Shad(ow)y Characters

These are some of the shad(ow)y railway characters that turned up in Lockdown April 2020.

I think they look quite striking in dark painted undercoat, like mysterious silhouettes or Cluedo game pieces from the 1920s and 1930s.

They were bought as civilians and NPCs (Non-Player Characters) for my Scouting Wide Games and snowball fight projects to go alongside my LBB30 STS Shiny Toy Soldiers 42mm range Boy Scout figures.

These plastic figures needed a bit of height to be adults alongside my strapping Boy Scouts, so I mounted the adults on 1p MDF and penny pieces.

A bit of research suggests that they are hard to find ex-Lionel Railway stock (USA). Now out of production and widely sold out (including from my original supplier below), they were sold or marked as O figures.


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

Now with Added Trains …

A Russian Civil War armoured trains gaming scenario from the Wargaming for Grown Ups website:

On Railways and Floor Wars – The LWR, FWR, the HGWR

Coal train of the HGWR

The HGWR – H G Wells Railway Co. – established in 1866.

The LWR – Little Wars Railway Co.

Little Wars Railway’s Western Express

This line is also served by the FWR – Floor Wars Railway Co. established 1912.

H G Wells in his magical little book Floor Games had several fantastic little Railways illustrated by pen and ink sketches and photographs.

See it here:

Notable disasters of the Floor Wars Railway

Lots of Floor Wars inspiration here! Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 2 April 2020

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

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

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 3 February 2019.

Charlotte Bronte and Lawrence of Arabia blow up trains

Peter Laing 15mm WW1 Turkish infantry alongside the blocked desert train in a current Heroscape Hexes game scenario.  Crossing that marshy bridge could be risky. Will  it be BOOM time for my Train In a TIN? 

Seasoned railway modellers might not be inspired by seeing trains blown up or derailed.

However I spotted an interesting photo on the Not Quite Mechanised website by Chris Kemp of a detailed desert train in a diorama model at the ‘Shifting Sands:  Lawrence of Arabia’ exhibition at Newark’s National Civil War Centre.

My hexed up desert and vintage Airfix desert warriors …. all I need add is train and track. Photo from my Man of TIN blog.

With my Train In a Tin, a bit of sand, some cocktail stick palm trees,  a scattering of  desert hexes on my Heroscape hex board and the old OO / HO  Airfix Bedouin Warriors and / or French Foreign Legion, this could be an interesting desert scenario variation of my recent ACW Battle of Pine Ridge River.

My desertified portable hex games board September 2016. Photo from my Man of TIN blog.

My ACW Battle of Pine Ridge Valley game with Train In a TIN (Man of TIN blog)

Hmm, ideas, ideas!

A different desert focus for a desert railway scenario – my Peter Laing 15mm  French Foreign Legion figures and desert hexes. Photo from my Man of TIN blog.

Interesting. Thanks Chris Kemp on the NQM Not Quite Mechanised website for another interesting blogpost that sparks some more gaming scenario ideas

Compulsory  research

Adding to the Wild West movie inspired  T.E. Lawrence myth, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia 1962 film features an exploding desert train on the Hejaz Railway. (Clips available on YouTube). 1962 – there was a year, Lawrence of Arabia in the cinema, Donald Featherstone’s War Games published …

Skim reading this Great Arab Revolt Project GARP website

This article  features the following interesting perspective:

“To understand why the rail line was never permanently closed by military action we need to know something of railway features. Once built they are: easy to maintain, environmentally friendly, difficult to destroy, easily repaired, seldom interrupted through accident, produce very little “road-kill”, require small manpower to operate, are inexpensive to maintain after the original capital expenditure and, rolling stock (the engines and carriages) is generally plentiful.

Railways can move large tonnages and civil or military passenger numbers over vast distances relatively quickly, including the return of casualties to hospital facilities. Although used with success earlier, the American Civil War 1861-65 proved the strategic and tactical use of railways.

Note, damaging or destroying one train has not destroyed a rail network.

From  The Hejaz Railway, GARP website article by Neil Dearberg, 2010

Running steam locomotives with their need for watering points through a desert is a considerable challenge, one that would have affected building parts of the Wild West railways too.

The GARP gallery also features ruined and intact station buildings.

More photographs of wrecked trains at:

A Bit of Imagi-Native Distance: The Brontes do Lawrence of Arabia!

Without wishing to trivialise real past events and politics  in the Middle East over recent years and the past century, this is all fascinating stuff for the desert Imagi-Nation games scenario from the Brontes onwards to a steampunked early train Stevenson’s Rocket kit from Dapol /  Airfix. Hmm ..

The Brontes travelled on trains and featured Byronic Victorian desert nations loosely based on those Africa and Arabia. I’m sure that the Bronte sisters and brother Branwell would have found Lawrence of Arabia a fascinating and emotionally complex heroic figure for their novels.

“From June 1836 to September / autumn 1836, Northangerland was in control of the new French style Provisional Government of the Grand Republican Union (formerly the Verdopolitan Union). He has direct control over Angria where his allies (Ashantees,French and Bedouin forces) wreak a reign of terror. The Arab troops are led by Lord Jordon, in Byronic ‘Turkish’ dress and known as Sheik Medina.” (From my Charlotte Bronte as Gamer post Man of TIN blog)

Zamorna’s European enemy Lord Jordan (in his Arabian guise of Sheik Medina) is the Byronic  head of an Arabian army invading, with a combined African, French and Scottish force,  the Bronte Imagi-Nation of Angria. He is defeated and killed at the ‘Battle Of Leyden’ in Angria in the Bronte Year of 1837.

