I have written most of my features for North American railway publications – but I really like the writing in many British magazines and wish I could contribute more to them. I just don’t have that much that’s appropriate subject matter.
However, I do have a few live steam locomotives – including a rather spectacular model of a Welsh Highland Railway (ex South African) NGG-16 two-foot gauge Garrett. This monster was produced by Accucraft in 1:19.
After acquiring it, I did some research on the real things and discovered that while in South Africa they were fitted with a rather amazing feature – a driver’s seat that could swing right out the door of the cab. This would allow the driver to see past the huge boiler and water/coal tanks on the engine – and, presumably, enjoy the fresh air and relative coolness.
I wonder how many trains lost their drivers when they hit a rough section of track?
When I learned about this crazy cab seat, I decided I wanted to model it. I scratch-built the seat. This was an interesting departure from my normal modelling, because the seat not only had to be a bit more rugged and functional, it also had to stand up to the great outdoors and the heat generated by the boiler and butane firing element, which were only a few inches away. (Try putting a plastic boxcar on the shelf next to your gas barbecue while you heat it up and you’ll appreciate the challenge.)
Once I had built the seat, I needed a figure for it – actually, two figures: one for forward operation, and the other for running in reverse. I got in touch with Rob Bennett and Busybodies, who offered bespoke figure-sculpting services. I sent him measurements of the doorway and seat. I then dressed up in overalls and a hat, and had my wife take photos of me sitting on a kitchen stepladder in the appropriate driving position. Yes, she giggled…
Goofy, yes – but it worked: Rob was able to sculpt a pair of figures for my Garratt – the Al Fresco Twins. One of them can be seen in the lead photo for this post, guiding his charge through the flowers in my back yard. (Sorry to disappoint but I don’t have a garden railway: the engine is sitting on a pine board on the ground. Yes, it’s photographic trickery at work!)
This was a really fun project. I need to do more in the garden scales.
I wrote about building the driver’s seat and having the figures produced for the January 2012 issue of Garden Rail magazine from Atlantic Publishers.