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Raise the Microtanic

3710 Views 29 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  taxi
Those of you familiar with the West Hamley Slot Car Club will know the picturesque river Ickx, which wends its lazy way through the village, flowing gently from Great Sheldon in the north to Pendle-on-the-Marsh in the south. Its proximity to the clubhouse, and the fact that it regularly freezes over in the winter, has led the members of the most famous ficticious slot club in the world to develop a unique and rather dangerous variant of their beloved sport. Ice slot racing is as exciting, and cold, as it sounds. For many years now, the Boxing Day meeting, held on the ice, has produced adventures beyond the imagination of most ordinary slot racers. The great freeze of '67 provided us with the first ice barbeque party, when sorbets, ice creams and fozen daiquiris were served to amazed spectators from a large cabinet freezer which stood, easily supported by the thickness of the ice in the middle of the river, while the race track itself wound its way between the banks. Then there was the invasion of asylum-seeking Inuit a couple of years later. Much of the sympathy for their just and humane cause evaporated amongst the local community when their sled-dogs relieved themselves on the pick-up braids, shorting the circuits and bringing that year's race to a premature end. When a missing Soviet nuclear sub raised its periscope through the infield during the 80s, many thought that the time had come to end the tradition altogether. Lives were being imperiled. One year, 'Lonely' Barry Organism had to be given mouth-to mouth rescusitation after a lengthy spell of marshalling at the 280 degree carousel turn. Continually twisting around on the same spot in order to rescue de-slotters coming from all directions caused him to inadvertently drill himself through the ice sheet, and it was only the astonishingly quick-witted intervention of a passing walrus that saved him from an icy demise.
But we at West Hamley are well-used to death- and violent death at that- in the pursuit of our beloved hobby. And tradition runs deep and strong amongst our membership, who still never fail to stand up when the national anthem is played at the West Hamley Gaumont. Well, you have to, actually. The manager, Lt-Colonel 'Buffy' Vampire, has wired the seats to produce a well-timed and painful electric shock at the end of the evening's programme.
So Ice-Slot Racing continues at West Hamley, a proud and unique event which will go on until Global Warming finally brings it to an inevitable end. But plans are already in hand for our slot Dune-Buggy course, so there is no fear of CFCs and leaded fuel for our noble lads.
Enough history already. You folks want technology, don't you? That's why you hook up to Slot Forum on a regular basis. Not this airy-fairy nonsense. So how does Ice Slot Racing work? Well- you start with a well-frozen river. A canal, lake lough or fjord will do, I suppose, but we in West Hamley only use the river. The ice thickness is determined by sending out the fattest member of the local community, prodded by long-handled pitchforks and lured from the opposite side by Mrs Howmet's hot Irish pasties, onto the river each morning until a dry bank-to bank passage is achieved. At that point, the track can be safely marked out and laid. Routing is done exactly as you would a wooden track, but it's much quicker. The routers can skid easily if not well restrained. But the channel is much wider than usual, since the slot itself is a pre-fabricated unit made from extruded plastic, with the contact braids embedded into side flanges. This provides a much more regular and drivable course than early attempts to lay the braids on the ice itself, and the slot, if cut directly in the ice, will quickly wear away from the rapid passage of guide shoes unless protected by the plastic liner. Traction technology has evolved and improved unbelieveably since the first tail-thrashing efforts of forty-odd years ago. And what odd years they were. Especially the psychedelic era...
Sorry. My mind was wandering. Anyway, today four-wheel drive is the accepted norm, no magnets (- Ice magnets? Duh! What were you thinking? Still reliving those 'odd' years, eh? Well pull yourself together). Traction is achieved by pushing panel pins through the tyres, from the inside. There is no limit to the number and length of pins you can use, but try to put too many in and the tyre tends to disintegrate. The length is directly related to the weight of the car, and this is a very fine balance, achieved only rarely by the most experienced and patient ice-racers.
