Travels With Charley

When I was in my early teens I read Steinbeck’s book about travelling across America, with his dog, in a camper van. Around the same time I also owned a Husky model of a camper, the model differs from the one illustrated in the book in that it has a sleeper section over the cab but it’s a classic American design and was one of my favourite (non-railway) toys.

Anyhow, on Sunday I was browsing a well known auction site looking for a suitable boat to use on Lago Cumbre, but I got distracted and came across several of the Husky campers at varying prices. I put a bid in for the earliest finishing lot and ‘won’ it for £2 plus postage. At the same time I also bought a copy of the book so that I can re-read it after all these years.

The idea of buying the camper was to build a small diorama to display it on, not thinking of any railway connection at the time, but it then occurred to me that a disused railway partially buried in the drifting sands would add some visual interest… As well as tying the project into my hobby. OK, so there are no trains involved, but it’s still a model railway!

It’ll be some time next week when the camper is delivered so an ambiguously scaled truck is standing in for it in the accompanying photos. In the meantime I’ve started work on the diorama using an old base that I made many years ago for a 1:35 scale tank. The dry stream bed passes beneath both the railway and the road in culverts. These were made from a plastic syringe which once measured Calpol but has been collecting dust in a kitchen drawer for the last few years. Note that nothing is parallel to the baseboard edges, stream bed, road and railway are all at differing angles but none of them align with the outer limits of the scene. This is a key part of scenic modelling, however big or small. If anything parallels the baseboard edge for too far it tends to spoil the look of the model.

Discussion on the NGRM forum has questioned the scale of the camper and on-line research gives it as either 1:55, 1:64 or 1:72 depending which site you look at. If it turns out to be the larger scale I’ll use 16.5mm gauge track to represent the typical US narrow gauge of 3 feet but if it is 1:64 or less I’ll use the 12mm gauge track, shown in the photos, instead.

And the whole point of this..? There isn’t one..! It just gives me something to do without costing a lot of money. On top of which I get to read the book again, maybe it’ll rekindle my interest in Steinbeck’s novels too.


About Bob Hughes

Ex railwayman, life long railway modeller, lover of real ale and spicy food.
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