The 1961 Airfix Civilians set designed by John Niblett. Its box art of urban Britain is just about how I remember it as a late 1960s / early 70s child. These Civilian figures have not been available since 1973 to 1975.
I grew up with a few of these civilian oddities mixed in as ‘personalities’ mixed in with my motley mix of HO/OO toy soldiers.
I like the description of the characters on the box back –
Image from Airfix’s Little Soldiers, Jean-Christophe Carbonel – I like the silhouettes of the figures.
The struggling postman with mail sack has lots of character. It’s good to be able to name and identify poses – although some are not now quite PC? (2 Fat Men)
These Station Accessories and mix of railway figures and workers are often not listed with military figures in some Airfix reference books. They feel a little forgotten, less familiar or undiscovered.
Image source: the lovely Dapol website – pure Airfix purchasable nostalgia
Wonderfully Airfix Railway figures are all still available from Dapol in hard grey plastic including this old 1960s Platform Figures and Accessories set.
These are slight and slender (HO 1:87 maybe according to Plastic Soldier Review?) in comparison to the chunkier 1961 Airfix Civilians above and later 1970s Airfix. This is in the same way perhaps that first version 1960s Airfix figures such as Infantry Combat Group, German Infantry, 8th Army and Afrika Korps are small compared to their 1970s larger Airfix second versions.
Worth mentioning that those familiar Airfix building kits – the thatched cottage, Church, windmill, Tudorbethan house and others – are still available from the same Dapol website.
Other former Airfix figures still available from Dapol:
Instant railways that go round and round are always fun, even if the clockwork engine here runs down very fast.
The PRESS HERE sound card worked well enough but the tiny batteries now need replacing (housed neatly in the Station Cafe central block).
Shhh! Don’t startle the deer and the rabbits …
I like the simple American country station halt.
What delighted me about this was the pop up rural Americana buildings.
Barns, schoolhouse, railway station, town hall – straight out of Little House on the Prairie or my favourite and wistful Americana website (and Facebook page) Forgotten Georgiahttp://forgottengeorgia2.blogspot.com
If I had seen another of these books at the time, I’m sure I would have stripped one for buildings or stuck them down a bit more permanently and adapted them for Airfix figures.
Shootout at the station OOHO Airfix figures. My Train in a Tin sadly doesn’t run on these ‘rails’
Instead of cutting it up and sticking it all down ‘better’ I will enjoy it for the peaceful instant pop up whimsy that it is!
Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on Sidetracked, his railway / gaming blog.
The cartoon style catalogue pictures shown on the excellent Airfix Railways fan website give an idea of the ‘excitement’ involved.
Train passes under gantry with bandit in position
Trap door in passenger car roof opens automatically and cowboy drops in.
Train backs up, last coach is unbuckled and bandit appears with stick of dynamite
Detonator is pressed and the baggage car is blown open!
Bandits appear from log cabin open the safe and reveal the gold.
Will they get away?
Will they get away? To be fair, with only four fixed action cowboys and two spare cowboys from the Airfix Cowboy set to stop them, they probably would get away. A few more cowboys or other figures would add to what in my family was known as its “play value”. Or was this a bit of a one trick pony, one hit wonder, assuming it worked?
Bits and pieces of the set such as the attractive Western Engine and rolling stock can be found on Ebay and other online auction sites
One of the Airfix forums featured a close up of the full black and white cartoon strip.
So the scenario in text form reads:
The Payroll Train is on its way to Gun City – Loaded with Gold Bullion – But Black Jack’s Outlaw Gang is waiting.
The Payroll Train approaches a deserted mining town. It passes under the gantry and Black Jack drops through a trapdoor in the roof.
He uncouples the baggage car – one of his gang places the dynamite – stand back! BANG – and blows the doors open.
The gang rush out of the old log cabin – open the safe.
Breakdown truck stalls on level crossing forcing train to stop
Rocket transfers automatically to waiting lorry
Rocket prepared for launching from inside Dr X’s secret laboratory
Dr. X holds the world to ransom. Will He Succeed?
(Note: Dr X’s secret pre-coloured cardboard laboratory is conveniently located inside nearby hillside tunnel – pondering that would make most rail journeys more interesting – an action tunnel that contained radar scanner and rocket launcher).
