The back story of my 4mm scale bus and lorry diorama Ming Ing and some of its more habitual vehicles has been told on the pages at Ming Ing: A Liberal Approach, while feedback and practical experience from the 2014 Gloucester Model Railway Show led to an upgrade of Modules 2 and 3, with the City Buses yard being painted to represent concrete rather than sand and the Module 2 buildings being stuck on for handling as one unit rather than having to dismantle all the components before negotiating doorways at home. The opportunity was also taken to add more (non operational) street lighting as otherwise City Buses – and the rest of the users of Ming Ing’s roads – would be left in dangerous darkness for many York winter mornings and evenings. Similarly, more people were added to give life and interest to a scene which has an inherently low population density.
The pictures reproduced here to illustrate this upgrade also feature die cast buses kindly loaned by Mike Walker but start with an Airfix 00 gauge “Civilian” figure which must have fallen off Universal Works while being moved as he was found on my drive dishevelled and bleached by the rain. However, a bit of sanding and a new grey suit made him an even more interesting character as he parked his bike…
Three more Airfix Civilians – this time women – were positioned on the corner of Exeter Street, seen here with a pleasing view through the City Buses depot to a Southdown liveried Plaxton Panorama beyond. In each case the figures were painted their main colour first with flesh and other accessories being added afterwards. For the woman on the right, this was a chance to use a bit more of the Polish Crimson from the old Humbrol Napoleonics range although other shades can be created by lightening or darkening more familiar railway and military colours. What soon became apparent though is how dated to the 1950s the Airfix Civilians are in terms of apparel. Not a problem for layouts set in the period obviously but more of a challenge when creating a 21st Century diorama.
The rear of the maintenance bay was improved with more detailed oil drums and a daylight collector left over from the locomotive depot at Toucan Park. Although a number of new bus depot workers were fixed to the diorama, care was taken to leave the buses themselves enough room to move about and a set of orange suited figures acquired for future placement as required.
As described in the original Ming Ing article on the old platform, Viking Vehicles was based on the one time Airfix (now Dapol) garage kit but luckily when this was completed as a pure car servicing and parts centre I kept the petrol pump components. Placed on a concrete coloured plastic card plinth and painted Brunswick Green and Trainer Yellow to match the cylindrical tank behind them, these can now be used by the depot staff to dispense diesel rather than petrol to resident and visiting public service vehicles. In fact the item to the right of the yellow topped pump is an oil dispensing cabinet with a curved rear surface and roller shutter that can be locked down over the oil taps. In 1957, when the original Airfix kit was moulded and before engine lubricating oil was sold in disposable plastic bottles, motorists would fill their cans from such a dispenser and pay the garage accordingly. For a model of a 21st Century filling station, this item could be converted to a refuse bin or paper towel dispenser although the oval-headed petrol pump would look completely out of place in a world of digital multi-fuel pumps.
Similarly, from having made both the Ming Ing home of Class 04 diesel mechanical locomotive “Lord Wenlock” and most of Universal Works from Airfix / Dapol Engine Shed kits, some lean-to structures were available as spares and one was added to the side of the wide span bus garage at the back of the yard.
This also provided a viewpoint for a stealthy bus spotter. Although made by Preiser in Germany, note the Dickie Bird style white cap that he is wearing!1950s style road signs are also now glued in next to Victorian gas style lamp standards giving a pleasant retro feel to the setting of a bus depot and lorry park not often used by the majority of the general public. Obviously things change as time moves on, but one of the delights of living and studying in York in the early 1980s was the amount of street level infrastructure that had not been modernised since the 1960s or even earlier.
Like most British cities, York was not designed to handle large quantities of cars and anyway as a student the only level of transport that I could regularly afford above Shank’s Pony was a bicycle. Luckily, as a young man I had what seems today like boundless energy and York was very bike friendly – a tradition that has been extended over the last 30 years.
As a result there were many interesting industrial and architectural locations that could be explored on two pedalled wheels. Here two student types with jeans, leather jackets and bouffants (They are from the Airfix RAF Personnel Set really) look over the depot wall.
This top shot captures Preiser workers as they move and unload spare parts. As discussed above, Preiser and Noch do at least offer a wider range of more diverse figures than Dapol, Airfix or Bachmann (the last mentioned also being supplied painted) but their downside is that they are often specifically German (for example, otherwise convincing modern fire fighters have “Feur” embossed on their backs) and they cost more per figure than the unpainted British alternative. naturally too they are made to the HO scale of 1:87 rather than the OO scale of 1:76Another feature of modern life not dreamed of in the 1950s was our collective power to take still and moving pictures and store them digitally rather than on expensive celluloid film or video tape. As a result, everyone has a camera on their mobile telephones and closed circuit television cameras abound on public and private property. In this case part of a broken N gauge street lamp used as one of the latest types of CCTV housThe park groundsman was created in a uniform inspired by the Ubico workers who look after Cheltenham’s Sandford Park although the figure itself was one of the chock-pullers from the United States Army Air Force Personnel set. This Airfix product was also the source of the garage mechanics used by Viking Vehicles. The petrol lawnmower harks back to Thomas Green and Company of Leeds, and the original hand powered lawn mower was invented in 1830 by Edward Bead Budding of Stroud, Gloucestershire.
The manager of Viking Vehicles now sorts out the MOT paperwork on a newly serviced Volvo while a Derwent Valley Light Railway fitter ponders a fox newly run over by Class 04 diesel mechanical locomotive Lord Wenlock. Although I did not have a brush small enough to apply tattoos, the ponytail of the manager still looks acceptable if worn with a smart, professional uniform
Meanwhile, the instructor in the rear seat of Short Tucano ZF290 has let his student fly a little low over an urban area on a training flight from Elvington. He still has the undercarriage down too!
Shorts S-312 Tucano T1 ZF290 has the Short Brothers Harland and Wolff serial number SO88/T61 and the type is primarily used by Number 1 Flying Training School based at Linton on Ouse north of York.
This model was skilfully created from the Airfix kit by Jet Age Museum modeller Ryan Wheatstone.
An overall gloss black scheme for RAF training aircraft has replaced the red and white of the Jet Provosts that I recall seeing low over York in the early 80s and despite having a turboprop engine the Tucano – derived from the original Brazilian Embraer Tucano – does a similar job. It takes potential fast jet pilots from the piston engined Grob Tutor and gives them around 130 flying hours before possibly going on to BAe Hawk T1s based at RAF Valley in North Wales. In 2019 the Tucano is set to be replaced by the American built T-6C Texan II but before that Linton on Ouse based 72 Squadron RAF celebrated its centenary in 2017 by painting one of its Tucanos in Battle of Britain era brown and green camouflage for airshow duties. Although 72 Squadron has had a long association with Gloster aircraft – having flown Gladiators, Meteors and Javelins – Tucano ZF378 was painted to represent one of the Squadron’s Spitfires. The name Enniskillen was painted under the cockpit canopy to indicate that funds to build the original Spitfire were raised by The Belfast Telegraph newspaper.