About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 58-year-old Aspergic gardening CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

S is for Spyglass Miniatures

Currently in 'The Works' (same place that did the clip-together tanks a while back), you local discount book shop, are these female Elfish (?) warriors at 99p.

The guy has an up-to-date blog (spyglassasylum.blogspot.com) but I can't find her there nor on the website (www.spyglassminiatures.com) so guess she's some sort of old stock clearance or a retail experiment?

Very good quality sculpt and finish, get 'em before they're all gone!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

V is for ‘Vyper’…or; it was!

For reasons beyond my control which I will digress in the fullness of time, I’ve been rather kicking my heels for a while now and in a moment of supreme boredom this weekend I took out an old kit by ‘mine nemesis’ the GW franchise. A kit a bought some time ago and almost immediately regretted as it cost about as much as three Esci/Airfix AFV kits and contained almost nothing, surrounded by a lot of sprue!

Turning the bits over in my mitts I was struck by two things, firstly there’s nothing there to power it! Some cooling vanes (?) under the seat and four straight-through engine tubes/venturii, but nothing substantially capable of calling itself a power system or motive force, call me a pedant, but I like my sci-fi grounded in the laws of physics!

Bringing me to the second obviously pointless design element; a guy mounted behind the pilot waving a ten-foot off-centre weapon [presumably] of some weight. Now I’m guessing most of the visitors to this blog haven’t been called upon to carry a .50 Cal Browning, but if you had you’d know it’s about half the size/bulk of the weapons in this kit, and takes two men to carry a few yards!

In other words, this tiny vehicle would be almost impossible to fly and totally incapable of hitting a barn door in a strait dive, as it is supposed to be built (and woe betide anyone turning up at the local store’s evening game with the wrong configuration!), even if it had ‘magic’ thought-fed power-systems and a complete BAE Systems/Segway self-righting/leveling suite! – Oh how modern technology is dating some sci-fi faster than it can be re-written…give the crew of the Starship Enterprise some iPads and a Kindle – for god’s sake!

Deciding on a colour scheme before I’d got the glue out, I then rather tore into the ‘project’. There were - on the weapons sprue - two pieces of cowling or bodywork, which were of no consequence, so presumably it was designed for other kits or taken from another kit? Something which should bring the price down, not leave it three times the cost of a similar kit elsewhere!

Anyway; this allowed me - with a short piece of cocktail stick – to dispense with the stupid gunner-cradle and turn my ‘Vyper’ into the patented Waltii Industries TC Gunship (© Waltii Industries* 2830NS) you see developing before you with – if I say so myself – some high degree of accuracy, it being (as I’m sure you’ve already noted); the Mk. IIIB model much favored in the rim-worlds!

The cradle (© GW 1996), now looked remarkably like the anti-gravity ‘Speeder-bike’ of Darth Maul in the film - Star Wars I of IV ‘A Franchise is Reborn’ (© Lucasfilms 1994?), not that GW would copy other people would they, I mean; it’s not like the new ‘Prince Apophas’ (© GW 2010?) from Citadel Finecast is a straight lift from the living Scarab-pillar in the comic ‘The Exterminators’ (© Vertigo 2006?)…is it? So I decided to make it up as just that, a light, floating ‘wing-man’ with a heavy punch. The thing is; they then both ‘looked’ better than the GW ‘whole’.

I went with a ‘panzer-farb’ ambush scheme on desert pink for the speeder, and field-grey for the pilots, (they haven’t been issued their tropische uniforms yet!) although I allowed them a brighter green for their web equipment, belts and helmets. I used the sight/power-source from one of the other weapons in the box to balance the great big whatever (interplanetary ray-blaster? It could be an underwater riveter for all I know – or care!), that he now gets to wave about like a Bankers sports car (you know what I mean!) without poking it in the TC Gunship pilot’s ear!

Those who have followed this blog for a while will by now have realised that the cynic in me won’t allow myself to take this stuff remotely seriously!

The TC Gunship ready to roll, or wobble like a Segway with a newbie! Keeping the WWII theme going I went with the contrasting double-outlined boundaries seen on some of the early M4 Shermans in the Western Desert and tried to make the ammo-feed belt look like the slightly-green tinted, gold anodized links you get on the 30mm rounds for automatic cannon or belt-fed grenade launchers.

I didn’t paint all the little blobs like jewel’s, that’s just too GW for me! They’re only fairing for little bits of under-skin equipment, sensors and the like! One of the weird things about the GW universe is that people think a unit in electric blue with florescent pink vehicles covered in lights & jewels and flying 18-foot banners can ever have the element of surprise or creep-up on anything!

