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In-Box Review
The Palace Hotel (American West)

by: Scott Lodder [ SLODDER ]

Wild Wild West

Do you ever want to venture in to a little different area of modeling? Custom Dioramics is giving you new options. You still get to test your skills on weathering, firearms, figures, and building. Custom Dioramics is venturing into the Wild Wild West of America. They have a line called Streets of Laredo (VLS). This line is dedicated to the American West and is in 1/32 scale very close to 54mm so it's comparable to many other figure lines. This review is going to be an in-box review of "The Palace Hotel(American West)" SR32001. Watch for the built review in the weeks to come.
Texas Box

They say everything is bigger in Texas - well this box is big! It's about 18"x12"x2.5" and made out of heavy cardboard. There is a well done slip-jacket over the plain white cardboard. The slip-jacket shows of what we expect in the way of a VLS product cover; great box art to help with painting and assembly. The box art is a nice 3/4 view of the building. The 3/4 is critical, as you'll see later.
When you crack open the box you'll see a jigsaw puzzle of parts. It took an engineer to design parts in the right shape and size to fit this well. In your injected plastic kits, you get the sprues in bags all loose and rattling around. There isn't room in this box for another part. It is amazing how tightly this kit is packaged. It is all packaged with bubble wrap and small zip lock bags to protect against breakage.
If you are going to need to put this kit back in the box with a hope of closing it, you better be careful and notice which parts came out where. If not, you'll have a lesson in spatial relations.
Yee Haww - the Kit

This kit depicts a two story 1/32 scale Old West style hotel. This is the original "big box" hotel. Because of this there are lots of big flat pieces. This hotel has a brick foundation and a porch and balcony and sign. There are lots of parts to this kit.
They are:

  • Roof - 20.5 cm x 17 cm

  • Side Walls - 2 @ 17.5 cm x 17 cm

  • Brick Foundation walls - 3 @ 20 cm x 1.2 cm

  • Balcony - 2 @ 20.3 cm x 6.5 cm

  • Sign - 20.2cm x 3.4 cm

  • Front Wall - 20 cm x 17 cm

  • Posts and Rails - 4 @ 2.5 cm x .6 cm

  • Top Railings - 5 @ 5.4 cm x .6 cm

  • Railing Supports - long - 10 @ 6 cm x .3 cm

  • Railing Supports - short - 3 - 4 cm x .3 cm

  • Turned Posts - 4 @ 4.5 cm

  • Square Posts - short - 4 @ .5 cm x 1.2 cm

  • Square Posts - long- 4 @ .5 cm x 2.5 cm

  • Windows - 12 @ 2.5 cm x 5 cm

  • Doors - 2 @ 7 cm x 2.8 cm

  • Window Frames - Tall - 24 @ 5 cm x .6 cm

  • Window Frames - Short - 24 @ 2.9 cm x .6 cm

Out of the box

As you remove the parts from the box you will be pleased with what you feel. The pieces are substantial, they are heavy, and have lots of texture. Texture equals detail. Heavy equals solid resin pours. You will notice that the wood grain detail is exceptional. This is a 1/32 scale kit, so the detail has to be increased some. You won't be disapointed. The grain is excallent and it is not the same on all the pieces. The balcony is made from different wood with a tighter grain than the side walls. You can see this in the detail. The ornamental posts are very smooth, while the support posts have wood grain detail. So they have done a wonderful job varying the types of wood used.
Not only is the wood well done, the brick foundation is a solid piece of craftsmanship. It looks as if the Master was done with individual bricks, which adds a nice level of detail.
Take inventory and be aware of all the parts that you have. You'll have lots of large parts that are easy to keep track of. You'll also get multiple ziplock bags for the small parts. I would do a quick check to see that all the parts are there, then put them back in the bags and leave them there till you need them. There are to many small pieces and one could easily be lost.
One thing that may not make an immediate impression is Windows. This kit comes complete with a full set of window frames and windows. How many building kits come with gaping holes for windows and leave you scrambling for bits of wood to scratch build your own frames and windows? VLS is stepping up and including them all. Oh yea, you get doors too.
Part Review

