Sunday 31 December 2023

Ivor the Engine (45mm Gauge)

Guess who's back, back again, this blog is back... slowly getting onto a regular update schedule with a bit of luck, and much to my own surprise.  A slight lull with the Day Job over Christmas has enabled me to edit some of the work I've been doing over the last 18 months, so while I edit some of the newer work ready to publish, here's a dip into the archives...



So yes, Ivor the Engine.  Having dipped into the world of Ivor for a project in Lockdown, I returned to it again in late 2021-early 2022.  I'm a Scouting leader outside of the Day Job and this model-making nonsense, and with us doing various projects based on stories with the Squirrels Section (4-6 year olds), Ivor was a logical theme.  Basically we were working various projects towards around the stories, heading for filling the library where we have our meetings with a massive train set.


Which needed, amongst various things, an actual model Ivor, radio-controlled and robust enough to survive a 4-year old... 

The original planned donors for the project, but I quickly realised that it wouldn't work; rebuilding the loco body on the right wasn't going to look enough like Ivor.  The Playmobil underpinnings from the left-hand loco though would work nicely, with the radio controlled chassis being reliable and controllable.

To the laser cutter!  

Using scraps and offcuts, hence the unusual colour scheme.

I tried to cheat a bit with the lining, etching it on (in the hope that the plastic carrier film would act as masking), allowing the yellow to show through after wafting it with green.  Alas, in the end it didn't work, and the lining needed hand-painting.  The boiler, incidentally, is a parmesan cheese tub.

The not-quite-finished Ivor on the first night we tried the project with the Squirrels group.

The loco with the lining painted on- a little bit slapdash, but then it hopefully fits the drawn style of the original.  Also, a rather more subtly-coloured wagon than the one the youngsters did (of which more anon).  Whilst a compromise with the Playmobil chassis, I think it works for the project, and it's certainly robust- at least, once the whistles are removed.


My weapon of choice... the Brummie Screwdriver.  I designed and cut some fairly ornate wagon frames, and used sewing rivets as bearings, which needed hammering in.

Production line.  We thought it would be easier to build the chassis ourselves, rather than let 4-year-olds try to do it, especially as it needed plastic glue.

Wheels and axels from the superb Binnie Kits range- where would garden railway modellers be without this range of parts?

We got the youngsters to decorate ply wagon bodies (with marker pens) to personalise a wagon each, and we PVA'd the bodies together.

Ta-da... Still not as garish as some actual privatisation liveries.


The plan was that, rather than just driving trains around, the Squirrels would draw an activity card with an instruction, driving the train around to pick up passengers and take them to places around the layout.

We needed quite the range of townsfolk, as passengers for the activities, so I decided to draw my own inspired by the illustrations.  I also drew my own versions of the main cast.

Done the same was as the comics, by outlining in marker, scanning, a bit of tweaking of levels on photoshop and RDX, then laser-cutting.

An extra activity; a copy of the 70's board game, downloaded from the Smallfilms website and printed out on A3.


Ivor was unfinished for the night (due to a run of appalling weather limiting my time for spray painting until the night before the final meeting).  Also, the batteries played up, despite much testing, resulting in the need to use a backup diesel locomotive too.  Ivor would not approve of that, methinks.

Choir outside the repainted Early Learning Centre 'Happyland' chapel.  All the buildings in the town were done using this range, and expect them to appear more and more in the comic and projects because they're robust, the right scale, and pretty cheap second-hand at the moment.

A second go, with the finished Ivor.

Almost painfully Welsh stereotyping going on with this shot.

Well, the activity went pretty well in the end; plenty of ideas to implement for the next time we do it.


I decided I wanted to get some better 'hero' shots of Ivor to illustrate the project; it had to be compact and portable to easily fit in the car, both for storage and for transporting for location work.

Because I carefully conserve supplies and materials (or hoard junk, looking at it another way), I had a box with a board of 12mm MDF ready-cut to fit it.

An example of the buildings used for the project; old Early Learning Centre 'Happyland' toys.  Well proportioned (if slightly cartoony), cheap second-hand, and robust, whilst also clearly being UK prototypes, and so perfect for the project with a bit of a repaint.

Testing the composition; the board didn't give a lot of room, but then it only really needed to provide a set for Ivor to be the focus of each shot.

Eye-level shot, again, testing the composition.

After the building had a bit of a repaint.  A low retaining-wall was made with Playmobil castle spares (same for the rock in the bottom left, with a bit of stone wall), and a working lamp from Sylvanian Families  The landform was a mix of wood and foam packing materials.

Speedy ground cover, from hanging basket liner, cut long to overhang the edges and extend the field of shot a bit (as well as provide a bit of padding for when everything was boxed up for transport.

Shooting on location (after the track was ballasted with sand).  Appropriately enough, shooting in the Top Left Corner of Wales, at her old place on a farm on Anglesey.  I'd originally tried further away on the other side of Amlwch, where there was the old copper mine (with winding gear) but the weather was awful, and I couldn't get quite near enough for a decent composition.

Happy holidaymakers waiting for the train home (well, seaside holidays and steam trains are pretty much what I associate with North Wales).  The trees are cheap plastic Bonsai trees.

Ivor, Dai Station and Jones the Steam.

I also knocked-up a basic photoplank for 'trains in the countryside' type shots, with the leftovers.  Literally a plank (MDF offcut), and some more hanging basket liner with a spare bit of the toy track.

Though the main thrust of the project was to make the models for the Scouting purposes, I shamelessly bunged it over to Phil at Garden Rail Magazine, as I know he's a fan of Ivor.

Theoretically, a take on model-making with Scouts, mentioning this project, is also on file with another mag as well, but no sign of that just yet.


Funnily enough, this was scripted last Feb, and yet it's still topical with the British rail industry determined to strike itself into oblivion...

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