S: MONJOUET 2nd Edition Phil Massey
FC: MONJOUET | 2nd Edition | Phil Massey
1: WHY A SECOND EDITION? When I put the first edition of 'Monjouet' to bed I was fairly sure that my model was complete and that I had exhausted all my ideas for the layout and its rolling stock. However, I'm a indolent retiree with few demands on my time, living in a sleepy French village and, not being of a religious bent, I had completely forgotten that "The devil makes work for idle hands." In my case he does this by making me conduct regular, extensive searches for my specs, which he has hidden in the most unlikely places (sometimes on my face!); by sowing innumerable weed seeds amongst my vegetables; and, nowadays, by presenting me with irresistibly tempting images in books, magazines and on the Internet, or even interestingly-shaped fragments of household flotsam, which are just crying out to be translated into extra engines and rolling stock for Monjouet. Having been inspired to make several new trains since the original publication, I thought it was time to bring my book up to date with descriptions of these. The front section remains more or less unchanged from the previous edition, but one or two of the photographs have been replaced with better versions. So here we go again.... | i.
2: NOTE The large font size has been chosen so that this book may be read comfortably on small computer screen or tablet. It is not meant to imply that my prospective readers are half blind. (Though many of them are getting on a bit!) | ii.
3: PREFACE A while ago a friend got hooked on computerised 'cerebral gymnastics' and was delighted when she acquired a mental age of 40, 10 years below her actual age. Sadly, I had to explain that she was wasting money on such programs because after 50, or thereabouts, mental rejuvenation is a natural process, otherwise known as reversion to childhood. For instance, I am an OAP (if the term is still legal in these insanely politically correct times) but now have a mental age of about 9. I have more toys now than I ever had when I was a kid, a favourite being Monjouet, my new 'train set'. What follows is a series of articles written for Narrow Lines, which describe its development. | Acknowledgments Dedicated to my dorter, Rachel, who helpt me with the speling and pointed out all the greengrocers's apostrophes I had scattered about (and have hopefully now removed), and also to the editors of "Narrow Lines", the 7mm Narrow Gauge Association magazine, whose willingness to publish my nonsense led to its proliferation! | iii.
5: Page 1 Page 7 Page 9 Page 15 Page 30 Page 39 Page 45 Page 47 Page 54 Page 57 Page 61 Page 64 Page 70 Page 75 Page 77 Page 85 Page 89 Page 91 Page 93 Page 100 Page 110 Page 112 | CONTENTS | Training Sessions Making Tracks A Small Town in France Fantastic Developments Cheap Return to Monjouet The 10:66 Boat Train to Hastings Underground, Overground, Modelling Free Monsieur Alphonse's Zoo Roulant Roll Out The Barrel! Professeur Vert's Train Ecologique Backwards Conversion Three More for The Skylark Tottering On Another Gnomy Jacques's Shack Christmas is Coming Nutty Slack Bashing a Brawa Branching out Loco Album Drive Disguises The Author | v
6: TRAINING SESSIONS Monjouet began with a push along Gnomy tram bought as a souvenir of a holiday in Austria. Once home I managed to squeeze into it the motorised chassis of a very basic Hornby engine bought for a pound or so at a swap meet. The trailer (now augmented with another) was fitted with a 4-wheel bogie from the Dapol shop, close to where I then lived. I dithered about the pantograph but in the end decided that a catenary would be a pain in the wotsit when it came to track accessibility, so I converted my tram to internal combustion by removing the current collector and sticking an exhaust pipe on each end. Flushed with success, I bought a Gnomy steam engine and some carriages and wagons. More Dapol bogies were used for the rolling stock, while another old motorised chassis, this time a Lima, was more or less crammed into the loco - the cab having to be extended a bit to accommodate the pancake motor. I also added a small rear coal bunker (to cover the last vestiges of the hump) and changed the chimney a bit. | 1.
7: The motorised Gnomy Tram. | The motorised Gnomy Steam engine. | 2.
8: Alphagraphix railbus. | Bachmann Gas Mechanical. | Bachman Gandy Dancer conversion. | Mantua Goat conversion. | 3.
9: At this time we were in the process of emigrating to France, so the layout with which I was doodling had to wait. I filled the time by assembling an Alphagraphix card model of an Irish rail bus. I couldn't find a suitably priced (i.e. dirt cheap) chassis for this in a swap meet, but Dapol had a sale on so I gritted my teeth and splashed out on a brand new one. It's a 2-4-0 rather than the 2-2-0 of the prototype, but when you're only 9 or so, who cares about such details? Later fleet additions were a Bachmann Gas Mechanical; a Bachmann Gandy Dancer (I cut off the little men and stuck odd bits on to make a tiny quarry engine); a Hornby Pug (I made a new enlarged cab and chimney); and a Mantua 'Goat' switcher, which struck me as being quirky enough to make, with a new cab, an attractive narrow gauge engine. (If you read much further you will realize that I rather like quirk!) What I didn't spot at the time of purchase was that the sloping tender, which I had thought to discard, contained essential electrical pick ups. Rather than making life complicated by trying to sort out independent pick ups for the engine alone, I decided to retain the tender and disguise it as an open wagon loaded with scrap. | 4.
10: I've also two non-powered locos for ornamental use only. After admiring a picture of an old loco-tractor in a Smokey Bottom Lumber Company ad. I shamelessly cribbed the design and made myself one using the bonnet of an old toy car and another Dapol chassis. The second is another Gnomy steam engine which, apart from a wheel change and a coat of 'rust', is in its original guise. Rolling stock is mainly tweaked Gnomy, apart from a couple of scratch built vehicles on commercial OO chassis and the home made quarry trucks which are mounted on 4-wheel plastic bogies from a couple of cheap HO models. Couplings are cheap and cheerful, single-ended tension hooks and some home made links (I've no plans to do any hands free shunting). | Gnomy Steam Engine, re-wheeled and re-painted. | My Smoky Bottom Tractor rip off. | 5.
11: The converted Hornby Pug with its train of Gnomy carriages and guard's van. | 6.
12: MAKING TRACKS..... Our cottage in France was previously a holiday home and came complete with many beds. One was the bottom half of a bunk set and seemed ideal to support my new railway. Onto this I fitted a pine frame to support a base of light-weight, but rigid and strong, foam insulation panels. These were also used to create variations in level and, stood on end, the 'mountain' which hides the back of the layout. Incidentally, if distressed a bit with sharp tools, this stuff makes a quite reasonable rock face. The track plan is fairly simple, being two ovals (I wanted moving trains passing each other) with a couple of sidings on each. A separate higher level quarry track serves a tippler. The track itself is a mix of:- second-hand Jouet small radius set-track (which I thought would give a smoother run on my tight curves than strangled flexi-track); Dapol flexible track, used for the gentler curves and straight bits; and Peco 'Electrofrog' points to provide the switching. The rear (behind the scenes) crossover is operated by the 'straightened out coat hanger in a trench' method - a substitute for the 'wire in a tube' method for those of us having no wires or tubes about their person. Reachable points are digitally controlled, i.e. changed with a finger. The track is ballasted with budgie grit. | 7.
13: The basic track plan was arrived at using the Hornby "Trains" computer program. | How it looks "in the flesh." | 8.
14: A SMALL (really small!) TOWN IN FRANCE The railway serves the little French town of Monjouet ('my toy'). Apart from a ruined cottage and the quarry's derelict engine shed (from a war games shop) and the columns in the Temple Garden (aquarium ornaments) the buildings have been largely (or should I say small-ly) made from foam board. None are replicas of actual buildings, though certain features have been inspired by local architecture. The church tower has its origins in that of our village, Niort la Fontaine, while its rose window is a photograph of the real thing. The Mairie (town hall) has the double front steps of a little house round the corner, while the adjacent loo carries the charming legend 'Chalet de Nécessitié' encountered once on a trip to Boulogne. The towers of the chateau (plumbing off-cuts) bear a passing resemblance to those of the Chateau of Lassay just down the road. Apart from the aforementioned borrowed features the buildings are all freelance, made to fit their sites. Since most of the sites are tiny they would not stand up to close scrutiny by a scale-rule wielding perfectionist. However, I would direct anyone too critical of their dimensions to visit Conwy, where the smallest house in Britain stands just 6 feet across. | 9.
