpel. I mostly worked on the line between shoes and trousers that was very weakly defined.  Basically the work was no different to the work I did on my first Modelu figure back in 2018. Where weak definition of detail coulden't be fixed with hand tools alone, I tried to fix things with paint. My Thorleif-figure is painted in Vallejo Acrylic 963 'Medium Blue' for the overall, 70983 'Flat Earth' for the trousers and 860 'Medium Flesh' for the skin areas. Shirt is white, shoes dark brown and his cloth cap a home mixed light grey-brown. Folds in clothing were accentuated with a darkened colour in the bottom of the fold and a lightened colour on top of the fold.

Figure just out of the package and set up on the photo plank.

On the work table after treatment with files and scalpel. Three buttons fitted to the overall from thin plasticcard. Before being primed the figure was washed in warm water and allowed to fully dry.

After a thin layer of black primer, the main colours have been brushed on. A lot of work still remain.

The final brush strokes have been added. After a layer of matt varnish I added some general dirt, dust and oily spots to overall and boots. I'm no Claudia Everett-like master figure painter, but placed in the shadow of a building in the background I'm sure the figure will add some life to my little layout.

Thorleif Petersen was instrumental in keeping the gravel company's production running through the difficult years during the occupation, as well as the years immediately after. Somewhat paradoxically he made it possible for Nystrup Gravel to provide large amounts of gravel for the German airforce's huge air field, while he was also actively restisting the occupants. Always a loyal employee, he used his knowledge to help Nystrup Gravel to aquire all sorts of mechanical equipment cheaply. 

"Did you remember to oil the chain drive?" Always observant to correct maintenance and proper use of machinery, Thorleif spared no effort to instruct employees. Not all of them were used to treat equipment with care.

After the war, many from Thorleif's German network rose to management roles in the Soviet occupation zone in Germany - later to become the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. He attended several political schools in DDR and took engineering courses in Karl Marx Stadt as well. The Soviet invasion in Hungary in 1956 made Thorleif leave the communist party, but he remained firmly devoted to socialist values.

The early spring sun is casting long shadows on the brick shed, while Thorleif and worker Kjeld Hansen admires a Vespa poster - and the bikini clad driver. Thorleif was a devoted coffee drinker, seldom seen without his green enamel cup in hand.

Many years after his death Thorleif continues to inspire my modelling. His family has kindly handed over a stream of documents, photographs and items originating from Nystrup Gravel. Some of the information has been truely revolutionary in the way it has helped write small scale Danish industrial railway history.

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