The ‘Speeder bike’ given the same 4-view treatment, of course it’s not a Speeder-bike, which would create issues with Mr. Lucas who’s as happy to sue as Carter Ruck! If the other platform is a ‘Gunship’, this must be a Cannon-canoe, yeah, of course it is -it’s a Nebillian Boat-works* PS Mk12! How silly of me not to mention that earlier…

Note to self - don’t play rugby with Eldar (©, TM, (R) etc...), those pointy-heads are going to do your chances of future progeny no favours!

The two together, waiting for the ‘Off’, if I had to do this again, I’d bin the bloody PVA’s and use enamel, it was like working with wet sand, I don’t know if it’s the weather, or just age, but my Humbrol is starting to get as granular as the old Airfix matt enamels used to be? Try copying the third image to your desktop and then enlarge by 50% you’ll see what I mean; great lumps and streaks of paint! I also rushed it, and would take more time next time. I didn’t think about markings, and now they’re ‘finished’ I doubt I’ll go back to them.

Also the canopy spars are too clean, but to try and weather them down to the same state as the rest of the vehicle would have risked mucking it up even more, so I guess the ground crews have kept the spars clean as they polish the Plexiglas…but why - in the year 2830NS - have they gone back to multi-panel canopies? Even we’ve evolved beyond that and we’ve retired Concord and the Shuttle! The ‘heads-up’ canopy display was just OHP pens, while other controls were marker pen on white paint.

I’d also fill the gap behind the seat and under the gun with stuff from the spares box, in order to have something looking like a propulsion system, roughly where you’d expect one!

But…they look OK for what was less than a day’s work, and apart from a piece of toothpick and an old hex-base; they used nothing from the spares box, and gave me two vehicles for the price of one, something to consider if you do play the GW way? I was going to give them both some old GW dogs heads I have somewhere, but the need to end the exercise was greater than the desire to go digging in the spares!

* Sole proprietor of Waltii Industries and the Nebillian Boat-works; H. Walter esq.

Monday, June 13, 2011

N is for New Posts

Just one today, another ACW set, have also updated the images for the introductory post to the previous group of related stuff.

L is for Lone*Star

After all that very small scale stuff the other day, here’s a bit of 54mm from the Autumn purchase of last year, and continues the ‘theme du jour’; that occasion - one hundred and fifty years ago - when two halves of a Nation only 90-odd years old itself, decided to have a little discussion about the doctrines of Nationhood, Citizenship, tax and er…slavery…“Yeah! Let’s wrap it all up in ‘Slavery’!”

This is my rather pathetic sample of Lone*Star ACW figures, well; I have only been collecting larger scales for a couple of years, and money’s been tight!

Four Confederates in reasonable condition, paint on the trousers of the first one will lead to an update sometime, but as it’s a different shade, it stays for now. Inset is a 60mm figure from Crescent to show how these two companies went with a very similar paint scheme.

Might I also suggest that the sculptor (Erik or Revere/Riviere?) used a Britains ‘Swoppet’ Cowboy head as part of his master sculpt for the running-waving-hat figure? He is far more detailed than the other faces, and looks vaguely familiar.

The only Union figure I have happens to be the only pose I don’t have in Confederate garb (the two sets were the same 8 poses, in either grey or navy blue plastic), while the officer is a repaint on a confederate-grey figure.

The next two have been converted to high-boots with filler, a knife and paint, while the last figure is actually a Lone*Star Foreign Legionnaire, a set whose poses mirror the ACW.

Inset are examples of the helmeted and bereted Infantry to show how L*S liked to stick with favoured poses across the whole range.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I is for Initial Introduction

Below these three shots - If I get them all loaded today; are 7 other articles, which this picture will help with, as far as identifying the various figures goes and judging the sizes against each other.

Soldiers, pilots and civilians/rail passengers, the relevant rail staff are dealt with in a couple of the posts below somewhere and the entire range of Hornby Dublo/Hornby/Hornby-Triang and Hornby Railways sets and issues will be covered in another post another time, as will a more in-depth look at the relationships - as I understand them - in the Modelmaster/Merit/Wills/
Slater’s/Peco/Guagemaster family of semi-flats from old die-cast moulds.

For some reason this is not enlarging when you click on it, probably too much coding on the image, I'll re-load all three seperately in a day or two, sorry for that, it's the one image in all 8 posts you want to open - peer hard!!!...Done!

