The Wild Wilko Western Express

Wilko is not quite a pound store but does have similar inexpensive plastic toys.

This lovely battery operated, digital sound and headlight American Wild West express train, carriages and oval of track was only £10 plus 2 AA batteries.

In the shop it looked to be roughly suitable for 40 to 54mm figures and products.

A similar proper product from a proper garden railway shop would obviously be much much more expensive.

It was all very quickly assembled out in the rocky desert wastes of the Wild West (my garden). I brought out some Prince August 40mm homecast Cowboys and Indians and Taylor and Barrett hollowcast smaller size Indians.

Last year’s bird box to Western Railroad Depot conversion, along with some pound store plastic soldier rocks and cactus, all helped to quickly set the scene.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/inspired-by-bob-corderys-dayglo-castle/

The Scene-ario: The isolated Railroad Depot has been attacked by hostile angry Indians, the station staff, a mechanic (usually repairing toy cars) is down.

The train would lend itself to many Victorian and Early 20th Century settings and Imagi-Nations from the American Civil War onwards to Boer War armoured trains and beyond.

I love the seductive writing or write up on toy packaging. I was always too easily impressed by this when younger and sometimes very disappointed by what was inside. Weren’t we all? I imagine it is even worse now in the days of online and TV advertising for toys.

The Wilco Railway Western Express is excitingly introduced as:

Wilco Railway western express steam train and track

“The engine chugs and the whistle blows, taking you back to the grand age of steam! Haul the carriages along the track, imagine that you’re stood on the footplate and you’ve got to get the next station by nightfall.”

A cynic or the unimaginative adult might suggest that it would be hard to imagine the perils and drama of “having to get to the next station before nightfall …” as there is no station provided and the track supplied is rather short and circular.

However the realistic engine sounds and whistles are suitably atmospheric.

Imagine? A companion pack of plastic Cowboys and Indian or passengers, a few cows or buffalo and a few cacti would have been a great and inexpensive addition to the imaginative play possibilities of this set. There would follow hold ups, rescues, bandits …

This would add what was wisely known in my family as “Play Value” – if it didn’t have a suitable amount of this, you didn’t get it.

Where have all the cowboys gone?

Wilko used to sell Cowboys and Indians – and maybe still do in bigger city stores?

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/more-poundstore-warriors/

Wilco used to sell such handy 54mm Western figures in £1 tubes a couple of years ago, but I haven’t seen them recently. Tobar / Hawkins Bazaar had some slightly brittle hard plastic Airfix clone versions a year or two back – again I bought some as they were being reduced in 2016. Thankfully similar party favour Cowboy and Indians are still available online, as are rerelease of the pricey Britain’s Deetail metal based Cowboy, Cavalry and Indian figures if you can find a toy shop or an online stockist.

What figure scale suits this train best?

I was quite keen to see how this train would look with 54mm / 1:32 type toy soldier size Cowboys and Indians. I could have used my growing number of repaired and repainted Broken Britain’s Hollowcast lead Indians, but another day perhaps.

In keeping with the reposting on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, I dug out some gaudily painted, gloss varnished Pound Store Cowboys and Indians (Airfix pirated / Hong Kong clone). I painted these way back in the mid 1990s. There’s even a black cowboy in this photograph below – I am amazed how historically accurate and PC I was, although fighting with toy Indians and calling them Indians would be deemed highly unPC by some. These are firmly Hollywood movie / Wild West Show toy soldier inspired Cowboys and Indians.

Out on the blazing sands, sorry rocks, the Wilco Wild Western Express runs into an Ambush and has its two valuable cargo wagons uncoupled and left behind.

Two cowboys guard the stricken carriages – until reinforcements arrive? But are they really the good guys?

Are the two Indian Braves defending the train cargo, releasing hostages of their own tribe or attacking the Iron Horse that crosses their territory? Revenge on the Buffalo Bills and the Iron Horse that saw the Bison flocks wiped out …

Overall the 50 to 54mm cowboys and Indians are a little overscale, the train suits 40mm to 42mm figures better.

