This was around 1964, long before electronic games hit the shops. Instead we had to combine three-dimensional objects with lots of imagination. Shortly after, Rovex (the company behind Tri-ang Hornby) did cotton-on to the demand for drama by bringing out some items of fictional military rolling stock. Called ‘Battle Space’, the range included spring-loaded missile launch wagons, a box car which exploded while on the move; another had a pop-up sniper in the roof. There were working searchlight wagons and low-loaders from which a helicopter or satellite would take off. Mates and I set up scenarios such as our train patrolling the West German border and being hi-jacked by the Soviet enemy (the Berlin Wall had yet to fall). Grandad’s enthusiasm grew with mine, his police pension regularly being stretched to the limit in Seymour’s model shop at Harrow-on-the-Hill (no bargain eBay purchases then). I was devastated when he died suddenly aged 70.
In later years. whenever I was travelling on business I went by train if possible: it was interesting checking out the pubs and refreshment rooms on the stations. Many hailed from the early days and were very ornate, though run-down. It was the era before today’s real ale and craft beer revolution. Today historic stations have been smartened up but even a decent coffee was hard to find back then.