Wednesday 14 December 2022

A train station for the Far East

Rail lines may not feature much in the fighting on the Pacific islands but in places like Burma, Malaya and China these key means of transport were often focal points of fighting. 

I've had lengths of rail track that I've used for terrain for some time and it's seen use in several games of Chain of Command.

For our Westwind Konigsberg campaign set in East Prussia the scenario Signal Box at Seerappen unsurprisingly featured fighting around a signal box and so I made up one of the plastic kits from Mini-Art and scratch built a set of signals. You can see more about that build in this post.

The acquisition of railway terrain continued when I managed to pick up a set of six railway carriages quite cheaply on eBay. That in turn led to a search for an inexpensive locomotive. I was looking for a 'non-runner', electric locomotives that no longer work and come up for sale from time to time, but was having no luck. In the end I decided to make one using the inexpensive plastic kits from Dapol. These kits date back to the 1950s and were once part of the Airfix range, but they hold up surprisingly well and will certainly do the job. Despite being more work than I was looking for it was a refreshing change from building model tanks.

So it made sense that I also add a station to the collection, but whereas the signal box would work in Eastern Europe this time I wanted something for the Far East. The sort of building I had in mind was this modest station in the picture below from 1930s Malaya. Sarissa Precision make a similar looking station in MDF. It's based on the station at El Alamein but I thought with a bit of modification it could be made to be suitable for a range of places from the Middle East to Malaya.

The MDF kit is a good start but it's a very basic structure. Two things would make an immediate difference - texturing the walls and finding a replacement roof. Texturing the walls was a simple matter of applying a small amount of filler and then with a wet finger spreading it across the surface of the walls.

I thought a pantile roof would make a big difference and so used a sheet of vac formed plastic from a railway modelling supplier and cut it to size.

MDF models are always instantly recognisable by their neat laser cut lines and flat surfaces so anything that can be done to alter those shapes often makes a big difference. With that done it was then a matter of painting and adding final details like window shutters.

A few small details were added to give the station a more lived-in look. Italeri do a very useful set of 1/72 Urban Accessories that are perfect for adding that extra level of detail. 

I made use of the tap that is part of a water fountain and a drain grill to make up a watering point. 

A bucket was a final detail and that comes from a metal set from SHQ.

The bench inside the station is also from the Italeri set and the crates on the platform are part of a resin set from Value Gear.

So that now gives me everything from rolling stock to a station - the perfect place for deliveries or pick up by my recently converted die cast trucks specifically for Far East settings.

If you've found this post useful and would like to Buy Me a Coffee to help cover some of the costs of running the blog you can click through at the link or on the tab in the right hand column of this page.

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Cavalry for the Sudan

The Sudan project started off with quite modest ambitions but I've found the Sharp Practice variant has delivered so many enjoyable games that it's inspired me to add a few additional units. The one thing the project has been missing is mounted units, so I've rectified that by adding a unit for both the Mahdists and the British.

These are all from the lovely Perry Miniatures Sudan range. The units are based on a standard Sharp Practice mounted unit of eight figures plus a leader, which is convenient as Perry sell the figures in sets of three.

For the Mahdists I've decided to mix up the groups to include those with rifles, spears and swords rather than have them as a homogenous unit with the same weapons. I'm imagining each warrior arrived with his own mount and choice of weapons.

The British represent the 19th Hussars, who all carry their sword but are also equipped with a rifle. A few of the figures lack the usual animation you'd expect from the Perrys but they work well as a group.

I don't know what it is about painting mounted figures but I find I labour over them. Perhaps it's the fact they aren't complete until you have done rider and mount and so the time from start to completion seems to take that much longer. Whatever it is, I'm always happy at the end but don't always enjoy the journey.

Sunday 27 November 2022

Wounded leaders for the Sudan

A leader in Sharp Practice can incur a wound that leaves him with one less command initiative for the remainder of the game and my solution to remembering who these leaders are has been to either create a specific base or to replace the figure with one showing someone wounded. For the Sudan project I've opted to do the latter.

The Perry plastic set of British infantry includes an arm in a sling which makes this a relatively easy thing to do. The set also includes a bare head and I thought that might look good bandaged. The solution was simple enough, I sculpted one using Milliput to give me two distinctly different figures. The one with the sling is dressed as an officer while the other works as an NCO.

I enjoyed doing this, if only because it wasn't complicated and I managed to achieve exactly the result I was after.

The figures fit into the leader bases I have created. 

It's a simple matter of swapping one figure for another in the case of a wound. Not only does it work as a suitable game marker but it helps to keep the table themed and adds to the narrative.

For those who are knocked off their feet and suffer a temporary wound I like to use a prone figure. The Perry plastic Sudan set doesn't contain any casualty figures but there are two prone figures that come on the command sprue in the Perry Zulu War set. Of course the uniforms are not exactly the same, the main difference being the lack of puttees, but in several other respects they are very similar. The only modification I made was to trim the lace off the jacket sleeves. I thought about having a go at making puttees, but given the figures are glorified markers and may never even see use in a game I thought I'd fudge it a bit and rely on the paint to do the work.

In the case of the Mahdists I've made use of the Perry metal set of casualties. In this case the prone figures are used to represent a leader who has suffered a wound that has put them out of action temporarily.

The standing figures of men being hit are used in the same way that I use the wounded British figures - to represent a wound that will last throughout the game.