Will He Succeed? Quite likely as the only figures included alongside the highly desirable Dr X figure and a couple of version 2 Airfix commando figures – were they probably his tiny gang or the tiny Rescue Party? Sadly as the Airfix OO/HO SAS figures were never produced …
One photo features some of the text from the 1970s boys comic style black and white cartoon:
Dr ‘X’ Adventure Story – a Threat to the World
Somewhere in England, a top security operation is under way. Its object: to transfer a deadly new nuclear missile – to a secret testing ground.
The sinister, international arch-villain, known only as Dr. X. has discovered the plan and he intends to steal the rocket and hold the world to ransom!
It looks like an ordinary goods train. But one van conceals a nuclear missile bound for a testing ground …
In his secret tunnel laboratory, Dr.X brings his radar scanner into action. “The train is on its way!”
I am lucky enough to still have bashed remains of some of my 1970s sets and their 1993-4 reissues, which at the time were one of the few ways of getting new supplies of some of the scarcer Airfix historical figures.
“If Airfix had only…” – I think the cartoon scenario inserts would have been a good addition to the Airfix play sets to create some interesting scenarios. Lego sets do this comic strip scenario thing (and online animations) for modern franchises like Star Wars and Superheroes. The Airfix ones are much in the style of the Battle, Victor and 200 AD comics that I remember from the 1970s (and the tiny A5 War Library picture stories still in print and still in newsagents).
“If Airfix had only” created some very simple, child friendly, Donald Featherstone type wargaming rules, appropriate to the period of the Airfix figures, this would also have been excellent. Couldn’t they have just phoned up Donald Featherstone?
In the absence of these simple rules and scenarios, you just had to use your imagination, raid the local branch library and start tinkering.
Thanks to the Airfix Railways website and other Airfix forums for the source information, enthusiasm and photos. You made a small boy happy many years later.
So there you are, two excellent future scenarios for future Sidetracked games,
1. Bandits holding up the payroll or treasure train (in whichever period from Victorian, Civil War, Wild West through to Nazi Gold trains)
2. Holding up the train, blocking the train track and stealing the poorly guarded or discretely transported top secret weapon of mass destruction (in whichever period you are playing)
How good, numerous or well armed the train guards are or how quickly the posse and rescue party arrives is all part of the scenario.
These were not the 1840s Victorian railway scenario one that I am still working on but that is the name and nature of being Sidetracked!
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 27 August 2017
Amongst the hundreds of old railway magazines I have recently been given to pass on to my railway modelling family members, I wondered if there was a special little article or two that I remember reading in the mid 1970s.
One of them was, I was sure, a Junior Modeller sort of article about WW1 using Airfix WW1 figures. I checked all the Railway Modellers first. as luck would have it, I eventually found it, after flicking through thousands of pages.
I remember this April 1976 article very well as a child from the railway magazines that were around in our house. The Junior Modeller pages were about as much as I could understand of these technical grown-up magazines.
What I liked about this article was that the Airfix figures and models were ones that I recognised and owned. I could perhaps do something similar?
It was written by a young person as well, a 15 year old called Julian Chambers.
I hope somewhere that a mid 50-something Julian Chambers still has this gem of a 009 little layout tucked away. Interesting to read about a planned possible extension through the quarry tunnel. I wonder if this ever happened.
The text mentions of Bellona houses and Jouef trains didn’t mean much to me at the time – what was 009 anyway? As it was the photographs that I remember best, I have edited the pages to produce some close ups of the photographs by Roy Chambers.
The difference between a model railway or diorama piece like this and the wargamer’s approach is that these Airfix figures and tank are fixed or “pinned down” (in the old, entomological rather than gaming sense).
I clearly recall these many of these photographs 30 to 40 years later, so often did I pore over them. (Star Wars still hadn’t happened by then).
I even wonder if the way I sketch out scenario maps for gaming is influenced by this terrific little map that I looked at so often. It linked so well with the photos.
Julian Chambers mentioned an interesting little colour illustrated Blandford style book Railways and War before 1918 by Denis Bishop and W.J.K. Davies, 1972. Not sure if I ever found this amongst the Blandford Uniform hardback colour books in the local library but I now have this on order (lots of them still out there affordable second hand) along with the sequel Railways and War Since 1917: featuring World War II (in Colour) by Denis Bishop and W.J.K. Davies, 1975.
So thanks Julian Chambers for the inspiration still many years later, Roy Chambers for those photos and Railway Modeller with its Junior Modeller page (does it still have this?). You made a small boy happy and a grown-up small boy even happier still to rediscover that this was just as good as he remembered!
Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, Sidetracked blog, 15 August 2017
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 …