The Wild Wilko Western Express

Wilko is not quite a pound store but does have similar inexpensive plastic toys.

This lovely battery operated, digital sound and headlight American Wild West express train, carriages and oval of track was only £10 plus 2 AA batteries.

In the shop it looked to be roughly suitable for 40 to 54mm figures and products.

A similar proper product from a proper garden railway shop would obviously be much much more expensive.

It was all very quickly assembled out in the rocky desert wastes of the Wild West (my garden). I brought out some Prince August 40mm homecast Cowboys and Indians and Taylor and Barrett hollowcast smaller size Indians.

Last year’s bird box to Western Railroad Depot conversion, along with some pound store plastic soldier rocks and cactus, all helped to quickly set the scene.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/inspired-by-bob-corderys-dayglo-castle/

The Scene-ario: The isolated Railroad Depot has been attacked by hostile angry Indians, the station staff, a mechanic (usually repairing toy cars) is down.

The train would lend itself to many Victorian and Early 20th Century settings and Imagi-Nations from the American Civil War onwards to Boer War armoured trains and beyond.

I love the seductive writing or write up on toy packaging. I was always too easily impressed by this when younger and sometimes very disappointed by what was inside. Weren’t we all? I imagine it is even worse now in the days of online and TV advertising for toys.

The Wilco Railway Western Express is excitingly introduced as:

Wilco Railway western express steam train and track

“The engine chugs and the whistle blows, taking you back to the grand age of steam! Haul the carriages along the track, imagine that you’re stood on the footplate and you’ve got to get the next station by nightfall.”

A cynic or the unimaginative adult might suggest that it would be hard to imagine the perils and drama of “having to get to the next station before nightfall …” as there is no station provided and the track supplied is rather short and circular.

However the realistic engine sounds and whistles are suitably atmospheric.

Imagine? A companion pack of plastic Cowboys and Indian or passengers, a few cows or buffalo and a few cacti would have been a great and inexpensive addition to the imaginative play possibilities of this set. There would follow hold ups, rescues, bandits …

This would add what was wisely known in my family as “Play Value” – if it didn’t have a suitable amount of this, you didn’t get it.

Where have all the cowboys gone?

Wilko used to sell Cowboys and Indians – and maybe still do in bigger city stores?

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/more-poundstore-warriors/

Wilco used to sell such handy 54mm Western figures in £1 tubes a couple of years ago, but I haven’t seen them recently. Tobar / Hawkins Bazaar had some slightly brittle hard plastic Airfix clone versions a year or two back – again I bought some as they were being reduced in 2016. Thankfully similar party favour Cowboy and Indians are still available online, as are rerelease of the pricey Britain’s Deetail metal based Cowboy, Cavalry and Indian figures if you can find a toy shop or an online stockist.

What figure scale suits this train best?

I was quite keen to see how this train would look with 54mm / 1:32 type toy soldier size Cowboys and Indians. I could have used my growing number of repaired and repainted Broken Britain’s Hollowcast lead Indians, but another day perhaps.

In keeping with the reposting on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, I dug out some gaudily painted, gloss varnished Pound Store Cowboys and Indians (Airfix pirated / Hong Kong clone). I painted these way back in the mid 1990s. There’s even a black cowboy in this photograph below – I am amazed how historically accurate and PC I was, although fighting with toy Indians and calling them Indians would be deemed highly unPC by some. These are firmly Hollywood movie / Wild West Show toy soldier inspired Cowboys and Indians.

Out on the blazing sands, sorry rocks, the Wilco Wild Western Express runs into an Ambush and has its two valuable cargo wagons uncoupled and left behind.

Two cowboys guard the stricken carriages – until reinforcements arrive? But are they really the good guys?

Are the two Indian Braves defending the train cargo, releasing hostages of their own tribe or attacking the Iron Horse that crosses their territory? Revenge on the Buffalo Bills and the Iron Horse that saw the Bison flocks wiped out …

Overall the 50 to 54mm cowboys and Indians are a little overscale, the train suits 40mm to 42mm figures better.

The engine to tender coupling needed a little extra help, so I rigged up a simple wire hook / link. All cheap plastic trains have little heft or weight in the rolling stock, so I lifted off the roof of the caboose carriage and the coal in the tender and added some spare old 2p coins as ready ballast (using the pre 1992 non magnetic kind, not so useful for basing figures).

The train needs a suitable paint scheme, such as a red painted caboose and paint work on the engine. This is likely to be Gloss paint rather than realistic Matt and weathering. I want to keep the Western style font stickers and make the whole Toy Soldier shiny, as if it is an old toy tinplate train, rather than a cheap plastic one.

As ever there is never enough track, especially straight track, so the only way to easily get more track is to buy another set. You get more wagons that way too. Yet four short pieces of track rarely justify that expense, even of £10. However it may be possible to make a silicon mould of one piece of straight track and cast it in Fimo or metal to make more.

