Posts Tagged ‘aircraft’

Toys ‘R’ Them

January 26, 2011

All hail the mighty Hornby Hobbies or as they’re still known around here, that’s the Isle of Thanet, the ever wonderful Rovex. There was a time, called the seventies, when an enormous number of Thanetians used to work here and they used to finish early on a Friday afternoon and bring the traffic on the main road outside to a halt as they flocked to the many buses waiting for them and a few cars for the wealthier workers.

Sadly there’s no production on site any more, it’s all made in China now so the only workers on site are marketing, research and design, and the visitor centre. It’s the latter I dragged the boys to just after Christmas.

Sadly you don’t get to enter through the main hall, but rather celebrate solidarity with the ghosts of the workers of the past in wandering in through this side gate…

…and in through this humble door.

This is where you’ll be greeted by the friendly and welcoming staff, and given what they must have to put up with it’s close to a miracle they can still smile if you ask me.

Now the first part of your experience is the humble but perfectly formed shop, it carries all the brands now owned by Hornby, their trains, and the much adored ranges of Airfix, Corgi, Scalextric, Humbrol and the less well known Bassett Lowke range.

One corner of the shop, above, is for the reduced priced items and it’s hard not to find a suitable bargain here, and I know because I’ve tried.

The shops open for the same hours as the visitor centre, however there’s no fee to come and shop and if you’re after a specific item then it’s incredibly likely they’ve got it in stock.

You do have to pay for the visitor centre though (£4 for adults, £2 for OAPs or Sprogs) and to start with I wasn’t too sure about it because the entrance to, and the exit from, are within six foot of each over. To me this suggested a very short experience but happily I was wrong as there’s a lenghty maze beyond worthy of Theseus.

The mystical journey starts immediately by plunging you into a dim environ with brightly light display of youthful totems.

There’s a tiny cinema showing fascinating documentary shorts.

More items of desire display tauntingly out of reach.

A lovely racing circuit, typically bigger than anything you ever got to set up as a child. Now if like me you take children you may have to prepare them for the wait involved to get a go on this mainly because there’s likely to be a pair of adults old enough to be your parents on this for ages.

Then onto the railway layouts, again typically so much better than your personal juvenile actuality, like a gold standard for aspiration.

There’s some limited interaction with these, pressing the odd button here or there but mainly it’s all about going oooooh.

There’s also a fair amount of temptation, given how you can buy all these pieces in the shop and then go home and make these massive layouts.

Here’s one piece which really grabbed me by the wallet. It’s their Jubilee clock tower which to you very likely just looks like… well a clock tower, but around here it’s a very special local building.  And for under a tenner too… expect to see it on a VBCW table near me soon.

Amongst all this are the shrine like displays like this one featuring a mould for a model which will have you waffling away to your children about “technical processes”, “injection moulding” and “scale drawings” until they fall over with fascination.

Others are pure nostalgia, and will have you wondering aloud about what exactly might have happened to your diecast JPS special racing car.

Predictably some will have you considering thievery to release the jewels beyond… for me it was this lot 1:50th-ish traction engines which I’m after for VBCW and can’t be found for love but can be for lots of money.

Overall the visitor centre is a crackingly brill experience, and for specialist anoraks should provide at least a solid hour and a half to two hours of unbridled joy. The only thing which surprised me was just how many times James May, aka Johnny Come Lately, featured in displays although I can understand why as he must be a solid fave with the shareholders.

I’ve deliberately not shown everything in the centre in the hope that a few surprises might remain but I highly recommend it as a great place to visit for a bargain price. Full details are here.

Para-dise Revisited

January 18, 2011

There’s something about the various parachute units which a lot of gamers like, and they’re not strangers to this blog either. When it comes to WW2 the airborne troops take on a legendary air, and this likely explains just why they so popular and rightly so. Although all my efforts have been 6 mm, the Slug has been working on them in decadent 28mm and rather well too as the photo above shows.

It also shows how gamers can save themselves some cash and effort in using out of scale models for the really big things like aircraft. Above is the Airfix Horsa glider in 1/72nd scale which breaks the rule of everything being the same scale, but this is gaming and not scale engineering and as a game representation works perfectly… it’s also a damn sight smaller than a 1/48th ki t- so more gaming space on the table, easier to find and only costs around £15.

Here’s a delightful Tetrarch light tank which we were lucky enough to buy as is from Uncle Crouchie just before Christmas. I’m not sure who makes this one but hopefully Crouchie might let us know should he read this. If anyone feels the need to point out the bleeding obvious (i.e: Tetrarchs were transported by Hamilcar gliders and not Horsa) then please do, it’ll give me an opportunity to edit your comment to something even sillier.

All of the miniatures are Artizan Design which were a gift for the boy Slug for Christmas 2009 based on his preference for Para’s who are wearing berets rather than helmets.

It took me a while to track down who made them like that, but it was worth it as they’re lovely sculptures.

Over the course of a year he’s kept on with these on the back burner and eventually finished them and has a cracking group ready for a fight.

The only help he’s had was with the basing, which he doesn’t like doing.

Who can blame him, especially when it’s a distraction from his growing confidence and skills with a brush.