The Foundation
There are three pieces to this foundation so you'll have to decide what to do with the back side. These pieces are very well done. Nice individual brick work. There isn't a lot of mortar space which is fairly accurate for the timeframe. You'll have a touch of clean up to do with the edges and sides. The corners are nicely angles at 45 degrees to make a nice joint that stays out of sight.
The Walls
As you pull the parts out of the box and review each you will be pleased overall. As mentioned above, the detail will impress you. Another thing that you will notice as you hold each piece is the texture. Some kits have a very soft, flat, "empty" feeling. This entire kit "feels" good, there is good weight, detail texture, and the resin used gives you a nice solid feeling.
The wall pieces are great. The pour went well with these. They obviously came from a one piece mold, leaving the back smooth and flat. The fronts have not bubble holes and no excess resin. The excess pour resin is minimal so thinning down these pieces will be easy with a palm sander. A palm sander would be useful simply because the pieces are so large. There was a tiny bit of edge clean up in a couple of places.
The Balcony
The balcony pieces are two sided pieces with detail on the top and bottom. This is good, you won't have to worry about detailing the 'ceiling' of the porch, it comes with it. The detail pieces of the balcony assembly are very nice. They are very uniform in shape and casting and should make for a nice easy assembly.
The Sign
The sign on the roof is typical Western style. It's a big billboard style board that will accept a decal with the hotel name. The piece comes from a one piece mold. This is adequate. The back is flat clear resin with a few bubble holes. The excess resin from the pour is a bit thick on this piece. You're going to have to work a bit to get this thinned down. It's a bit of a let down because this entire kit is an 'outside' view kit, no back. The sign is the one piece that you may be able to see even if you don't plan on detailing the back.
The Windows
The windows are dichotomy. On the one hand it is fantastic that they are included, great job, hats off to VLS. On the other hand, they are going to require the most work to assemble. The windows are going to end up being an assembly of five pieces, four frame parts, and the window itself. The frames are made with a groove down the center on each part. The window will rest in this groove. To assemble each window you will need to create a "U" out of three frames. Then slide the window down the center groove. Then cap off the "U" with the final frame piece. An alternate method would be simply glue each individual frame piece to the edge of the window. Either way you will run into a problem. Many of the windows are warped. Without going through the entire assembly you can't tell how much of a problem this will ultimately be. The windows are thin and easily reshaped with hand pressure. Warming the part carefully would also ease the reshaping process. This problem is very fixable with a little patience and care.

This kit is a major addition to a new line for VLS - Streets of Laredo. The techniques and molding used are top notch VLS fair. The investment in this kit for a modeler will be rewarded in the end. The "wow factor" that this kit has is fantastic. Everyone who sees this kit will be impressed. You will have to work and use your modeling skills to built it to its potential. The warped windows are a nuisance but not a 'deal breaker'. The Palace Hotel will be a master center piece to any diorama of the American West era. For any figure maker who does this era, this is almost a must have kit. You can even use this as a display piece for static figures. If you build diorama, this is a fantastic piece that you will want to have available to you.
VLS is bring a great line to life - Streets of Laredo. It is an American West line of diorama products. This piece can stand as it's center piece both in the market place and in a diorama.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:32
  Mfg. ID: SR32001
  Suggested Retail: $39.95
  PUBLISHED: Aug 05, 2005
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Scott Lodder (slodder)

I modeled when I was a teenager. College, family and work stopped me for a while. Then I picked it back up after about 12 years off. My main focus is dioramas. I like the complete artistic method of story telling. Dioramas involve so many aspects of modeling and I enjoy getting involved in the ...

Copyright 2021 text by Scott Lodder [ SLODDER ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


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