Lake County SpacePort 

                                                                                       "Ad Astra per Formae"

The Space Freighter "Valley Forge"

from the movie "Silent Running" (1972)


Some time ago, I have found a re-fascination with an old sci-fi movie, "Silent Running," done in 1972 by visual effects master-turned Director, Douglas Trumball. He worked for Stanley Kubrick on the classic "2001 - A Space Odyssey." The focal point of the story is a 2500-foot long American Airlines space freighter, the Valley Forge, which like her two sister ships, the Sequoia and the Berkshire, was carrying "domes" which enclose and support the last vestiges of Earth's forests. A great film, then and now.

Of all of my favorite sci-fi film ships, I did not have a model of the Valley Forge. So, I went looking for one. The only remotely available model I could find is one from "Hunk of Junk Productions." A 49-inch long (about 1/500  scale) mixed-media model, selling for $995 (damn). While I did put myself "on their list," they need at least 20 potential buyers to make building kits plausible, so, it could be a while. If you're interested, check out the link...

www.modelermagic.com/?p=31034

In reality, I think my wife would skin me alive if I spent nearly $1000 on a model kit...

So, in lieu of that version, I was able to find a paper model kit created by "uhu02" of Japan. As the PDF pages containing the actual model were buried back in a long-unused web page, it took some effort to find them.

In the interim, I took a plan drawing of the Valley Forge found on the Website dedicated to the vehicle and proceeded to try and create three triple-pole spars from plastic tubing, to a final model length that seemed more "accommodating" - 23-3/4" long, or 1/1200 scale - about half the size of the Hunk-O-Junk model.

I then got the "uhu02" paper model pages "re-scaled" to match this scale and have been working on "blending" the two ideas toghter to make an affordable, but good looking Valley Forge model.

Here's what we accomplished...

Here, the entire primary assembly for the space freighter is complete. I was both gratified and amazed how well the re-scaled "uhu02" paper model parts integrated into my plastic spars to come together as a structure. I have only made two significant revisions so far.

First, the triangular "inner" supports were omitted as they were not long enough to reach the revised placement of the three sets of raised "support structures" that rest between the spars. Visually, there're not even missed.

Second, I had to add about 3/8" of height to the control section of the superstructure, in order to accommodate the increased height of the plastic spar tubes. other than that, the rest of uhu02's parts fit right in to the build. 

This view shows the aft section of the ship, including the polygonal fuel tanks, central core and the scratch-built ion-engine stack on the rear. The "uhu02" propulsion unit looked way too small, when viewed in comparison to the movie stills. So, we got out our cache of spare plastic parts and put together a better looking version.

Here's a close-up of the revised superstructure and command section. The use of the "uhu02" printed paper parts were one of the things that really brought the build together quickly, and they look pretty darned good, if you ask me. They add a lot of visual detail and texture to the structure. 

A view dong the long-axis of the ship, including the main antenna complex at the forward end of the ship. This is attched to the last set of forward-facing support structures, as it would have been in the full-paper version. We added some reinforcing plastic rods at the very ends of the spars to add rigidity. 

The forest domes are also a combination of the "uhu02" paper model parts plus some parts that went in "other" directions. I tried doing the traced and cut clear sheets to make the domes, as "uhu02" instructed, but I just could not get it to work good. So, I started looking for alternatives.

Come to find that there are folks who sell clear plastic "ornaments" which are two hemespheres of clear plastic that nest together, that you can put photos or other stuff into, to make your own custom Christmas tree ornaments. They're 80 mm (3.17 in) in diameter. I bought some and started to cut them down to the 2-3/4" diameter needed to go into the paper dome pedistals. Once I figured out how to get to that done size and get the edges smooth, it was time to scribe all of the geodesic dome beam patterns into each one.

This is what the the domes look like, after populating the dome floors with scale "brush" from Woodland Scenics, and having the scribed plastic domes in place.

One by one, we rotated the ship and placed each support tube into the upright position, and then placed a dome assembly onto it. Once the glues set, it was on to the next one.

We added the 4 mm round spheres as "tanks" to the appropriate locations on the dome pedistal undersides, along with the cylindrical tank details already built per "uhu02" instructions.  Afterwards, it was then time to begin placing the domes onto the support tubes on the bow of the Valley Forge.

Soon, all six domes were placed into position of the bow of the ship.

The completed "Valley Forge," resting in her uhu02-provided display stand.

A close-up of the domes, from the port side.

A look down the port side of the ship towards the control and cargo section of the superstructure, back towards the ion propulsion stacks. 

A full-beam view along the port side. 

It's grateifying to actually have this model completed and resting on her display stand, in full view.

At first, I thought I would not be able to find a Valley Forge model at all.

Then, when I found one, I could not afford it, either from the size or cost point of view.

Now, her it is!! Crafted by my own hand, with the help of a master paper modeler from Japan. 


We cleared off some display shelf space and set up the Valley Forge with the three Drones (Huey, Dewey & Louie) which were paper models I found and built along the way. The cargo pods came from Hunk of Junk Productions, the same guys who offer the 49" Valley Forge model on an irregular basis. But for the cargo pods, they are usually "in stock" and ready to sell.

We set up our black backdrop and did some pics with "deep space" as the background. Here's he ship from the starboard side.

Starboard-side, aft, looking forward. 

Aft high, looking forward towards the domes.

Port side, full beam.

Port-side bow, looking aft. I 've gotta say, I'm pretty happy with the way this turned out.

A collage of the Valley Forge passing Saturn. Just like a scene from the film...

A very big "Thank You" to "uhu02" of Japan for his incredible paper modeling skills. His work became the catalyst in getting this model completed and making it turn out as well as it did.