15: The canal basin. | Bridge End Garage. | High Street. | 10.
16: Town Hall, W/C, Church and Bob the Builder's place. | Station forecourt. | Station, track-side. | 11.
17: Dr McArbre's dental surgery. | The signal box. | The Chateau. | 12.
18: On a couple of buildings (the cinema and dental surgery) I attempted the ailing mortar look by excavating the foam board and inserting bits of brick or stone textured plastic before applying an emery paper 'rendering'. Finishing off:- Roads are emery paper, the tippler is balsa wood, fencing is either shop-bought plastic, matchsticks strung with 'barbed wire' from a war games shop or, for the station steps, insulated copper wire. The few trees are real twiggy bits of an old hedge with flock added, and ground cover is the usual mix of commercial decorative products. Most signs were produced on my computer, though a few are commercial. A tip for anyone as daft as myself (there's got to be one, surely!). Computer printers don't do white! If you want a white background or a white image on a coloured background DON'T use transparent label material. It'll look fine until you peel off the backing sheet, then your 'white' will suddenly become the same colour as whatever you stick it to. The 'POMPIERS' sign on my fire engine should have been white. Luckily I'd included a black outline on the text so it didn't look too bad - not bad enough to warrant the effort of changing it, anyway. | 13.
19: The Temple Garden - a re-enactment of a battle between the Romans and the Gauls is about to start. | The engine shed in the quarry. | The Pompiers damp down a small fire, and their chief, near the tippler. | 14.
20: FANTASTIC DEVELOPMENTS Although I really like my little trains, there is no escaping the fact that they look toy-like. Rather than trying to ignore this, I decided to go the whole hog, as you can see, and populate my private world with toy cartoon figures which, let's face it, often have loads more character than the po-faced figures generally available on the model railway market. I've also managed to acquire a number of caricatures of vehicles with which I'm very happy, though I wouldn't vouch for them all being exactly to scale. I started out with 'normal, everyday sort of people' such as Postman Pat, Bob the Builder and Popeye and family, but as I spent more and more of my life trawling through boxes of cast off toys at vide greniers (the French equivalent of car boot sales) I found myself attracted to figures like the Flintstones, Asterix and Co, the Incredibles, Wallace and Gromit, Dr Who and some little green Martians. Then there came fairies, witches, wizards, were-wolves, dinosaurs, knights, dragons and vampires. I'd wandered into Terry Pratchett-ish territory (try saying that without your teeth in!) and my childlike imagination was beginning to run amok! | 15.
21: I've had hours of pleasure sorting through the heaps of cheap plastic figures I've gathered, modifying many of them, and composing suitable scenarios. Tributes to Mr Pratchett include a vampire having a contretemps with an over-enthusiastic dentist; an Igor, giving a single-fingered salute to a flash git in a sports car; the arrival of the 'wyrd sisters' at the fete; the dragon sanctuary in the far corner of the layout; and the T[r]oll Bridge above it where a couple of wizards may end up crossing 'club' class. | 16.
22: Another Discworld character making an appearance is 'Cut my own throat' Dibbler trying to offload a sausage in a bun to a potential client who seems less than enthusiastic despite his apparent gluttonous physique. | 17.
23: There are several other off-the-wall scenes which would also make most railway modelling aficionados squirm:- An intrepid were-wolf hunter is oblivious to the fact that he is being menaced by other were-creatures such as were-hyenas, a were-rabbit, a were- rat, a were-Marsupial and Wile E. were-Coyote. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley appear on the station platform in their time honoured fashion - through the wall. Doctor Who peeps out of the just materialised Tardis to find three little green men touting for a free ride home. The local palaeontology department unearth prehistoric remains with a couple of surviving dinosaurs helping out. Mr Incredible is poised to foil a contemplated auto theft and a couple of dissatisfied 'patients' escape from the dentist's cellar. | 18.
25: The playing field hosts the town fete, which explains the crowded layout (collecting cartoon figures has become something of a passion). Here there are games, assorted rides, a motor show (watched over by The Stig!) and a fancy dress competition which accommodates figures difficult to place elsewhere. | 20.
26: More fete scenes include Elastogirl, also known as Mrs Incredible, serving ices which | don't quite match the example on the roof of her van, an impromptu game of soccer, Snoopy and Woodstock providing the music, almost drowning out the policeman yelling at the prospective car thieves, and two former Fred Flintstones meeting at the loo - John Goodman from the feature film and the other from TV cartoon series. | 21.
27: The imminent battle re-enactment at the Temple Garden creates a suitable setting for Asterix and Co. The starting signal will probably be the smashing of a (hopefully empty) jar of Calvados over the centurian's head. Cacophonix the bard tries to discourage Geriatrix from taking a potshot at the opposition with his hunting rifle. | On the next few pages are some of the other characters you'll find around and about the town. | 22.
28: Garage owner, Maurice, waves at a passing client. | To Rent, but is that the apartment or the tenant? | Le Trou des Puces (the 'Flea Pit' cinema), today showing a thrilling Lucky Luke western. | Allo, allo, it's that bloke off the telly, getting another earful from Madame Edith for 'bird-watching'. | 23.
29: Climax of an internet romance. "Hmm, doesn't look much 'like a new Brigitte Bardot' to me!" says the 'George Clooney lookalike', carefully keeping his own rose behind his back. | Betty Boop is not having much luck either, not realising that, to Mr Wimpy, the whole world is a blur. | 24.
30: Porter Pat greets the morning parcels van. | The guard on the train from the quarry keeps a can of petrol handy and adds a drop or two to his baccy pouch to help keep his pipe alight when working out in the wind. | 25
31: An angry yob berates a poor old lady who lost control of her vintage car after the steering wheel came adrift. | A kind-hearted lad holds up the traffic to help an adventurous tortoise cross the road. | Fred Flintstone shows off his new car to fellow palaeontologist Barney Rubble. It's a Ferrari Dino, obviously. | 26.
32: Some of the quarry workers gather for a conflab. | Intrepid mountaineer, Sir Hillary Edmunds, finds that he has been beaten to this particular peak! | Pixie Pete and his performing sheep entertain some of the less athletic members of the flock. | 27.
33: Wallace and Gromit, the Anti-Pesto S.W.A.T. team, help a local farmer with his mole problem, watched by some engrossed livestock. | Meanwhile the farmer's wife tends to her chickens. | 28.
34: An irresponsible owner has chosen to ignore the popular slogan "An alligator is for life, not just for Christmas!" so this former pet now lurks beside the canal. Happily he has found a new friend. | Also in this vicinity (it must be something in the water!) is a giant snail, seen here lying in ambush for a passing hedgehog. | As you must have now gathered, Monjouet is more of a 3D comic than a model railway. Although I admire the magnificent workmanship and realism some modellers are capable of, I'm not in their league. What's more, at my present rate of regression I've only a few years to go until I'm near my personal year dot, sporting neither hair nor teeth and surrounded by bibs, nappies and a funny smell, so I've no time to waste on struggling to cultivate finesse. What matters is having fun while I still can..... Talking of which..... | 29.
35: CHEAP RETURN TO MONJOUET (or The Joys of Power Sharing.) What does one do with oneself when the making of a model railway that has absorbed so much of one's spare time for over four years is just about complete? Some builders, so I have read, sell, or even scrap a layout after finishing it, because their main pleasure is in the design and construction stages and an idea for a replacement has already been conceived. I'm sure that over time I will attend to those irritating little gaps in the ground cover which only become obvious on close up photographs. I'll probably add a little rust and workaday grime to my trains, and occasionally re-group my townsfolk or add a new face or two. However, I cannot imagine that I will ever part with Monjouet, which has been something of a labour of love. And I don't have room for an additional layout, except perhaps one of the now popular micro models in a shoe box. So, initially, my replacement activity was to have been tidying up my workbench and having a ruthless sort out of the junk in my bits boxes. It was in one of the first of these I opened that I unearthed a forgotten OO powered bogie bought years ago (because it was going cheap, | 30.
