Russo Japanese War Railway Sabotage 1904

Bazoku or Manchuria guerillas on horseback working for Japan derail Russian supply trains on the Trans Siberian Railway c. 1904.

These prints come from the Glasgow University Collection:

Which I learnt about through a link on this fine 1815-1918 blog by Ralphus:

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 8 June 2023


WW1 Desert Railway Raid by Grid Based Wargaming blog post

Who doesn’t love a good old ‘railway ambush’ scenario, whether it’s the Wild West, East Afrika or the Middle East?

Screenshots from Peter’s Gridbased Wargaming blog post

Interesting Post / scenario. With the desert terrain, an austere but atmospheric visual feast …

Link and screenshots posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 21 May 2023

For my own desert trains scenarios, see

Boy Scout Messengers for Railways WW1 1914

Boy Scouts and their Scout Mistress, Hook Station, Hampshire, August 20th 1914

Crossposted from my Scouting Wide Games Blog:

And a previous Boy Scout messenger image from the same Railways in WW1 book:

My First Railway, The Red Railway?

My very first railway was a push-along engine on this magnificently red tracked plastic layout with bridges and buffers and probably a turntable in bright primary colours.

It was known simply in the family as “The Red Railway”.

I could not remember who made this – it was ‘old’ and playworn by the time I played with it in the early 1970s, having gone through several members of the family in the mid 1960s.

Being rapidly set up on table or floor it must have featured in many wargames with small Airfix soldiers, as there were open freight wagons that you could put your figures inside. Instant armoured train!

I have a vague memory of playing with the tiny Airfix British Commandos and this railway system.

No fiddle or fuss, no electric, no batteries. Simple.

Once I had finished gaming with it in the 1980s, it went on to further use by young nieces in the 1990s. I lost track of it after that, but after thirty years family service, it probably ended up in a charity shop. It might still be in use somewhere!

As I had no surviving childhood photos of this railway system, I thought an internet search would turn up a photograph or two of this railway and eventually a maker’s name.

The railway it appears was made by British toy firms Mettoy / Playcraft of London, Northampton and Fforestfach, Swansea.

Image source: eBay source finalcapri280

Further eBay and internet research reveals some half remembered details – the covered bridge, the funny ‘pieces of eight’ track connectors, reversable track, the level crossing …

… the covered bridge type engine shed, the points and the turntable.

Oddly I don’t recall a station or platform or buildings, until I spotted these on Worthpoint

A glimpse and memory of a station building and platform, along with signal box.

A further eBay search revealed a boxed example! Playcraft Junior Railway Set B 9521

By the time I encountered this family railway such a box was long gone. It all came out of and went back into a normal cardboard box.

Looking at these internet pictures again of my first railway system brings back very strong tactile memories of assembling buildings, connecting track and changing points levers.

One eBay listing reveals a still bagged unopened covered bridge type engine shed 9538 with faded header …

and usefully a listing of different “low priced accessory packs” that could be bought in 1970.

Some more interesting 1970s packaging or repackaging from Child Guidance Toys. I could easily have been that boy!

Contacts of Set D

… and small details of the turntable levers – I remember these and the strong bright red green yellow blue plastics.

Other versions or makers include Toltoys and Child Guidance Toys (USA, very worthy sounding)

Translated into the language of the American Railroad – caboose, car barn, bumpers, yoke and switch with track in handy silver grey.

Here’s what it all cost (UK trade prices) per trade box in April 1975 (blurry detail from eBay source)

5 Junior Railway box sets appear to have been sold (L9520 to L9524, Sets A to E) and intriguingly L9580 a Battery Operated Electric Train that I don’t remember …

Alarmingly the track for my “Red Railway” also came in yellow in a Dick Bruna Sunny Farm version.

The RM Railway Modelling Web features a section on these toy railways and a possible glimpse of the battery powered locomotive?

We now know a supposed railway “gauge” for my first Red Railway of 1 1/4″ track gauge.

The Dick Bruna Sunny Farm Railway and buildings …

The Mettoy Playcraft Junior Railway appears to have been a 1960s plastic ancestor of the now widespread Swedish wooden Brio Railway (1958 onwards) and its various wooden spinoffs.