Three years later (05th April 2014)...we'll try this;

That seems to have done the trick...click on it to enlarge them all to tha same relative size!

T is for Tiny...Tiny Trojan's

The reason I ended up with 7 articles was that I wanted to cover the ‘Tiny Trojan’ figures, but to do that I needed to compare them to their Crescent originals, which lent toward further comparisons with Skybirds and Dinky and so on…
The Trojans are bigger than both Airfix and BritainsTrooscale’ who were aiming at a market which was quite dominated by the smaller European HO railway equipment, and the associated buildings, trees and so on that the war gaming fraternity were interested in campaigning their Airfix figures through!

They are however the same size as the small ranges of pre- and post-war figures by Skybirds, Crescent (1:72) and Dinky (nominally; 1:60), and it’s this early inability of the toy industry to standardize a size or range of sizes that leaves us collecting figures that climb in quarter-millimeter increments from less than 15mm to 70mm+

As can be seen in the picture at the bottom right, there were two distinct issues of these figures (Khaki below and a greyish brown – the more common – above), with further ‘collectable’ variants as well, such as the black or unpainted helmets of the former issue.

The Crescent figure with an asterisk seems not to have been issued by Trojan in plastic. The lack of a discernable size difference between the Crescent originals and the Tiny Trojans would suggest that Trojan inherited the moulds for the Crescent range, why they dropped one pose and created 3 new ones may never been known, a guess would be the level of damage to the moulds when Trojan got hold of them and/or a desire to fill gaps in the ‘Infantry section’ with an anti-tank weapon and a machine gun.

All the Trojans in this collage are from the set known to the hobby as set ‘B’ or set ‘2’ or ‘The second set’, as neither set is identified anywhere other than the catalogue list, there is no guarantee that this is the correct way round, apart for the fact that these poses seem currently less common than the other 4 poses and it seems reasonable to assume they were in production for a shorter time.

The additional poses (over the Crescent range) in this set are the Bazooka-man; here seemingly based on a pose common to a lot of Eriksson’s kneeling figures (posted the other day in an ACW article), which by the late 1950’s were everywhere in all sizes; and the flailing around/stabbing pose which was common to a lot of larger scale figure sets of the time such as Marx, MPC and so on, indeed it bears a striking resemblance to the stabbing 8th Army pose from Charbens.
Set 1/A/The first set; The extra pose here is the prone machine-gunner, clearly sculpted by an amateur, probably from someone else’s casualty (?), and I’ve shot three together to show that he is meant to look like that! His weapon seems to have been sculpted from the weapon on the deck of a common pocket-money/bath toy MTB of the time from Hong Kong, and is a scaled-down twin-Oerlikon (with shield) from the front deck of the said boat.

The other three poses are from the previous metal Crescent range. The fact that the gloss paint on the browner/khaki figures probably pre-dates the matt colours of the other batch, and the fact that the other 4 poses appear in both styles, would point to neither being more or less common that the other, and that larger numbers of ‘Set B’ are just ‘still to be found’; three shop-stock boxes of ‘Set A’ having turned up in the last 12 years - on both sides of the ‘Pond’.
Added 29/02/12 I've been waiting a while for this, now it's here - the 'shop stock' box; this is the second one to turn up in the States, and like the previous one contained only the four 'set A' poses, originally about 36 sets of them.

Purely by a process of elimination (which is by no means accurate), I have tentatively identified these (‘T?’) as being from the other two sets in the Trojan Catalogue; Passengers and Rail Staff. Both are taken from the Britains/W.Horton/Trix (‘B’) range of ‘Trooscale’/Lilliput figures.

Again, evidence - lack of size difference - points to Trojan (if it is them) getting hold of the moulds originally used for the metal ranges. The better detail on the plastic figures can be explained by the use of a different material in the mould, while the head/hat differences of the mother and daughter (Britains; No.LB/517 Nurse and Child) is easily explained as being due to flash rather than remoulding.

C is for Crescent

Leading on from the previous post one might as well have a look at the small scale output of Crescent, who seem to have provided the moulds (or some of them) for the Tiny Trojan military range. So here they are…

The packaging is obviously not contemporaneous with the contents of this set, which would originally have been tied in with some unbleached or neutral coloured cotton thread; the mounting-card has also been lost over the years.

Of the three AFV’s the armoured car is more common than the two tanks, hinting at a smaller set with just the A/C and a few figures. The 4-post wire entanglements are from the large scale range and are over-scale for this set, but were included in it.

