Friday, 19 December 2014

Going Loco: Part 1: Locomotive: The boiler and cab

I finally managed to get around to re-modelling one of the locomotives from the cheap toy train sets that I bought into a small locomotive that I could use on my tabletop ... and this is how I did it.

To construct my new locomotive I used the existing locomotive ...

... and the coal tender.

I unclipped the body (i.e. the boiler and the cab) of the locomotive from its chassis/running gear ...

... and used a razor saw to remove the cowcatcher.

I then sawed the rear half of the cab away from the locomotive's body ...

... and put it to one side. I then shortened the boiler by carefully sawing off the front of the boiler (the smoke box) ...

... and then removed its central section. (I used the banding on the boiler as a guide for the saw cuts.)

After sanding the areas that had been sawn through to remove any loose bits of plastic, I glued the front of the boiler to its rear part and the cab.

Whilst the glue was curing, I carefully removed the rear wall of the discarded half of the cab.

The sawn areas on the rear wall and the cab were then sanded to remove any loose bits of plastic, and the rear wall was then glued onto the back of the cab.

Although some minor detailing remained to be done, to all intents and purposes the boiler and cab were now finished.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 381

The latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine arrived in the post yesterday afternoon, and I have just about managed to have a quick glance through it before writing this blog entry.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • World Wide Wargaming by Henry Hyde
  • Forward observer by Neil Shuck
  • A watery end: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts by John Treadaway
  • The unwinnable war: Why writing rules requires resilience by Barry Hilton
  • Let's fight Oporto 1809: Part 2: playing the game by Jonathan Jones
  • Gravelines: Wargaming with Vauban fortresses: part 2 by Henry Hyde
  • Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
  • Mongol campaigns in Syria: Part 1: The Battle of Ayn Jalut, 1260 by Mick Sayce
  • Warfare 2014 by Henry Hyde
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
  • Return to Baston House: This time, it's war! by John Treadaway
  • Crisis 2014 by Henry Hyde
  • Blast-Tastic! by Ashley Pollard
  • Hex encounter by Brad Harmer
  • Recce
  • The Featherstone Annual Tribute by Henry Hyde
It looks as if this edition is going to give me lots to read over the forthcoming holidays ... especially as I will also be able to read its contents online!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmas is coming ...

As I approach the time when I will really be a ‘Grumpy Old Man’ (my 65th birthday is now less than two months away), I find myself feeling more and more out of step with the world in which I live.

When I was a child, I remember an old nursery rhyme that we used to sing at school during the last weeks of the autumn term. It marked that fact that Christmas was almost upon us … and we could begin to prepare for it. The words were as follows:
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please do put a penny in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!
Earlier this week Sue and I spent several hours at our local shopping mall, and I was struck by several thoughts as we tried to do our shopping:
  • People seem to be spending money like it was water. (‘Recession; what recession?’ was the general impression I was left with.)
  • People are buying huge amounts of food, far more than most families will need to tide them over the two-day holiday … especially as most of the shops are going to be open on the day after Christmas Day!
  • This buying ‘frenzy’ began back in October, and seemed to reach a maniacal peak when we hit the latest import from the US, ‘Black Friday’. (The near riots in some shops were worse than any previous ‘shopping rage’ that I have ever seen.) Things have calmed down slightly since then, but the tempo is gradually racking up again.
  • There were children everywhere … and it is not yet the school holidays! (Either school attendance in the local area is hitting a low spot or parents are disregarding the possible fines they will face for not sending the children to school. Either way, the children are out shopping with their parents … and generally supervising the purchase of the high-end goods they expect to receive as ‘presents’ for Christmas.)
  • The approach of Christmas seems to make people so bad tempered. I have seem so many arguments, and everyone seems to walk around with a grim look of determination of their face that conveys the message that they are going to get what they want, when they want it, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way.
Sue and I discussed our childhood memories of Christmas, and we both agreed that the preparations generally did not start until the beginning of December, and were usually marked by the arrival of Santa Claus/Uncle Holly/Father Christmas in the local department store. (The name varied between stores, but the arrival was usually accompanied by a short parade through the town centre and Christmas displays in the department store’s windows.) Most shops did not begin stocking Christmas items before this, and many did not do so until the last fortnight before the holiday. Neither of us could remember being taken to choose our Christmas presents nor having time off school to go shopping with our parents. The whole thing seemed to be much gentler, less fraught, less pressured, and much more fun.

Perhaps we should introduce a ‘new’ version of that old nursery rhyme:
Christmas is coming, the tills are ringing out
Spend all your money, or you’ll get left out
If you haven't got some money, what will you do?
If you haven't got some money, then God help you!
(I know that it does not quite scan or rhyme properly … but I hope that you get the general idea.)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A letter about my Income Tax Self Assessment

A few months ago I received a letter from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (usually know by the acronym HMRC) to the effect that I would no longer be required to complete an annual Self Assessment. This is because my next birthday will be 65th, at which point I shall begin to receive my State Retirement Pension.

It was therefore something of a surprise to receive a letter from HMRC today. The top of the first page of the letter stated in large letters that this was my 'Self Assessment Statement', and that I was in credit to the sum of ...

... 2p!!!!

The next two pages of the letter explained all about the ways in which I could pay any tax that I owed, and the penalties for not paying on time. It also tried to explained how I managed to get into credit, which seems to be down to the interest due to me for overpaying income tax by less than a pound back in 2012 and 2013.

