Saturday 16 March 2024

Steampunk Jabberwock (Garden Railway Saturday)

Now here's an oldy of a project.  Right now my garden railway is in pieces due to some building work, so I thought I'd throw a piece on here looking at one of the models destined to run on the line if it ever gets re-assembled.

Quite a long time ago now, around 8 years back, I took part in an Alice in Wonderland-themed sculpture trail at Rydal Hall, Ambleside, which resulted in me building a steampunk interpretation of the Jabberwock from "Through the Looking Glass".  Essentially taking a line of HG Wells from "War of the Worlds" -about how monstrous and sentient a machine like a steam locomotive or ironclad would look like when viewed from the perspective of a small animal- and running with it.  

The final concept was a steam-driven logging engine/crane, built to about 1/3rd scale from ply, offcuts, and scrap parts, and in the end built with representations of catterpillar tracks.  If anyone's that bothered to know more, wade back through the blog where all the design sketches, drawings, plans, and many, many concept models appear in tedious detail.

Back when I was at the design stage, there was a plan to build it as a narrow-gauge steam locomotive, but that didn't get further than this mock-up.  I would already be filling the car to capacity, I didn't have room for making railway tracks as well.

Rarrrr.  The finished thing.

Anyway, when the garden railway was in it's earliest stages, I kept thinking that I wanted a theme to make it stand out a bit, and came back to the idea of Wonderland.  To try the concept, I thought I'd come back to the Jabberwock.

Initial drawing...

And the final design.  Heavily inspired by a real narrow gauge rail-mounted crane in Llanberis, at the slate museum, and another in Scotland in an industrial museum.  The idea -as with the sculpture trail version- was that this would be a machine that, when seen from certain angles, looked a bit like a monster.

Needing a crane jib that could rotate but lock into place, I found this turntable (Tomy Thomas the Tank Engine) in a charity shop, that would be perfect.

The majority of the body was built up from ply offcuts.

Peco girders and more ply formed the jib, with components from a toy digger.

The whole thing, prior to painting, showing the astonishing amount of rubbish glued on as detailing.  I do love a kitbash like this, it's quite satisfying to bring it all together.

The outriggers do a good job of looking like feet.  The side cranes that swing out are prototypically dubious, but are there to look like wings.

The original lantern eyes.  A set of christmas tree lights were wired through to the lamps (brass plumbing fittings, inside stacking maths counting-cubes).

Detail of the tender, which rides on an LGB skip chassis.  The loco itself sits on a Playmobil radio controlled motor block.

It needed a tail of sorts, so bought a pair of bolsters.  Suitably fitted for carrying logs, it would give a hint at what the loco was actually designed for, as a logging machine.

Painting was very simple, sprayed black, then various shades of brown dusted on.

Fabric -the remains of tarpaulins- were lashed on, another feature intended to look a bit like skin from certain angles.

It came out rather nicely, if a little difficult to photograph against an autumnal backdrop.

Out in the garden, the low-angle view was just what I was after.

Off to Wales, and I took the model with me to photograph.  Sadly, this showed the limitations of having cobbled together so many different parts, all of which reacted differently to the adhesives.  I ended up spending a night gluing everything back together.

In typical fashion, the carefully installed lights failed, with a wiring fault too deep inside the model to rectify.  Next best improvisation whilst in Wales, some LED keyring lights.

With a bit of suitably Wonderland-inspired set dressing.

I also wanted to do a suitably spooky night shoot with it too.  The track was rested on top of a bit of garden edging scrounged from the shed.

Steam effects from actual steam; a kettle on the boil underneath the model.

And that was that.  

The Jabberwork was featured in "Garden Rail" (where it no doubt confused the traditionalists, with their pretty little tank engines and live-steam Double Fairlies).  

Unfortunately, some more bits fell off the model during the trip home, then a rather unfortunate incidient happened last year when the box it was in dropped off a low shelf.  Smashy.

Thing is though... I really like this model.  And when on holiday last Autumn, and we spotted this at the Beamish museum:

Well, looks like the Jabberwork may be reborn this year, cannibalising parts of the original model...

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