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: http://www.airfixrailways.co.uk/ARSwildWestAdvSet.htm
“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 http://www.airfixrailways.co.uk/ARSwildWestAdvSetC.htm
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.
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. http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=27
A great looking set of Airfix cowboys painted up here on the P and P blog http://pampersandp.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/cowboys-and-indians.html
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’s radar scanner picks up approaching train
- 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 …
A fairly full set with its parts is illustrated here: http://www.modelkitcollecting.com/topic910.html
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: http://www.airfixrailways.co.uk/General.htm
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 http://www.vintage-airfix.com/diorama-and-buildings-c-73.html
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