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
















Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

6 thoughts on “Inspirational Articles No. 1 WW1 Railway”

    1. Thanks Maudlin JT – I thought the article was so good that it should be shared and not lost. I take no credit for the original photos or article. Reposting this article is what Bob Cordery jokingly calls OBE – Other Beggars Efforts is the polite form – usually referring to taking the credit for other people’s painted figures that you have bought or been given. Best wishes Mark Man of TIN


  1. Years ago I got into model railroading. My plan was to set up an 1860’s period model railroad, which I was going to use my Airfix ACW figures with. One of my brothers convinced me to do a 1960’s railroad, that we were going to set up based on our hometown. After I bought all the HO rolling stock, my brother switched to N gauge and left me with a setup that I didn’t want to begin with! Several years ago I got some narrow gauge trains to use with my Peter Laings. I was thinking of setting up a small layout with them, to use as you suggested, to refight the scenario over and over again.


    1. Hello John
      That’s why I set up Sidetracked blog to explore this overlap. The ACW or 1860s railroad with Airfix sounds really interesting I know that they did a wild west set the rolling stock of which would be around second hand. Narrow gauge sounds a good compliment to Peter Laings although I get a bit fuzzy on suitable scales for which size figures.
      Your idea of a game board / layout that doubles as a layout and a gaming scenario sounds really interesting, the best of both worlds! I imagine that some junctions, bridges and railroad halts were or could be repeatedly fought over and skirmished over again and again during the Civil War, the Wild West, The Indian Wars, Mexican American wars etc. Your Peter Laing Boers in their slouch hats would make very good Cowboys or Confederates.
      Mark Man of TIN


      1. My narrow gauge trains I bought because I just like the looks of them. I have played a couple of games using the trains in the story line. I think the Peter Laing figures look good with the trains. Of course, I really don’t mind if the scale is not right. I now go for a “toy soldier” look to my games, not a realistic mini world.
        One game I played had PL Boers attacking a train with PL soldiers in home service uniforms. I might just have to replay that game.


  2. John The PL boers versus Redcoats sounds a great idea or rematch. It sounds almost like an armoured train scenario. I don’t worry about the niceties of scale too much either, like you say with the toy soldier look of Peter Laing figures, it is finding the suitable right toy to do the job and set the scene or scenario.
    Mark, Man of TIN.


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