Of course having finished them just before Christmas and celebrated a project as finished I’m not sure if he was genuinely happy to get a couple more packs of ww2 paras from Santa just a few weeks later.

I image this project may just run, and run, and run…

Easy Glider

September 6, 2009

DSCF1488Most 6mm gamers would agree how GHQ produce a lot of great looking models, typically they’re small bubble packs of five vehicles, however they do produce a series of Combat Commands, boxed sets for entire regiments and the like but most of these are simply collection of the bubble packs. By far the sexiest one is the British Horsa Glider Assault Team partly because it’s British but also because it’s effectively Operations Tonga or Market Garden in a box and excites me as much as when I first heard about either of those operations via films like “The Longest Day” or “A Bridge too Far”.

Nostalgia aside this is a very simple kit, it comes with 48 Para’s, a few heavy weapons, and four jeeps, although my set came with six so thanks to GHQ for that. It also comes with 3 Horsa gliders which are basically four part kits as seen above, and with a scale wingspan of around 95mm are absolute beasts. There’s little filing to do as there’s little sign of mould marks nor flash, and the parts typically fit together well.

DSCF1490The instructions suggest a number of ways of putting them together, depending on your preference be it for the Horsa in flight, on the ground, or on the ground with the nose opened to get the bigger gear out. The most fragile part to start with is the tail assembly which did need a slight bend to set everything square. To start I decided I’d go for Horsa in flight, as I’d prefer them all singing all dancing.

DSCF1494Lo and behold within minutes there’s your basic Horsa, very simple and to be frank I wish I’d just gone for this level of modelling as it got fiddly and frustrating very quickly.

DSCF1497Thankfully GHQ supply spares for the fiddly bits, some you might need because you get it wrong, others because not all the parts on all the sprues are complete.

DSCF1499

First on is the skid plate, which you really can do without, and the nose wheels. The nose wheels are on a long rod which looks likely to snap off pretty easily so I’ve made it shorter and therefore more stable.

DSCF1502Next are the main wheels either side which are quite fiddly too. The small indentation to the right of the skid-plate is where you need to drill your hole if you’re going to mount it on a flight stand. A bit of a must-do as I see it.

DSCF1506Once an in-flight version is completed this is what you’ll have, and the keener eyed might have noticed a problem, it sits arse heavy, mainly because of the skid-plate. Even without it the model will be arse heavy, and although there’s some space inside where you could try counter balancing don’t bother trying like I did with later attempts as I estimate the weight needed to make it sit properly or nose heavy is around the eight gram mark. Of course this won’t be noticed when it’s in flight, and for deployed after landing it’s not a great problem, although I found it frustrating and put the project in a corner for a while as if it were a sulky child.

During landing it was quite usual for a Horsa to lose it’s wheels and skid-plate, so the other two have none of the extras and sit at a more realistic angle.

DSCF1932A quick splash of paint later and it was onto putting the invasion stripes on, just to prevent the Yanks from shooting them up by mistake. I’ve gloss varnished the wings for this to make it easier, and also bought the GHQ invasion stripes decals. I wasn’t too chuffed to realise how despite the decals being the official ones none of them were big enough for the job in hand. Just why the invasion stripes aren’t, like wallpaper, long strips which can be cut to size is beyond me but hey ho…

DSCF2022On goes the first stripes, I’ve put them slightly out of place because I didn’t want to have to deal with the sloping edge of the wing.

DSCF2024When it came to put the second set on another difficulty made itself known, basically the stripes aren’t of equal width either. When I started this project I laughed when a chum suggested painting these on, preferring as I did to use decals, but it was at this stage I wish I’d listened. These decals are manically fiddly to start with, and it doesn’t help to have that multipled, especially when I believe it’s fair to assume using GHQ decals will make it easier.

DSCF2211Here’s the trio finished, the one atop is the one with wheels, etc, the others don’t have them. A lovely little set fit for anyone’s tabletop, and still the sexiest of the Battle Command series. Considering they’re really just a four piece kit GHQ would do well to address the invasion stripe problem, as for me that alone was the longest part of the entire assembly and painting. I’m still scratching my head at how I’ll fit these into the storage box supplied.

Raiders of the bargain bin.

August 1, 2009

DSCF1733Although a total fiction created as part of Spielberg’s 1981 “Raiders of the Lost Ark” this lovely little plane became a must-have when the boy Slug pointed it out to me in our local Tesco. It is a trifle large when you think of the scale of it in that great scene, but instead of being an advanced fighter consider it as an advanced bomber, and as such an excellent model for a Commando or SAS raid game.

Now I’ve only ever seen this on offer as a model once before, custom built to order and at quite a price. This one was a mere £2, so worth having a quick look down your local town aisle for either the godly 6mm or the heathen 10mm. Okay the expected swastika has been hygenically removed, but hey-ho I’ve some 1/285th decals which will fix this polite omission.

DSCF1734It comes supplied with a well cast but poorly painted plastic base. May have to do a little work to remove the logo, but it’s no great deal.

DSCF1735As if the Gods weren’t perfectly wonderful to me with this find as it stands the base fits onto one of my standard scenic bases like hand in glove. Hurrah!