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The 'Occidental Express'
a.k.a. 'Darkrise to Candleford Sleeper'

Once the Rocket-powered B-type bus has been built then, if all goes to plan, this will pull the Lazybeach Special, making Nellie free for other duties. And, as Nellie is the locomotive most closely inspired by Rowland Emett's illustrations, then why not a rake of carriages which also emulate his creations? Such as sleeping carriages and a dining car: the 'Darkrise to Candleford Sleeper' and 'Bulrush Dining Car'.

'Why not?' is purely rhetorical – clearly this is a 'must do' scenario. But, as with most other 'must do's' on the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway, only when other projects have come to fruition first.

Rowland Emett included dining cars in several illustrations. But mostly these were mundane compared to his ideas for sleeping carriages.



Just ignore that the last one's towed by a car and not a loco…

The management have been keeping their eyes out for inspiration for the sleeper carriages.

Part of a temporary exhibition about T.E. Lawrence at the Newark Civil War Centre in 2017. The Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway management team visited, although the connection between Lawrence of Arabia and the Engish Civil Wars never became clear…

The nursery sleeping coach

When progress on the main sleeping coaches hadn't yet got beyond the ideas stage Emett's illustration of a child's cot inspired a 'quickie' making project.

One of a pair LGB bolster wagons was repainted, after removing the 'turntable' part. Lengths of balsa wood section, lots of cocktail sticks and some coffee stirrers were assembled to approximate to the appearance of a traditional play pen. The pointed ends of the halved cocktail sticks pressed into the balsa, avoiding the need for accurately drilling 48 small holes. The upper ends of the cocktail sticks were 'trapped' between two lengths of coffee stirrers. This proved to be a comparatively easy way to get the desired effect. And may be emulated when next doing railings for the ends of balcony coaches and such like.

A mat was printed out from Peter Firmin's map for Ivor the Engine. A stack of Duplo-like building blocks were emulated using leftover Nanoblocks and a 1:12 scale toy wooden train purchased from a doll's house supplier was included in the 'play pen'.

Two views of the nursery sleeping coach and
a close-up of the 'grounded' Silver Cross pram

The Silver Cross pram was scratchbuilt from polystyrene sheet, aluminium wire (some flattened to a more rectangular section), white PVC insulating and black duct tape. The quilt is a print out of a photograph of a unique hand-quilted cot crib made by Judi for Lucy B.'s first baby. The wheels have been removed and, to conform with standard railway practice, the pram has been 'grounded' on two stacks of old sleepers.

The hand-quilted cot crib made by Judi for Lucy B.'s first baby.

Perched on the handbar of the pram is a parrot. Internally-illuminated to provide a 'night light' for the child. Thanks to Judi for the idea.

The whole light is 20 mm from the top of the head to the tip of its tail. Ingredients: 'wheat ear' size warm white LED bulb, cyan coloured gel and yellow cellophane, a small amount of glue, and an even smaller amount of yellow and white paint. Oh, and hidden away is a battery holder and switch. Which also powers a red tail light, as this wagon will normally form the last vehicle of the rake. The tail light was made from some three kebab sticks laminated together then drilled and cut to size, ABS tube and red cellophane – plus the all-important red LED.

The parrot 'night light' and red tail light at dusk.


One of my more literary-aware friends put the thought in my head that the parrot should be named 'Flaubert'. Though whether this is really Flaubert's parrot is, of necessity, uncertain.

First class sleeping coach

The cocktail stick and balsa construction of the 'play pen' inspired a similar method of construction for a four poster bed.

This was just small enough to fit inside a vaguely Arabian Nights-looking tented arrangement. Which needed a light but reasonably strong support. Out came the bamboo kebab skewers along with more balsa wood. Panel pins and 'No Nails' glue (spot the contradiction… ) reinforced all the important joints. Which is most of them…

The bottom ends of the kebab skewers were tweaked to snugly fit into the pockets of an LGB stake wagon.

initial progress

getting there

sorted (apart from the wonky dome)

The large ornamental hexagonal 'dome' was salvaged from a tealight holder. A flickering flame-effect LED tealight sits, inverted, just underneath the dome, seemingly forming a pendant lampshade above the bed. Must remember to add a suitably baroque pull-switch so the occupants of the bed can extinguish it…

The moon-and-stars fabric was 'upcycled' from an unworn pair of ladies PJs bought in the marketplace of a small town on the borders of Normandy and the Ile de France in July 2000. Although the PJ bottoms – from which the fabric was taken – were indeed unworn, the top of the PJs appear in a photo elsewhere on the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway website. No clues where. Except to say it's decidedly obscure…

The blue fringe was kindly donated by JSB Haberdashery Supplies Unlimited.

The side railings were cut down from 1:12 scale doll's house railings – pedantically, they're the bits left over from the balcony railings on the 'Monarch of the Glen'. The end railing is a standard LGB item painted red.

The carpet is short-pile velvet. It's glued to an unusual 'underlay' – a sheet of lead. Well, the hexagonal 'dome' and its supports risk making the wagon rather top heavy, so some extra ballast as low down as possible was needed. And gave the carpet the right sort of thickness.

Ian the Ace Illustrator asked 'If there's a Lawrence of Arabia influence to the surrounding canopy, will the bed contain the Seven Pillows of Wisdom?'

Ian and the management are vying to win The Worst Joke of the Year Award for 2020. That's not even a contender, there's been plenty worse already. And it's still 49 weeks to Denouement Day…

Third class sleeping coach

The second of the Rowland Emett cartoons at the top of this page inspired the third class sleeping arrangements. An LGB stake wagon was repainted black then full-length 'running boards' added to both sides. Yes these will require all the platforms edges to be cantilvered. Assorted lengths of bamboo kebab were cut to form the frames of the tents and the 'tent pegs'. The reason the central 'tent pegs' are too long will emerge when the vehicle is finished.


The tent frames and unfinished tents

The corners of the tent frame are from brass tube, suitably bent (after inserting some fairly thick solder to prevent too much collapse, then melting the solder out with a butane gas micro torch – just to prove these torches have other uses than incinerating crème brûlée).

The tent fabric was salvage from a garden parasol which was no longer openable (because the all-important nylon cord had frayed) but otherwise in good condition. The dull 'ecru' colour (alternative colour names are also on trend) is a good match for old fashioned beige canvas tents.

The vintage-style Primus stove is mostly beads plus some copper wire. The frying pan was bought as a 1:12 scale doll's house accessory and given a layer of 'grime' ('Payne's grey' is what it said on the tube of paint – far more useful than black when making things mucky). The flame is a flickering yellow LED powered from 2 x 1.5 volt button cells and a 10kΩ resistor. The teamugs are ABS tube drilled to take small U-shaped lengths of copper wire then glued and painted to look like tin mugs. The washing is from polyester 'silk' and coloured paper while the pegs were whittled from cocktail sticks (they have to be the fiddliest details on any of these models, but the washing line looked 'naked' without them… )

Nearly there

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Images and text copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2021