“Spain in a Small Case – A Z Guage layout you can take with you”, described and built by M.J.G. Baggs, Continental Modeller Number 2 Autumn 1979.
Z Guage – now that’s really tiny, 1:220 scale, so almost 8 to 10mm figure scale in Wargaming terms.
Before there was Travel Battle in a case, there was a layout in a case. Only one page of the article has survived in my battered copy but you get the idea.
I hope M.J.G. Baggs (an appropriate surname for his subject) had hours of travelling fun with his instant Spanish layout. I have my Train in a TIN and variants for such instant railway fun, very therapeutic!
Another bit of Model Railway whimsy and puns from Model Railways June 1974.
In its own way, not dissimilar to the many inventive “Carry on Up The Khyber Pass” style punning suggestions on Henry Hyde’s Wargaming Blog about crowdsourcing fictitious place names (August 2017). These are suggestions for his new Dahlia and Chindrastan campaign map for his forthcoming book Wargaming Campaigns (Pen and Sword, 2018). http://henrys-wargaming.co.uk/?p=2704
Found whilst ploughing through endless old railway modelling magazines that I have been given to pass on to railway modelling family members. Have found a few novel ideas to share over the next few months.
A good 1970 photo by N. V. Salt of one of the locomotives on this famously ambushed railway – see previous blogposts such as
The cartoon style catalogue pictures shown on the excellent Airfix Railways fan website give an idea of the ‘excitement’ involved.
Train passes under gantry with bandit in position
Trap door in passenger car roof opens automatically and cowboy drops in.
Train backs up, last coach is unbuckled and bandit appears with stick of dynamite
Detonator is pressed and the baggage car is blown open!
Bandits appear from log cabin open the safe and reveal the gold.
Will they get away?
Will they get away? To be fair, with only four fixed action cowboys and two spare cowboys from the Airfix Cowboy set to stop them, they probably would get away. A few more cowboys or other figures would add to what in my family was known as its “play value”. Or was this a bit of a one trick pony, one hit wonder, assuming it worked?
Bits and pieces of the set such as the attractive Western Engine and rolling stock can be found on Ebay and other online auction sites
One of the Airfix forums featured a close up of the full black and white cartoon strip.
So the scenario in text form reads:
The Payroll Train is on its way to Gun City – Loaded with Gold Bullion – But Black Jack’s Outlaw Gang is waiting.
The Payroll Train approaches a deserted mining town. It passes under the gantry and Black Jack drops through a trapdoor in the roof.
He uncouples the baggage car – one of his gang places the dynamite – stand back! BANG – and blows the doors open.
The gang rush out of the old log cabin – open the safe.
Breakdown truck stalls on level crossing forcing train to stop
Rocket transfers automatically to waiting lorry
Rocket prepared for launching from inside Dr X’s secret laboratory
Dr. X holds the world to ransom. Will He Succeed?
(Note: Dr X’s secret pre-coloured cardboard laboratory is conveniently located inside nearby hillside tunnel – pondering that would make most rail journeys more interesting – an action tunnel that contained radar scanner and rocket launcher).
Will He Succeed? Quite likely as the only figures included alongside the highly desirable Dr X figure and a couple of version 2 Airfix commando figures – were they probably his tiny gang or the tiny Rescue Party? Sadly as the Airfix OO/HO SAS figures were never produced …
One photo features some of the text from the 1970s boys comic style black and white cartoon:
Dr ‘X’ Adventure Story – a Threat to the World
Somewhere in England, a top security operation is under way. Its object: to transfer a deadly new nuclear missile – to a secret testing ground.
The sinister, international arch-villain, known only as Dr. X. has discovered the plan and he intends to steal the rocket and hold the world to ransom!
It looks like an ordinary goods train. But one van conceals a nuclear missile bound for a testing ground …
In his secret tunnel laboratory, Dr.X brings his radar scanner into action. “The train is on its way!”
I am lucky enough to still have bashed remains of some of my 1970s sets and their 1993-4 reissues, which at the time were one of the few ways of getting new supplies of some of the scarcer Airfix historical figures.