36: rather than for any prevailing need). I now had a good look at it and thought that I might be able to make a body to fit around it to make another small rail bus for Monjouet, or a little parcels van, perhaps even a modest mobile crane. The tidy up could wait...... I remembered that I had, tucked away, a Gnomy double-decker bus that I had ordered for the layout when I first decided on a 'toyland' approach, but which I found too bulky for my roads and out of 'scale' (I use that word very loosely) with my other vehicles. After a few minutes work with a Stanley knife, and with hardly any blood loss, the bus was down to its component parts and I found that the central 'window' unit would fit over the bogie's motor quite nicely. Firstly I made a firm floor from a rectangle of stout plastic with the centre cut out to fit over the | 31.
37: motor, and glued it in place on the bogie. I went on to make a new lower body section from thick card covered with plank-embossed plastic. Transparent packaging was used for glazing and a plastic roof overlaid with 'canvas' (a bit of left over linen from a roller blind kit) was added. The bonnet came from a toy road drill compressor unit, with a fat exhaust pipe filling an unwanted hole in its top. At one stage I did consider re-fitting the top deck of the bus for a bit of fun. But then I thought, "No, that's silly. Even Count Dracula, Monjouet's oldest 'living?' resident, wouldn't be seen dead in a rail vehicle like that!" * | Out for the Count! | * Then again, perhaps he would - which just goes to show the folly of his taking up that offer of joining the railway's 'stake-holders' for a free ride! | 32.
38: beyond my skill level, I opted for straight steps made from concertina-ed card. Although the double-decker itself negotiates all of my lines okay, the tourists, seen in the picture above, would get a severe headache on arrival at the bridges and tunnels. They are thus another removable extra, just there for photo opportunities and for brief excursions backwards and forwards along the front of the layout. What did strike me was that, as the new railbus body fitted quite snugly on its chassis, there was perhaps no need to glue it down. I could then make other bodies, the freight van and the crane for instance, and swap them about at will - an economic triumph in these times of financial woe! | So, a piece of a drinking straw was fixed to the front of the upper deck with its now grisly contents, and this just slots over the bus's exhaust pipe when desired. A new staircase was needed however, and, as a spiral was | 33.
39: So next a van body (more a 'Dawdling Duck' than a 'Galloping Goose') was made, mainly from card with corners reinforced on the inside with matchsticks. The other end of the aforementioned toy compressor cover became its shallow bonnet. The roof was of plank-embossed plasticard, mounted upside down this time for a bit of textural variety, while a stagecoach-style luggage net on the back added to the rustic look. Now on a bit of a roll, I then tackled the crane. It was made in a similar fashion using card, matchsticks and bits and pieces from my still-disorganized junk boxes, including a few odds and ends of gearing bunged in to make it look a bit technical. I decided to give it extra character by adding evidence of the dedicated care and attention the Monjouet maintenance department have lavished on their equipment over the years! See next page. * | 34.
40: * The sticking plaster is the real thing. Living with a man who should not really be allowed near anything sharper than a marshmallow, but who persists in surrounding himself with knives, scalpels, razor saws, chisels and mini-drills, has | prompted my wife to keep a generous stock of Elastoplast, cotton wool and assorted bandages in the medicine | cabinet, and a bold reminder of my blood group on the kitchen notice board! | 35.
41: Once I'd got into the swing of this concept, I thought of another possibility. How about making some relatively simple items of motor-concealing rolling stock to fit over my powered bogie, which could then propel free-running engines? With devices like these at hand, someone living in Never-Never Land, like me, could really let their imagination rip by concocting all manner of weird 'motive power units' without having to find the room for an integral working mechanism. | My first off-beat engine and tender was made from card, balsa, odds and ends of plastic and a Kinder Egg® toy container. The spectacle plates feature actual 'specs' from a pack of little plastic shop signs found in a craft shop. | 36.
42: This engine heads up a non-stop express goods train rushing the latest Mercedes coupés to the Paris Motor Show. No prizes for guessing that the train is driven by the flat wagon with the tarpaulined load - perhaps a top secret concept car destined to astound show goers? The car transporter wagon uses bits from a Dapol signal gantry kit as well as other oddments. And why a non-stop express? Well, this gives me an excuse to have a bit of fun with the footplate area. I'm sure you are all aware of the legendary ritual of the French to enjoy a two-hour lunch break, when all work stops, all shops close and nothing moves on the roads. Equally, however, the French have a tremendous sense of responsibility and pride in their job and, in a serious crisis, such as The Paris Motor Show having nothing to display on its opening day, a train driver would be willing to bend the rules a little. Thus we find our engineer on the move during his normal hours of repast and repose. Loath as he is to miss his customary feast, when needs must you can be assured that, being a Frenchman, he will enjoy even an en route snack in some style! The dining accoutrements were mainly scratch-built though the frying pan was stripped from another plastic toy figure and the rose in the vase is a little brass trinket spotted on a junk stall. | 37. | Bon Appétit!
43: The sausages are nearly done. | Your table awaits, monsieur. | The complete economy ensemble so far. | 38. | P.S. Since coming across Bachmann's Underground Ernie models I have equipped both my little rail bus and my parcels van with Ernie chassis, allowing me to run them at the same time, with the bonus of working headlights. I have also fitted the crane onto a wagon chassis so that it becomes just part of a track maintenance train (hauled by Ernie) and can be posed on a siding pivoted into a loading/unloading position.
44: THE 10:66 BOAT TRAIN TO HASTINGS CALLING AT MONJOUET, FALAISE, BAYEUX AND SAINT-VALERY-SUR-SOMME (Port of departure). To entertain the townsfolk and to celebrate 5 years of operation the Lassay-Monjouet Railway Company have, at enormous expense in blood, sweat and Superglue, commissioned a working reproduction of the military transport vehicles used in the historic Norman attack on the south coast of England. The vehicles are all mounted on Dapol bogies or old OO / HO chassis, and built of whatever is handy and fits the bill - card, balsa, matchsticks, kebab sticks, coffee stirrers, plasticard, string, wire, metal and plastic oddments and novelty finds. | 39.
45: The engine itself has a distinctly nautical style featuring a clinker-built 'hull', portholes, a ship's wheel and paddle wheels (sadly I'm not skilled enough to make these rotate). Finishing touches include the sea-shell 'dome', a life-belt, an anchor, the 'crab-catcher' on the front and the driver in a uniform with just a hint of the matelot about it. The smoke-box door, a clockface, shows the planned departure time of six minutes past eleven Greenwich Mean Time, or in continental terms, ten sixty-six. | 40.
46: This time the drive unit for the train is secreted in Maxim's restaurant-car (no self-respecting gourmet such as 'William the Bastard' would have ventured abroad without proper catering facilities - he certainly wouldn't have wanted to eat any of that foreign muck!). William himself rides 1st class of course and, with his gnashers coming up nicely in a glass of fizzing Steradent, catches a few 'ZZZs' before the big day, dreaming of donning the crown hanging ready on his tent post. His squire, meanwhile, strives to control the urge to tickle his master's feet. | 41.
47: Their mounts (once zebra heads on pencil tops) seem to find their travelling corral O.K.! Come on, I'm working hard here! (The Earp brothers..... Doc Holliday..... the Clantons.....) Got it yet? | William's knights (tweaked 'Smurfs') in 2nd class sleeper accommodation are also able to benefit from a few hours kip. | 42.
48: The arrow fodder, or foot-soldiers, do exactly that - travel on foot in their 3rd class carriage. They are from a bumper bag of polythene warriors - with custom-made helmets cut from pen tops. This wheeze has saved me searching for new heads for them all - I've relied on 'body language' to hopefully add a bit of life. Books and web-sites that suggest possible sources of modern surnames hint at Norman origins for 'Massey' (in fact there is a small town just up the road called 'La Ferté Macé' - different spelling but the same pronunciation). I thought it fitting, therefore, to include one of my own ancestors, 'Le Furtive Massey', in the troop. He's the bewhiskered one, short of leg but pronounced of proboscis, who has lived up to his reputation for skullduggery by bringing along a newfangled double-barrelled shotgun to tip the odds in his favour. | 43.
