Sights and sounds of the Netherlands in miniature

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Today’s posting has nothing to do with the hobby of wargaming. But if you like terrain modelling, or model railways, or the Netherlands, or video sound-mixing, there’ll be something here for you! Especially if you consider that the above and below photos aren’t of a real Dutch double-decker train, but a model in 1:25 scale.

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Although I was born and live in New Zealand, my heritage is Dutch – both my parents emigrated here in the 1950s. So I love visiting the Netherlands to explore my ‘roots’.

Most people when they think of the Netherlands imagine windmills, or tulips, or dikes. For me, one of my first impressions of the Netherlands when I visited for the first time back in the 1970s, was the yellow Dutch trains! I was so taken by the dog-nosed Dutch commuter trains that I drew one in my travel diary!

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And that impression has remained right to this day, through my many return trips to the land of yellow trains. During this time the Dutch national railway company has continued to use yellow and blue as their livery colours, albeit in different configurations as the trains have modernised over the years.

Keeping the same colours for so many decades is surely unusual in the corporate world, where PR people will change colours and logos on a whim, with no thought towards preserving tradition.

Another memory from that first trip to the Netherlands was visiting the miniature city of Madurodam, an amazing model town situated in The Hague. Madurodam recreates many of the characteristic locations of the Netherlands in 1:25 scale. Having always been fascinated by models, I was captivated, and spent many happy hours there!

I hadn’t given much more thought to Madurodam for many years, until the other day I stumbled across a YouTube video depicting a railway view of this miniature city. Not only does the camerawork beautifully capture the tiny scenery that so entranced me back in 70s, the film-maker has married the visuals to appropriate audio that adds to the experience. And there are yellow trains – lots of yellow trains!

Watch the Madurodam video:

This is not the first Dutch model railway video I’ve seen recently that uses realistic audio. One of my favourite examples is taken at Miniworld Rotterdam.

It explores this huge 1:87 layout, starting with a small Dutch town and the countryside (complete with windmills!), and ending up in the bustling heart of a miniature Rotterdam, with trams, motorways, and even ship-building at the Europoort harbour. And, of course, yellow trains …

Watch the Miniworld Rotterdam video:

Certainly inspiring model-work for wargamers!

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Filed under Uncategorized, Terrain, Family history, Travel

Revisiting a spectacular Battle of Saratoga game

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Some of the games I’ve played over the years really stand out in my memory. From time to time I’ll feature these old games here on my blog.  

This particular game stood out because of the amazing terrain and figures.  To my eye, this was a convention-grade game, but played in a garage! I never recorded the date this game as played, but it would be a good decade or two ago now.

This game impressed me so much at the time that I even put together a website about it, from which I’ve copied the following text and pictures.  Much to my surprise, the site still exists – thought my amateur hand-coded HTML doesn’t seem to have preserved the formatting too well.

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Before the storm.

The year is 1777 – General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne’s expedition to cut off New England from the rest of the rebellious American states has reached the clearing of Freeman’s Farm. The lines of redcoats form up around the farmstead, whilst a redoubt has been rapidly thrown up on their right. They steadfastly await the Americans advancing from out of the woods in front of them.

Myself and two other New Zealand wargamers, Paul Crouch and Steve Sands, had recently bought a copy of the British Grenadier rules, and we were determined to try them out. One Sunday afternoon the three of us finally managed to get some time off together, and this is the game that ensued.

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British lines around Freeman’s Farm.

This closer view of British redcoats from General James Inglis Hamilton’s brigade around the farmstead shows some of the amazingly detailed 28mm miniature soldiers and terrain owned by Paul.

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British redoubt.

The scenario rules for this battle state that the troops of Brigadier-General Simon Fraser’s brigade can only leave the confines of their redoubt on the British right after a throw of double sixes. “I never get double sixes,” says Steve, throwing the very first dice of the game – you guessed it, double six!

So Fraser’s light infantry and an artillery piece emerge from the redoubt in the first move of the game, throwing the American plan into disarray before they even start moving.

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Poor’s columns advance down the road towards the waiting British.

On the American side, Roly commands General Enoch Poor’s brigade of infantry and artillery. The scenario calls for them to enter by a road on the left of the American position. But instead of heading diagonally towards the British (visible in the distance in this photo), the threat of Fraser’s troops making their sortie out of the redoubt means that the Americans have to change their orders to make a right turn and form their lines more to the centre.