“If Airfix had only…” – I think the cartoon scenario inserts would have been a good addition to the Airfix play sets to create some interesting scenarios. Lego sets do this comic strip scenario thing (and online animations) for modern franchises like Star Wars and Superheroes. The Airfix ones are much in the style of the Battle, Victor and 200 AD comics that I remember from the 1970s (and the tiny A5 War Library picture stories still in print and still in newsagents).
“If Airfix had only” created some very simple, child friendly, Donald Featherstone type wargaming rules, appropriate to the period of the Airfix figures, this would also have been excellent. Couldn’t they have just phoned up Donald Featherstone?
In the absence of these simple rules and scenarios, you just had to use your imagination, raid the local branch library and start tinkering.
Thanks to the Airfix Railways website and other Airfix forums for the source information, enthusiasm and photos. You made a small boy happy many years later.
So there you are, two excellent future scenarios for future Sidetracked games,
1. Bandits holding up the payroll or treasure train (in whichever period from Victorian, Civil War, Wild West through to Nazi Gold trains)
2. Holding up the train, blocking the train track and stealing the poorly guarded or discretely transported top secret weapon of mass destruction (in whichever period you are playing)
How good, numerous or well armed the train guards are or how quickly the posse and rescue party arrives is all part of the scenario.
These were not the 1840s Victorian railway scenario one that I am still working on but that is the name and nature of being Sidetracked!
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 27 August 2017
Kieran is one of the small team of builders of the striking Hallat Ammar 19 September 1917 desert train ambush diorama which is currently in the Lawrence of Arabia: Shifting Sands exhibition at the National Civil War Centre.
“This is a fantastic idea for adapting a scenario. I’m one of the builders of the Hallat Ammar diorama shown on the NQM blog – see also my own, rather inconsistently maintained blog is http://gotflag.blogspot.com.2
“It’s very rewarding to see that the diorama has prompted some gaming of Lawrence scenarios – I was slightly upset to se the glass case go over the display, unfortunately we didn’t get any games in on the board before hand.”
“Keep up the good work, looking forward to reading more.” Kieran
You can see more of the finished diorama in Kieran’s photographs, including a few construction pics. Elsewhere on his occasional blog you can see the locomotive models being made (before he wrecked or blew them up!) and much more besides.
I was quite curious where Kieran’s blog name from. The short embedded clip from Eddie Izzard on Kieran’s Do You Have A Flag? website explains it. Watching it, I can’t help thinking that Eddie Izzard is so much of the same 60s / 70s Airfix generation as myself and many of us, in fact he is probably a glammed up version of Harry Pearson in Achtung Schweinhund.
A few more Lawrence links about the Hallat Ammar train ambush, rapidly approaching its centenary on 19 September 1917 / 2017
A few more interrupted railway ambush gaming scenarios inspired by this real event in the next few months.
Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN on his occasional Sidetracked blog, 21 August 1917
I like Kieran’s comment about the frustration of not having enough time to get a game in on this superb desert terrain before the glass lid went on. In my Borrowers inspired brain, maybe when the lights go dim at night at the National Civil War Centre, out come the tiny tents, the campfires, the singing on each side, the camels lie down and all is well and calm until they are back in their fighting positions by opening time, just as before. But if you look carefully enough …
Amongst the hundreds of old railway magazines I have recently been given to pass on to my railway modelling family members, I wondered if there was a special little article or two that I remember reading in the mid 1970s.
One of them was, I was sure, a Junior Modeller sort of article about WW1 using Airfix WW1 figures. I checked all the Railway Modellers first. as luck would have it, I eventually found it, after flicking through thousands of pages.
I remember this April 1976 article very well as a child from the railway magazines that were around in our house. The Junior Modeller pages were about as much as I could understand of these technical grown-up magazines.
What I liked about this article was that the Airfix figures and models were ones that I recognised and owned. I could perhaps do something similar?
It was written by a young person as well, a 15 year old called Julian Chambers.
I hope somewhere that a mid 50-something Julian Chambers still has this gem of a 009 little layout tucked away. Interesting to read about a planned possible extension through the quarry tunnel. I wonder if this ever happened.
The text mentions of Bellona houses and Jouef trains didn’t mean much to me at the time – what was 009 anyway? As it was the photographs that I remember best, I have edited the pages to produce some close ups of the photographs by Roy Chambers.