It’s hard to date the origins of the range that led to this set as the T34/85 is a late-/post-war Soviet standard, while the generic Cruiser/Covenanter is a pre-/early-war British item, this box would date from the late 1950’s (?), and the incongruous nature of the contents is not worth dwelling on as it’s almost certainly explained by a total lack of interest in accuracy on the part of the toy-makers.
“…Soldier…Sailor…”. Most of the Crescent small scale metal figures were scale-downs from their large scale hollow-cast range, but due to the small size are - in fact - solids. I’ve only found 6 poses, one of which – as we’ve already seen above – was not apparently produced by Trojan for reasons lost in the mists of time (the marching pose to the right of the lower line-up in the 2nd row), and they came in a wide range of colour-finishes, the later ones being all-over bar the hands, face and weapon, the earlier batches having separately painted bases.

The Naval personnel came with either a blue-green coating, a metallic ‘spirit’ finish along the lines of penny-toys (officer; top left) or in a more realistic navy-blue. These figures came in sets with small slush-cast naval vessels, again in the penny-toy style, with a coat of silver paint, and sometimes a weathering/antiquing in a darker wash or ink/stain. The tin-plate fort comes with the larger scale figures, but goes much better with these!

The semaphore-flag signalers, seem to have come in two versions; big flags (middle guy) and small flags (right-hand figure), but…when you look again at the chap on the left, it’s clear his right hand flag (left as you look), is not the same as the other two, his v-neck is shorter and he is taller, and apart from him; none of the other arms seem to have been accidentally bent?
Could these have come on a card spelling out something such as ‘Crescent’? I stress – I’ve only ever found them with their arms up, but the second and third figures definitely seem to be spelling two different letters?

The Air-force figures, I’m pretty sure they’re all Crescent, the baton-wielding ground-crewman is not spelling out anything and always comes in this easy to damage pose, consequently he is (nearly) always missing at least one bat, and I’ve got a whole bag of similar can’t-direct-a-plane-for-toffee guys! However; once they’ve had a cross-pollination training weekend course with the Preiser synchronized swimming girls (which always end in drunken ribaldry in the Mastermodels ‘Dog and Partridge’), they learn to work in pairs, as these two are!

The top-left photograph shows on the right, a home-cast or other - more commercial? - piracy, something that happens with all these early metal figures, particularly; Skybirds (whom we look at below) and the pre- and immediate post-war Hornby Dublo railway figure sets, which we will look at another day.

Again; Colour variation in both uniforms and base-finish leads to a number of figures to track-down despite the low number of poses, and a seated pilot I’ve put in the Skybirds article lower down the page may be Crescent? Unlike the Army and Navy figures which were taken from the 54mm range, the Air-force/RAF figures seem unique to the small scale sets. A comparison with the Airfix figure shows how much larger these figures are.

R is for Railway figures

Returning to the Trojan article that launched this group of 8 posts, we find that the figures I believe to be the civilians from the Trojan Catalogue that’s been doing the rounds for a while now, are based on the Britains Lilliput series, itself probably produced/certainly marketed by W.Horton and also supplied to Trix, who drilled the bases and fixed them to their wooden station accessories (probably also - actually - made by W.Horton).

Top Left shows the same picture already seen in the Trojan Article, to the right is a ticket-issuer or platform vendor (?), the chap on the right has clearly been painted as a vendor of something rather than a member of Railway Staff.

Below them is the full range as I know it, the man at the back right is showing the hole used to fix him to a Trix platform. I’m not 100% sure about all the cargo, most is Britains/Horton/Trix, but some of the barrels may well be Wardie/Mastermodels, as might the small box on top of the two bigger ones? The trolleys; both powered and trailing, are marked ‘Trix’ and may well have been exclusive to them, although the powered trolley is listed in the Lilliput range (LB/549). Of interest is that Airfix (most pirated of companies after Britains), did themselves pirate the large box (Britains; No.LB/546 Large Packing Case) for their HO/OO strongpoint/outpost Playset type kits!

The last image is possibly the most interesting; as it shows the figures I used to think were the Trojan ones, even though they were hard styrene plastic, until I found an early Merit box with the same mouldings, it then transpired that they were ex-WardieMastermodels’ moulds, which we now know emigrated to Merit upon the demise of the former. However by the time that had all come to light, the soft-plastic one had turned up and he took the mantle of ‘possibly Tiny Trojan’!