Definitely  a possibility of being Sidetracked by that one …

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN, 31 July 2017.

Tunnel Bookends

I forget which model railway magazine this was in, October 1960, article by Norman Stone.

An unusual way to use those plastic tunnel ends and a great visual joke.

I wonder what the equivalent gaming or wargaming version of these bookends would be?

One regiment marching in and another era regiment marching out?

Insert titles of your own favourite gaming books as desired.

Wonky tunnel end in my Battle of Pine Ridge Valley game. 
Vanishing point (trompe l’oeil) and one of those plastic tunnels on my Pine Ridge Valley game. 

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 29 July 2017.

Avoiding the Railway Madness?

Exploring the overlap between model railways and tabletop figure gaming

Recently I have built a small railway line onto my games board, shown on my Man of TIN blog, to add another level of interest to gaming scenarios.

Berdan’s Sharpshooters defend the railway halt of AT & PR Railroad  (as shown on my Man of TIN blog) during the American Civil War. Battery “Train in a TIN” set painted black modified. Railway hut kit and resin fences. PECO railway scenery backdrop.

I come from a family of ‘off and on’ railway modellers who remember the last days of steam and whose projects are fortunately often never quite completed before another layout idea, period or scale takes over.

As I grew up on a pocket money and paper round budget, this was an excellent source for scrounging materials from flock and paint to ballast and trees etc from discarded layouts or projects, all to the benefit of my Airfix and Peter Laing figures.

Airfix and other manufacturers civilian figures. Trackside accessories. Train in a TIN. Heroscape hexes.

I admire their technical skill with wiring and signalling, scenery making and building construction but found the static nature of the scenes a little off putting.

Why were the railway people figures all stuck down? How did they move? How did they tactically manoeuvre and fight each other? The static nature of the storylines did not appeal to me, unlike the joy of discovering Donald Featherstone’s 1962 book War Games in my 1970s public library. This was to be my thing in the family, my ongoing interest and “go to” or “go back to” thing.

Donald Featherstone’s American Civil War game with railroad track and Triang  rubber railway buildings. Photo taken from Tackle Model Soldiers This Way by Featherstone.

Although I do not talk about my hobby of  “the tiny men” at work, as it is nice to have a separate life and mental bolthole,  the only other modellers I currently know socially or through work are model railway enthusiasts. We occasionally chat, in the bemused presence of other ‘more normal’ people, about the models they are making.

These railway modellers too seem to shift from scale to scale, from period and country, much  in the same way that I flit across scales and periods from 15mm Peter Laings to repairing bashed 54mm lead soldiers  to home casting, pound store plastics, garden games and Imagi-Nations.

These modelling friends know that I come from a railway modelling family, had the same Airfix upbringing as many of my late 1960s / 1970s generation and have an interest in many aspects of history and vintage toys including toy soldiers.

This puts me on their wavelength and someone who gets what they are on about. One day I’m sure they hope that I will finally be converted to the pure hobby, the true faith and the one true scale … if I knew what that scale was.

To my precision craftsman model railway colleagues I am a bit fuzzy about matching scale and gauge, they often have to patiently explain the differences and conversions over and over again. What, I ask,  is the equivalent railway  gauge for Airfix 1:32 or 54mm figures? What is the nearest gauge for 15mm figures? Tell me again, What is the difference between HO and OO?

For instance, I have shown some of my homecast Prince August figures in local arts and craft events, mainly (or manly?)   so that there was an element of ‘man craft’ or ‘boy craft’ at these largely female events. The next step of admitting to “playing with toy soldiers” just hasn’t come out in conversation yet.

Hidden amongst wide-ranging history conversations, we also chat about improvising board games and scrapmodelling or hobby crafting with family members to while away a rainy day. My work colleagues are well used to our scrap modeller’s scrounging approach to any waste materials left lying around ready for the skip or bin. “Does anybody want this anymore?” is a frequent question, before we upcycle or recycle scrap, having asked this sort of collective permission of course.

There seems to be quite an interesting overlap between the two areas of tabletop figure gaming in its broadest sense and model railroads or railway modelling as it is variously called.

PECO backdrop behind these Pound Store Plastic Warriors and vehicles

Quite frequently PECO model railway backdrops are useful atmospheric backgrounds for photographing figures up close or when screening off the house when photographing a game in progress.

PECO mountain backdrop to my country duel

Model railroad buildings and terrain features like trees are a good source of gaming materials. Occasionally railroad figures make excellent period civilians, something quite scarce amongst many games manufacturers. Thankfully old series like the Airfix railway figures, accessories and buildings are still available through Dapol.

Atmospheric Airfix advert from Model Railway News, October 1964.

Sources of ideas

One of my railway modelling colleagues, who is downsizing his collection, has recently passed me box-loads of railway modelling magazines from the 1960s onwards to  pass on to my railway modelling enthusiast family members.

Before I parcel these up and post them on, I have been flicking through looking for anything that is of interest to wargames or tabletop gaming.

Mostly I was looking for one or two ‘Junior Modeller’ type pages that I remember reading in the 1970s, which I have now found. I will blog post these in due course.

Photo of the fantastical 4mm Pendonkin and Tuppensoff Railway by David Carter and Colin Bean, Model Railway Constructor,  December 1974 (original photograph by Bryan Monaghan). Fascinating to a young child …

Other interesting modelling tips, scenarios or snippets of history that may be of interest to future games will also be posted here to share.

Blog Work in progress , Mark, Man of TIN, 28 July 2017