Now I am all in favour of HMRC repaying money to tax payers who have overpaid ... but the cost of printing and posting the letter they have sent me must have cost far, far more than I was owed. Personally I would rather that they had just put the money into the next charity collection that was being made.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Britannia's Wolf: The Dawlish Chronicles: September 1877 - February 1878

One of my areas of interest are the wars of the latter half of the nineteenth century, and whenever I find a novel set during that era, I will usually buy it. BRITANNIA'S WOLF: THE DAWLISH CHRONICLES: SEPTEMBER 1877 – FEBRUARY 1878 (written and published by Antoine Vanner [ISBN 978 1 4802 7527 0]) is one such book ... and I have just finished reading it on my Kindle.

The book is the first of what is – so far – a trilogy about the adventures of Nicholas Dawlish, and this story is set during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 – 1878. Dawlish is a Commander in the Royal Navy who has 'resigned' so that he can serve Britain's interests as an officer in the Ottoman Navy.

The book is well researched, and certainly has a 'feel' for the naval warfare of the period. It is also an interesting source of potential scenarios for naval wargamers, particularly those who want to organise a small-scale campaign that features ironclads, gunboats, and torpedo boats.

The other books in the trilogy are:
I have already bought these books for my Kindle and I am looking forward to reading them over Christmas.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The trench and the football match

Due to a last-minute change of plans, Sue and I were able to pay a visit this morning to an event that had been organised by the Firepower, the Royal Artillery Museum.

As part of their World War 1 commemorations, Firepower hosted a football match that was played of the Royal Artillery Barrack Field in Woolwich by pupils from Eglinton School, Plumstead. The match took place at 11.45am next to the Museum's trench reconstruction on the Barrack Field, and members of the Museum's Living History Team were present to lend authenticity to the event. Besides showing visitors around the trench, the Team cooked (and gave away) some 1914-style food.

On our way to the Barrack Field we passed a Boer War memorial.

The trench was laid out in front of one end of the Royal Artillery Barracks.

It was designed to represent the sort of third-line trenches found on the Western Front.

The two teams were drawn from a local school, Eglinton School, Plumstead.

The Firepower Living History Team watched the first part of the match ...

... before returning to their trench to prepare the food.

The location of the trench and the football match gave a wonderful view of the Georgian facade of the Royal Artillery Barracks ...

... and the very imposing Royal Artillery Crimean War Memorial.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Another 'Works' outing

Yesterday Sue and I paid another visit to the retail outlet centre at Chatham Maritime ... and I managed to acquire several more cheap train sets from 'The Works'.

We also managed to visit Regal Models, which is located near to the retail outlet centre and on the approach road to the Historic Dockyard, Chatham.

Regal Models is located next to the Ramada Encore Hotel near the Mast Pond. There is free parking on site and the shop has extensive stock that covers everything from tins of paint to Hornby Trains. Brands stocked include Corgi, Hornby, Airfix, Revell, Scalextric and Hobby Master.

The shop operates a world-wide mail order service and is open as follows:
  • Monday to Friday: 9.00am to 5.00pm
  • Saturdays: 10.00am to 4.00pm
  • Sundays: 10.00am to 2.00pm
  • Closed on Bank Holidays
Nigel Drury – one of my regular blog readers and a fellow member of Wargame Developments – recommended that I visit Regal Models ... and it was amazing. It seems to have a very extensive stock that covers all aspects of modelling ... and I could (and probably will) spend hours there just examining what they have on sale.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Keeping on OO/HO track

A visit yesterday to the nearest branch of Hobbycraft enabled me to buy four short lengths of straight Hornby OO/HO-gauge model railway track ... and when I got home I discovered that my cheap toy train loco and rolling stock will just about run on it. (The axles and wheels are wide enough for the wheels to sit on top of the rails even though the flanges on the wheels are about 1mm inside the inner edge of the rails.)

I have begun re-modelling the locomotive ... but the results are not quite as good as I hoped. (The model doesn't look quite right, and needs another pair of wheels.)

With luck I hope to be able to buy another toy train set (or several) later today, and this should enable me to re-model the locomotive with an additional pair of wheels ... or even to build more than one.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

4-3-2 becomes 3-2-1

During the two recent play-test battles that I have fought, I used what has become my standard Strength Values for Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery units ... 4, 3, and 2 respectively. This is also the number of figures I used to represent each type of Unit in earlier battles.

On these two occasions I used Units that had three Infantry, two Cavalry, or two Artillery figures, and each 'hit' was marked on a Unit using small, transparent Roman Blind rings. I soon realised that I did not need as many figures in a Unit as it had Strength Value (which is what I had previously done); what I needed was one less figure than the Unit's Strength Value.

This can best be illustrated thus:

An Infantry Unit (Strength Value = 4).
An Infantry Unit after one 'hit' (Strength Value = 3).
An Infantry Unit after two 'hits' (Strength Value = 2).
An Infantry Unit after three 'hits' (Strength Value = 1).
The next hit will not need to be marked as the Unit's Strength Value will be reduced to 0 and the Unit will be removed.
The upshot of this is the fact that I can reduce the number of figures I need to represent Units from the former 4-3-2 ratios I previously used to 3-2-1. (I must admit that for aesthetic reasons the sight of a single figure crewing a piece of artillery does jar somewhat ... but I suppose that there is no reason why I could not increase the Strength Value of Artillery Units to 3, thus ensuring that Artillery Units will always have two figures.)

This is certainly something that I need to think about and – if possible – to play-test further.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Keeping on track

I have discovered one small but significant problem with my newly acquired toy train set ... the track doesn't have much in the way of straight sections ... just four pieces, each three inches long.

The rest of the track is made up of a number of curved sections that can only be laid so as to form a circle or part of an oval.

The only other model railway track that I currently own is N-gauge, which is too narrow. I need to try to find some OO/HO-gauge track to see if that is compatible with my toy loco and rolling stock, otherwise I will have to buy several more toy train sets in order to have enough straight track to go from one end of my tabletop to the other.