The engine to tender coupling needed a little extra help, so I rigged up a simple wire hook / link. All cheap plastic trains have little heft or weight in the rolling stock, so I lifted off the roof of the caboose carriage and the coal in the tender and added some spare old 2p coins as ready ballast (using the pre 1992 non magnetic kind, not so useful for basing figures).

The train needs a suitable paint scheme, such as a red painted caboose and paint work on the engine. This is likely to be Gloss paint rather than realistic Matt and weathering. I want to keep the Western style font stickers and make the whole Toy Soldier shiny, as if it is an old toy tinplate train, rather than a cheap plastic one.

As ever there is never enough track, especially straight track, so the only way to easily get more track is to buy another set. You get more wagons that way too. Yet four short pieces of track rarely justify that expense, even of £10. However it may be possible to make a silicon mould of one piece of straight track and cast it in Fimo or metal to make more.

Lots of exciting play, sorry, gaming possibilities. Toot toot!

Oh, and a working headlight!

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 14 / 15 July 2018.

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One rifle and a hundred bullets please

From my copy of Lambert’s Railway Miscellany, a delightful book well worth buying to dip into.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 24 April 2018

German Colonial Railways Southwest Africa WW1

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From Battles With Modeł Soldiers by Donald Featherstone (p.169). The final sentence reads used its crew and guns as a shore party to assist in the campaign.
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From Battles with Model Soldiers by Donald Featherstone (p. 176)

Back in 1970 when Donald Featherstone wrote Battles with Model Soldiers, a chapter on World War 1  gaming was quite unusual. He admits in the opening sentence of his WW2  chapter that “If World War 1 lacks its wargaming devotees then World War 2 certainly makes up for the deficiency.”

In his WW1 chapter he notes that “This open warfare of 1914 is about the only period of World War 1 on the Western Front that lends itself to campaigning with Model Soldiers” (p.167) and ” … seems merely to be an extension of ‘horse and musket’ warfare plus the added involvement of machine-gun sale together with more numerous and longer-range artillery.” (P.170)

As a young gamer in the late Seventies the only WWI figures I had access to were a precious handful of lively posed Airfix OOHO WWI figures, which were frustratingly only occasionally available. These would suffice only for the Western Front, admittedly at different time periods of soft caps and steel helmets.

Fortunately in the mid 1980s and recently online, I have bought a small handful of 15mm Peter Laing figures that would suit a WW1 African or Colonial campaign.

I recently redound this Roy Link article  on SW Africa in WW1 in my scrapbook.

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A lovely article from my scrapbook, originally in Continental Modeller.

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An interesting scenario for colonial or WW1,  Zwillinge Twin locos and all.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_West_African_Zwillinge

These South African Railways photos give an idea of the dry terrain. More photographs of terrain, bridges, stations, Schutztruppe and South Africans  can be found in the German website http://www.klausdierks.com/Eisenbahnen/

and in English http://www.klausdierks.com/Namibia_Rail/annexure2.htm

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Interesting games scenario focus of a Plate girder bridge over a river for this Colonial German WW1 desert railway – easily demolished? Picture by South African Railways.

Lots of interesting games scenarios here, set in Southwest Africa, quite  similar to the Turkish Middle Eastern WW1 railway scenario that I played through recently in 2017.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/blowing-up-desert-trains/

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My 15mm “Blowing up Desert Trains” scenario set somewhere in WW1 in the Middle East. 

This German South West African area is also briefly covered in Railways and War Before 1918 (Mechanised warfare in colour)  by W.J.K. Davies and Denis Bishop, 1972. A superbly illustrated book, full of information, out of print but well worth tracking down second hand. A German Feldbahn o-8-oT  type loco developed in SW Africa and widely used in their thousands elsewhere  is shown (top) on the cover. A separate armoured water tender with ride-on troop escort was carried.

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Peter Laing 15mm figures produced a WW1 / Colonial range that would suit, sadly no longer available. I have some of these figures that would stand in for Schutztruppe, askaris and WWI British or South African troops.

Donald Featherstone mentions in his 1962 book War Games the possibility of an East African campaign scenario c. WW1  “Few collectors seem interested in World War 1, although there is much to be found in the Battles of 1914 and early 1915, before the war bogged down in a mass of trench warfare – a fascinating little campaign can be made of the German East African fighting in which native troops can be used.”

