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.
With my Train In a Tin, a bit of sand, some Tiger.com 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.
Interesting. Thanks Chris Kemp on the NQM Not Quite Mechanised website for another interesting blogpost that sparks some more gaming scenario ideas
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 wateringpoints 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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. http://www.peco-uk.com
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.
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.
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