49: Though lacking the luxurious travel arrangements of their superiors, the squaddies are not expected to fight on empty stomachs. In the adjoining field kitchen, the chef is preparing a light snack of leek and pumpkin soup with some added magical seasoning (i.e. Calvados) and a spit-roasted suckling boar. Bringing up the rear, the guard's 'van' is based on a toy inflatable dinghy while the guard himself is an amalgam of a native from Plastoy's 'Marsupial' set and a Kinder hobbit, with unknown feet replacing the latter's hairy ones. An outboard motor, sail and paddles are ready to help the train complete its voyage if the engine's coal supply should get waterlogged in rough seas. All in all, this makes a fitting, crowd-pleasing tribute by the management to illustrious times gone by. | 44. | P.S. If you don't want to know the score, look away now, but I do believe the match ended in an away win after extra time!
50: UNDERGROUND, OVERGROUND, MODELLING FREE * * Well quite cheaply. With apologies to The Wombles! Having spotted Smallbrook Studio's modification kit for the 'Underground Ernie' inspection trolley I quite fancied the idea of a small inspection/maintenance vehicle for Monjouet, so I Googled Ernie, found a supplier, Metro Models, and duly sent off for Bachmann's model. When it arrived I quite liked it in its original form and saw no need to buy any embellishments or hack it about too much. I just converted it to internal combustion by adding a radiator and exhaust, removed the pairs of buffers, added a few bits and pieces such as rear lights, tools and hand-rails, gave it a quick lick of paint and Bob's your uncle! Well, er, not quite! Ernie himself was a major disappointment. Not only was he completely featureless, with a lifeless static pose, but he appeared to me to be entirely lost in the relatively large cab. | 45.
51: So, out came my shoe boxes full of plastic figures accumulated over the past few years, and the hunt began for suitable bits from which to create a driver with a lot more presence, and loads more personality. Like a modern day Dr Frankenstein, but working in thermoplastic, I delight in combining various body parts to form unique characters with which to inject the spark of 'life' into my layout. 'Big Ern', as opposed to the discarded 'Little Ern', has the head of a Gaul from Plastoy's. 'Asterix' series, the trunk of the intrepid hunter from their 'Marsupial' set, and arms and legs from my 'miscellaneous limbs' collection. I feel I've now got a model far more in keeping with the ethos of Monjouet. | 46.
52: THE ZOO ROULANT OF MONSIEUR ALPHONSE There is great excitement in Monjouet today because the annual fete this year has attracted the mobile menagerie, or 'Zoo Roulant', of M. Alphonse. The creation of this new train stemmed from the increasing street wisdom of local children, who can now spot an eccentric Englishman and his money approaching from several kilometres away! There was a time when I could wander through a street fair, rifle through open trays, boxes and bags of discarded plastic toys, pick out one or two small figures that I thought might go well in Monjouet, part with 5 cents or so and move on. I would proceed feeling highly satisfied with my 'nose for a bargain', leaving behind a kid who believed that he'd made a killing, even if he was a little surprised that some old weirdo had parted with hard cash for a couple of bits of junk! But not any more! They know me now! No more rummaging! No more selective purchases! Now it's the whole box or bag or nothing, and at least a whole euro to boot! Actually this is not such a bad thing. I now have an almost inexhaustible supply of heads, bodies, arms, legs and accoutrements with which I can, with a | 47.
53: bit of imagination, some micro-surgery and lots of Superglue, custom-make a figure to suit practically any need. What I have also accrued is an extensive range of comic animals. Most of the domesticated sort - pets, farm animals, etc. - I have found relatively easy to place, but the sickeningly cute, clothed creatures, such as pigs or frogs playing musical instruments or partaking in sports activities, have been dispatched straight to the bin. Even in a fantasy world like Monjouet, its animals, including its were-creatures, dragons and dinosaurs, albeit of a cartoony disposition, are definitely not 'humanised'. We all have our limits! * * Okay, some may challenge this statement if they spot Gromit in his baseball cap and wellies operating the Bunny-Vac, Droopy skate-boarding down the hill, or Snoopy sporting his cool shades as he supervises the music at the fete. However, in fairness, it must be said that Gromit is perhaps more human than Wallace - in fact to me he seems more human than a great many other so-called 'celebrities'! As far as Droopy's exploits go, I have seen on You Tube with my very own eyes (rather than with anyone else's) several real-life dogs seemingly enjoying rides on skate-boards. And whom amongst you hasn't seen the odd photo of a dog staring calmly at the camera through a pair of specs, possibly wearing a hat and smoking a pipe too? | 48.
54: However, after purging my purchases of the schmalz I was left with several caricatures of wilder creatures, which appealed to me, but which would not really look at home roaming the streets of a small town in northern France. (The alligator lurking near the canal is merely an overgrown pet dumped by an irresponsible owner.) I decided that the best way of displaying some of these animals would be in the form of a mobile zoo. The drive for this train was to have been my all-purpose power unit, in a hollow ticket-office, propelling a free-wheeling, diesel tractor. However, as I made more and more wagons the front and rear of the train ended up going in opposite linear directions when rounding my end-of-oval bends and the powered hut couldn't cope. | I therefore resorted to double-heading with a couple of model steam locos. The little tractor didn't look right with this set-up, so was put temporarily put aside. | 49.
55: I think most of the zoo vehicles are self-explanatory. Built on my now rapidly depleting supply of wagon chassis salvaged from the OO layout I abandoned in Wales, the upper sections are largely balsa and matches, with florist's wire, kebab sticks, unravelled string and the odd bit of scrap-box junk added to suit. | The aquarium was once a rigid plastic 'showcase' container of a small model car. The big fish is suspended from the roof on thin cotton so he 'floats' a bit as the train goes round. | The leopardy thing confronting the rhino was much too long to fit in anywhere as he was, so I fore-shortened him some-what and depicted him emerging from some undergrowth. | Another small model car showcase / container, cut down, formed the basis of the penguin pool. | 50.
56: A further victim of my surgical prowess is the sabre-toothed squirrel, Scrat, star of 'The Ice Age' cartoon films. I rather took to him although he was grossly over scale and his seated pose and bushy tail | made him look very bottom heavy. I decided to amputate his body just below the arms and feature him emerging from a burrow * to see what all the thumping was about. He is now a sabre-toothed aardvark, | * If you're wondering how an aardvark can possibly have a burrow in the floor of a moving railway wagon, you just haven't been following the plot! | and finds that the noise is just Tigger practising his bouncing. | 51.
57: I realised that a couple of favourite zoo attractions were missing from my collection, primarily an elephant. Plenty of grotesque examples playing tennis in a | tutu or the trombone in a bandsman's uniform had turned up in my bumper bags, together with the odd 'realistic' model (but, as you must realise by now, 'realistic' is not really my scene). | One of the latter did provide suitable feet, and one of the former a trunk, but my mainly home-made cartoon elephant, of which I'm rather proud, | 52.
58: has stiffish linen ears (remnants from a roller blind kit), tusks carved from bits of plastic and junk box goggle-eyes glued to a ping-pong ball. Other zoo favourites I had to conjure up were the penguins, seen a couple of pages back. Mine are each made from a couple of beads on a wire with a piece of foam for feet, a cocktail-stick-end beak and card flippers for the two in the water. As I come across more toy animals I like, and construct additional vehicles to house them, this train could well end up with its leading engine (one of three or four perhaps!) catching up with its trailing wagon - to form a sort of roundabout. But to my simple mind it would be a truly magic one! Ah well. "Time for bed." says Zebedee. | 53. | The new keeper of primates didn't read the sign on the gorilla's cage... .... and now he can't anyway, because it has nicked his glasses!
59: ROLL OUT THE BARREL! Some time ago, perhaps with the unwelcome help of a tiny particle of loose grit from my ballast, I managed to strip the teeth from the intermediate drive gear of my Bachmann Gas Mechanical. Shopping around on the Internet, I found a complete new model to be just about as cheap as a replacement gearbox and easier to acquire, though I did eventually just switch gearboxes in order to retain the already personalised upper works of my original. After the substitution I removed all the gearing from the old box, consigned the unwanted body, the motor and some odds and sods of detailing to my bits boxes, and ended up with a handy rolling chassis. This became the basis of an unpowered diesel tractor of my own design (as with most of my stock, any resemblance to an actual vehicle, living or dead, is purely co-incidental). This tractor, originally intended to head up my zoo train, has now been redeployed. Recently, in a shop which I suppose is the French equivalent of Poundland or the like, I came across some packs of toy pirates with various accessories included. | 54.