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The American advance in the centre.

Poor’s brigade has now been joined by that of General Ebenezer Learned, played by Paul. Meanwhile, General Benedict Arnold and his aide can be seen in this photo, directing the commencement of the assault on the British line. Unfortunately, another double six means that Arnold is lightly wounded, and so has to temporarily leave the table.

You can also see the amazingly realistic ground-cloth that Paul inherited from the late Jim Shaw. Thrown over a piece of carpet underlay, which in turn is draped over strategically placed objects, it gives a realistic rolling ground effect.

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The British line awaits the onslaught.

After moving their line back slightly to form a better defensive position around the farm, the British lines stolidly await the American attack, with some loyalists skirmishing to their front. The redcoats’ objective in this scenario is to hold the farm position.

All the figures used in this game belonged to Paul. They included castings from Front Rank, Foundry and Perry Miniatures. The exquisite flags were mainly by GMB Design.

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The lines close.

Slowly, inexorably, the American lines advance towards the British. Because of the extended maneuvering that Poor’s brigade has had to do to avoid Fraser’s light infantry and artillery, it takes quite a while to reach this stage of the game, so we “fast-forward” at this point by doubling a few moves to bring the troops into action.

Movement distances in British Grenadier are randomised, and generally must be taken the full amount. This makes coordinating an attack quite difficult, but true to the period.

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Charge!

Finally the first regiments of the assault charge forward.

The mounted officer in the background is not just for show. These rules have an innovative system where units earn ‘disruption points’ from movement, firing and melee. The more such points, the harder it is to do anything. Generals can help units shake off these points, but only one unit per move, so they have to pick and choose. Thus mounted officers realistically gallop to and fro all over the battlefield.

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The second American line in support.

American troops in hunting shirts form the second line.

Under these rules, an attack needs to be well supported, as the disruption points can cause havoc to the first line. On the other hand, you don’t want the second line too close, as they have to move their full distance, so can actually collide with the rear of the first line, causing even more disruption!

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The British line holds.

The American regiment on the far left has defeated a British battalion and forced it back. But the British battalion on the right holds out valiantly, whilst General Burgoyne dashes up to bolster its defence. Here yet another double six is thrown, but Burgoyne survives and it is his ADC who is killed.

In the foreground are Colonel Daniel Morgan’s riflemen and light infantry, who have been in front needling the British lines all during the big American assault. Now they can pull back out of the way to let the line infantry do their job.

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The Hessians arrive.

The Americans have only succeeded in pushing back one British unit, when to their right they hear the beating of drums as Baron von Riedesel’s Hessians arrive on the battlefield, thus extinguishing any hope of the Americans forcing the British out of the Freeman’s Farm position.

So in our game the British win. This would possibly have had a major effect had this happened in the real battle. It was the British surrender at Saratoga that finally induced the French to take part in the American War of Independence. In our game, this might not have happened ….!

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Map of the battlefield.

This overview of the battle shows how the game progressed. You can see where Fraser’s men issued out of the redoubt at the very start of the game, and how they forced Poor’s brigade to make some complicated manouevres instead of directly attacking Hamilton’s position. Meanwhile, the British backstepped to form a better defensive line closer to the farm, and then the subsequent huge American assault on the centre took place. Right at the end of the battle, the Hessians arrived on the British left to cement their victory.

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The players – Paul Crouch (Generals Learned and Arnold), Roly Hermans (General Poor) and Steve Sands (British/Hessian), all members of the [then] Kapiti Fusiliers Historic Gaming Club in Paraparaumu, New Zealand.

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Paul’s son Rylan enjoyed the game too!

 

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Filed under American War of Independence, Foundry, Front Rank, GMB Design flags, Kapiti Fusiliers, Perry Miniatures, Uncategorized

Fantastic new 3D-printed pirate ships!

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Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum! At last I’m able to mention a project I’ve been working on for the last month, which has been shrouded in secrecy.

I was helping out my mates at Printable Scenery to prepare for their new ‘Lost Islands’ Kickstarter, which launched this morning. They asked me to build a couple of their prototype ship models for use in the photography on their site. I was only too happy to oblige, but I was sworn to secrecy to ensure maximum impact when the Kickstarter came out.