Mastermodels by Wardie have also been looked at in this series of articles and should be the next but one down the page, although - like the Hornby family (see note in the ‘Initial Article’ 3 posts above) - there is a lot more to the Wardie/Mastermodels, Merit/Model Scene, Peco/Guagemaster, Slater’s/Wills story than I’m ready [can be arsed] to cover here.

The Britains/Horton/Trix passengers/civilians with colour variations, again the Trojan photograph is re-produced bottom left. Bottom right shows another Trix mounting hole, and it’s interesting to note that some out-workers painted the woman with handbag as sometimes looking to the side, sometimes; looking forwards. The Golfer however has a pigs snout and can only be painted looking sideways, this WAS the era of ‘Animal Farm’!

To prove the necessity of my stressing that the identification of the Trojan civilians is still very tentative or conjectural, here are some other figures that contend for the title. Top left are some soft plastic/polyethylene figures based upon, but not the same as; the Wardie/Mastermodels set of stevedores (57), while to the right is a hard styrene better quality copy of one of the plank-carriers from the same set. Hammond states that there was plastic production at some point from B.J.Ward/Wardie, but the Brookes (who have done most of the work on the subject) don’t mention it, so it could be that the figure on the right is a late Mastermodels issue, and the figures on the left are just piracies? But…either could be the true Trojan figure/s?

Below them are the early Merit figures again, now; usually the Merit figures from Wardie are taken from the same moulds (the MeritRemote Control Driving Test’ game playing pieces for instance), but these are clearly more of a piracy thing, the cut of the waistcoat of the porter carrying luggage makes a good comparison. Merit did copy a lot, so it may be that these were copied before the ex-Wardie people carried the moulds over to Merit as they went bust, which is one version of the tale…

Bottom is the replacement Merit set with both Merit and the current/late (?) Model Scene packaging, note; Model Scene issue/issued theirs without bases.

The Salisbury Station unit from Trix, probably made by W.Horton who also supplied 54mm scenics to Britains who made the Lilliput range of OO gauge figures that Trix used on their TT gauge Railway sets…clear?!

M is for Military by Merit or Model Scene

Because I’ve touched on Merit above, and will cover a lot of the other early British small scale Military in the remaining new posts below, it seems right to just slot these three sets in here…

As most of the variants could have been produced by paint alone; The WAF’s, WRAC’s and WREN’s, the Officers and the bereted other ranks; it was good of Merit to go to the trouble of producing 15 new figures for these sets, these being un-related to any Wardie/Mastermodels mouldings.

I used to think the blue WRAC was a colour variation, but a look in Picasa under 100% enlargement shows she’s a home-repaint, some fool liking Crab Air as much as he probably likes the French! An out-painter did forget to paint the flesh on the soldier next to her, and I think of him as my Gurkha soldier, point-off-fact; he also came without a base so he may be a late Model Scene figure, unpainted to save money?

Early sets were pink plastic, with the uniform over-painted, late sets were (for the army at least) uniform colour with the flesh over-painted. Note how the late officer has green (Light Infantry) shoulder flashes, not red; line regiments, artillery etc.

W is for Wardie from B. J. Ward

So, from the above posts we end up having to have a quick look at B.J.Ward, Don Bowles and their Wardie/Mastermodels range of model railway accessories, or at least the figures from them.

These are the uniformed personnel; well strictly speaking the guy in red is a civilian wearing a boiler suit!

The bottom images are all metal Mastermodel originals, and they differ from the other metal figures in this group of posts by being made of die-cast mazac rather than soft lead or poured white-metal alloys. Rather hidden by the second sailor on a kit-bag is the seated WREN, while one of the sailors is inching toward the soldiers to wind them up and start a fight!

The benches in that photograph are metal, while the bench in the pictures above are plastic and marked ‘Peco’, so not all the moulds went to Merit…but that is definitely for another day! The AA motorcycle goes with an RAC phone-box and can be found with metal or plastic wheels. All the figures in the upper photographs are plastic, and while the poorly painted ones will be Slater’s or - at a stretch - Wills, the soldier may have come with a Peco set of benches?

The three sets of ‘working men’, the matchstick plank-carriers come with the figures bottom left, and are supposed to be unloading a lorry, but the guy directing makes a good ‘crane instructor’ or grounds-man. Apart from the colour variants, the late production seems to have got nothing more than a quick ‘wash’. The figures bottom right, are from two sets, the grey figures come in track-gang (maintenance-of-way to US readers) sets or with a night-watchman’s hut and brazier, while the black and brown ones come in sets of cable layers, black ones with silver knee-pads are miners.

