A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 2 October 2017

Of Young & Fogg, and Aromatherapy, and Other Things

Topic 1: Young & Fogg.

Here are a couple of well-known - nay, historic - wargaming photos from the days when the whole world was still black and white. What common element is in both these pictures?

Yes - well done at the back, there - the buildings are from a fondly remembered range marketed by Triang, which was most famous because they were made of rubber.

Clive, the celebrated Old Metal Detector himself, has a collection of these splendid little buildings, and there are some fine pictures on his blog [click here].

So who were Young & Fogg? Well, they were a firm specialising in the manufacture of rubber items, who were taken over by the Triang company in the late 1950s. The first result of this acquisition was a range of rubber buildings to suit Triang's Spot On range of 1/42 scale diecast vehicles (the range is attractively described here, on a link provided, once again, by Clive); shortly afterwards, the more famous, HO model-railway-sized Countryside Range appeared, which lent itself more comfortably to gaming scales.

I remember these very clearly - my model railway days were over when they appeared, but I was very taken with them - especially the church. I never had any. The most pleasing thing about them was that they didn't look like other model buildings - model buildings mostly had very straight corners and bright colours, and didn't really resemble proper houses. The Triang rubber houses had cheerfully quirky designs - Cotswolds meet the Brothers Grimm - and had a nicely distressed, rounded appearance. The one feature which was a problem in the long term, of course, was the material of which they were made. Rubber grows old and perishes. The reason you see so few of these on eBay is because they have mostly rotted and been throw away.

I acquired one of the churches last year, or maybe it was the year before, as a makeweight in a job lot purchase from eBay. It wasn't an important element in the purchase, and I was expecting it to be a wreck. It pretty much was a wreck, too.

The rubber had dried out and cracked and twisted - never mind - I stuck it at the back of a shelf somewhere and vaguely thought I might have another look at it some time.

Now this week, I came across the Donald Featherstone picture at the top of this post, and I thought, righto - let's have another look at that rubber church.

Well, it's pretty awful. It should probably just go in the dustbin. However, since I am a madman I did some online research, and it seems that rubber can be softened by immersion in various brews, and the strategic ingredient in these concoctions is Oil of Wintergreen. Hmmm.

Thinks (this should be read in Bluebottle's voice, from the Goon Shows):

(1) I could purchase some Oil of Wintergreen and maybe a few other cheap constituents, and I could stew my church in this for a while.
(2) It would lose it's paint, but when it was softened I could pack it with bits of wood and whatever else was needed to train it back into a church shape.
(3) Leave it to cure and then refinish.
(4) Be the envy of my chums (if I had any).

I'm not fired up into any state of fevered excitement. The first snag is that Oil of Wintergreen is not available in bath-sized containers, as far as I can see. It is prized in the purple world of aromatherapy [ah yes, quite so], and thus it retails in poncey little 10ml bottles, with an eyedropper and an art nouveau label. The prices are not amusing, either.

Which brings us up to date. Has any devoted collector of these rubber buildings ever attempted a makeover of this type? Any views or war narratives which might help?

All advice will be most welcome. In my heart I fear my little rubber church is, to use a technical term, knackered.

Topic 2: Who's this then?

Here are two Napoleonic-period British light infantry officers. Like me, you may feel that you have seen this pair appearing as a comedy act at a seaside theatre. The one on the left is clearly from Les Higgins, and he is there simply to provide a scale comparison. What is the one on the right? He is obviously one of André Maurois' Filifers. This casting is of a very gangly officer - one of his feet is interestingly strengthened by placing it in a clump of grass. I have some ideas about his origins, but would welcome some better informed views.

Any ideas?

Topic 3: Luddites' Cup - Inverted snobbery in the world of Tech.

Here at Chateau Foy we attempt to strike a balance between our love of the venerable traditions of our stately home and of our uncomplicated, rural life and the heady excitement of the rush of modern technology advance.

Overall, we probably tend to be just a little reactionary - I am subjected to much scorn from my son, for example, simply because I cannot see any point in being able to take photographs with my razor, nor watch movies on the tumble dryer. Some element of versatility in my assembled gadgetry is welcome, but I find too many examples of solutions in search of a problem to solve.

Now the Contesse has a Kindle Fire, which she uses to - any guesses? - yes, that's right - she uses it to read e-books. Good. It would, of course, be possible to distract herself while she was reading e-books, by also using it to check continually if she has any email - this is always a good way to avoid coming face to face with the exact dimensions of one's attention span. But she does not normally do this; however, the other night she decided to make use of the Fire's internet capability, and check her social media accounts. She received the warning screen shown below, with which we are delighted. This must get us straight through into the group stages of the European Luddites' Cup, surely?

What a fine achievement. Our son may be too ashamed ever to speak to us again, which is not an unattractive idea.


  1. Got one of those rubber buildings from a car boot sale very cheaply however was very perished and crumbled to bits (shades of Curse of the Mummy films ) when I tried to glue it to a baseboard to preserve it's shape

    1. That's a sad story - it's sort of comforting, in the sense that we do not suffer alone, but the ending is sad. It's the brief spell of hope which makes it so painful. We should pretend we don't care, and then just quietly buy one in good nick. Faith - that's it.