Wednesday 2 November 2022

More for the Far East

Lots of activity on the workbench over the last couple of weeks, finishing off several 20mm AFVs and vehicles for the Far East. First off are three Japanese AFVs - two tanks and a self propelled gun.

Below is a Type 97 Shinhoto Chi Ha from 172 Scale Miniatures. This is the later version of the Chi Ha with a larger turret to accomodate a 47mm gun. These saw service in the latter stages of the Burma campaign and in a number of other theatres. The model appears to be resin but it's slightly softer than others I've painted. I found the barrel had a slight bend in it that I could not straighten and so I removed it and replaced it with a metal one I had in the spares box.

Next is a Type 89, this is a traditional plastic kit from IBG who produce an excellent range of unusual vehicles. This is a lovely model that comes complete with photo-etch brass for the more detailed parts like the exhaust grill.

The Type 1 Ho Ni below is a late war self propelled gun that mainly saw use in the Philippines. This is made by Precise and I bought it very cheaply off eBay several years ago. From what I understand the models were manufactured to be sold with an accompanying magazine, however the project was never launched and the models were disposed of, with many appearing on eBay. They came ready painted and required a small bit of assembly. They lack detail in some areas but when repainted make a reasonable model for a game table.

A few useful additions for my Japanese.

If you've been following the blog you will have seen my earlier conversions of Lledo die cast trucks. I had one left over and wasn't sure what to do with it. I've been working on developing a Chindit campaign for Chain of Command and as part of that I needed to provide the Japanese with trucks, so I thought converting this last Lledo truck into a captured/requisitioned truck in Burma would be a useful addition.

Several years ago I bought two resin Milicast models of the M3 tank in both a Grant and a Lee version intending both for Burma. The Milicast models are beautiful but I had real problems with the tracks when I tried to remove excess resin from the casting. Some sections broke and it was enough to put me off progressing any further and I put them away. I reached the point where I was going to either throw them away or finish them off and so decided to make a last attempt at fixing the issues. The solution for the tracks was to replace the missing pieces with lengths of spare track that came as stowage with a Sherman model. I'm glad I made the effort because the completed models look every bit as good as I know Milicast models can be.

I don't have many models in metal and it takes a while to get used to working with models that are much heavier than resin or plastic. This Daimler armoured car is from SHQ with a crew figure from PSC. I've left it without any specific unit markings as it will work just as well in Europe as it can in Burma.

I've also been working on filling gaps in the number of softskin vehicles in the collection. There's not a big demand in games for these but they are useful as scatter terrain or for convoy type scenarios. For Burma I have in mind scenarios set during the British retreat in 1942 and while I'm not completely sure Chevrolet 30cwt trucks were present then I like the early war look these give. Once again this is a metal model from SHQ.

Friday 21 October 2022

Games, Trains and Automobiles

Earlier this year I wrote a post about converting a Lledo ‘Days Gone’ die cast van to make it suitable for games set in the Far East. It was a small project that I really enjoyed and so it inspired me to look around for a few more Lledo trucks. I have in mind the sorts of vehicles you might see in industrial settings near docks and warehouses in Shanghai, Hong Kong or Singapore. At this stage they're not intended to serve any specific gaming purpose other than being scatter terrain to help bring a table to life. 

I picked up a few more trucks on eBay, taking care to make sure they were ones that came close to 1/72 scale. 

Having downloaded the jpeg files for the liveries from the Major Thomas Foolery blog all I needed to do was repaint and apply the decals to transform them into the sorts of vehicles I wanted. I covered the process for doing this in more detail in this earlier post if you're interested in seeing more.

In a similar vein I've been looking for a suitable locomotive for a railway. I bought six railway carriages very cheaply several years ago and since then I've been keeping an eye out for a cheap locomotive. It didn't have to be in working order and you will occasionally see 'non-runners' for sale at reasonable prices on eBay, but I wasn't successful. In the end I opted to make one of the Dapol plastic kits. It was more work than I was looking for, but sometimes it's refreshing to build a model that's slightly different from usual. So it was with this. These kits were first released in the 1950s by Kitmaster. The moulds later went to Airfix and are now with Dapol. Despite their age they hold up remarkably well.

I have in mind using this as either scatter terrain for a city or industrial setting (for example, those dockyards in the Far East with the die cast trucks), or as the target for partisan or Chindit games. I think it has enough of a generic steam locomotive look that it should work in most theatres. At this point I should confess that I have no knowledge of trains, so I suspect that's the equivalent of telling a tank enthusiast that a model of a Tiger II looks enough like a 'generic' tank that it can work for any army in any theatre. Quelle horreur!

While I was making it my wife walked past and said, a little surprised, 'ooh you're making choo choo trains now'. No sooner had she said it, she stopped, pulled a face and said rather bashfully, "I can't believe I just called that a choo choo train". A revealing slip of the tongue. Talking to me like I'm a little child clearly says much about how she views the hobby!

Every train needs a station and this is a small MDF model that could work in a number of settings in the Far East but also in North Africa or the Mediterranean. 

The inspiration for the station came from this picture of a pre-war station in Malaya.

I replaced the roof on the MDF model with a sheet of plastic pantiles and rendered the walls with filler. 

The lights were made by converting railway yard lamps and the other extras came from an Italeri set of architectural elements. While it's hard to escape that MDF laser cut look I think anything that breaks away from perpendicular angles and straight lines helps to avoid that.