Incomplete shots of the rest of the range, Rail staff top left, mostly public figures top right and the passengers below. The woman with a pleated skirt does not seem to be from the Wardie Mastermodels range, and may be from a die-cast vehicle set of similar age, or a railway accessory from across the pond (making her a railroad accessory!). The newspaper seller would reappear in the Merit board game ‘Remote Control Driving Test’ along with the Policeman, lollypop-lady, 2 Belishia-beacons and a ‘phone-box from Mastermodels moulds – Merit would later redesign the ‘phone-box as a very delicate structure that took a caller figure, Model Scene issued it as a kit, still on the sprue.

Notice also how there is more than one version of several figures, the woman in the pale-blue two-piece has a lower hand and fewer buttons in different places, there is one version of the left-hand (right as you look) walking stick man; holding a newspaper, the other; holding an envelope or book, there’s the cream boy without gaps between his arms and body, the red boy with one gap and two different golfers, while two of the rail-staff seem to be from a specific TT-gauge set as does the blue and white lady/nurse [pleated-skirt girl may be from this set?].

The distinctive base with its side-chamfers makes it easy to identify a lot of the Mastermodel figures, but as can be seen; later sets, discontinued figures (man carrying sack with jerkin - top left) and the odd-sized figures have more common generic bases like the later Airfix HO range, as do most of the ‘public’ figures.

L is for Lilliput

Having now cleared those companies linked to the original Trojan post, we might as well clear-up the other loose-ends that have been raised one way or the other. As the Britains/Horton 'Lilliput' range were touched upon, let’s do them first…

Loose figures and other items from the farm range, all badged to W. Horton. The tractor has been looked at before here, and these animals are - for the most part - a bit tatty, but that’s life on the farm for you! Since taking these pictures I have removed the larger pig from the Britains box, there’s no evidence for him being there and I don’t know why he was…probably a piglet from a 54mm range? These are - basically - scaled down from the 54mm range, with the exception of the tractor-driver.

There is no cataloguing differential for black or brown splotched cattle, nor for the pink or black finish on the pigs.

Also Britains Lilliput (originally) are the hunt scene, and in metal; very rare, due to their thin legs and small parts (fox and dogs), as a result I only have one and he’s a very headless rider!

The mystery is where the (really quite common) plastic mouldings come from, they could be unlisted (in the only catalogue found) Trojan figures, for the mould-destination reasons brought-up in the above posts, but for the same or similar reasons they could be Trix, an independent Horton thing, a late Britains thing to accompany the plastic Herald downscales (but why has no packaging turned-up?), or even someone not yet mentioned…Culpitts (for cake decorations), Hilco or Cherilea (who both liked other peoples moulds/sculpts…Hell - the saddles are all Skybirds (and Crescent) khaki infantry colours! Meanwhile the horses in the upper image (earlier set?) are manufactured in colours common to both Britains/Herald AND Timpo plastic?

What we do know is that they come in two distinct issues, the earlier, better mouldings in flat realistic-coloured plastic and the later sets with a more glossy, translucent (is that the right word?) plastic in brighter colours. Sitting here pouring over an enlarged image of both sets together, my vote veers toward Culpitts. Mercator Trading had lots of these at the PW show last month, in little bags, and Culpitts used to use un-carded little bags in the big stand-alone revolving 6-foot and counter top 2-foot Perspex display units they used to use, it would also explain the difference between the first issue (made for Culpitts by Britains/Horton…or Gem?) and the later ones which look like the later HK produced versions of other Culpitts/Gemodels stuff?

The other thing we know is that no one has ever seen the fox in this range, but there was a metal one? Well - you wouldn’t want a fox about to die on a cake, but a little might want to celebrate horses or horse-riding on her birthday or Mum might make a cake to celebrate the beginning or the end of the hunt season? This set is different from the 54mm Hollow-cast range, where most of the horses are standing, and there are three dog poses, not the single one found in this set (there are only 2 poses in the Lilliput metal set), while only three of the four (Lilliput metal) rider poses are reproduced in the plastic sets. Finally note how the woman rider (all black) is side-saddle.

The two box sizes the Farm came in, Horton also produced a lot of the Papier-mâché buildings and scenics that Britains used with this and the larger-scale ranges, a job which had previously been undertaken by Hugar. Also a look at some larger-scale farm from Taylor and/or Barratt versus small scale Lilliput figures from Britains/Horton.