In reality and in any gaming scenario, the rail link to the SW African inland mines of copper and vanadium would be crucial to the allied of German war effort. 

What was the historic background to these Colonial German Railway in wartime? 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_Namibia

The Namibian railway system dates from the time when Namibia was a colony of the German Empire known as German South West Africa.

This arid part of the African continent was not very productive for agriculture. Initially, overland transport was operated entirely by ox-cart. A small mining rail line opened at Cape Cross in 1895. Soon afterwards, the ox-cart transport system totally collapsed, in the wake of a rinderpest epidemic in 1897.

As it was necessary to react quickly to the now extremely precarious transport situation, decisions were made:

1. to build a railway line from the German port of Swakopmund to Windhoek

2. to use existing, 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) gauge military Feldbahn material

3. to entrust a railway brigade with the construction work, which began in September 1897.

Train services on the whole of the new line, which was called the Staatsbahn (State Railway), began on 19 June 1902.

The historical background (thanks Wikipedia) 

Construction of the railways connecting with the Staatsbahn was aimed partly at military strategic objectives (following the uprising of the Herero and Nama peoples) and partly at the economic requirements of serving the inland mines.

I had not heard of the Herero Wars and quickly realised that this was not a pleasant  period of history, certainly not something lightly suitable for gaming.

Herero Wars  history blogs do exist such as Tim Abbott’s extensive blog at http://omaheke.blogspot.co.uk

Askari Minis produce a range of 28mm figures including Hereros and Askaris but also other colonial types that could easily be adopted for a Colonial SW Africa scenario or Hollywood pulp B movie scenario. Straight out of Tintin or Indiana Jones!

http://www.askari-minis.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=53

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Certainly reading more about the Herero Wars / Genocide convinced me that this was not to be confused with the Hollywood style Wild West / Lawrence of Arabia type train ambush scenario that caught my eye when  I first glimpsed Roy Link’s article in an old issue of Continental Modeller.

The Herero Wars (1904-08) were particularly nasty, with German use of concentration camps (invented by the British in the recent Boer War), a conflict recently classified as one of the first genocides of the 20th century.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herero_and_Namaqua_genocide

World War 1 background

With the outbreak of World War I, the German Schutztruppe military units retreated from the coast, and withdrew into the inland.

In the process, as in the American Civil War, there was deliberate track and train wrecking to deny this route and transport to the enemy invaders.  The German  Schutztruppe destroyed the Otavibahn and the old Staatsbahn railways towards Karibib, as far as Rössing.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutztruppe

British troops immediately moved forward from the British enclave of Walvis Bay, and by the end of 1914 they had built a 37 km (23 mi) long 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) railway to Swakopmund.

The Otavibahn destroyed by the Schutztruppe was also reconstructed by British and South African engineers in 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge  as far as Usakos, and the section between Usakos and Karibib was realigned.

Neighbouring South Africa was also on the Allied side, effectively forming a local enemy of the German Empire. From South Africa, a new railway was constructed  as an extension of the De Aar-Prieska railway. This was designed and built  to achieve a secure supply route for the South African troops. By 1916, the line was connected to the old German network at Kalkfontein (now Karasburg).

By chance, Tony of the Tin Soldiering On blog mentioned the savageandsoldier.com website which features material on the German military presence in Africa.

http://www.savageandsoldier.com/articles/africa/GermanWars.html

Tha is the web version of the Colonial Wars of Imperial Germany articles by Paul Beck, with very useful uniform plates by Nick Stern, webified by John Switzer.

http://www.puk.ac.za/hess/Koos4.htm

Another interesting WW1 in SW Africa blog at http://ww1blog.osborneink.com/?p=1437

As mentioned on my main Man of TIN blog, there is an interesting WW1 website called Away from the Western Front  which mentions Africa in WW1, but so far only a focus on East Africa in WW1.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/away-from-the-western-front-ww1-history-blog/

So I have some painting of WW1 Peter Laing 15mm figures to do to populate another scenario, inspired by these other desert railways. My trusty Train In a Tin has just acquired a German accent …

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 17 April 2018.

