Spain in a Small Case



“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!

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 25 September 2017


On Place Names by R.G.W. Bryant


Model Railways June 1974 
More railway puns …

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).

Sidetracked again.

A Link with Lawrence 1917


Model Railway News October 1970 

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

Sidetracked again, another short blogpost by Mark, Man of TIN, 2 September 1917

Blowing Up More Trains the Airfix Way


Wild West Adventure – a tiny little clue in the book Airfix’s Little Soldiers by Jean-Christophe Carbonel

Having spotted this little catalogue reprint picture in Carbonel’s book, I looked around the Internet for more details of the rare Airfix Railway  System Adventure Train Sets.

There is an entire well illustrated Airfix railway fansite:

“See how Badmen hold up the Western Train to dynamite the side!”

This was a set c. 1975 that I never saw as a child and would have been interested to see how it worked

The cartoon style catalogue pictures shown on the excellent Airfix Railways fan website give an idea of the ‘excitement’ involved.

  1. Train passes under gantry with bandit in position
  2. Trap door in passenger car roof opens automatically and cowboy drops in.
  3. Train backs up, last coach is unbuckled and bandit appears with stick of dynamite
  4. Detonator is pressed and the baggage car is blown open!
  5. Bandits appear from log cabin open the safe and reveal the gold.
  6. 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.

wild west airfix
Borrowed from Airfix forum post by reposting 4 – Thanks.

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.

Does Black Jack’s  ambush succeed?

Can the Sheriff’s Posse catch the gang?

Will Black Jack double-cross the other outlaws?

Will they double-cross him?

It’s Up to You?

Obviously the Posse was other Airfix figures that you had bought, if you could still find Airfix Cowboys in the mid 1970s with its erratic supply chain.

A great looking set of Airfix cowboys painted up here on the P and P blog

Dr X or No?

As if this wasn’t exciting enough, there was also a very James Bond 007 style Dr. X Adventure Set by Airfix Railways.

See how Dr. X holds the world to ransom with his fiendish plan?

Dr X, I presume …

  1. Dr X’s radar scanner picks up approaching train
  2. Breakdown truck stalls on level crossing forcing train to stop
  3. Rocket transfers automatically to waiting lorry
  4. Rocket prepared for launching from inside Dr X’s secret laboratory
  5. 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 …

A fairly full set with its parts is illustrated here:

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!”

Some of the Dr. X artwork was later rescued from a skip:

Sadly it sounds from the railway forums as if the sets had all the same slightly disappointing,  “doesn’t quite work”  nature that bedevilled many  70s action toy sets.

The “If Airfix Had …” section

These train sets offer some of the interest of the Airfix Play sets with forts, figures and vehicles 

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

A few words from a modeller who blows up his own desert trains

It was good to hear from Kieran Byrne  from the Do You Have You A Flag? blogsite.

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

“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.

Kieran had been reading my blogpost “Charlotte Bronte and Lawrence of Arabia blow up trains” about using this diorama to inspire various gaming scenarios:

Do You Have A Flag?

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

Photos of Hallat Ammar

Using Michael Asher’s book & photos

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 …

Inspirational Articles No. 1 WW1 Railway

Jun RM 01

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.

jun RM 02.jpg

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?


A little scenario setting by Julian Chambers  and the magical words Airfix WW1


It was written by a young person as well, a 15 year old  called Julian Chambers.


Jun RM 03
Some atmospheric black and white photos of Bellona trenches and Airfix troops.

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.


Interesting bucket hoist quarrying set up. Bellona walls?


WW1 Horse Artillery  enter left amongst Airfix railway buildings Water Tank and Engine Shed (kits still available from Dapol).


Rm 2
Interesting little staff car … Bellona house


Rm 2
Sentries patrol the heights with Airfix railway buildings at the rear.


Rm 2
Airfix WW1 Royal Horse Artillery (left) French infantry rear centre and British Infantry Medical officer and casualty  (right)


RM 3
Airfix WW1 French fighter kit in frozen flames forever…


RM 3
The good old  Airfix British tank kit ….


RM 3
An impressive little Bellona  trench system …

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).

Without figures fixed down and based, you could fight this scenario over and over again, bringing in reinforcements by train. The closest to Bellona trenches and these troops you will get now is the small offerings in the Airfix Somme Centenary set – now sold out on – so get it while you can.


RM 3
Final perspective shot of the WW1 Airfix Germans

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).


The plan of the compact layout by Julian Chambers

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
















Deconstructing Trains – Train in a TIN vs. Train in a BOX


This is what you get in your Train in a TIN; this is after my Paint It Black phase, with the sticky labels removed.
It still all snugly packs away in the tin.


Colourful train before I painted it black …
What the Train in a TIN once looked like … my caboose should be red like this. mine was light blue before black paint


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 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”.

And now Train in a BOX … 

Slightly cheaper without the TIN at around £7, the Click-a- Track Miniature Train Set from dotcomgiftshop / Rex international has more track and a switching point. They have a ‘dotcomgiftshop’ seller site  on Ebay and their own website at

I bought this one from hobby craft and modelling mail order store Fred Aldous.

Atmospheric and attractive ‘train in a box’ packaging. Train artwork By B. Rowney.


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 box unpacked – first view of the colourful contents. .
More British themed wagons in this set from British Town and Country Railways (BT&CR)  to a milk caboose for Wardle and Browns Dairy Farm Co. A handy sign elsewhere on a building or hoarding  if repainting this caboose.


A suggested track layout on the box back – and no free AA battery included.

The way click a track works there are only limited flexible options for the layout.



A different layout from the box back.

The manual track point switch is robust and simple.


The suggested track layout on the box

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?


Comparing track packs between Train in a TIN and Train in a BOX

Deconstructing Trains

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.

Deconstructing trains … to make different wagons or put  some weight inside.

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.


A different sort of simple WW1 light military railway type  locomotive could be made with a scratch-built battery cover.


Train in a TIN comes with simple building instructions and some handy operating tips.

Helpful tips from applestopears – not suitable for unders 3s.

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).


Those versatile PPP Peco tunnel ends and a cheap plastic magazine cover toy train  that looks a little  like the Greendale Rocket steam train that it is supposed to be out of Postman Pat (Magazine c.2009)

The whole delightful Greendale Rocket vintage episode – a mini Titfield Thunderbolt for the tinies – can be found on Postman Pat Official channel on YouTube.

Playing with a mix of trucks and cheap plastics,  here goes nothing:

A narrow gauge feel to this set up.
Blacked up tender feels even more narrow gauge with 30mm-ish pound store figures.


No buffers at the back, just a sticker. This lovely little loco needs some suitable paint  and one of the Train in a Tin spare couplings added.


Light railway cargo on my deconstructed train in a TIN carriage bodies.


Coffee stirrer and matchstick carpentry could be used to make rough waggon sides and floors  to fit these waggon bodies.

The neutral white felt background gives this a winter in the trenches feel. Barbed wire from pound store set. Figures are 30mm-ish pound store plastics from Poundland

This train would also go well with Pound Store Plastic Transport –

Lots of interesting cheap plastic inspiration.



So that’s all for now, being

  1. Two ‘train in a TIN’ and ‘train in a box’ sets compared
  2. Track layouts played around with.
  3. Rolling stock deconstructed leading to
  4. a complete sidetracked  tangent to Postman Pat and Pound Store Plastics.


What next?

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.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 10 August 2017