Wednesday 8 December 2010

Project 142040 "Leyla"

Been a while since the last update, so here we go with another model making project, set nominally in the Britannia universe (as with the model village) and on similar, if more sarcastic, themes...
Having lived for much of the last 6 years in The North I've become much frequented with the train known and feared as the class 142 Pacer. For the uninitiated this is a cheap and cheerful little commuter train assembled by British Railways in the 1980's in order to economically run services on little-used railway lines. High and worthy principles, poor execution... The trains themselves were based on bus components, mounted on a rigid chassis with a suspension apparently inspired by the humble Space Hopper, and with an engine out of a lawn mower.
There is one particular Pacer however which has achieved a certain degree of status amongst a small group of us transport photographers in the north. We cant remember who first noticed it, but one particular unit, 142040, started cropping up in the background of numerous photos. Someone would go to Manchester to photograph a steam excursion, there would be 142040. Someone waiting in the middle of nowhere for a train, there it is again. I've had the misfortune to stumble across it twice in the last 12 months. And as these things are wont to do, 142040 has developed something of a cult following amongst we northern train photographers. It even has its own group on Deviantart.
Over a few nights conversation on messenger between us though, 142040 evolved again- somebody made a comparison of the bouncy suspension to a boy racers car, and the rest developed from there. 142040 became known as "Leyla" (for Leyland National, her builders), and a personality evolved. Noisy, smokes like a chimney, bounces around, caused injuries to innocent passengers, vandalises trackwork wherever she goes... if Thomas the Tank Engine was set in the present day, she'd be the disreputable train hanging round the back of the sheds swigging cheap cider and swearing at passing express trains. And so Leyla was born:
The design led to an idea for a new project- a sort of send-up of the modern railway scene but set in the fictional world of Britannia, and done in the style of Thomas the Tank Engine, with models (but as books rather than a TV program). It would allow some further use of all those old model village structures, and would require the construction of some new model trains...

Starting point was this pair of simple toy coaches from a cheap, roughly O scale train set. These sets formed the basis for much of the trains in the model village project, and I had a few bits lying around leftover.

Leylas' bodywork was mostly built up from artists mountboard, overlaid onto the plastic structure which formed a nice, sturdy, square foundation for the model. The window frames were thin card, and somewhat prone to breakage until soaked in superglue.

She's about three-quarters done here, with glazing (from packaging material), and a very basic battery powered motorised chassis adapted from parts from a poundworld-bought toy train set.

And here she is finished and weathered- rather than a scale model, I was going for something more inspired-by, with the essential impression of a Pacer given. The ghetto-grilles are a hangover from the Model Village where most public transport had them fitted (garden mesh and OO flexitrack rails).

Note other details- her ASBO sticker, huge oversized spoiler, and massive speakers. Lots of inspiration from Boy Racer modified cars, in keeping with her character...

And finally a mock-up of the book cover in the style of the old Thomas 'Railway Series' books. The project is a long way off, theres too much else on at the moment, but the more we talked about Leyla the more attatched I got to the character I was creating, and I simply had to get on and model her. If nothing else, its endearing at least one of the Pacers to me, and believe it or not theres a few of us who want to see the real 142040 preserved when the class is finally scrapped... perhaps they should save her as a warning from history :)

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