Which brings us to marshalling. Most West Hamley members bear their scars with pride. The distinctive saddle-stitch lines up the inner arm are proof that they have served their time on the ice-course. When a flyer comes at you of the main straight, there is no time to duck. With four high-revving wheels radiating Boadicea-like needles, the pain is sharp, but quickly over.
But what a spectacle! When a full line up of eight cars spurts off the line, the wheels dig in and send up an ice-spray like an Arctic Storm. As each car slams around the winding course, quadruple plumes of frozen river-water follow like the fins of a 50s Caddy. At times the course becomes completely invisible, and the drivers, all equipped with goggles and oxygen equipment, drive entirely by feel and instinct. And none have better instincts than our irregular, but always welcome, winter guests.
Last year, anticipation was at an all-time high. The legendary man-mountain of the Yukon, the guy-glacier, the All-Canada unbeaten Polar Bear Wrestling Champion, inventor of the Absolute-Zero solid ice slot sled, the Jean-Paul Gautier of seal-skin fashions, one-man Mountie outpost and red-hot sex machine, Fergie of the North, was on his way.
And Sergeant Argent was spending every waking moment at West Hamley's 'Hairtrix' beauty salon.
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The last snows had fallen before Fergie was due to arrive. One evening Mickey 'The Michelin' Mann was dragged from his usual table at 'Grease-U-Like' and his all-day breakfast (literally- he'd been eating since 6 that morning), and successfully manouvred across the frozen River after only three attempts. Coxie Cooper-Archer gave his official verdict that the ice was thick enough, and started on the track design.
Sergeant Argent had other designs in mind.
It was a bittersweet moment when Fergie breezed in to West Hamley, trailing an icicle-encrusted entourage. Remembering to duck his head beneath the lintel, he grasped the diminutive sergeant to him in a terrifying bearhug. But that was the signal for Argent's welcoming party to begin. For several months he'd been working at Birgit's North Pole and Lapp Dancing club, located behind Leather World in the high street. At Birgit's, traditional Finnish entertainments were on offer in the front bar, but the more adventurous visitor with knowledge of the secret greeting, 'P-off', would be invited into the back room, where the girls danced around the pole and lap in quite a different manner. Argent had been training these charming ladies into a cheerleading team, whom he now proudly announced to his friends as the 'Hot Girl-on-Girl Action Lapettes'. And into action they went, in front of an astonished assembly of slot-racers. After twirling their pom-poms intricately for several tanatalising minutes, three young ladies formed up with their backs to the audience, and bent over to grasp their ankles. Promptly, two more girls clambered up on top, stood acrobatically, and leaned over in similar fashion. 'This is good- this is the girl-on-girl action bit' whispered a breathless Argent to a transfixed crowd. Finally, a sixth lady shinned up into pole position, and at a signal from the Sergeant, the whole team flicked the hem of their mini-skirts to reveal the letters embroidered on their smalls, which read;
It was a dramatic moment, which held everyone in thrall, while Fergie exchanged glances with his old friend, Segeant Argent.
'Thanks, pal' he said, a teardrop beginning to melt in the corner of his eye. 'But you know this sort of thing is wasted on me. A lot of water has frozen under the bridge since I was here last. Y'see, I'm a married man now. C'mere, kids.'
At that, five diminutive figures hopped off his sled and gathered round the great man. 'It's lonely out there in the Yukon, and a man needs company. We had a wonderful time while I was over here last, Sergeant, but that's all behind me.
A crestfallen Argent diminished visibly, and after some moments recovered enough to ask politely about Mrs Fergie, but the mountie refused to be drawn any further, other than an enigmatic comment about having won her in a fight. It did not go unremarked in the club, however, that each of Fergie's offspring had little black button snouts and beneath their seal-skin clothing were covered from head to foot in shining, silvery white fur.
'Hey, Sergeant. Get over it! When do we start racin'? The kids are dyin' to see their old man on the track. I brought over my latest, Ice-racer special. See here- it's carved outta solid narwhal tusk. Fitted with twin Falcon motors, both hooked up to the two axles. I spent the whole summer re-winding these darlins- in between helpin' the wife out with her new litter, that is.'