60: Although I have no intention of populating Monjouet with buccaneers, other than the one already appearing in the fancy dress competition, a couple of the figures had heads that I thought may come in useful, so I splashed out on two different packs. Among the accoutrements thus acquired were a selection of model barrels, one of them quite large. With a bit of hacking about and screening of the odd gap I managed to hide the motor on my 'universal power chassis' within the biggest of the barrels, thus creating a hooch-transporting wagon suitable for my moth-balled tractor to 'pull'. Monjouet is not located in a wine producing area but is in the heart of orchard country, home of cidre, poiré and the fiery Calvados spirit. Local producer M. Hubert finds this little combo invaluable when transporting his brews and distillations to the bottling factory. His commercial success led to the commissioning of another | 55.
61: wagon, which today seems to have been hi-jacked by a hobo who is syphoning off M. Hubert's profits by, all together now! ".....sipping cider through a straw". Said hobo has the head of an ex-Mohican-sporting punk gorilla, the trunk of a native from Plastoy's 'Marsupial' set and the legs of a monstrous pumpkin-headed man. No wonder he needs a drink! You'll note that M. Hubert himself has an open jug of 'calva' handy in the cab, but this is merely in order to conduct regular en-route tastings and satisfy himself that his product is 'travelling well' (or so he says)! Calvados is pretty explosive stuff, however, so let's hope he's very careful when stubbing out his fag. A votre santé! | 56.
62: 57. | PROFESSEUR VERT'S TRAIN ECOLOGIQUE | The phenomenon of global warming and that other looming difficulty, the rapid depletion of the world's fossil fuel deposits, has not escaped the attention of French men of science and Monjouet's own boffin, Professeur Vert, has been studying possible options. Now he believes he has a logical (bio-logical in fact) solution to both problems. His is the brain behind this pollution-free, ecological train, or 'green machine', a sustainable means of transport which not only derives its basic energy from cheap, readily available, plant material (hay), but which | PROFESSEUR VERT'S | TRAIN ECOLOGIQUE
63: 58. | also incorporates the necessary processing plant (a flatulent cow) to continuously convert the hay into a useable power source (methane gas). The professeur has thoughtfully included in the train a 'churning wagon' to help transform one of the valuable by-products of the process into organic cheese for the crew's lunch! However, this is not just some nine-day-wonder, it actually works as a profitable business venture. For there is, of course, another significant by-product. This is bagged up on board as "Grobio" and transported into the heart of major cities. Here stinking-rich penthouse owners seem willing to pay through the nose for the malodorous mixture which promises to ensure luxuriant growth in their roof gardens. | For those who feel the need to know such things, the train driver is an engineer from The Polar Express. He came with a rather awkward one-leg-in-the-air action pose but, by placing one foot on the protective cover of the gas pipe, and leaning his elbow on the dashboard, I was able to help him relax.
64: He's not looking where he's going, but it's not as if he has to steer or anything. I thought the oil can spout wrapped around his bosom didn't look right, so I cut it off and turned the can into a cuppa, "Ahhh, that's better!", he sighed. | The gas tank is a ping pong ball and the flexible pipe work is elastic cord. The erupting cow is Ermintrude, star of The Magic Roundabout. | 59. | The dainty dairy maid is actually the mighty Gaul, Obelix, 'dragged' into the twenty first century with a little breast enhancement, a new hairdo, a bit of slap and a "Sweet Little Alice-Blue Gown".
65: 60. | The dung dispenser is Mario, who has retired from the frantic computer-gaming scene (his brother Luigi, by the way, is also looking for gainful employment on the railways but hasn't yet been offered a suitable position). | The train is propelled by my ubiquitous motorised bogie hidden in the fodder wagon* (a need - all in a haystack?). Bio for now! | * This can also take its place elsewhere as it is also an appropriate-looking, supplementary power source in the middle of my ever-growing mobile zoo.
66: BACKWARDS CONVERSION | 61. | For Christmas 2011 Mere Noel, with a little guidance, bought me a Bachmann Porter 0-4-2 and a Backwoods Miniatures Side Tank Conversion Kit. Since first creating my mobile menagerie, several more animal enclosures have joined the train and I thought I was rapidly approaching the moment when triple heading would become necessary. I'd spotted the Backwoods kit while browsing the Internet and liked the more European flavour it gave to the original model. However, the conversion was not quite as straight-forward as Backwoods suggested due to the fact that Bachmann seemed to have modified their engine since
67: 62. | the kit was introduced. On removing the saddle tank, for instance, I found a small printed circuit board underneath, not mentioned in the instructions. As this contained a couple of capacitors I assumed it was a radio interference suppression unit. I could see no alternative but to remove this if the new boiler moulding was to fit properly. Also, although the instructions said that the headlight had to be removed, there were no in-line connectors (as there are in my gas mechanical), just another two leads disappearing into a jumble of black wires which ended up in another electronic gizmo concealed in the coal bunker. Feeling like a bomb disposal chappie encountering a new, unknown device, I crossed my fingers, thrust the nose of my snips into the midst of the wires and squeezed. Nothing went bang! | Miraculously, after soldering a couple of selected cut ends together, my engine still ran. What's more, after finding a new home for the lantern on the buffer beam, and re-routing its supply leads, I once again had light at the end of the tunnel - and the around the rest of the layout too!
68: I don't want to over-criticise Backwoods Miniatures. The whole package was well presented and the instructions, though obviously based on an earlier version of the Porter, were easy to follow with clear colour photographs of each stage in the process. I think, however, that these should now be reviewed in the light of Bachmann's modifications, perhaps giving some guidance/reassurance to those less willing to trust to luck with a pair of snips than myself. One other change I discovered was that the front buffer beam which, according to Backwoods, was plastic and needed to be replaced with the cast metal one provided (to compensate for the lost weight of the saddle tank) is now metal on the model itself, so one step of the conversion is saved. This surplus item has joined my ever-hungry odds and sods box along with lots of other bits and pieces generously provided in the kit. These allow one to really individualise the end result and, though I'm not a railway buff and have no idea what many of these things are or do, I do like my engines to look interesting, so I shall be scattering them freely about my loco line-up with gay abandon! Anyway, despite my early trepidation and a couple of steps backwards, I now have the engine I envisaged. As well as the view of it emerging from the tunnel (showing off its still working headlight) I've pictured it on my newly knocked up film set, made to let me take photos of trains without a cluttered background. | 63.
69: 64. | THREE MORE FOR THE SKYLARK | 1. A MUSEUM PIECE Locomotive engineers George and Robert Stevenson were immortalised by their success with "Rocket", but the history books discreetly by-pass several failures experienced on the way. "Firecracker", for instance, jumped the rails shortly after it was fired up and, in leaps, bounds, pops and farts, careered from the works yard, danced across the waterfront of Newcastle, and disappeared for ever into the depths of the Tyne. "Thunderclap" ended its brief career even more spectacularly, and fragments are still being unearthed as far south as The Potteries. Toning down the power a smidgin', but alas a tad too much, their next effort,"Damp Squib", went nowhere but just sat and fizzled. However, as the direct forerunner of "Rocket", it was of sufficient historic interest to be acquired by Le Musée de Chemin de Fer Internationale, near Monjouet, where it has resided ever since.
70: The curator has kindly loaned the machine for display during Monjouet's summer fete and the railway's maintenance department has provided a working engine to push the sparking, spluttering relic along the track. Mario's brother, would-be-engineer Luigi, finally found his feet on a footplate for the first time, but had little to do but pick his nose! 2. GVT DIMLY REMEMBERED As I lived for many years on the corner directly opposite the old Glyn Valley Tramway station at Dolywern, I thought it might be fitting to include a 'GVT type' loco on Monjouet's roster. | 65.