As we also looked at the Crescent military figures above, here is their small scale farm, larger than Britains offering they are quite crudely painted and were probably sold on small cards as penny (or from the likely dates thre’penny or sixpence!) toys. As with the military figures; there are crude home casts/piracies around - not shown here.

S is for Skybirds

So, to the final post in this concurrent group - Skybirds; not really connected to Trojan at all, but mentioned enough times in the 7 posts above to merit coverage of the figures, at least. Similar to and running alongside the Crescent figures, you could in the 1930/50’s (long before the ‘modern’ war gaming movement) get up quite an armed force, with a few Fantasyland imports and some semi-flat European figures to fill the gaps.

According to publicity material at the time in the modelling press, these figures were re-issued by Douglas Miniatures in the late 1960’s/1970’s and another source states that Douglas issued some new poses. Well, I’ve seen enough over the years to know that all the existing poses can be found in datable Skybirds collections/Skybirds packaging, and there are so many paint variations, particularly of the Civilians, that I can’t tell you what’s a ‘Douglas’ and what isn’t. I suspect the Douglas were issuing inherited ex-Skybirds stock, as I’ve seen trays and trays of both mint painted and unpainted casting go through auctions, and someone, somewhere produced baths-full of these figures, which is not to say they are all as common as mud, some are, some aren’t, but there will be more to find…

Various pilots who can be used as either civilians or early/WWI allied military pilots, with the civilian passengers/onlookers in the central image. Note the wide array of colour schemes. Bottom right is the female pilot I always think is meant to be Emilia Earhart (is that surname right? No Google!), or - more likely - the Brit; Amy Johnson!

I love the guy with his hands in his pockets, waiting for the dawn mist to clear or his ground-crew to sort his ‘string-bag’ out. The paratrooper can be found with the shroud-lines in place, but inevitably there are only little scraps of what looks like tissue paper trapped in the knots at the ends of the lines where a parachute is supposed to be! This is not to say you can’t get one with the parachute, but that’d be mint in pack which is beyond my normal budget in these things!

The Khaki troops, if you want to see a Douglas Miniatures figure, it may be the left-hand figure in the top right-hand shot! This portion of Skybirds range seems to have more than a passing resemblance to the large-scale hollow-casts by Johillco (John Hill and Co., known as ‘Hilco’ to the plastics fraternity!), with Hill’s products pre-dating Skybirds by a few years, the ‘homage’ would seem to be in their favour!

The searchlight (a civilian one is seen here - and a recent purchase) was the same unit as one soldered to the backs of slush-cast lorries by Benbros (I think? Or CharbensMorstone?), so were probably bought-in from another sub-assembler. The green sandbags are home-painted, not a colour variant.

Various military-looking mechanics and/or ground-crew, I suspect a fair bit of home-painting among the senior NCO with swagger-stick lot, but again, the possibility of some being Douglas miniatures?

The Germans are coming! [National motto of the French, or is that; ‘The British are winning’?]. These come in a variety of greys from the quite dark one on the left in the top photo to a pale grey (officer with pistol), and there were only ever the three combat poses, so if Douglas were going to add figures this would have been where to do so, and they don't seem to have done so.

The lower poses are half-German specific (two on the right) and a paint variant on the running pilot from the first image in this post; there are also grey versions of the ground-crew in the previous image. The blue figure may be civil airline or naval officer, but looks like a Luftwaffe staff officer to me, so he lives in their bag!

Stop Press -Taken this weekend on the floor of the NEC, these are all available from Mercator Trading (link to right or Google), I wish I could afford them; both my bikes are damaged and I don’t have the AA gun, while the tanker-lorry is just beautiful, no? A catalogue of the sets at the heights of Skybirds flourishing was reproduced in an early issue of Military Modelling or Airfix magazine, or - I believe - can be found in Meccano Magazine, which is now online somewhere.

Another from Sunday just gone, again all still available from Mercator (who has three ‘Flybirds’ as well - slightly larger at around 1:60), although one of the German Bi-planes might have sold on the day? Much discussion on their first outing led the assembled ‘fans’ to decide these are probably factory finished with home-applied markings, or possibly home-made from kits! Does it matter?......they’re Skybirds!; a few bits of balsa and some wire, with two wheels and a ‘prop’ in a little bag!