Argent choked back a tear, patted his bouffant back into shape, and ushered Birgit's girls back to the Lapp Club and some warmer clothing.
'No Fergie. No racing tonight. First, it's the annual West Hamley Ice Party. We're going to party like it's 1999. But I'll cancel the slow foxtrot I had planned for the end.'
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The next morning, every citizen of West Hamley felt like a bear with a sore head. But those are notoriously difficult to find on a Sunday in the home counties, so they made do with Alka-Seltzer on draft. It had been a memorable night, a suitable welcome for the lovable Canuck and his young family. But Sunday was qualifying day for the Ice Races scheduled to run all the following week. What everyone wanted to see was the performance of Fergie's Narwhal Special. Quite what it was a model of was unclear- maybe these Mounties ran all sorts of specials back home- but the local members were too polite to ask. Fergie could get anything through scrutineering with a smile, a quip, and a wave of his balled-up fists the size of small planets. But after the legendary performance of his sub-zero liquid nitrogen missile of several years ago, which showed such stunning but unfulfilled potential on the wooden club track, West Hamley was eager to see what the genial genius from ice-Station Zebra could do, undistracted by the winsome charms of Sergeant Argent. Word had spread like wildfire- Fergie was now a family man- settled down, focussed, no longer the wild and unpredictable racer of the past. This time they would see a real race on the ice.
Most of the cars that lined up on sunday morning were the usual sort of Ice-Racers- Lancia Betas, Land Rovers, Paris-Dakar Specials- that sort of thing. It was an open class, but open wheels were banned for obvious reasons. Those needle spiked ice tyres could do fatal damage outside of a wheel arch. You needed plenty of clearance under the bodywork, and LeMans prototypes were not really the thing. But Fergie's twin engined whittled-tusk monster stood out from the crowd, like some sort of Land-Speed record contender- ice-pick sharp in the nose, tapered and elongated body with a spiralling twist, and four big-foot wheels housed beneath tear-drop shaped pods suspended from each corner.
Fergie made his intentions clear from the off. No sand-bagging tactics from this guy. The thing took off like a pack of wolves across the icy waste of the frozen river Ickx. Plumes of splintered ice flew from the wheel housings, and with a howl like a wounded sea-lion, the car disappeared round the course, leaving the rest slithering in its wake. Clint Finger, the club's own hot-shot, looked grim. The long, long hours spent on his own, beautifully decorated but superbly tuned Bedford Mr Whippy Ice-Cream van, seemed immediately to have been a waste of time. But to lose out to Fergie the Man-Mountain was no dishonour. With shivering, wooly-mittened fingers, he plugged in his controller and set off on his own first exploratory lap.
Although Fergie had made it look easy, this year's course was a tricky one. The river had been full when the great freeze came, and the ice-sheet spilled over the banks into farmer Farmer's ripe manure fields on either side, offering an unprecedentedly vast course for the track. Coxie had responded magnificently by laying an accurate 1/32nd scale reproduction of the old Nurburgring- a challenge for any normal slot car, let alone ice-racers. The expected qualifying lap was in the region of fifteen minutes or so.
Fergie clocked in his very first circuit, with an untried car on a brand-new and previously unseen track, at ten minutes, twenty-five dead.
Beneath his tartan balaclava and ex-CND duffle coat, Clint Finger broke into a sweat.
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The pale blue and pink Bedford creamed off the line as the lights flashed to red. The tyre spikes dug into the fresh ice on cerise lane, and the frozen water cascaded over Clint's face leaving a curtain of icicles hanging from his eyebrows. But this model was packed with far more than strawberry mivvis. A rewound, ball-raced 26D mill was churning out the revs, and literally steaming round the circuit. Unsighted for a good part of the lap while the van was on the far bank, Clint drove like a man posessed. And turned in a time of 10.30.004. The news flew round the club. The race was on. Fergie had competition.
