May 17, 2016

Meet our Newest Trench Runner Joseph W. Svec III

The Trench Runners welcomes one of the masters of the plastic toy soldier diorama, Joseph W. Svec III to the fold. Joseph creates large 54mm dioramas (as well as 40mm & 90mm) that while scenic, detailed and full of action and artistry, are simple enough for the hobbyist to recreate at home, or perhaps inspire them to do something similar in their own favorite historical era. While his main focus in the past has been Toy Castles and Knights, (he currently has 12 different 54mm medieval knights and castle dioramas set up in his hobby room) Joseph has also created dioramas in many other periods both historical and based in fantasy and literature, and even classical music. In his upcoming posts "I will be sharing details on my dioramas and techniques for creating quick and simple scenes that are fun and satisfying. I hope you enjoy them"
Joseph W. Svec III in his "Toy Room"
Tell us a little about yourself?
Greetings hobbyists and toy soldier collectors. It is a pleasure to share with you my thoughts on the Toy Soldier Hobby as it pertains to toy castles and knights as well as having fun with 54mm dioramas. Before I begin let me share a bit about myself. Prior to retiring 4 years ago I was senior staff satellite test engineer, and college instructor. Since then I have been spending a good deal of my time writing, and have four books and several magazine articles published, with several in work. In addition to a book of rhymed and metered story poems, and two new Sherlock Holmes adventures, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Grinning Cat, and Sherlock Holmes in the Nautilus Adventure, I have also published A Guide to Toy Castles and Knights from Around the World, which covers 60 years of toy castle production, from 10 different countries, 35 different manufacturers, and over 100 toy castles. It has satisfied readers in 16 different countries and 35 states. You can see all of my books at

How & when did you first get into the hobby?
My interest in toy soldiers and knights dates back to my early youth. Like many of my age, my fondest childhood memories are of the time spent playing with my Marx playsets, my bag of toy soldiers, or my box of toy knights. What I enjoyed most was setting up grand scenes with whatever I had handy; sand, rocks, twigs, lichen, (I still love the fragrance of lichen. It takes me right back to childhood.) bits of wood, etc. I would fall asleep at night dreaming of when I could make even bigger scenes and dioramas. When the movie, The Longest Day was released, for the next two weeks, all of my scenes were WWII Beach landings. I still enjoyed castles and toy knights, and my very first toy castle was hand made by my father. 

Of course as I grew older, school, life, college, and marriage, took the forefront, but in November of 1974, when our son was one year old, we happened to be at the local Sears store, and they had the Marx Heritage Alamo set on clearance for $2.00 each. Yes, you read that correct, only $2.00 Amazing! That reawakened my interest in Marx playsets, and we bought two of them for when our son was old enough to enjoy them. He and I enjoyed setting up quite a number of the 70's and 80's playsets by Marx and other companies, including many of the Medieval Sword & Sorcery sets that were produced in that era by DFC, H.G Toys, and Helm Toy. One of our favorites was DFC's Dragonriders of the Styx. When he grew up,  got married and had kids, we included them in the fun as well. I recall one 54mm medieval fantasy scene we set up that took up the entire living room, with four different armies converging on the treasure in a dungeon. The rules were simple: Five shots each with a plastic marble for ammunition, then troop movement, then repeat. It was great fun

What aspects of the hobby appeal to you the most? What are your main interests?
My main hobby interest is setting up large scenes and dioramas. It is my childhood dreams come true. Having more time since I retired, and more resources available with all of the reissue figures and accessories, as well as all of the new production, the scenes and dioramas I create can be much greater that I ever imagined as a young child.  My 54mm Alamo setup based on the reissue CTS Alamo and supplemented with numerous reissue figures, contains over one thousand figures. Compare that to a Sears Heritage set! I look at my hobby room which contains seventeen dioramas permanently set up and I tell my younger self that it was well worth the wait. While medieval is still my favorite theme, I have done large (8'x2.5') 54mm dioramas for the local used and rare books store, In Jackson CA based on H.G.Wells' novel,  The War of the Worlds and Jules Verne's novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I have created dioramas based on  the classical music piece, A Night on Bald Mountain, as envisioned by Disney in the Animated feature Fantasia, and many others as well. 
MARX Alamo diorama contains over 1000 figures
H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds diorama, created for a local independent book store window. 
It is 8' x 2.5', and includes 40 hand painted Armies in Plastic, 54mm 1890's Boer War British, 
several Britains Herald and Safari civilians, 21st Century buildings, 
and seven custom hand-made Martian tripods.
What are your other interests beside this hobby?
I am a member of three different literary societies, the local Sherlock Holmes society, The Amador County Holmes Hounds, The North American Jules Verne Society, and the Lewis Carroll of North America Society. Photos of my 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea diorama will be featured in the Jules Verne Society June newsletter. As I mentioned earlier, I am an author and spend a good deal of time writing. I also enjoy travel and spending time with my wife.
H.G. Wells War of the Worlds and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea diorama
What are some of your favorite web sites?

Do you post on  about your hobbies on Facebook or any other social media outlets
I post photos of my dioramas on my Facebook page. I also post to my Sherlock Holmes books Facebook pages. My War of the Worlds diorama was featured in Plastic Warrior Magazine, and my Medieval Battle of Grunwald  diorama was recently featured in Playset Magazine. I have written articles for them in the past on Fantasy playsets and King Arthur toy Castles.
The classical music piece, A Night on Bald Mountain, as envisioned by Disney in the Animated feature Fantasia
Do you belong to any forums or subscribe/post  to any  blogs? 
I do belong to the MX Publishers Sherlock Holmes Authors Blog.

Any advice for someone new to hobbies?
Have fun! That is what it is all about.
40mm castle and siege display featuring Elastolin plastics
Have fun! That is what it is all about!

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