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I almost let the cat out of the bag when I posted some photos of the model sloop at sea in my swimming pool (yes, they actually float!) … but that was before I realised there was a secrecy clause, so I had to quickly delete the pics when I found out.

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Anyway, all can now be revealed! The models are part of Printable Scenery’s new ‘Lost Islands’ Kickstarter. This is a collection of highly detailed 3D printable port buildings, ships, and tribes for home 3D printers, shown in the short video below:

As the Kickstarter publicity says:

Swashbuckling adventure awaits. Sail with your motley crew from the wretched streets of Port Winterdale to the jungle tribes of the Lost Islands. Defeat monsters, pirates and explore the world with nothing more than a barrel of rum, a fine ship and the stars to guide the way.

Each pledge is delivered as an STL file pack to print on a home 3D printer. If you haven’t got a printer, then Printable Scenery also maintain a list of licenced printers around the world who can do the job for you.

My brief was to build, paint and rig the two ships in the new collection – a sloop and a frigate.

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The first model I made was the sloop. The hull was dead easy to paint – just a black undercoat, then dry brushing with a couple of shades of brown, and painting in details such as the carving, bolts and ironwork.

A final dry-brush with the lightest of coats of white really brings out the detail, and weathers it at the same time. But use only a very light touch – if you use too much white, the ship will look like its sailing the polar regions!

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The rigging is the biggest challenge of making a sailing ship model. But I found it very easy in the end. I used a couple of pictures of real sloops to give me an idea, then cut some pieces of dowel to size. I roughly scratch-built the cross-trees where the main and top mast join together.

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I gave the masts and yards  tapered ends with a pencil sharpener. They were then all stained with normal household wood stain. I chose a rather dark walnut shade that I happened to have on hand. However, if I were to do this again, I would get an oak stain instead, I think.

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Once the mast and bowsprit were done, then I started on the rigging. And this is where I found out the secret to ship modelling – use thin elastic instead of cotton or thread. With the latter, it is difficult to keep everything tight. But elastic keeps every shroud and stay of your rigging completely tawt.

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I had an added challenge – my project brief from Printable Scenery was to make the ships so they could be folded up to be transported from New Zealand to the USA to go on display at the GaryCon and AdeptiCon shows.

By using elastic, this problem was quite simply solved. I just placed the masts into their holes in the hull without gluing, so they were held in place with the elastic rigging. To fold everything down, all you have to do is lift the mast against the stretchiness of the elastic until it pops out of its hole, then lie everything flat on the deck. Reassembling, you just do the opposite. Simples!

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The actual model (though not the early prototype I built) will have accompanying layers to portray the interior, so your miniatures can fight ‘below decks’ a well. Cool!

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The frigate was a bit more challenging, as it has three masts. I also wanted to experiment with adding furled sails.

The hull was painted in the same way as the sloop, though I decided to add a a bit more colour, such as the blue and white upper-works, and the red insides to the bulwarks.

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I used some cardboard to scratch-build the fighting tops that hold the top-masts to the fore and main masts, and a simple set of cross-trees for the mizzen mast. Winding a bit of string around the masts at intervals adds some interesting contrast to the plain dowel.

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The hardest part was that I decided to move the position of the platforms where the shrouds and ratlines are attached to the hull. I preferred them to be smaller than on the printed model, and aligned behind each mast, rather than forward. A bit of cutting and gluing of the platforms, and, hey presto, quickly done!

The ratlines are formed by gluing bits of cotton across the shrouds (tying them on was far too fiddly for me!). The sails are some light linen folded into position and tied onto the yards with elastic.

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Of course, I just had to see if this ship would float too, and, sure enough, it did! Hmm, playing a wargame in a swimming pool – that brings to mind some ideas for the future …!

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‘Send a gunboat’ to colonial New Zealand

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When we think of gunboats for colonial wargaming,  we normally picture a chunky  paddle-steamer chugging up the Nile, or a little steam launch chuffing down the Congo. However, few people know that gunboats were also used in New Zealand during the colonial period.

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I’ve been working on a project to model one of New Zealand’s earliest steam warships, the ‘Avon’. I’ve previously posted about how I converted her from a cheap Chinese toy tugboat. She is now finally finished, complete with Foundry crew figures.