And it wasn't just Clint. After him came inspired drives by Inspector Thumb with his Police-liveried Transit van fitted with twin rear wheels, Coxie Cooper-Archer with his Baja Buggy, and at least four other club regulars who qualified well under the twelve minute bar, which seemed to separate the men from the boys.
With Fergie, Clint, Thumb and Coxie with byes into the main, the racing in the heats was furious, but not always fast. Throughout the week, marshalls were admitted to the local hospital in a steady stream, some with more than one ice-car firmly rivetted to uncomfortable parts of the anatomy by their piercing tyre-spikes. Lil Cooper-Archer found herself stitched inextricably into her off-the- shoulder gaberdine and fun-fur halter-top by a series of runaway sleds, one of which had to be removed from her perm by a specialist hair-doctor. One of the more enterprising lads had rented out his space at turn 257 as a cheapo body-piercing parlour, which required the client to bare that part of the body he or she wanted pierced and hold it against the edge of the track until the desired result was achieved. Many succumbed to severe and even fatal frostbite during the wait.
Still, the final rolled round in its relentless way. Headlined as the race of the century in the local paper, the trackside was crowded when Fergie and the other finalists lined up on the riverbank rostrum.
The atmosphere was electric. And bloody cold. So the flag went down without unnecessary delay, and the eight cars fled off into the icy mists. Ferie, with his height advantage, could see further than most, and kept control of his Narwhal Special for longer, but as they came back into view, he didn't have the dominating lead most expected to see. In fact, it was struggling. The gears were screaming in protest. Crabbing down the return straight, it was obvious that one motor had seized, and the other was fighting it, shrieking and tearing teeth off the contrate. But Fergie didn't know the meaning of defeat. He was a Mountie, born and bred. He kept that torpedo-sized thumb mashed down, and watched with everyone else as his Ice-Racer struggled to keep the pursuing pack at bay. As it passed the spectators, an ominous smell of scorched bone followed. That thing was overheating badly. Every man woman and child on the river bank was suddenly filled with nightmare images of the worst dental appointment they had suffered.
Still Fergie pushed it, round the Karousel on the inside lane. By now flames were licking at the rear wheel pods, flicking over the icy track as it went. As it neared the exit, an ominous cracking sound echoed over the river and fields- again not unlike the worst dental appointment you've ever had. But one or two marshalls knew what was happening. Fergie's car had melted the track, in the almost perfect circle described by the inside lane of the Karousel. Before the struggling car could reach the straight, the ice gave way, and the Narwhal Special disappeared beneath the choppy waters of the River Ickx, leaving nothing more than a faint feather of steam rising into the evening air.
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Everyone was momentarily stunned- racers and spectators alike watched the hole in the ice, speechless.
'Gee whizz, guys. I'm sorry. Looks like I wrecked your whole meeting'
Fergie was the first to break the silence.
'Gosh, no Fergie! We hardly ever get this far before the ice gives way. It's your beautiful car I'm worried about. That's a very deep part of the river, I'm afraid' said Coxie, to murmurs of approval and shared concern.
'I've got an idea!' Bruno elbowed his way to the river bank. 'Look- a handful of Fly super magnets on the end of a long string. We dangle it through the hole until it makes contact with Fergie's car, and pull it up- couldn't be simpler!'
No-one could think of an objection to that, and well used to Bruno's ingenuity, gladly gave him the responsibility of creeping out onto the rapidly cracking ice with his improvised slot-car recovery equipment.
As he sat cross legged by the hole, paying out the line as the magnets sank towards the bottom, Fergie's children let out a collective whoop of joy. 'Ice fishing! Poppa! Fish for tea!' Before Fergie could stop them, they were careening out onto the river, where they gathered in a circle around the ice-hole, peering intently into the dark water, with their front paws held out expectantly.
Bruno was a little unnerved by this, but he continued easing the string down into the depths. Then he felt a shudder on the line, and knew that he'd made contact. 'Hey- I think I've got it!' he yelled to the spectators on the bank.' 'Pull away, then!' replied Coxie.
