Small(ish) Big One
These days I don't of course build anything unless it's wearing British, or at least Commonwealth, roundels, and not if it needs a shelf space or at least storage box bigger than that suitable for a 1:72nd Canberra; among itts other qualities this reduces the number of decisions I'm called upon to make when drafting - or more likely changing - the necessary Master Plan. So when Mel Bromley approached me in February at the Shuttleworth model event with a box holding the the resin bits for an aircraft well-known for its civil registration and with a wingspan very close to that of the B-36, of which the prototype was a contemporary, I raised at least one eyebrow in a significant manner and even though it was in 1:144th declined his thoughtful suggestion.
My mistake was before going home that day that I looked at the several pages of instructions, one of which in particular showed the first prototype in its equally famous Hangar surrounded by a small crowd, many of them with Hats and some children, and wearing a "D-type" roundel and fin flash and the serial VX206. Now this came as news to me and to the two or three SIG members, and our discussion - there's always a discussion! - gave rise to the possibilities of a concoctable backstory which by the end of the afternoon had coalesced in to the carrying of troops to Cyprus in July or August 1956, therefore avoiding the need for "Suez stripes". After unloading the models on arriving home there was an immediate hunt for a) the Warpaint on the Avro York (No.98) and b) Bruce Robertson's British Military Aircraft Serials (1967 edition). The first had details of the many Yorks that were used for trooping that year, and to that end were required by the Egyptian government to have a military appearance, carrying roundels and a serial and, I understand, for the crews to wear RAF uniform; the name of the company would also be evident. The Robertson revealed to my surprise that the second prototype was also allocated a serial by the Ministry of Supply, which is the one I've used on the model; I did not try and replace the coupled-Centaurus installation for that of the coupled-Proteus that was planned, which would have involved altogether too much modelling.
The castings were with one exception very good, large and therefore heavy; the instructions note that the undercarriage is slightly oversize to cope with the weight, but it doesn't look wrong when in place. The windows are slight oval depressions in to which to fit the decals supplied - which thoughtfully include a few extra - and as you can see are not all on the same level. One of the possible sets of decals is for an early white-top Speedbird scheme and I used this as a guide for applying the white top; this has the unexpected bonus of making the whole aircraft look more elegant than I remember it, and the nose profile to look somewhat Comet-like. The colour scheme is taken directly from that of the profile of a Hunting-Clan York in the Warpaint which has a dark green cheat line; I had planned to use a decal strip for this, but changed my mind on the theory that even with the long fuselage delicate use of masking tape and theraputic application of Tamiya XF-24 deep green would be straightforward. Good theory, bad outcome, the result being somewhat ragged and untidy, even with several attempts at correcting the edges; had it been a model of less consequence and cost I would have had the staff wheel it quietly in to the darkest corner of a dusty hangar and throw a tarpaulin over it. Besides, having failed to find any Hunting-Clan decals - roundels and serial were simple - I had gratefully accepted the kind offer by the Venerable Kit Spackman to reproduce the company logo and a couple of small markings from the colour profile (page 43), and I really wanted to see them all come together. One of these is the small rectangle just above the fin flash which I took to be a civil air ensign variant of the Merchant Navy's "Red Duster", and I'd appreciate any confirmation or correction.
I arranged with Kit to take delivery of the decals at the Cosford show, and took the Brabazon in its almost-finished state to put on the What If? stand; it drew quite a lot of attention just by being there and in military markings, and gave me the opportunity to rehearse the back story, and even embellish it a little. One of the sightseers commented vocally and at strength five with his seriously adverse opinion of the Brab's paintwork and was I think, and hope, taken aback when I identified it as mine and agreed with him that it did show up a lack of skill which I think I had once - maybe even twice - but which, assuming I ever did have it has like much else been more than a little eroded. Once home the rest of the decals were applied, with the airline titles by entrance doors so the squaddies on the way to some self-inflicted sunburn knew who to blame for the cabin service. I have also replaced the original propellors; the castings that came with the kit were not up to the standard of the rest of them, most with very thick blades which resulted in much whittling and sanding - another lost skill! - and breakage with consequent repairs verging on modelling. Mel Bromley kindly sent me a replacement set which were cast much better, and by holding my breath and being a liitle more patient than customary these are now safely in place.
In spite of the (justified) remark on its finish I'm both pleased with the overall result and happy that's it's done; it's taken up more time than I expected given the limited number of parts - this attribute is becoming of increasing importance! - and has nudged other smaller if not similar ideas to the edge of the workbench, though two or three should be on the Workbench page .
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