Anyway that was my First “Red Railway” which overlapped for a short while with small Airfix toy soldier game scenarios …

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 22 March 2023

Early Railways Shire Book 1569 to 1830 and other early railway titles

Another excellent Shire Library book, a short illustrated introduction covering the earliest days of mineral tramways from horse-drawn tramways into the experimental steam era.

Book Blurb “In the popular mind, the history of the railway begins in 1830 with the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. In fact, by that time the concept of the railway in Britain was already more than 250 years old. The interim is a fascinating but little-known period of experimentation, improvement and invention which included such remarkable oddities as an Elizabethan version of the ‘Scalextric’, an early ‘JCB’, and an engine fitted with steam-powered legs. Innovations such as iron rails, inclines and the pioneering locomotives were gradually introduced, so that by 1830 the basic principles of the modern railway were already in place.

Never again would the industry see such fundamental development, and it is this heady and industrious period that Early Railways examines, in fascinating detail and with lavish illustrations.”

The authors Andy Guy and Jim Rees were involved in the Beamish Living History Museum 1825 early tramway recreation and the National Railway Museum at York.

Although I am not a railway modeller (but come from a family of railway modellers), I grew up on the edge of London near one early railway which is covered in this book and near a famous later railway tunnel where many navvies died.

Early inventions and incarnations of now familiar things fascinate me, including the ‘also rans’ and failures.

Jack Simmons‘ scholarly book on The Victorian Railway (Thames and Hudson, 1991/2009) is very good for this, as is Gordon Biddle’s Victorian Stations 1830 -1923 (David Charles, 1973) and the early part of the Victorian Farm team’s TV series Full Steam Ahead. All books worth a review on this blog sometime.

These books chronicle the many ways in which the “vandalism” of railways changed our towns, our countryside, our culture and the world.

Tunnels had to be dug, viaducts built Roman style and track had to be laid leading to the strange and riotous life of the navvy camps The navvies had already done the same for the canals and inland waterways, which were often eclipsed by their new upstart neighbour running alongside them.

Stations had to be built and carriages designed for people, often mimicking the stage coaches and infrastructure of the mail coaches of the day.

eBay image source: my copy of this unusual subject for a Britain’s figure is boxed away in storage somewhere!

I live in the Southwest UK and 150 years on still travel from a Victorian station on a Great Western Railway system of bridges, lines and tunnels created by Brunel.

Cornish inventors like Richard Trevithick, William Murdoch and Goldsworthy Gurney tried creating both steam cars or wagons and engines for roads.

If it had worked in the late 1820s, the post Napoleonic and Crimean era Victorian British Army could have ridden to war on a Gurney steam car or steam drag and dragged its guns there with steam. Instead Brunel built the “Crimean Railway” or tramway. Christian Wolmer has written an interesting history of railways at war called Engines of War.

Goldsworthy Gurney steam drag, 1820s (Wikimedia source)

Before dying aged 18 / 19 in the trenches in the final year of WW1, my Great Uncle had been a fit young “steam waggon stoker” in this road steam version of a locomotive and lorry, a curious and rare “steam hybrid” that I got to look around recently at a local steam fair. The internal combustion engine, road freight and diesel lorry eventually won over that rival or competitor. The world with its vanished branchlines is probably poorer for it.

Before this Victorian era, there were rail ways or tramways across my current landscape. I now live in a village like much of its area and road network still awkwardly shaped in parts by its early 19th century life as a horse tram and steam Mineral Tramway and docks for the Cornish mines, like many such tramways in Devon, Cornwall and the North. I still work in the shadow of a stone railway viaduct to a coastal town that owes its seaside heritage and modern trade to a mineral tramway that ended up shipping in tourists and holidaymakers when the minerals petered out.

Pull the Emergency Stop Chain now! Woah there!

Caught myself there before the railway madness in the family descends full steam ahead on me …

If you search early railways, you will find a range of interesting books including this one:

If you hanker after early tramways and railways, be warned, there is not much off the shelf Or ready to run engines and rolling stock. You’ll have to build lots of fiddly twiddly stuff.