Fergie's five offspring sat in their circle, patient, watchful and tense as Bruno braced himself. Who knows what they were expecting to come up. A brace of cod, a seal pup? Probably not an twin falcon powered ice-racing slot car fashioned from solid narwhal tusk. But Bruno was in difficulty. 'It won't budge. It's stuck fast. There must be something else down there!'
Fergie's cubs watched and listened, their glistening noses twitching. If the line wouldn't come up- well, they would go down. Spectators gasped as the five little figures reared up, sloughed off their seal-skins, and dived one by one through the hole in the ice.
'Oh my god Fergie! What can we do? They'll freeze- or drown- or both!' Lil Cooper-Archer wailed. 'Your lovely children- your poor wife- Gnnn.' She fainted clean out on the icy bank.
'Hell, don't worry 'bout them, M'am' said Fergie, gently slapping Lil's cheek with his fist to restore her circulation. 'We do this every day back home. It's how we get our supper. Those little critters swim like, well. I'm not sure quite what, but they don't seem to suffer from the cold any.'
Just then, one of the elder ones came loping up the ice, dripping water from it's downy white coat. It stopped and shook mightily from snout to tail- a short, stubby appendage which no-one had previously seen- spraying everyone with a fine mist of freezing rain. 'C'mon Floog! How many times I told you not to do that!' 'Aw sheesh, Pop. But come look. There's something big down there.' He- or-she spoke in a curious lightly-pitched bark. 'It's like a big boat. Your car is stuck in one of the funnels. Not many fish though.'
A light thud and a hiss drew everyone's attention to a slightly wizzened figure standing at the back of the crowd. The familiar curly briar pipe had fallen from 'Old' Alderman Oldsmobile's mouth. It lay in the snow, the last red embers of Onemore Shag tobacco fizzling out, while 'Old' stood, his lips flapping soundlessly, his rheumy eyes wide and flashing in the low rays of the setting sun.
Finally, the words came.
'God's teeth and buckets of blood! You've found the wreck of the Microtanic!'
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The light was going fast. There was nothing more that could be done that evening, so the whole crew retired to the Crown and Pinion. While Fergie's kids sat in the family room, entertained by Sergeant Argent's hilarious Judy Garland Karaoke routine, the rest of us gathered round Alderman 'Old' Oldsmobile's usual corner seat by the gas fire in the saloon bar.
'So, 'Old', tell us all about the Microtanic' said Coxie, taking charge as usual.
'Well, lads. It were many years ago. Before the West Hamley Slot Car Club was even a twinkle in your eye, Coxie, young feller. Late 50s it were. Can't be sure. Still, what we lads did have was a model boat club. West Hamley Yachts we called ourselves. Not sure why. Oh yes. Now I remember. Anyway. After the Festival of Britain and all that stuff, we were inspired to make something special. Something memorable. I forget what it was.'
'The Microtanic?' asked Coxie, encouragingly.
'Well bless me- how did you know about that, young whatsyername?'
It looked like it was going to be a long evening, until the barmaid, Polly Whoppers, brought 'Old' his medicinal brandy.
'Yesssssh. The Microtanic. It was old Muffy Diver's idea. A 1/32nd scale model of the Titanic. Live steam engine, hammered aluminium sheet over a hardwood frame. Wonderful. Kept us all out of trouble for months. Pathe News were there for the launch. Fanny Fitzsidesaddle, the toff totty from the Manor, broke a bottle of dandelion and burdock over the bows, and our Microtanic slid down the slipway into the River Ickx. Wonderful moment. I shall never forget it. Now what was I saying?'
'But what happened next?' asked Bruno, who was quivering with excitement at the thought of such a feat of model engineering. '1/32nd scale? It must have been huge!'
'No. You could get dandelion and burdock in half pint bottles.'
'No, the Microtanic, you old bu...'
'Well, it sank, didn't it? Or I wouldn't be telling you it was at the bottom of the river. Lost for half a century. Never thought I'd see the day....'
'You mean she went down straight after the launch?'
'Who, Fanny? But of course- why do you think we invited her? We were all queuing up behind the shed...'
'No no no! The ship!'