Lots of exciting play, sorry, gaming possibilities. Toot toot!

Oh, and a working headlight!

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 14 / 15 July 2018.

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Blowing up More Desert Trains and Cutting Telegraph Wires

Interesting passage on Lawrence of Arabia, desert codes, telegraph wires and railways on page 249 in Codebreakers, the highly readable book on Room 40 and WW1 Codebreaking by James Willie and Michael McKinley (published by Ebury, 2015).

Pulling down telegraph poles? This of course makes sense as often the telegraph poles followed railways, so it was easy to cut these wires or pull these poles down (by camel!) under the guise of Lawrence attacking the railway again. All part of the annoyance and disruption value of guerrilla warfare but with a higher aim, reading the enemy’s codes.

A clever way to force the Turks to rely on wireless, much easier to intercept at a safe distance and then decrypt or decode than tapping telegraph wires.

Overall Codebreakers is a very interesting book on WW1, picked up in my local branch library (childhood habits die hard!) but certainly worth buying in paperback. It covers naval and submarine warfare, Zeppelin raids, the Western Front, Ireland, German espionage and sabotage in America and its legacy, the seeds of WW2 codebreaking and breaking the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park.

More on WW1 Wireless and Telegraph and SIG INT at my post https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/innovation-in-combat-ww1-wireless-and-telegraph-blog/

More on Lawrence and desert train gaming scenarios – next time I need to add some Telegraph poles alongside the railtrack!

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/blowing-up-desert-trains-part-1/

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 3 February 2019.

Moving German Planes to Turkey by Rail WW1 1917

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Interesting caption to the German Museum diorama (shown in / source: History in 1/72 blog)  

Interesting blog post and possible games scenario for blowing up more desert trains here on the History in 1/72 website, by German games blogger  Uwe, showing some excellent photos of an unusual museum diorama (in the  Airforce Museum,  near Munich)

http://historyin172.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/moving-airplanes-to-turkey.html

This would prove an interesting variation on our previous Lawrence of Arabia style games scenarios on blowing up desert trains.

These German planes and squadrons provided vital combat, photography and aerial reconnaissance services to the Turks, fighting the Allies in the Middle East. These would need to have been stopped if possible …

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 13 November 2017.

A Link with Lawrence 1917

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Model Railway News October 1970 

Found whilst ploughing through endless old  railway modelling magazines  that I have been given to pass on to railway modelling family members. Have found a few novel ideas to share over the next few months.

A good 1970 photo by N. V. Salt of one of the locomotives on this famously ambushed railway – see previous blogposts such as

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/charlotte-bronte-and-lawrence-of-arabia-blow-up-trains/

Sidetracked again, another short blogpost by Mark, Man of TIN, 2 September 1917

Blowing Up Trains Part 2

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Original desert hexscape before I added more desert  hexes and features

Following on from setting up the game in the previous post

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/blowing-up-desert-trains-part-1/

This was my second chance to use my large new 192 Hexes of Joy board, set out as a railway crossing of swampy stream running through an arid desert region.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/192-hexes-of-joy-a-larger-hex-game-board/

I wanted to create a quick, not very realistic  Lawrence of Arabia style scenario using a train, a desert and a bridge crossing.

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/charlotte-bronte-and-lawrence-of-arabia-blow-up-trains/

More Desert Needed

I ran out of Heroscape desert hexes, and the rest of my household judged the board not quite deserty enough and a little too much green showing.

The sand pit source of sand was flooded – too long to dry, a trial Woodland Scenics bag of desert grit was nowhere to be found.  Instead a quick trial repaint of some green and grey hexes with a desert colour sort of worked.

I had no desert sand Revell Aquacolor Acyrlic to hand,  so mixed their Matt Flesh with a little Matt Mud Brown and Gloss White to produce a pinky desert hue. Lots of deserts have a rusty  orange to pink  palette, as do desert animals like lizards and even the famous “Pinkies” or SAS “Pink Panther” desert camouflaged armed Land Rovers. http://www.eliteukforces.info/special-air-service/mobility-troop/sas-land-rover/

A quick PVA glue sand mix on a trial desert pinkie hex did not work well,  so I quickly wiped  this off.

 

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15mm Peter Laing Turkish and German troops on the marshy edges of the desert stream around  the railway  bridge.

some Astroturf marshy grass strips, brown railway moss and white shell gravel (salvaged from a failed Triops Sea Monkeys set) all added more desertness.

 

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View over the Turkish lines with some of the “desert pinkies” hexes mixed in with Heroscape sand hexes. 
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Indian troops detrain and deploy. More pinky hexes can be seen in the background.

 

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The brave Heliograph operator flashes back a signal “Track Blocked Ambush” from the highest point around, but also most exposed to rifle fire.
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French Foreign Legionaries and British troops in desert pith helmets detrain on the left, Indian troops on the right approach the river crossing. On the skyline, lurking horsemen beside the railway hut.  