Good to know that the original Airfix Stephenson’s Rocket kit (static model) and railway labourers are still available from good old Dapol:

Almost steampunk, two of the odder Airfix figures with their fine top hats.

They could join my Victorian policeman conversion (can you recognise the original Airfix figure with a ‘straw’ top hat?) sorting out those riotous navvies.

The sign reads “Stop Now! This (rail) way madness lies …”

Blog Post Script

I have Mr. Bob Cordery to blame for this post, having posted about his Diddly Dums.

One of the comments on his blog jokily mentioned Beware joining the “chuff puff loonies” so it’s obviously not just my family curse.

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 18 February 2023. Toot toot!

Puerto Borracho Railway

I found this charming small railway online (following a post by Mike Siggins) and thought I’d share it with you. It’s on Facebook …

And the videos are also available on Facebook

Such as this Youtube clip

It’s a cheery, jokey, charming, colourful and beautifully detailed layout and project. Well worth watching.

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN 8 January 2023

Christmas Dinner Table Train Service

Our budget Polar Express made a Christmas appearance on the Christmas lunch table, quickly assembled with whatever there was to hand …

Trains don’t usually run on Christmas Day but this special one did.

The centrepiece of our Christmas table and family lunch today.


Delivering the Tiny Christmas Tree, the wobbly jelly and the iced Christmas cake ….

Past the large Colman’s Mint Sauce advertising hoarding, HG Wells style …

A few passengers and staff wait on platforms, along with barrels and wine.

Past the Polar Bear and the Snowman and the Frozen Reindeer …

Past the forest of lovely wooden fir trees …

Past the old wooden horse bus or waggon

Then back in the box after Christmas!


The track and rolling stock is a mixture of my instant battery Train in a Tin and the larger set from Fred Aldous, seen here in my 2017 post:

Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Blog post by Mark Man Of TIN, 25 December 2022

4mm Cowes Single Box illustration

I stuck this illustration (from Railway Modelling magazine? c. 2012?) in my scrapbook as it reminded me of modeller Stan Catchpol’s column in Military Modelling magazine in the 1980s.

Drawn by Ian C. Robinson

I like the Lilliputian / Borrowers aspects of the tiny railway people coming alive to build your ‘model’ railway / their normal railway …

Blog post by Mark Man Of TIN, 4 December 2022

Shoo! Fly! and Company G? Railways Magazine January 1942 WW2 and ACW

Two interesting pages from a random issue of Railways magazine Volume 3, No. 21 January 1942 which I scanned before I passed them on.

Above is a 1941 era Cruiser tank “en route to embarkation points” – official LNER photograph – and obviously a propaganda shot. such open daytime shipping shows our allied armoured might, replacements only a year and a half after the disastrous loss of tanks at Dunkirk and the Fall Of France in May 1940.

And now from WW2 to the American Civil War (amongst the early Wars to use railroads)

“Shoo! Fly! don’t bother me!

For I belong

to Company G!”

This 1860s minstrel song instrumental can be heard here on this Library Of Congress

According to Wikipedia: “Shoo Fly” is among the songs (“John Brown’s Body” is another) claimed as compositions by T. Brigham Bishop.

According to Bishop’s account, he wrote “Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me” during the Civil War while assigned to command a company of black soldiers.

One of the soldiers, dismissing some remarks of his fellow soldiers, exclaimed “Shoo fly, don’t bother me,” which inspired Bishop to write the song, including in the lyrics the unit’s designation, “Company G”,_Don%27t_Bother_Me

Wikipedia also mentioned a Spanish-American War troop connection in the 1898: “when flies and the yellow fever  and mosquito were a serious enemy.

Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album

(about 22 minutes) in on  Join Bing and Sing Along  (1959)

and its the second track on the Disney Children’s Songs album No. 3

… notably without the Company G part.

So Shoo Fly – temporary railway loop or American Civil War minstrel lyric sung by black (Union?) Soldiers (of the USCT US Coloured Troops?)

And the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B? That’s another story, another war and another Company.

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 7 October 2022


I have not followed this Anne Parrish link up for The Perpetual Bachelor (1925)