'What do you take me for, a fool? We built that ship properly. Utterly unsinkable, she was. Plied up and down the river from Gilham to Pendle, sometimes off along the canal for special days. The day she sank was tragic. You see, young Harold Hobbs thought of a way he could use it to advertise his new Hobby shop.'
'What- Harry Hobbs' Hobby Heaven that used to be in the High Street? I remember that!' said Coxie.
'The same. Only it was a brand new venture back then, and it very nearly didn't succeed. You see, Harry was waiting for his first shipment of stock from the factories. He was getting impatient, and needed a gimmick to get things off the ground. So he decided to get all his stock loaded on the Microtanic up in Pendle and sail it down the river. All the newspapers were taken with the idea. It was a cracking bit of salesmanship. But no-one expected it to hit an iceberg in the River Ickx. In July. A lot of people thought it was sabotage. Especially when it came out that none of the stock on board was for model boats. Nothing was ever proved, but 'Muffy' Diver didn't hang around afterwards. The entire cargo was all new-fangled rail-racing gear. And it all went to the bottom. Every last self-tapping screw and axle bearing. Y'see, the WHY was on it's last legs then. The local lads were getting more interested in fast cars than steamships and sailing boats. But nothing we could do could stop it. Even sabotaging our own boat. It was all insured, of course. MRRC got paid twice, because Harry promptly put in another order and had it brought in on the back of the Jaguar Race Team Transporter. Model car racing took off in West Hamley after that. The W.H.Y. was doomed, and the Microtanic has lain lost and abandoned on the river bed ever since.'
'Old' Oldsmobile began to weep softly into his brandy. His audience took long, thoughtful slurps on their beer, and everything went quiet, save for the soft his of the gas fire.
'Hell. There's no problem then!' Fergie's loud and heavily accented voice cracked the stilled atmosphere. 'Me and the kids know what to do. When you've hauled a coupla walrus outta the ice on a winter's night in the Arctic circle with your bare hands, like we do just about all the time, this is a picnic. Tomorrow- we raise the Microtanic!'
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'I'm not sure about all this' said Coxie after Polly had tucked Alderman Oldsmobile up in bed.
'I happen to know that Harry Hobbs never got any rail racing stock in his shop. It was only that dodgy Scalextric salesman that got him going- before that all he ever sold was embroidery kits and marquetry sets. Can we trust 'Old's memory? It could be tricky getting a boat that big off the river bed after fifty years...'
'It's there, man. My kids saw it under the water. And my Narwhal Special is jammed down the funnel. We'll get it up. You can trust me, I'm a mountie, and a mountie always gets it up.'
At daybreak the next morning, a fascinated crowd watched as the tow truck from Dishonest John's Cut and Shut Recovery and Quality Pre-Owned Automobiles Showrooms arrived. 'Hey- that's mine! It was nicked six months ago...' yelled Bruno, before a large hand reached around from behind him and pulled him sharply to the ground. But no-one noticed. The operation was underway. Fergie's kids, Floog, Ploog, Schmoog, Kwoog and Sebastian, as we had by now leaned to call them, had stripped down to their snowy white pelts, and were hauling large webbing straps onto the ice. As they reached the hole, which had developed a thin skin of freshly frozen water overnight, each slipped nose first into the chilly depths of the river Ickx. Lil had to be restrained. She still could not believe that Fergie's children could survive such an ordeal, and was desperate to call Childline. But Fergie was unmoved. 'They are not as other children, Mrs Cooper-Archer. They're Canadian!'
Lil did not have to wait long before, to the relief of herself and everyone else gathered on the bank, Little Floog remerged, bedraggled but happy. 'We got it Pop! We put those straps all around the big boat. Got me some nice pike, too.' One by one, Ploog, Schmoog, Kwoog and Sebastian re-emerged, wet but apparently unaffected by the freezing black waters- Sebastian seemed for an instant to have a large tailfin trapped in his teeth, but it had disappeared by the time he got to the bank.