The heliograph message prompted a rescue party of reinforcements, 2d6 dice rolls determining when they would be arriving – Turn 11.

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A closer foreground view of the pinky hexes, some still a little sand smeared.  
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Askari and Turkish troops line the marshy stream bank undercover to pour rifle fire onto approaching enemy troops.

After the first few volleys of ineffective rifle fire on both sides, British and Indian troops crossed the bridge to pitch in with bayonets in  melee around the log blocked track.

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Lurking German horsemen, military advisors to the Turkish troops  join the melee at the bridge.

The presence of the German horsemen, along the few supplies and barrels scattered around the hut  and amongst their hidden tent created the possibility (overlooked during the rapid set up of this scenario) that they could be engineers, ready to blow the bridge and derail the train. They were probably responsible for the blocking of the line with any available logs or rubble in order to halt and capture the train.

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At them with the bayonet! Indian, Turkish and German desert troops fight in melee  across the railway tracks.

Very rapidly, Allied rifle fire and repeated melee across the railroad tracks cleared the remaining German and Turkish troops.

The last two Askaris rolled d6 for their next action and wisely retreated along the stream bank off the board to safety.

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Askaris leave the game board out of rifle fire range. An Allied victory in this small desert skirmish. You can also see how the gap along the board edge is good for neatly storing casualties off the board out of sight. Melee point shield markers from the Heroscape set.

I also discovered during the game a novel use for the 2cm  gap along the board edge.  This little Valhalla strip is good for neatly storing casualties off the board, out of sight and out of the way.

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The final move … Askaris leave (F631?)

For those expecting reinforcements, it was sadly not Rolls Royce armoured cars racing across the desert or down the railroad tracks to the rescue.  I never bought the lovely A715 15mm ones made by Peter Laing, shown on the Tim’s Tanks website. http://timstanks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/peter-laing-15mm-miniatures.html

Instead reinforcements arrive on horseback, the desert outback cowboys of the Australian Light Horse …

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The reinforcements if we had reached Turn 11,  a scruffy bunch of outbackers of the  ‘Australian Light Horse’ ready to dismount. (Peter Laing 15mm Mounted Boer M603 and leading pony M604)

I was quite in interested in the aftermath or what would happen after the last Askaris left the game board.

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Game aftermath – Australian Light Horse arrive to reinforce the troops protecting the Iron Horse, as legionnaires attempt to clear the blocked track.  
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Indian and French troops surround the hut and concealed  tent, searching for hidden dangers.  The tent is from the old Atlantic HO/OO Wild West range.

This aftermath would make for a sequel game if required, a Turkish counterattack.

Checking out the hut and tent for hidden enemy soldiers or engineers would also be an interesting tiny scenario.

Overall I was happy with the look of the game, including the improvised extra  pinky desert.

It was a good fast game lasting only 7 moves, having started the game with troops already in place or detrained.

I also enjoyed the restrictions or challenges put on the game of troops being exposed having to cross the bridge and railway line due to the stream and marsh being impassable.

Peter Laing 15mm Figure ID – WW1 series 700 / Colonial figures series 600

  • M605 – Imperial  Yeomanry figures as mounted Germans in slouch hats
  • F650 – Indian Army Sepoy advancing
  • F743 – German Infantry advancing , SH Steel Helmet – desert sand colour
  • F754 – Turkish Infantry advancing
  • F632 – Egyptian Sudanese Infantry firing – as Askaris
  • F603 British Infantry advancing
  • M602 British Cavalry, horse walking
  • A605 British Heliographer
  • F651 French Foreign legion advancing  – not too sure of the French Officer F8004?

The Peter Laing troop types used are approximate to the WW1 era and of the right feel, rather than a game for uniform purists.

Ironic that the morning after the evening game I found the bag of Woodland Scenics buff desert coloured ballast  that I had been looking for to make some more trial desert hexes.

 

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN 5th August 2017.

 

Blowing up desert trains Part 1

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WW1 15mm Peter Laing Turkish and German Infantry with Askaris and German mounted troops defend or assault  the railway halt and blocked bridge.
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The Allied troop train column – Indian, French and British infantry – all Peter Laing  15mm figures – detrained and deploying onto the river bank. The heliograph operator sets up his equipement and later climbs to the top of the caboose for some height to flash back a request for help – ‘track blocked ambush’ – at great personal risk of enemy snipers.

The railway crosses desert sands, rock and marshy swampy rivers. The small railway halt is defended by Turkish troops and some German ‘advisors’.

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Are they trying to steal the train or destroy both locomotive and track?

How will the scenario on my lovely new 192 Hexes of Joy game board end?

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Ran out of sand hexes so not quite deserty enough …

Find out more  in my next blog post or part 2 (below), featuring a now even more deserty desert than shown here, as my family thought this initial game board not quite deserty enough.

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/blowing-up-trains-part-2/

 

Posted on Sidetracked by Mark, Man of TIN, 3rd August 2017.