Monday, 27 June 2011

Time flies by (redux)

Today the nice man from Parcelforce brought a large padded envelope filled with my second order of the Teamsterz toy trains that I mentioned in this post. If you've been following the blog, you may remember that a similar toy train listing on Amazon turned out to be the same toy, and that as a result I had two matching tank engine & carriage sets. By that time I'd already ordered two more of the Tank Engine sets plus one "Locomotive" set from the original supplier and was gambling somewhat on getting a useful mix of rolling stock.

I got lucky! Here's my railyard as it stands..

One of the "tank engine" sets turned out to be the green tank engine & carriage (still boxed in photo). The other turned out to be the blue locomotive & tender that matches the two carriages I have from the original two tank engine sets. The combination makes for a perfect wargaming train - not too long and not too short.

Now I'm far from a steam railway expert, but after 10 minutes with Google & Wikipedia here's what I can tell you.

Let's start with the terminology - a tank engine like this one carries its own water supply in an on-board tank, rather than in a separate fuel & water carriage or "tender". This model is what's called a "saddle tank" design, which means the water tank sits on top of the boiler like a saddle on a horse. If you look closely you can see that in this picture, the gold striped section is the tank. The wheel arrangement is 0-4-0, meaning four powered wheels, with no leading or trailing wheels. 0-4-0 saddle tank engines like these were the workhorses of the steam railways, being very commonly used on industrial lines, but also as shunters and general utility engines. Because the position of the water tank gave them a high centre of gravity, they were limited to slower speeds, and had a more limited range than the tender locomotives. On the other hand, tank engines were generally capable of travelling backwards at the same speed as forwards, something the tender locomotives couldn't do. The tank engine model comes with a passenger carriage in matching livery and if you're not too fussy, one set of these would make a perfectly acceptable "train" for wargaming purposes, representing a short haul local route, or possibly an improvised troop transport.

Now realistically, express trains or those travelling any sort of distance would be drawn by a tender locomotive, with a larger supply of coal and water carried in a tender. This 4-4-0 wheel arrangement was known as "The American" because it was so common on US engines, however it was also very common here in the UK. The Teamsterz model has a bit of an identity crisis. Generally it looks more European in style (to my untrained eye at least) but at the front features a US style "cow catcher" or "pilot" as it's more properly known. I don't know about other countries, but I've never seen pictures of these fitted to British steam trains.
This green locomotive came in the slightly cheaper "Locomotive" pack, but sadly it came without a tender. No good for the steam purist then, but if you're stuck with several carriages and want to make sure you have a "big engine" to pull them, this is the way to get one for sure.

Oh and by gad, those are some ugly red wheels! They'll need some work before this engine ever hits the wargame table.

Now this locomotive & tender actually came as a "Tank Engine" pack. So my main train represents the contents of three such packs combined together, for about £18. Not too bad.

Obviously ordering blind online via Amazon, you're taking pot luck with what you get. You might try keeping an eye on the pound stores for these, since as I mentioned previously they really are crap as toys, or scale models for that matter. You might also try contacting the seller and seeing if they'll let you specify which sets they send you. But personally I quite enjoyed the thrill of the "lucky dip", and a few spare carriages opens up the possibility of kitbashing and converting.

Here are the two Amazon links. Check them both out. Look at the third party sellers and work out who gives you the best deal, as that may change with time. Beware the cunning fellow who offers a bargain price of 29p, then charges five pounds for postage (although that's still a reasonable price, I refuse it on principle!)

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