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‘Avon’ was a 58-foot iron paddle steamer, launched in Glasgow in 1859, and shipped to New Zealand to work as a pleasure boat on the River Avon in Christchurch, New Zealand. She was purchased by the government in 1862 and converted into a gunboat.

James Cowan, in his book The New Zealand Wars, describes the ‘Avon’:

The work of making the hull bullet-proof was carried out by the engineer, Mr. George Ellis (now of Auckland), who states that the ‘Avon’ was converted into an armoured steamer by having iron plates bolted inside her bulwarks. These plates were ¼ inch thick and measured 6 feet by 3 feet. The wheel was enclosed by an iron house of similar-sized plates, with loop-holes. …

… The paddle-wheeler ‘Avon’ was the first steam-vessel to float on the waters of the Waikato. She was towed to Waikato Heads on the 25th July, 1863, by HMS ‘Eclipse’ and Captain Mayne, the commander of that ship, took her inside the Heads and anchored that night eight miles below Tuakau. Next day, watched with intense excitement by the Maoris, friendlies, and hostiles alike, she reached the Bluff, otherwise known as Havelock—Te Ia-roa of the Maoris—just below the junction of the Manga-tawhiri with the Waikato. She was not fired upon, contrary to the expectations of her crew, who expected a volley from the southern bank of the river at the narrower parts. Mr. Strand, of Kohanga, assisted to pilot the ‘Avon’ up the river.

On the 7th August Captain Sullivan (HMS ‘Harrier’), senior naval officer in New Zealand, took the vessel on a reconnaissance up the river, and near Meremere she became a target for Maori bullets for the first time. A volley from some Maoris under cover on the river-bank was replied to with the 12-pounder Armstrong. On several occasions later in the campaign the ‘Avon’ was under fire. This little pioneer of steam traffic on the Waikato proved an exceedingly useful vessel. When the army reached the Waipa Plains she carried stores up as far as Te Rore, on the Waipu; it was near there that Lieutenant Mitchell, RN, of HMS ‘Esk’, was killed on board her (February, 1864) by a volley from the east bank of the river. …

… Mr. George Ellis, of Auckland, who was engineer of the ‘Avon’, says: “Lieutenant Mitchell’s death occurred in this way: We carried out rather dangerous work in the later stages of the war when running up and down the Waipa River. Sometimes we took shots at anything that offered on the banks, and even landed to go pig-hunting. One very warm summer day, when steaming up the Waipa near Whatawhata, Mr. Mitchell remarked that it was too hot to remain in the iron wheel-house and that he would go outside; he declared that he would not be shot that day. He walked out on to the open part of the bridge-deck, and Lieutenant Easther (in command) and Midshipman Foljambe (father of the present Lord Liverpool) followed him. They had not been long there before a sudden volley was fired from the scrub-covered bank of the river—the east or proper right bank. The three officers were close together, with Mr. Mitchell in the middle, and, curiously, it was only the man in the middle who was hit. The volley was fired at an oblique angle. Mr. Mitchell was shot right through the breast, and died next day. We never saw a Maori, so thick was the cover on the bank.”

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‘Avon’ displaced 43 tons, was nearly 18 metres in length, and mounted a single 12-pounder Armstrong breech-loading gun on her bow. Her shallow draft of just one metre made her ideal for river operations. Besides the metal plate armour, a wooden shed-like structure with loop-holes was later built on the aft deck to provide cover for troops.

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She even had her own rudimentary self-defence system: pipes were fixed in connection with the boiler, so that a stream or jet of scalding water could be thrown upon any party attempting to board.

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I’m not how, or if I’ll ever use her in a wargame. But it has been an interesting little project to bring to life a little-known piece of New Zealand maritime and military  history.

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‘Blood and Plunder’ French faction

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I’ve finally finished painting my French faction for the pirate game Blood and Plunder.  Despite the undoubted beauty of these sculpts, this project has been a long one by even my usual slow painting standards. My initial enthusiasm wore off mid-project for some reason, so getting the mojo to finish painting them has taken quite some doing.

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I’ve divided the Milice des Caraibes and the Flibustiers figures into two similar units of eight men each (on the right in the above picture). I painted the Milice in off-white coats, which was the most common French uniform colour at that time. The Flibustiers are in blue and red.

