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Viking charabanc

Back in March 2017 the preliminary ideas for Emett-inspired rolling stock resulted in a series of 'concept sketches'. One of these – shown above – was for something that was a cross between an early twentieth century charabanc and a Viking longship, running on railway wheels. The intention is not to depict something which would 'work'. Indeed the nearest to floating would be making an appearance as a carnival procession float.

However the project went on the proverbial back burner, mostly because of the trickiness of creating a 1:20 scale clinker-built hull. Yes, the management did download some suitable construction drawings and illustrations of various twelve inch to the foot reconstructions (and maybe some six inch to the foot ones too). It wasn't impossible. But would certainly be a challenge.

But then, while looking for something else, a suitable-size model was available for not a lot via Amazon. Sure, it would have to come all the way from China (probably by sea – but in a shipping container, not by being rowed). But in due course it landed. It is about half-size for 1:20 scale, which is about what is needed as a 'full-size' 1:20 model would be rather too large.

And, although not the best model ever, it is value for money and at least as good as anything likely to be purpose-made. It's been cast from some sort of 'resin' (presumably polyurethane, but difficult to check) then painted. It came supplied with a mast, sail and rigging, albeit small hooks and eyes take the place of cleats.

The longship model as supplied.

The chassis construction reverts to the method used for some of the original rolling stock for Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway in that the main structure is from 11 x 6 mm stripwood held together with glue and 2 mm socket head bolts hammered (lightly) into 1.5 mm pilot holes. However, unlike the original wagons, the wheels are LGB and fitted into LGB single-axle bogies which swivel on 6 mm bolts.

To make it look like it might work, dummy axle boxes moulded from Milliput (using a mould also made from Milliut, taken from an LGB axle box) were glued over the actual bearings. As the bogies seem to be from polypropylene, which is all-but unglueable, a small hole was drilled in the bogie to act as a 'mechanical key' for a dollop of hot-melt adhesive.

The charabanc parts – principally radiator, bonnet and mudguards – were scratchbuilt from polystyrene sheet. Other details were from Milliput apart from the bull bar (or should that be aurochs bar?) which is from welding rod. Unlike a real bull bar, this one extends back all the way under the bonnet to the wooden wagon chassis, thereby supporting the bonnet and radiator.


Top: The chassis.
Bottom: The longboat on the chassis. No signs of the charabanc yet.

The number plates (not visible on the photos) read 'WA 55 ALE'. The two ravens are called Huginn and Muninn. Some of you will know why. If not then Wikipedia saves the effort of explaining. Though right at this moment both Huginn and Muninn have flown off on a 'mission' for Oðinn.

Transverse seats were added to the longship model. And a couple of horned helmets were placed on them. These were 'whittled' from mouldings of black bulls which once adorned Torres' Sangre de Toro (although such bottles of 'bull's blood' seem no longer to be sold). They work out a bit less than 1:40 scale, so in proportion to the longship.



The ravens have returned…

There are plans to add a few ale-swilling Vikings. One day. Rumour has it they wear teeshirts printed on the back with such phrases as 'Lindisfarne 793', 'Pillage and Plunder' and 'Vikings First', as sold in the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's gift shop.

Pillage & Plunder (synecdoche design)

Pillage & Plunder (synecdoche-free design)

Pillage & Plunder (trump that design)

The words on the back of the synecdoche-free design read:

    Pillage & Plunder
    Tours of Europe

    The Four Isles Tour
    Portland 787
    Lindisfarne 793
    Iona 795
    Sheppey 835

    Micel Here Winter Festival
    Repton 873–4

    The Shit or Bust Tour
    Chippenham 878
    Edington 878
    Appledore 892

    New World reunion tour
    L'Anse aux Meadows c.1000

These shirts are available in two sizes:

    Warriors: XXXXL
    Wimps: XL
N.B. These teeshirts have nothing to do with a three-piece art rock band from Atlanta, Georgia nor a board game which share the same appellation. And other Viking teeshirts are available.

    Those whose knowledge of Old English falls short of knowing what a Micel Here might be, then it translates as 'Great Army'. Prior to 873 the Vikings had raided sites on the coast or estuaries. That year they sailed all the way up the Trent to Repton and over-wintered near the church (which, at that time, was the burial place of the Mercian kings – and the crypt still survives). However, many of the men died of illness during the winter and were buried either in the churchyard or at the nearby Heath Wood barrow cemetery.



The Viking longship now has a passenger! He's vaguely inspired by the twelfth century walrus ivory chessmen discovered on the Isle of Lewis in 1831. But looks more like a character from Noggin the Nog. Which is not surprising as Peter Firmin, the artist who created Noggin the Nog, was inspired by the Lewis chessmen.

The passenger's name is Noggian and the runes on his shield are for is (ice), æsc (ash) and nyd (need) = I-A-N.

A real live non-Viking Ian suggested passengers based on the Lewis chessmen with runes on their backs. However any resemblance of Noggian to Ian would be most unfortunate.


Running trials were somewhat delayed. And revealed that the bull/aurochs bar on the front projected out slightly too far and could catch the air brake connection on other vehicles. As the bull bar is fairly integral to the front of the model (it supports the bonnet and radiator) it was easier to add a bolster wagon as a spacer. This provided the opportunity to add some 'Viking themed cargo' – to wit, two hogsheads of ale (which therefore contain as much as a butt) and a brace of battle axes.

The barrels were procured unpainted from the Trenarren stall at the 2019 National Garden Railway Show.

Once one of the barrels has been emptied of its contents it is scheduled to be upcycled as the water 'tender' on the Rocket-powered B-type bus.


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Images and text copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2021