The Airport building was part of a large (and changeable) range of military and civil aerodrome accessories some based on actual buildings from Croydon or Hounslow (early/pre-Heathrow) airports, typical of the products of firms such as Hugar or Horton (see farm post above), early Faller or Hornby ‘O’ gauge tinplate era train-set accessories or the handmade buildings of Timpo or Trix, they might have been bought-in from a larger company that would specialize in finishing such things, leaving Skybirds to concentrate on making their aircraft, sending out aircraft kits and expanding the metal parts and figure ranges, but, they certainly had the equipment and skills to produce all the scenics ‘in-house’, so it’s only my opinion (not even an opinion really, more of an idea?), based on the conjecture that they were quite a small company?

Friday, June 3, 2011

J is for Just call me Wikileaks!

I found these stuffed inside a hollow log the other day, and felt that in the wider global interests of true and lasting peace, justice and democracy they should be made available as public documents...there was blood on the log...

J is for Johnny Reb!

Another ACW article, this time a smaller size but not the smallest, these being in the 30mm bracket. The plastic figures are - of course - Spencer Smith, mostly based on old SAE or Tradition figures by Holgar Eriksson, while the metal figures are probably by Minikins (or AHI, see comments).

Mostly shots of a Confederate ‘Advance to Contact’ over carpet crops, I like occasionally to organize a bit of a war-gaming type setting, strangely; the last time I did so it was also an article of Spencer Smith! I guess the sculpting/pose type that makes Eriksson so distinctive seem to lend themselves to a bit of scenery! There’s a resoluteness to the way they march forward.

Students of the smaller scales will also recognize in the Spencer Smith foot Officer shades of the Giant Napoleonic Officer, itself taken from an Eriksson SAE 7YW figure.

Defending a rather pathetic fence is a larger sized group of 40mm Merten, home-painted Union (most of which are actually catalogued as Confederate!), which I grabbed at the last minute, requiring a bit of judicious camera angling! However they do have Spencer Smith Cannon.

The ‘Minikins[AHI?] figures photographed from both sides, this attribution is purely guesswork based on two facts, 1) The mounted figures are marked ‘Japan’ and 2) they appear to be die-cast mazak or a similar hard alloy which Minikins are known for in larger sizes. Whoever made them; they are clearly based upon Spencer Smith/SAE being semi-flat and posed as Eriksson posed his figures.

This woefully unclear or over-complicated (I must get back ‘Publisher’ for Windows!) image is part of an ongoing project of mine to produce a print-on-demand book on the smaller scale stuff from Eriksson, and is trying to show how the range has morphed over the years, so - for instance, looking at the top left, originally all 7 foot poses came in bags of 80 figures, then after a few years hiatus, they were re-issued in bags of 30 separated in to Kepi (P1) or Slouch hat (P2) with the same officers and buglers [I think the totals for those two poses are wrong for the 30 figure bags?], before the more recent single pose issue, which has now become a metal only series (link to right somewhere) with an additional figure - C8.

Likewise the current metal figure ‘dismounted cavalryman’ (CC3), was originally one of the backwoodsmen poses. Notice the similarities between the kneeling firing backwoodsman, similar posed Indian and the 1950’s infantryman previously seen on this blog (click Spencer Smith or SAE in the Tag-list below or the ‘Index’ in the right hand column).

The artillery is less clear and I’m writing to the current purveyors of Spencer Smith separately to see if they can help with identification of the various catalogue descriptions given over the years for both the ACW and AWI/7YW range, but the main piece IS the ACW gun, I’m just not sure whether the other barrel is the other one - sometimes - available in P7 or if it should be the short barrel from the AWI carriage. My P7 contained two identical grey guns as illustrated and no alternative barrel.

I added a quick shot of the poses mentioned above, back-left to front-right; painted SAE, unpainted casting (Prinze August?), Spencer Smith ‘Combat Infantry’ and two Comet/Authenticast (one early US Comet?, the other later Irish Galterra? Or; AHI? See; coments).

This may be a better way of explaining the number changes? I think I did tweak it some more after taking this screen-shot here, but it'll do! (28/06/11)

B is for Blue

A birthday picture for Mim, a while ago now, we went for a walk on the flood-medow at Hungerford, and I kept trying to Photograph the Small Blues that were flitting about, but by the time I'd got focus they'd move off again and I ended up chaseing one for Hundreds of yards, and failed to get a deceny shot of any!

Well, crossing the Golf Course at Welford on the way to Great Shefford the other day I found lots in a wild-flower medow and managed to get both sides, along with a couple of others.

G is for Grass!

My Celtic spiral, the photograph doesn't do it justice but you get the general idea!