It is 15th of July 1963, the day after Bastille Day in Nouvion.
Nouvion is an award-winning model, winning first prize in the competition it was built for.
It has also been featured in a published book of the best small railroad models, collected from around the world.
Nouvion in Normandy was of course made famous in a British television sitcom which chronicled the exploits of the local French Resistance in the Second World War.
Café René is famed for its Bertorelli Italian ice cream and infamous for its weak German beer, Gruber Lite.
The Leclerc family, erstwhile forgers of Nouvion and masters of disguise, now operate an almost legal printing business based in a railway arch.
Denise Laroux, ex-head of the Nouvion West Sub-area of the Communist Resistance and old school friend of René, is now a respected local politician. She was recently re-elected as mayor of Nouvion Town Council.
Michelle, formerly of the Resistance, now runs a small fromagerie.
Fairfax and Carstairs, the British airmen, having finally escaped to England, returned to Nouvion after the war and reopened the (extremely) narrow gauge railway linking the Nouvion quarry behind the château with the Nouvion et Normandie Chemin de Fer.
Fairfax usually drives a small petrol locomotive with its tipper wagons and Carstairs is responsible for the loading of the stone into the metre gauge wagons of the NNCF.
Officer Crabtree, ex-British Ontilligence Officer, finally mastered all aspics of the French longwodge and having been fully trooned to piss as a native remained in the Gendarmerie. He usually works the moaning shift and can often be found patrolling the rolway yoad.
The Long Distance Duck unfortunately failed in its mission to walk to England with secret messages and returned to Nouvion to be adopted by Yvette. Descendents of the Long Distance Duck can often be seen and heard around the café.
This 1/24 scale model was built for the Chelmsford Model Railway Club’s ‘French Connection’ competition, as a joint father-and-son effort constructed in lieu of progress on other modelling projects.
It was awarded First prize.
The model was featured in the US publication ‘Small Layout Scrapbook – Model Railroading in Very Small Spaces,’ with our thanks to the Late Carl Arendt.
Our interpretation of the competition theme, ‘Narrow gauge, no larger than an A2 sheet of paper’ was to go large scale and build high, as there was no restriction on these dimensions. G-scale within an extremely limited space would provide a light-hearted challenge in between work and studies.
It is still not clear when we settled upon the theme but it soon became apparent that it suited our purposes perfectly, as well as allowing us to reminisce over a classic TV comedy.
The metre-gauge (G-scale) wagons, whilst of indeterminate Chinese origin, appear suitably continental to our eyes. Repainted and lettered, they represent stock of the fictitious NNCF narrow gauge railway.
The Gn15 scale loco and stock are mainly scratchbuilt from tinplate and the spares box. The loco is powered by a Tenshodo SPUD and the automatic operating tipper wagons are built on OO gauge Bachmann coach bogies. Track is by Peco, ingenious automatic uncoupling by sticky tape.
All buildings are scratchbuilt; brickwork and stonework is appropriately Plaster of Paris, cast in homemade moulds with details from wood, card, wire and plastic. Weathered bespoke signs aid the effect.
Vehicles are modified from an out-of-production Airfix plastic kit which took some finding. The conversion to form Michelle’s van has resulted in an accurate model of an early 2CV Cammionette.
The scene’s protaganist and friends are lovingly moved onward almost 20 years:
- René, café proprietor and hero of the French Resistance – modified LGB model
- Yvette, waitress and partner of René – her appearance owes much to tissue paper, PVA glue and not a little makeup
- Officer Crabtree – modified plastic model of unknown parentage
- Fairfax, driver of the Gn15 loco – much-modified LGB model
- Carstairs, supervises the loading of the metre gauge wagons – LGB model
- Young René, seen clearing up following last night’s celebrations – LGB model
- Michelle (of the Fromagerie) – much-modified LGB model
- The Long Distance Duck – appears courtesy of a Lego mechanism.
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