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


DMZ Post No. 3 – Tank Engine Tuesday

In place of the promised tankettes and Tankette Tuesday, here is the DMZ demilitarised version: Tank Engine Tuesday


Tank Engine Tuesday? No that’s not engines for tanks. I once saw a Matilda tank engine for sale on EBay and thought for a moment, it’s a start. A Matilda Tank on the Front Lawn would certainly be a conversation piece …

Anyway a DMZ demilitarised look at my occasional Sidetracked blog, where my gaming life sometimes overlaps with railways and model railways.

Ben, this lovely beast of a Tank Engine is still lurking in the family toy cupboards, along with this vintage handmade station with its tin and card adverts

According to the authoritative

“Bill and Ben are based on the Bagnall 0-4-0STs “Alfred” and “Judy” of Par [Docks] in Cornwall, who are both preserved and in working order at the excellent Bodmin and Wenford Railway in Cornwall.”

“According to the foreword of Thomas and the Twins, Alfred and Judy are both Bill and Ben’s twins. Alfred was once repainted yellow for a Days Out with Thomas event, to resemble Bill.”


Railways are one DMZ demilitarised and relaxing modelling way of keeping the crafting modelling hands busy during current disquieting events.

Its an occasional itch – I come from a Model Railway Family (we’re all about 1 inch tall, made of plastic and don’t move around much).


Peter Dennis’ versatile civilians from his Little Wars, 54mm Paperboys – great passengers!

One of the attractive sections of H.G. Wells’ Floor Games (1911) is the ‘lectric, or clockwork engines, the photographs of the cities and islands by his wife Amy Catherine (“Jane”) Wells and the charming drawings by illustrator J.R. (John Ramage) Sinclair.

Floor Games 1911


The most attractive parts of railway modelling has always been the scenics and especially the figures, often a useful (but sometimes expensiv e source) of civilians for my DMZ Demilitarised Games – snowballers, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts / Guides …


Some interesting DMZ reading and viewing


Why not Do a Snooville? I remember this at the time from the family Railway Modeller magazine!

Much as I like British railways and vanished quirky branch lines, I also like American railroads, Mixed Train Daily and Short Lines (Hello citizens of Bowdon!)


I also like pop up instant railways

whether in a tin,

a pop up book

or a Wild West battery train set and birdhouse trackside station

Set up and taken down in minutes. Instant fix. Quick joy.

Even a quirky pen and ink digital railway?



Why not take it around in a suitcase?


Taken from my occasional blog –

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 1st March 2022

Armoured train in a tin?

Blowing up Desert Trains:My own train from a tin in action last year 

Martin Rapier’s The Games We Play blog armoured train. 

Martin Rapier on his The Games We Play blog has done a fabulous conversion job on the good old train in a tin gift set, converting it into a sinister armoured train, useful for many scenarios

Cheaper than N-Gauge, this is a very versatile cheap instant train set available in two sizes or sets.

which has already cropped up, rough black painted but unconverted,  in several of my scenarios last year.    Blog Post which leads or links to “Blowing Up Desert Trains Part 2”

The unconverted train is also perfect for the American Civil War, complete with cow catcher

I must get around to dry brushing and weathering my black train this year.

Thanks, Martin Rapier, for the reminder to unTIN my Train more often.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, on the occasional Sidetracked blog 20 January 2018.




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