71: I have several of the books written about this line, and within them are many scale drawings of its locos and rolling stock upon which one could, I suppose, base a very accurate model. However, I possess neither the skill, the patience, nor the life-expectancy for such a daunting task. Alternatively, I could have bought a Peco body kit, but where's the fun in that? Besides, I'd then have had to splash out on a suitable drive unit too!. Instead, I decided to use spoils of my junk box to build my own version around my ever-faithful powered bogie. The result, "Dewi Tew" (Little Fat Dave) is totally out of proportion with GVT's "Glyn", "Dennis" or "Sir Theodore", but comparing Monjouet with anything | 66. | approaching reality would be a rather profitless exercise anyway! However, my childish mind, in conjunction with my rose-tinted specs, can easily envisage this chubby little engine puffing its way past our former home in Wales.
72: Further evidence (if any were still needed) that I am by nature a 'maker of crude playthings'* rather than being a 'proper railway modeller', is that the driver is a tweaked (i.e. disembodied!) 'Woody' from Disney's "Toy Story". Ride him cowboy! * My wife, who is far more refined than wot I is, would probably reposition the adjective in this phrase! UPDATE I recently acquired a couple of Bachmann Underground Ernie Inspection Vehicles from the 7mm Narrow Gauge Association's second hand sales department at a very reasonable price, and decided to use the chassis of one to provide Dewi with a drive of its own. | 67. | This was a fairly simple job that also enabled me to equip Dewi Tew with a headlight, that lit up, which to someone of my tender years is always an added delight.
73: 3. BLAZING SADDLE! After converting a Porter 0:4:2 into a side tank with the aid of the Backwoods Miniatures kit, I found myself with a little saddle tank burning a hole in my bits box. It seemed to demand my attention every time I rummaged through the contents until I eventually could stand it no more and just had to get rid of it. Too good to throw away, I spent an hour or two pairing it with other bits of salvage until I got something resembling a small quarry engine (remembering, of course, that at 70+ I now see the world through the eyes of a child). What I did was to glue the tank directly onto an old wagon chassis. The gaping front was covered with one of those plastic screw caps you get in abundance if you ever buy cheap, self-assembly bookshelves. The cab was made out of thick cardboard. The chimney, whistle and cylinders were made from bits of plastic rod and the buffer beams from balsa. Bits box odds and ends help create a bit of hokum for the cab interior, and the driver was a key-ring ornament in semi-relief (his plain, flat back disguised a bit by standing him against the rear of the cab). The propulsion comes from my faithful power bogie under any of several toppings - see drive disguises. | 68.
74: With the wheels mounted inside the wagon chassis, coupling rods and valve gear were clearly impossible (for me, anyway), though I thought the addition of outside cylinders made the little engine look more attractive. | I therefore decided that the omissions would be hidden under thick clouds of cotton wool 'steam'! Come on, admit it, you're just as fooled as I am, aren't you? | 69.
75: 70. | TOTTERING ON In which I draw upon somebody else's imagination rather than my own. (Plagiarism I think they call it!) Like many narrow gauge enterprises, The Lassay and Monjouet Railway is always on the look out for second-hand bargains to supplement its roster of engines and rolling stock. Some past acquisitions have been from flourishing concerns that were trading up to superior equipment, while others are from lines suffering hard times and having to realise some of their assets. The proprietors have long admired the unique rolling stock of the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway, whose many catastrophes have been depicted by the cartoonist Rowland Emett in his sketchbook "The Early Morning Milk Train". They thought it was time that they made a bid for some of the locos up for grabs from this ailing line. Well, that's enough fiction, now for some facts..... Nellie is perhaps the most famous of the FT&OC engines and appears in several different guises in Emett's book. However, a quick shufti through my bits and pieces boxes unearthed items which seemed better suited to having a first go at a lesser-known machine, the 0-2-4 "Robert The Bruce"
76: With its drain-pipe slim boiler and open cab there was obviously no room for a motor, so this is another train powered by my motorised bogie, which here lives inside the timber wagon - a delivery of cabers for the next Highland Games, perhaps? I can't provide a detailed parts list for this engine as several of the bits used have lived in my 'may come in useful' boxes for years and I've no idea of their heritage. What I can recall, however, is that the square 'cylinders' and the lumpy chimney, (just a couple of LMR's engineer's own modifications to the original design) are made from a one-time container of propelling-pencil leads and the handle of a plastic fork found in a box of dates; the mudguards (or whatever they are called on a train) are cut from the ends of round pill boxes. | 71.
77: I named my engine "Emett", partly as a tribute to the artist, and partly because I didn't think myself capable of getting "Robert The Bruce" on so small a name-plate. ~~~~~~ Happy with the result, I decided to have a more rigorous scratch around for the wherewithal to reproduce one of the many Nellie variants. Having a barrel left over from my booze train, I thought it might form the basis of the saddle tank for a version of Nellie not included in the above book, but that upon which the full-size engine appearing at 1951's Festival of Britain was based. I don't own the copyrights, so cannot include pictures here, but you can see some drawings and photographs at www.picturetrail.com/emettplus, or just Google 'Rowland Emett'. | 72.
78: 73. | Again I've ended up with just an approximation, the goings on under the foot plate, for instance, had to be determined by what I could find in my wheels box, which is getting a bit sparse these days. However, I think that the ever so slightly crazy look comes through okay. Nellie heads up a private train for the railway owners, the power source hiding in the guard's van. Nellies' grumpy driver, Gerard Grincheux, is not the happiest of souls as he has had to spend the morning polishing the train for this afternoon's excursion. The rake of carriages includes a grand games saloon for the gentlemen proprietors. This comes complete with dart board, hunting trophy and, adding to the insanity, a snooker table! The cigar-smoking player is taking his time chalking his cue in the hope that the next corner may taken fast enough to disturb the pink and open up a better path to the blue.
79: 74. | Snooker aficionados may wonder how players make cross-table shots in such a narrow space. Well, they wait until the train is clear of the tunnel, | So now Monjouet seems to be drifting up a creek of its own. Has anybody got a spare paddle? | open the sliding-doors and play from the steps. Obvious, eh?
80: ANOTHER GNOMY Evolution is nature's way of providing living creatures with the properties they need to succeed in their particular environment. For instance, Ian Paisley had the mouth for rabble-rousing, Andrew Marr has the ears for news-gatherering, Boris Johnson has the Barnet for buffoonery and me, I have the nose for a bargain! On a recent visit to the UK my specialized hooter sniffed out two snips too good to miss. The first was a brand new chassis for an '00' Terrier loco, which was on offer in a model shop for just ten pounds. Now Monjouet includes some seriously sharp bends and, accordingly, most of my stock runs on very short wheel-bases. There was a thus a bit of a question mark as to whether this longer chassis would make it round the circuit but, for the price, the risk seemed worth taking. The second bargain was encountered a couple of days later when I found a box half-full of Gnomy vans/lorries (presumably end-of-line items) marked down in price in another model shop. I didn't have my new chassis with me, but I reckoned there was a fair chance that I might be able squeeze it into one of these Gnomy vehicles to create a rail-van. I decided to gamble on my judgement, but then found I was in a 'win-win' situation anyway as | 75.
81: 76. | the shop keeper gave me the Gnomy for nothing when I bought a book and some scenic bits and bobs! Back home I found that the chassis negotiated my hairpins okay and that, after removing the mudguards, the push-and-go motor and hacking away some internal cross pieces, the van body slipped over the chassis perfectly, with just a small spacer needed front and rear to keep it clear of the wheels. For a driver I used a Kinder hobbit with its cloak sawn off and a new head added. The remains of the pleated cloak were glued on the front of the van to represent a rudimentary cow-catcher, while my junk box provided a bell, a dashboard with a couple of dials and a go-faster wheel, and a ladder to access the roof rack. I was happy with the van's original colour so just painted in some of the details and toned down the shine a bit with a spray of matt varnish. So here's Monjouet's "Gnalloping Gnomy" - take a gander!