  2. That takes me back. When I started my first job at age 16, I was chatting to one of the lads at work about wargaming and he said he'd like to try it. He had some scenery stuff that might be useful, he said, from his old model railway. That rubber church appeared on the table in every game we did back then. Now 40+ years later, he's still one of my closest wargaming mates. I wonder if he still has the church?
    Congratulations at getting on Team Ludd. I've actually got one of those Fire panjandrums - we got it for my old Mum to check her emails but she couldn't get on with it. She passed both the machine and the inability to use it on to me.

    1. Check up on your mate's church - I think you should. Team Ludd - I don't feel like a Luddite, really, but it is a fact that we are quite happy justing using my wife's Fire to read Kindle books. It will, of course, do quite a number of other things (though some of them not too well, as you may testify), but we don't actually care. Similarly we could crack walnuts by driving a Ferrari over them, but we don't bother. Fit for purpose - in a day when Renaissance man would be booed off the stage, why are we fascinated by Renaissance devices?

  3. I knew there had to be at least one other person beside me who was fascinated by these buildings. I wrote an article which I submitted to the much lamented Battlegames and Henry Hyde told me the subject was too esoteric for his readership. Esoteric!! can you conceive of such an attitude? I can add a few details which your readers may not believe but I am certain are true.

    Triang took over Fogg and Young without any idea of why they wanted the company or really of what the portfolio of products consisted. The main output of Fogg and Young were rubber 'squeaky toys' The sort of thing that are sold as pet toys nowadays but back in those more innocent days kept us amused for days at a time.

    If you look at the buildings the resemblance to squeaky toys is unmissable. I think the buildings were produced for as less than four years, but since they are virtually indestructible many survived.

    Which brings us to the leaching plasticiser. It was a common problem in fifties plastic, if you drove a Rover car you could buy a rub that kept the dashboard from disintegrating (presumably when you struck it in fury at the behaviour of other road users). While in theory it would be possible to restore them, in practice I have never heard of a way to make this happen and I suspect that once cracked and crazed they are close to a crumbly end.

    On a more positive note, reshaping the buildings is possible. I take these instructions from the Triang Collecters Group and must say I have not tried them yet. But they are reliably reported to work.

    The Rubber has a memory which caused it to spring back when chewed etc. and it still wants to do that it just needs a little help as do we all after sixty years.

    Take a bowl of very hot but not boiling water and immerse the building in it for a minute, take it out and gently help the building back into shape with your fingers. BE CAREFUL it is easy to poke a hole in the wall. Pack with tissue paper and leave to reset.

    Interestingly there are cheap Hong Kong rip offs of the farm buildings around, sold as part of a play set with animals etc. They are cast in thin hard plastic and while not as detailed as the originals are still in great condition.
    detailed have survived in

    1. John - This is a remarkable piece - thanks for this. I shall try the hot water treatment - I wonder if a little aromatherapy first would help.

      I am delighted with the connection with squeaky toys - that gives me the same kind of vague pleasure that I derive from the knowledge that our beloved garden birds are tiny dinosaurs - it just seems right - poetic. It's a pity that Triang didn't commission the buildings with squeakers fitted - maybe they did - or maybe Y&F assumed they were expected, and the first run had them. They'd be worth a bit now.

      Esotericism is in the eye of the beholder. I would have found that interesting, but Henry obviously has definite view on editorial policy. Not too long ago I worked my way through his Compendiem (well, most of it) and found that it contained a lot of things which were fairly obvious, explained at great length. Thorough, undoubtedly, and definitely with a low esotericism quotient - that must be how he likes it.

      If you hear no more about my crumbly church, you may assume it died - unless, of course, it's demise is childishly amusing, in which case I shall you tell you all about it, in detail.

    2. John, that piece on Triang houses might b just the thing to resurrect in The Wargamers' Notebook (hint, hint).

      Best Regards,


    3. Hera him, hear him.. yes please on that article.. grand idea, Stokes...

      I am inordinately proud to say I own the forge, and I also have two (uncrumbly) haystacks which until now I had no idea were part of the same range...

      By the by, I also have absolutely no idea how long I've had them ("forever") or how they came into my ownership!

  4. I managed to pick up 3 of the rubber buildings this year. I am still after the church.

    There is another common element in the 2 pictures. They both feature Spencer Smith plastic figures.

    1. Well spotted Mark - you win the squeaky toy.

      I like these buildings, but they are a bit large for my normal use, since I like my buildings 1-size-down. But they really have character - yes, that's it.

  5. The lanky LI officer looks like an early Hinchliffe casting to me. I am sure I have one somewhere. I will see if I can dig him out.

    1. Good shout, Sir - I'd originally thought Hinchliffe, but there aren't many Hinch models I haven't seen, and this is unfamiliar. One of my email contributors is convinced it's Tradition - I would have expected a distinctive base for Tradition. I'd welcome your confirmation.

    2. I can confirm that this is a Hinchliffe figure, the base on my sample has been filed, but I can make out the Hinchliffe logo and a number 4, maybe 14 or 41? He has the same tuft of grass on his right foot.
      I can see how he could be mistaken for a Tradition figure, as the pose is very similar, but the tradition figure does not have the bent legs and is slightly larger - I have one of these too.

    3. Thanks Bob - appreciated.

  6. Only today I wandered into a local model railway exhibition, and some chaps there had a display of old Tri-ang model trains and accessories. Right in the middle was one of those churches, which had shrunk and twisted in a very similar way to yours. I'm afraid I didn't ask if it squeaked, though.