'Right. Hook these straps up to the tow-truck, and start her up!' Fergie had assumed command of the situation. He was keen to get his Narwhal Special back.
The big V8 burped into life and rattled into gear, and Dishonest John's (well, Bruno's, strictly speaking- but with new paint and plates, who could prove it...?) truck began to grind slowly back from the river, the big snow-chains on the eight wheels biting into the slush.
The river creaked and groaned like a brontosaurus with a hangover. The webbing straps snapped taught like violin strings. The V8 throbbed and whined and began to emit serious amounts of smoke. Something huge was being dragged from the succulent mud of the River Ickx. Something huge and black that lay across the pure silver ice as the tow truck slipped into neutral.
'By the cringe! The Microtanic as I live and breathe. I never thought I would see the day. I recognise those funnels! I made them from corrugated steel we nicked from Farmer Farmer's roof. And the cabins! Sixty square feet of bakelite there is in there!'
'Old' Oldsmobile was in a sort of trance, muttering off a litany of dimensions and materials- he was reliving his youth, his golden days as the constructor of the largest model engineering project ever seen in West Hamley.
With fire hoses wiping away the mud, the ship beagn to assume it's full, magnificent shape. It certainly was the Titanic in miniature, although Bruno, who had by now struggled free from Dishonest John's henchman, was disputing some of the finer detail points.
But the sight didn't last long. Dishonest John had parked the truck too soon, and the Microtanic was balanced on the river bank. With the river mud washed away we could see that she was poised precariously on a ridge, and soon a dreadful hollow cracking noise issued from the mighty hull.
'No- no! save her!' Alderman Oldsmobile yelled.
But no-one could save her. The hull cracked in two amidships with a fearful explosion. 'Duff welding' muttered Bruno.
When the two halves of the boat settled back onto the bank, the massed crowds stood in disbelief.
The cargo hold was open and exposed. And full of oil-cloth wrapped crates. 'Salvage!' cried some opportunist, and the crowd began to run towards the wreckage.
'Wait- wait, please!' yelled Coxie. 'Let's sort this out in a civilised manner. There's plenty here to share.'
And indeed there was. The mythical cargo of rail-racing equipment, fresh from the factories of MRRC, Ks, Pittman, and others too many or obscure to mention, interrupted on their fateful journey to Harry Hobbs' Hobby Heaven, 27 High Street, West Hamley, lay before them. Fastidiously packed in layer upon layer of oil-cloth, grease-proof paper, varnished plywood and brass binding, the beautifully engineered accessories, kits and fully assembled cars emerged from their fifty year submersion as fresh as new. 'This is amazing! This is like Tutenkhamun's Tomb!' cried Coxie. 'Phil Smith would pay us a fortune for it.' said Bruno.
'The only appropriate way to deal with this is to set up West Hamley's first ever rail track' responded Coxie 'Think of it- All these gorgeous fifties cars in all their glory- racing as their makers intended them- brought back to life by Fergie and his wonderful children! Fergie- please- do us the honour of taking first pick from all this. Build a rail car and come back next year for the West Hamley Rail Revival Meeting!'
'Oh do- please do!' yelped Argent.
'Bring your wife- we'd love to see her!' said Lil.
A cold look passed across Fergie's face. He reached out and plucked his Narwhal Special from the forward funnel of the Microtanic. 'Not possible' he said gloomily. 'C'mon, kids. We're goin' home.'
'What do you mean, not possible?' asked a crestfallen Coxie.
Fergie raised his bleak face to the skies, and a black rage passed through him, his massive fists balling and thumping his temples involuntarily.
'Curse these damn quarantine laws!' he cried, and walked slowly across the snow, gathering his curiously shaped children to him one by one, back towards the Yukon.
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They were given away as Slot Forum prizes for a short while there, Doc, but proved not as popular as the three-armed sweaters. Transport problems the main issue; the Irish pastie has the gravy on the outside, making it a very slippery customer indeed.
Sorry I missed you at Goodwood. Mrs H was wondering about a franchise stand next year....
If there wasn't the danger of being sued...
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