82: JACQUES' SHACK Growing bored with gazing at pictures of young ladies who seemed to have mislaid their vests, I trawled the Internet for more inspiring sights/sites and via whymsical.com ended up at "The GnATTERbox" - the forum of GN15 modellers. Their creations are a little too large for my cubby hole in the attic, but worth a look nonetheless. When I arrived at this posting: http://forum.gn15.info/viewtopic.php?p=106005#106005 I was captivated and felt that I had to have a vehicle in similar vein. But how would I introduce such a machine into Monjouet's 'rigorously-adhered-to, true-to-life ambiance'? * * True to life except, maybe, for the were-creatures.... and the dinosaurs.... and the dragons.... and the troll.... and the vampire.... and the witches.... and the wizards.... and the fairy.... and the Martians.... and.... But, as a credulous kid at heart, it all seems pretty real to me! Anyway, here's how I justified it.... Monjouet is one of France's 'Petite Cités de Caractere', so there are very strict building restrictions in force in and around the town. However, as with most regulations, | 77.
83: there is usually a loophole or two built in so that those in the know (i.e. those setting the rules) aren't inconvenienced too greatly themselves. One such loophole is that, if it can be considered to be a 'mobile' building, construction is allowed. This is why many of Monjouet's bureaucrats have grand chalets and summer houses in their gardens with just a small castor screwed to each corner to satisfy the letter of 'their' law. Jolly Jacques Lelad has somehow picked up on this get-out clause and has built himself a rudimentary home on a derelict railway wagon he found on a disused siding out of town. Jacques' hut comprises 'locally found' bits and pieces and is put together without the aid of set squares or rulers The shack was constructed around my faithful powered bogie. However, lengthening the deck enough to accommodate a driver and a dummy engine would definitely have created clearance problems on my sharp corners, so my 'apparent' means of propulsion had to be on a separate coupled unit. My first attempt was to convert a model quad bike for rail use but, without those classic balloon tyres, it just didn't look right. Then whymsical.com sources led me to a photograph of a full-sized, 3-wheeled, rail vehicle! (See it at:- www.flickr.com/photos/bkbates/754749690.) If you | 78.
84: go on to: www.imaginationcorporation.ca you'll discover that its maker is nothing less than a creative genius! So, I thought, a motorbike and sidecar, that's the ticket! This proved to be a lot more difficult to make than I imagined. I can assure you that there is a dearth of small model motocycle/sidecar combinations available off the shelf, particularly with flanged wheels! I did have in my box of wounded model soldiers (as yet untreated casualties from my invasion of France in 2005) a German army motorcyclist, but his bike was a bit basic and uninspiring. I eventually found a Hotwheels® scrambler bike I liked in a toy emporium, and invested nearly 3 euros on it (ouch!). First I punched out the axles and removed the wheels, which I replaced with various flanged ones (a recent trip to the UK had enabled me to re-stock my depleted wheels box). I decided that the body of the German soldier would be fine - his hands fitted the handlebars nicely, but I made him more friendly-looking by swapping his head for that of Barney Rubble (a Kinder® figure). With the the bike transformed I turned my attention to the sidecar. In my bits and bobs boxes I found a couple of plastic jumping beans which had been given away by the handful at our local hypermarket as a promotional | 79.
87: 82. | gimmick. I'd handed most of mine to various kids in the checkout queues (which would probably have got me arrested in the UK!) but kept a couple as they looked of possible future use. After cutting out a section from the middle of one I glued it to a shapely piece of scrap plastic onto which another flanged wheel was mounted. Then came the tricky bit, joining the two parts at the right height and gauge. I bent a piece of strong copper wire to serve as a go-between bracket. One end was glued into a small hole drilled through the bike's engine and then, holding the bike upright on one rail with one hand and, with my second hand holding the sidecar on the other rail and against the other end of my bracket, I used my third hand to apply quick set resin adhesive liberally to the joint! Following a nerve-wracking wait for the glue to harden, and having recovered from severe finger cramp, all seemed okay..... Until I tried pushing the combo along the track and found that the front wheel kept dropping off its rail. After many experimental shoves and derailments, I decided that the sidecar wheel had to be further forward and the whole thing needed a bit more weight, so I had
89: to prise it all apart, reform the bracket, and start again. This time it behaved itself much, much better. You can see it rattling through Monjouet at a fair rate of knots by visiting You Tube and searching for 'Jacques Moves House'. (Although I am an unabashed cartoon freak, I'm no Nick Park, so this is genuine, real-time video footage - I haven't cheated and used stop-motion animation, honest!) Jacques is more than happy with his mobile home and regularly couples it up to his motorcycle combo and, accompanied by his faithful mutt, Lurch, drags his decidedly down-market dwelling into the metropolis, ostensibly to pick up supplies, but mainly to cock a snoot at the local, powerless, powers-that-would-be who are, as you might imagine, downright vexed! For a degenerating, 'junior' modeller with very limited skills, eyes less sharp and fingers less nimble than they used to be, it was "a bit of a B*S*A*" to make. But the fact that the bike and sidecar now manage to stay on the rails, even negotiating Monjouet's notorious bends, is, I think, a blooming TRIUMPH! | 84.
90: CHRISTMAS IS COMING - EVENTUALLY! Holidaying in the UK, Monsieur LeRiche, owner of Monjouet's out of town emporium TOYS R EUROS (If the Euro crisis is not resolved soon this may become more appropriately expressed as EUROS R TOYS - a trifle disconcerting for us ex-pats living in the Euro zone!), was surprised to find that many stores there, immediately after stashing away their unsold Easter eggs for reappearance the following year, began their assault on the Christmas market.* Such early festive promotion was certainly not the custom in France but, ever the entrepreneur, he thought it might be worth a go. Some sort of grand sales pitch was obviously going to be necessary if he was to get public awareness for this unfamiliar practice. After much deliberation, he decided to sponsor a "Santa Express" train - and what better occasion to run it than during Monjouet's summer fete when the whole population would out and about to see it pass by? * (This is not as far-fetched as it sounds - a piece in the Telegraph in the first week of August 2011 reported that Harrods had just launched its first Christmas display!) | 85.
93: "Noel", the engine he commissioned, is one of those strange vertical boilered thingies, a type hitherto absent from LMR's roster. It is constructed from randomly distributed bits of a Dapol 'Rocket' kit and various junk box items on a butchered wagon chassis. The motive force is provided by my universal power bogie secreted in Santa's Grotto. Other wagons mainly feature Christmas decorations, but I have allowed my warped mind to add a protruding toe to the Christmas stocking, to have the fat reindeer feasting on a Christmas tree and to feature two of Santa's 'little helpers' much the worse for drink. Sharp-eyed readers may recognise the driver of the train who has donned a false beard and abandoned his winged helmet and sword in favour of a festive bobble-hat and a coal shovel - yes, it's Asterix the Gaul! Joyeux Noel, whenever it comes! | 88.
94: NUTTY SLACK During a recent stock-take Monjouet's auditors found that a steam tram with overall roof was missing from the company's roster. As Chief (and only) Design Engineer and Knocker Upper I was called upon to rectify this omission. Raiding the firm's stores I unearthed the body of a Jouef HO car transporter, a rolling chassis, assorted plastic tubing, balsa, card and various whatnots to suit my needs. I carefully sawed out the upper deck of the car transporter and cut the lower deck in half to give me two frameworks of 'steel' (I wish!) girders to support the roof, Superglue healing the inevitable breakages. The frames were glued to balsa walls, themselves fixed each side of a balsa floor with space for a 'boiler' between them. The walls were faced with thin card, which continued downwards to form the skirts, then a chimney, dome, smokebox door and 'dashboard' were added. For a change I thought I'd equip the loco with a roof-top fuel hopper, so a mock coal chute was included at the back of the cab. | 89.
95: The driver, Armand D'Luce, is another of my 'split personalities'. He is a bit weird, and one of his colleagues, a gifted linguist like myself, has made a play on his name - Armand(e) being French for 'almond', and Luce soundind like the English word 'loose' has led to the nickname "Nutty Slack" (which his 'mates' have cruelly painted on the sides of his engine). Finally I knocked up a suitable cover for my powered bogie. I decided on a coke wagon. Well, it contains painted cat litter actually, it's not 'The Real Thing'! | 90.