Trying out Army Painter Quickshade for the first time helped quicken my pace towards the end. Whilst the Milice and Flibustiers were painted in my normal three-shade style, the Marins and Boucanniers (on the left in the above pic) were simply block-painted and then shaded with brushed-on Quickshade to give depth. I was quite pleased with the final result of this short-cut method.

Another thing that helped rebuild my enthusiasm for painting these figures over the last couple of weeks is a very hush-hush related project I’ve been helping with. Sorry, I wish I could show you, but I can’t for now! So keep watching this space …

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28mm paddle gun-boat for colonial New Zealand Wars

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My project to make a model of Her Majesty’s Colonial Ship ‘Avon’, one of New Zealand’s earliest steam-powered warships, is well under way.

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As mentioned in my previous posting, the basis for this model is a Chinese plastic toy, which has given me the hull, paddle wheels and parts of the superstucture.

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I cut the hull along the waterline, and constructed a new bridge with an armoured steering position between the paddle-boxes. I also added the iron panels along the forward deck that the real ‘Avon’ carried during the 1860s campaign along the Waikato and Waipa Rivers.

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Still to come is a Armstrong gun and the steering wheel, both being 3D-printed for me by Printable Scenery. I also plan to build the large loop-holed wooden deckhouse for the aft deck, as depicted by the late Harry Duncan in Middlemiss’s book The Waikato River Gunboats.

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That leaves one remaining problem – what figures to use to crew ‘Avon’? It would be good to have a sailor at the wheel, an officer on the bridge, and maybe a sailor or two on the deck. Anyone know of some good 25-28mm Victorian-era ship’s crew models?

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Converting a toy paddle-steamer into a colonial gunboat

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The maritime element of colonial wargaming normally brings to mind armed steamers on the Nile. But people often forget that gunboats were also used in many other theatres during the 19th century.

My own interest is the colonial New Zealand Wars, which included the use of  a flotilla of converted and purpose-built ironclad gunboats to support the invasion of the Waikato in 1863. A couple of years ago I posted a review of a book about this riverine aspect of the New Zealand Wars. However, until recently, I had never tried adding a river steamer to my army.

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A few weeks ago I stumbled across a plastic kitset of a paddle-driven steam tug on Ali Express. Whilst 1/150 scale is too small for 28mm wargaming, I thought this toy could possibly be converted into a smaller paddle-steamer in a larger scale.

And at only US$22 – which even included free shipping to New Zealand! – it wouldn’t be a big loss if my project didn’t work out.

I’ve now received the model, and think it will indeed work to be converted into the armed paddle steamer HMCS Avon, as depicted in the foreground of Andrew Burdan’s painting on the cover of Grant Middlemiss’s The Waikato River Gunboats.

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According the the New Zealand Navy Museum, the Avon was arguably the first naval vessel purchased by the New Zealand Government. Originally constructed in Glasgow as the Clyde, she was subsequently shipped to New Zealand in pieces and re-assembled at Port Lyttelton.

She was purchased by the Colonial Government in November 1862, and in early 1863 was modified for service at Onehunga. The modifications involved the installation of iron plates, each six feet long by three feet wide and ¼ inch thick, along the bulwarks and down to the water line.

She displaced 43 tons, was nearly 18 metres in length, and mounted a single 12-pounder Armstrong breech-loading gun on her bow. Her shallow draft of just one metre made her ideal for river operations.

Avon even had her own rudimentary self-defence system: pipes were fixed in connection with the boiler, so that a stream or jet of scalding water could be thrown upon any party attempting to board.

In 1864 she was re-deployed on the Waipa River with reduced iron armour, as depicted in the drawing below by the late Harry Duncan for Grant Middlemiss’s book..

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To convert the toy into Avon, I plan to ignore the window stickers, so the current wheelhouse and cabin will look more like the top of the boiler housing.

I’ll add a bridge to link the two paddle-boxes, and scratch-build the double sentry-box armoured wheelhouse. The funnel will need to be taller, too – not a hard job to find something that’ll suit.

I’ll then add armoured plates along the bulwarks (and if I choose to make the later version of Avon, will build a wooden deck-house at the stern).

The hardest job will be to turn it into a waterline model – I’ll have to use a jigsaw to carefully cut round the hull, and then also trim the bottom of the paddle-wheels and rudder.

I’ll also need to find a model of an Armstrong gun of the period, mounted on a two-wheel naval truck. Any suggestions?

I’ll keep you posted on how this project goes.

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