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


What is going on in the heads of the Tiny Railway People?

I usually find railway layouts in magazines and exhibitions less of interest for the trains running up and down and more of interest for the scenery, the people and the tiny vignette details. Some model railway enthusiasts obviously have less interest or time for this aspect of their hobby.

(Above) Character sketches of Airfix OO HO Civilian figures who survived in my collection. Figure range:

In my 2006/7 scrapbook, on another long train journey for work (everything outside the West Country is a long journey) I scribbled and sketched down ideas about the people I saw in passing, how they were grouped or separate etc.

Hobos. Senior Citizens. Rebels. Lovers in Action (!) – Scrapbook page of tiny railway people from various magazines c. 2007/8

This was no doubt inspired by reading a railway modelling magazine with layouts and figure ranges pictured. If there are no interesting military modelling, wargames, toy soldier or history magazines that month on the station bookstall, I would sometimes choose a railway modelling one. They often had useful transferable  tips on modelling, painting and weathering techniques, terrain and scenery design articles or some interesting history stories.

I do think that the shortened categories or stereotypes of human behaviour listed in the figure ranges is quite amusing – not quite all of human behaviour is yet here. I wonder what is missing? I will post on this another time.

Looking up at real life whizzing past the hurrying window, slicing through town, countryside, back gardens etc then looking back at the magazine’s railway layout pictures, gave an interesting switching perspective. Big, small, messy, neat, detailed, empty. Real, fake. It is the scale distortion joy or joke of the old fashioned model village or tiny people artists like Slinkachu.

Thoughts of what is going on in the heads of Peco Modelscene passenger set B is almost a Creative Writing stimulus exercise?

Still available the Peco Passenger Set B

On long journeys I would read both the adverts and the articles,  taking a long, close, in-depth look at the photos, people, backdrops and details, trying to read between the lines at what is really going on when nobody is looking. If you could speech bubbles or thought bubbles above their heads, what would be in them? What preoccupies them in this frozen slice of imagined life or time as trains run past? Why no moving people?

I blame much of this Michael Bentine’s Potty Time,  The Borrowers, The Twelves and other such stories of tiny people come to life but who freeze when there are “human beans” around.

Looking at the characters or Railway people types which appear with wearying regularity on layouts worldwide such as Passenger Set B, I wonder:

  • What is in the letter that the lady in yellow is about to post?
  • What is in the letter in his hand that the postman is about to deliver? What other things are in his bag?
  • What is in the bag or briefcase carried by the first man on the left?
  • Where is the sprightly cheerful lady in black and red heading off to? Who will she meet?

I notice a few Marple type figures amongst these Peco and Airfix figures. During Lockdown, I have been listening my way through the Agatha Christie BBC dramatisations of Poirot and Miss Marple (via my online local public library download).

Marples and Miniatures ? Murderer? Murdered? Miss Marple?

What’s in the envelope?

What is in these envelopes in people’s hands, the postman’s bag, the postbox on these layouts?

It reminds me of some lines from Night Mail by W.H. Auden, the rhythmic poem set to music to accompany the Thirties GPO Film Unit documentary:

“This is the night mail crossing the Border,

Bringing the cheque and the postal order …”

“Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,

The shop at the corner, the girl next door…”

“Letters of thanks, letters from banks,

Letters of joy from girl and boy,

Receipted bills and invitations

To inspect new stock or to visit relations,

And applications for situations,

And timid lovers’ declarations,

And gossip, gossip from all the nations,

News circumstantial, news financial,

Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,

Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,

Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,

Letters to Scotland from the South of France,

Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands

Written on paper of every hue,

The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,

The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,

The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,

Clever, stupid, short and long,

The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong …”

You can watch this classic and stylish Thirties GPO Film Unit documentary free at the BFI site here:


Some of the classic (or wearily familiar) Airfix passenger ranges are still available from Dapol, but sadly not the early 1960s Airfix Civilians set.

Dapol still make (and mail order) these former Airfix sets in hard grey plastic:

1971 Airfix set S42 Station Accessories Figures,

1970s? Platform Figures

and the useful early 1980s issue Track Crew that I painted recently in my Navvy Battle preparations

Navvies backed up by Victorian Civilians from the Airfix Waggon Train set.

Next post: I will add some alternative suggestions from my notebooks for railway modelling figures of some character stereotypes and modern civilian figures that I don’t think are yet made, but reading through some of the more bizarre figures on the Preiser lists, I’m not so sure …

Blog post by Mark Man of TIN 23 April 2020

Airfix Railway Figures reviewed 1980 and painted 2019

Exciting new arrivals in 1980, still going strong almost 40 years later.

Figure review from Model Railways magazine October 1980

I remember these figures arriving in the shops, coming as I do from a railway modelling family. Eventually a few spare unwanted ones with berets or flat caps, painted black, joined my Airfix soldiers as French Resistance workers, ready to blow up trains rather than repair tracks.

Thankfully these fine figures, along with earlier Airfix railway Civilians and Platform staff, are still available from Dapol:

I have been painting and basing a mix of my old original figures and new ones bought from Dapol for a gaming related Railway project next year 2020.

They might be old figures, some dating back to 1980, but I have tried out what is for me a new technique – using tinted wash from Citadel.

I thought these railway navvies were looking a little too clean, so some brown tinted wash would bring out the shadows as well as the grime. A brown tint would work well with farm workers, workmen and navvies.

The tinted shaded figure is on the left of each pair, to the right the unshaded figure.

The wash works well to pick out face details and also creases in clothing.

The Citadel website shows several ways of applying the shade or wash, either as an overall wash or in recessed shadowed areas. They even have a video to show you how:

and there are various internet forum areas to discuss these paint washes and modelling.

So I shall carry on painting and basing some Airfix railway figures, odd ACW artillery figures and Waggon Train Civilians to give me some useful Civilian figures for future gaming projects.

Blog Post Script B.P.S.

The Wargaming Pastor on his Death Zap budget conscious website has another ‘Peaky Blinders’* style use for these vintage figures – Dapol Gangs

* Don’t ask, I’ve never seen it.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on 23 November 2019.