96: BRAWA BASH Above my work bench is a shelf unit in which sit engines and coaches and wagons salvaged from the OO/HO layout that I left in Wales. Over time, many of the wagons have been usurped to make into vehicles for Monjouet, as has the Hornby Pug. The other engines didn't seem suitable for conversion into Monjouet stock, apart from one pretty little electric loco (a Brawa TE 138 switcher) which I have had my beady eye on for a couple of years. As the layout, and the display cases which house its trains are now more or less chock-a-block, I feel that Monjouet's time is over as an on-going project and that I should start to concentrate on other things. Before I did, however, I decided to bite the bullet and bash the Brawa about a bit (probably wiping off most of its value). I could see no obvious way of disassembling the engine's metal body neatly as it appeared to be of monocoque construction with no joins, so removing the unwanted upper section had to be via a hacksaw, making me feel almost guilty! Opposite are some before and after pictures. My wanton vandalism of a well engineered product will | 91.
97: probably make serious modellers weep in their beer - but at least I now have a little engine that looks at home riding the rails of Monjouet, rather than just an ornament gathering dust on a shelf! | 92.
98: BRANCHING OUT | You would think that a brain over 70 years old, which often fails to recall where I put my glasses, or what I went into the adjoining room for, would no longer be very receptive to new ideas, but mine seems more eager than ever to sop them up. Sadly they are not the sort of ideas that would make me a fortune, like the ball-point pen or the turbo vac. These are ideas which generally lead to my lacerating my fingers with craft knives, sticking them together with Superglue, or dropping loaded paint brushes onto my best trousers. However, they do provide me with a lot of enjoyment. The latest flush of inspiration came after receiving an e-mail whose sender had come across my video of Monjouet on You Tube. He thought I might be interested in a site called http://whymsical.com which is a forum for railway modellers in all scales who tend to wander well away from the conventional. I liked what I saw on the site, there's some fine workmanship to be found there, though don't look for rivets! One theme on the forum was the "Peanut Butter Jar Lid" challenge, which proposed that a model or diorama should be created on, or in, such a base. | 93.
99: I did think that this was a great opportunity for space-strapped modellers to squeeze in a new project, but on reflection realized that getting something moving in such a tiny space, rather than just a static exhibit, was a job for a professional watchmaker rather than a bit of a bodger. Others seemed to agree, and started suggesting a looser spec., from something fitting in a shoebox (already a popular activity) to something built on a paving slab (I'm not sure my attic floor would take the weight!). That night, when I should have been getting my 8 hours worth of Z-Z-Z s, my brain kicked into overdrive! I haven't a clue where it all comes from, but by next morning I had a rudimentary plan in my head to create a model that would include a peanut butter jar lid, but as part of a much larger working layout (a full 7 inches in diameter!). The idea was to use the lid as the centre of a large pulley with CDs as flanges. This would be driven, via an elastic band, by a small motor from my 'one day this may come in useful' store and the mechanism would live inside a suitable container, in my case a sadly-empty sweet tin. The pulley shaft would poke up through the tin and a third CD would be attached. This would have some | 94.
100: 'track' (roughly 12" gauge in 7mm to the foot scale) glued to it, on which a little train would sit. When the motor was switched on, the CD would turn, a little like an old record player deck (remember them?), giving the illusion that the train was in motion. The 'sleepers' would be going round too, of course, but we are talking whimsy here. In practice the 'track' spun round like the clappers, hurling the train across the room, so I had to rethink the drive. Fortunately I also had in my 'spares warehouse' a motor/variable-gearbox combination, originally intended to drive a battery-powered engine on my long-abandoned garden railway. With all the gear train sections fully utilised I got the speed down to a more reasonable level, though the motor/drive unit was then too tall to fit inside the tin and had to be mounted on top. This meant I had to make my scenery quite high to hide it. | 95.
101: The result is the Sun Valley Peanut Mine, overleaf. See it actually working, at:- You Tube The Peanut Mine You'll notice that the scenic section is completely separate from the base so I've ended up with a 'pizza-ish' layout but one which is capable of being served up with a wide range of different toppings. I've already got a sketchbook full of other scenic ideas, including a wild west town, an underground station, a quarry, a port, a town scape with a tram, an alpine scene and a logging camp, which should keep me going for months, if not years! And how about a train carrying a cruet wagon round a circle of false dough festooned with cheese. olives and bits of ham and tomato? - surely the ultimate pizza layout! But that's another story..... Ciao! | 96.
104: P.S. A new link recently appeared on the Whymsical website under the heading of "Tiny Layouts". It's a Japanese site, but despite the fact that I live in France and use a computer with the French version of Windows, my Google Chrome browser 'translated' it into English without ever being asked! How does it do that? Somehow I feel that Big Brother is indeed watching us! The resulting 'English' is still a bit weird, but really it's the photos that are the important feature. They show some astounding miniature models which make my humble efforts seem extremely amateurish. I feel a bit like I imagine the Wright brothers may have felt if, when congratulating themselves after their 40 yard powered flight, 10 feet above the ground and at a speed of less than 7mph, they had looked up and seen Concorde thundering overhead! See for yourself at:- http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/blog/120831 | 99.
105: LOCO ALBUM Portraits of Monjouet's current engine roster. Those labelled "unpowered" are free wheeling and are propelled by a motorised bogie hidden under a wagon or coach. The small quarry tractor and the 'original' Gnomy steam engine are purely static ornaments. | MOTORISED GNOMY TRAM (leading car) | MOTORISED GNOMY STEAM ENGINE | 100.
106: MOTORISED ALPHAGRAFIX RAILBUS | BACHMANN GAS MECHANICAL | MODIFIED BACHMANN GANDY DANCER | 101.
107: CONVERTED MANTUA GOAT | TWEAKED ERNIE | CONVERTED PUG | 102.
108: 103. | PORTER WITH BACKWOODS CONVERSION | SCRATCH-BUILT RAIL BUS - ERNIE CHASSIS | SCRATCH-BUILT PARCELS VAN
109: RAIL BUS WITH TOP DECK IN PLACE | BOAT TRAIN ENGINE (unpowered) | THE KINDER® SURPRISE (unpowered) | 104.
110: MOTORISED GNOMY VAN | SCRATCH-BUILT DEWI TEW - ERNIE CHASSIS | SCRATCH - BUILT BOOZE TRACTOR (unpowered) | 105.
111: SCRATCH-BUILT GREEN TRAIN (unpowered) | THE BASHED BRAWA | GNOMY STEAM ENGINE (ornament only) | 106.
112: SMALL QUARRY TRACTOR (ornament only) | SCRATCH-BUILT NOEL (unpowered) | SCRATCH-BUILT TINY TIM (unpowered) | 107.
113: SCRATCH-BUILT DAMP SQUIB (unpowered) | SCRATCH-BUILT EMETT (unpowered) | CONVERTED TRIALS BIKE (unpowered) | 108.
114: SCRATCH-BUILT NELLIE (unpowered) | SCRATCH-BUILT NUTTY SLACK (unpowered) | MY UNIVERSAL DRIVE | 109.
115: DRIVE DISGUISES | COVERED LOAD | DINING CAR | BOOZE WAGON | HAY WAGON | TIMBER WAGON | JACQUES'S SHACK | 110.
116: SANTA'S GROTTO | GUARD'S VAN | COKE WAGON | 111.
117: Enthusiasm for model-making was re-kindled years later when we moved to Bristol and I came across a 'proper' model shop with mouth-watering window displays. By then Airfix kits of soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars had appeared. I began to collect these and, when feeling flush (which didn't happen very often with a wife, three kids and a mortgage to support), I treated myself to a Historix kit, a white metal figure or even a Tamiya tank. But you can't spend a lot of time in model shops without picking up the odd bug, and I eventually contracted Railway Modellers' Disorder, which tends to strike at those over 60, though I was barely 40 myself. The disease occasionally causes me to wince with stabbing pains in my wallet, but it does keep me out of mischief. Monjouet has been both my most time-consuming and most satisfying railway modelling project so far, I hope you liked it too. www.philmassey.com | Like many young teenage boys in the 1950s I got my kicks from polystyrene cement and paint fumes. But then came vinyl, Elvis and all, and I found my leisure hours veering towards more social activities and a certain young lady. | Phil Massey | 112.