 

 

 

Blowing up More Desert Trains and Cutting Telegraph Wires

Interesting passage on Lawrence of Arabia, desert codes, telegraph wires and railways on page 249 in Codebreakers, the highly readable book on Room 40 and WW1 Codebreaking by James Willie and Michael McKinley (published by Ebury, 2015).

Pulling down telegraph poles? This of course makes sense as often the telegraph poles followed railways, so it was easy to cut these wires or pull these poles down (by camel!) under the guise of Lawrence attacking the railway again. All part of the annoyance and disruption value of guerrilla warfare but with a higher aim, reading the enemy’s codes.

A clever way to force the Turks to rely on wireless, much easier to intercept at a safe distance and then decrypt or decode than tapping telegraph wires.

Overall Codebreakers is a very interesting book on WW1, picked up in my local branch library (childhood habits die hard!) but certainly worth buying in paperback. It covers naval and submarine warfare, Zeppelin raids, the Western Front, Ireland, German espionage and sabotage in America and its legacy, the seeds of WW2 codebreaking and breaking the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park.

More on WW1 Wireless and Telegraph and SIG INT at my post https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/innovation-in-combat-ww1-wireless-and-telegraph-blog/

More on Lawrence and desert train gaming scenarios – next time I need to add some Telegraph poles alongside the railtrack!

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/blowing-up-desert-trains-part-1/

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 3 February 2019.

20% Less Pound Store Plastic Warriors for your Pound

My most recent trip to Poundland confirmed what I had heard through comments on the blog late last year, that my penny dreadful figures of 100 for a £1 (a penny a figure) was now 80 figures for a pound.

It took a few extra weeks to make it to the Southwest but the 80 figure tubs have finally arrived.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/pound-store-plastic-warriors-poundland-artwork/

Bik commented on this post here

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/off-to-poundland-on-a-mission/

Eventually in a few years we will just have 50 figures for £1 and they will become Tupenny Dreadful, twice the price they were last year but still reasonable conversion material.

My “penny dreadful” nickname for them came from my delight in Battle Game of The Month blogger Ross MacFarlane’s comment on the original pound store figures before I set to work with paint, pin and scalpel conversions that I have featured on previous posts. More figures on the painting table at the moment to share with you soon …

So even though they are now one “penny and a quarter dreadfuls”, still good play value for money.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, January 27th 2018.

Portable Kitchen Table Workshop

After all the interesting discussion on the Duchy of Tradgardland website about roll-top desks as the easy base for painting and modelling,

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/the-domestic-modelling-joys-of-the-roll-top-desk/

I noticed this interesting article by Euan Greer in a stock of old railway magazines. It comes from a Special Extra 1980 (delayed May 1980) Issue, Volume 31 Number 359 of Railway Modeller magazine.

Whilst the roll-top desk might be easier to close the lid and leave work in progress, this chunky portable workshop beats freezing in a loft or a shed.

If I come across the Workshop box original construction articles in Railway Modeller February and April 1979 amongst my random editions, I shall post suitable sections of these on the Sidetracked blog.

Obviously doing your own in box electrics might not be so easy now, but it’s an attractive alternative to the roll top desk.

The railway crest could easily be replaced with a military or regimental crest.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on his occasional Sidetracked blog, 26th January 2018.

The Other Channel Tunnel to Ireland

Interesting one page article by Peter Dale from my gaming scrapbook, taken from a very old copy of Volume 10 Issue 11, November 1996 of Backtrack, a railway history magazine. I kept this page when handed a batch of old railway magazines a while back, as I thought it had interesting gaming scenario ideas for the future.

Based on engineering discussions and papers from 1886 to 1901, Peter Dale explores whether a rail tunnel could have been built linking Ireland to the rest of mainland Britain via Scotland or Wales.

The geology and the whole idea proved too difficult and expensive and was quietly forgotten long before WW1, the Easter Rising, the Irish Civil War and Irish Independence.

It may have proved yet another awkward or weak point to be guarded in the national defences. Perfect for some game scenarios of “What if?”

I’m surprised it didn’t crop up in some of the literature of invasion scares that were around in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on my occasional Sidetracked blog, 22 September 2018.