Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A Job for Grandpa

This post is somewhat off topic as it doesn't deal directly with modelling on Philip's Creek. However, as other issues demand a greater share of my time, it does represent the primary focus of my railway activities as other issues demand And, there is a tenuous link to Philip's Creek.

By way of background, in the late 1950s my grandfather built me a toy locomotive. The photo on the right shows my younger brother and I in the backyard of our family home in what was then fairly rural Normanhurst. The photo also shows very clearly that at one time in my life, I did have hair on the top of my head. The toy was used in its intended role for a few years but as one got older, and interests changed, it was reroled as a stagecoach or wagon or some kind of fortification. Eventually, it was put aside and remained derelict under my parents for about the next 15 years.

In 1982, now with my own family starting, my father decided to resurrect the toy and refurbish it for my two-year old son. With his extensive metal working skills, he rebuilt the chassis, added the spark arrestor smoke stack, a fresh coat of paint and a new face. Again, it was a popular toy for the next 10 years as our children and their friends moved through that 2-8 year age range.

But again, time took its toll and the locomotive was stored, also again, under my parent's house because of my frequent moves.

With the arrival of grandchildren, its time for  locomotive to undergo its next refurbishment and, this time, as the grandfather, it is now my turn to undertake the task.

One of the first questions to be resolved was the locomotive's identity. When my grandfather built the toy, as you can see from the first photo, he aligned it to the premier locomotive on the NSW railways at the time. As far as I know, 3801 was never painted red and the reason why he selected that colour has been lost in time. I never thought to ask him while he was alive but I suspect that it may be a link back to what he saw as a young boy in Birmingham in the early 1900s.

My father, or more probably my mother decided to use the name 'Tootles' harking back to a popular golden book story in my early childhood. Again, there was some 'modeller's licence' regarding the colour.

Now that it is my turn, I have decided to rebirth the locomotive as the ever popular Thomas. This was an easy decision to make. Thomas the Tank Engine has been a popular figure in literature and TV for two generations. It was a favourite of our children and now our grandchildren as evidenced from the photo taken at the recent Thomas the Tank Engine Day at Thirlmere.

So now 'Tootles' (nee '3801') will be reborn as 'Thomas'. This means a greater change in its appearance to create something that looks like a tank engine, a repaint in the appropriate shade of blue and the creation of a new face.

Work has commenced with the replacement of the wheels that were probably close to 60 years old together with some additional facade works to create a coal bunker. At the time of writing, work has also started on the side tanks.

The one area that is worrying me is how to create the Thomas face that is around 300mm in diameter. Internet searches have not identified a suitable product and I may have to resort to a sculptured solution probably using styrofoam on timber and then sealed with some form of resin. If anyone know where a commercial product is available, I would appreciate any information.

Finally, to that tenuous link to Philip's Creek - well actually there are two. The first is fairly obvious in that this activity is deflecting me from other modelling activities. The second is a little more obscure. If this toy can enhance an interest in railways and perhaps modelling amongst one or more of the grandchildren, it may be that Philip's Creek, in some form or another, might continue beyond my remaining time on this earth.