The difference between a model railway or diorama piece like this and the wargamer’s approach is that these Airfix figures and tank are fixed or “pinned down” (in the old, entomological rather than gaming sense).
I clearly recall these many of these photographs 30 to 40 years later, so often did I pore over them. (Star Wars still hadn’t happened by then).
I even wonder if the way I sketch out scenario maps for gaming is influenced by this terrific little map that I looked at so often. It linked so well with the photos.
Julian Chambers mentioned an interesting little colour illustrated Blandford style book Railways and War before 1918 by Denis Bishop and W.J.K. Davies, 1972. Not sure if I ever found this amongst the Blandford Uniform hardback colour books in the local library but I now have this on order (lots of them still out there affordable second hand) along with the sequel Railways and War Since 1917: featuring World War II (in Colour) by Denis Bishop and W.J.K. Davies, 1975.
So thanks Julian Chambers for the inspiration still many years later, Roy Chambers for those photos and Railway Modeller with its Junior Modeller page (does it still have this?). You made a small boy happy and a grown-up small boy even happier still to rediscover that this was just as good as he remembered!
Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, Sidetracked blog, 15 August 2017
Apples to Pears look like a fun company for unusual postable gifts in a tin. I was lucky enough to find my Train in a TIN in a charity shop (thrift or op shop) for about £4 , an unwanted gift but in full working order, even the AA battery still charged.
“We know you love gifts that move and catch attention which is why our original Train Set in a Tin continues to be a firm favourite.
This autumn sees the launch of a new design called “The Great Railway Express”. Presented in the new “big” Gift in a Tin size, the product is packed with a classic green train, carriages, plus extra track and accessories …” Available end of August 2017, Apples to Pears trade website 2017
Train in a TIN usually sells for about £10 to £12 and is not to be confused with other “Gifts in A Tin” companies like the variations on the “Tank in a TIN and not enough toy soldiers” set http://www.theoriginalgift.co.uk/ogc/tank-in-a-tin and other suppliers, the battery powered tank being “a tiny replica of the American M41 Walker Bulldog light tank, in operation from 1953 to the present day”.
I bought this one from hobby craft and modelling mail order store Fred Aldous.
I like the vintage or retro look of the packaging, the railwayana look of the station board titles and vintage looking font. This is continued in the small details such as the railway tickets.
“Relive the Great Era of Passenger and Goods Rail Conveyance” – tickets to travel to the zoo – and all for well under a tenner!
The way click a track works there are only limited flexible options for the layout.
The manual track point switch is robust and simple.
Two of the larger ‘train in a box’ sets would give you point circles at either end, three a point midway along etc.
What happens if you combine tracks from the tin and the box sets?
The battery train and rolling stock have an engaging waddle and easy coupling. Fresh batteries make the engine rather too enthusiastic and coltish at times.
I unscrewed and added a small stone to inside the caboose (painted black, not red) to add some weight at the back. The coal tender in the Train in a Box set has already a chunky addition of bolt or washer inside to add weight and stability.
Whilst unscrewing the rest of the rolling stock out of curiousity to see where a liitle weight could be added, I noticed some interesting tinkering possibilities.
Taking the engines apart suggests that you could adapt the engine to something more British or European. With its body off, the engine looks very functional and narrow gauge.
Train in a TIN comes with simple building instructions and some handy operating tips.
More deconstructed trains
The narrow gauge look to the deconstructed wagons reminded me of another cheap plastic toy, an old Greendale Rocket loco, spotted as the cover toy on the front of a Children’s BBC Postman Pat comic. It is a child’s wheeled push-along toy train that fortuitously fits the track (albeit with wheels astride or outside the track).
Two ‘train in a TIN’ and ‘train in a box’ sets compared
Track layouts played around with.
Rolling stock deconstructed leading to
a complete sidetracked tangent to Postman Pat and Pound Store Plastics.
I am busy working on an unusual new history inspired, railway linked Man of TIN / Sidetracked gaming scenario c. 1840s over the next week or two. All requiring a bit of research, some scrounging around for suitable figures, some quick painting and a simple new terrain on the 192 Hexes of Joy game board.