Modelling Andre Norton’s “baldie” starship

The “baldie” starship trapped in Arctic ice from Andre Norton’s The Time Traders. (Robin Rowland)
The “baldie starship” at an alien base from Andre Norton’s Galactic Derelict. (Robin Rowland)

Almost all the model starships on the market today come from either Star Wars or Star Trek, with a few from the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Some speciality hobby stores both brick and mortar and online do offer some “vintage” kits. Even on Shapeways, the online marketplace for 3-D printed models,  the offerings are almost all Star Trek or Star Wars.

Yes as you can see from this site, I do model Star Wars and I have some Star Trek models on my to-do list.   A few months ago I decided it was time that my favourite science fiction author as a kid, Andre Norton, received some modelling tributes.

I decided that my first Andre Norton project should be from the first Norton science fiction novel I read when I was 13, The Time Traders.   (which became a series of novels )

The Time Traders, first in the series,  was written in the fifties at the height of the cold war.  The basic premise  is that the Soviet Union finds an alien starship preserved in the Arctic ice cap and starts using that technology (at the time of the so-called, later proved to be non-existent “missile gap”) and the United States must counter the Soviets.

Both sides some how, it’s never explained,  develop time travel and in a time travel arms race send agents back in time to various ages when the aliens later dubbed the “Baldies” were active on Earth. The “Baldies are alien pale, white, hairless, alien humanoids.

Norton only described the starship as spherical.  And various cover artists had their own interpretations of the ship trapped in ice. Every cover is different,  unlike movies or television where the design is fixed, so that gave me a little flexibility.

 

Time Traders paperback cover.
Time Traders hardcover cover.

So I decided to start  with an N scale propane tank model from my  model railway days ( I may try other approaches to baldie ships in the future)

I then added a bridge similar to the first cover, using a manufacturers container for contact lens (which didn’t work out as well as I had hoped) and stand/main engine from a bottle top.

 Once the model was complete,  I took it out into the snow of my front yard.

Perhaps this is how a 1950s helicopter might have spotted the Baldie ship in the thinning Arctic Ice.
And this is what the helicopter crew might have seen as they go down for a closer look. (Robin Rowland)

Of course I couldn’t leave the model out in the snow. So I created a base using another cover, from the novel Galactic Derelict.

Landing on an alien base.
Another view of the starship

There are a couple of differences here.  In Galactic Derelict the spherical ship is a scout, capable of holding perhaps up to five humans/humanoids.

It is discovered in the American west during the Palaeolithic when there is still volcanism in the Rockies (at least in the novel) and during an attempt to bring it forward to twentieth century time, instead it sends the crew on a journey across the galaxy and back.  In the several thousand years the “Baldie” civilization has collapsed and one of the bases the Terrans visit is a refueling station that, luckily still operates.

So in this case the model remains the full size starship. not the scout. The landing zone is a container for frozen meat pies.  The “tower”  really should be further away. Once again I used two toothbrush containers glued together,  then add details from scrap.

To match the cover, I photographed the base in available light late on the afternoon of April 1.   Also there are images of the model in full light to show more details.

The Baldie ship at the refueling base (Robin Rowland)
The “tower” at the alien base. (Robin Rowland)
A closer shot of the “Baldie” ship after landing at the base (Robin Rowland)
The base in full light. (Robin Rowland)
The tower in full light (Robin Rowland)

Weathering the Apalon Bridge

 

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I have completed the basic layout for the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai railway. Before I glue down the track, the bridges have to be built. The first bridge is the simplest, a two-span deck plate bridge on three concrete piers.


The
prototype

The prototype is the Apalon Bridge, about 25 kilometres inside Burma, beyond Three Pagoda Pass, at the 335 kilometre mark from the railhead in Thailand. John Stewart described it in his book To the River Kwai Two Journeys 1943, 1979, when he visited the bridge on his return journey. At the time it had been abandoned for 35 years, and at that time, appeared to be intact, but appeared to be
freshly painted a dirty shade of red, like coagulated blood. From close up, it is revealed to be nothing but deep rust which Stewart says contrasted sharply with the pervasive greenness of the
jungle. Aphotograph shows thick jungle right up to the edge of the pylons on either bank.

Alternate world

This project is more of an alternative world, the term taken from speculative fiction than the pure model railroading freelance.  In this alternative world, the railway was not abandoned; instead it becomes a mainline route from China and Southeast Asia, as well as traffic between Thailand and Burma as well as the local runs. However, in the post-war world, there is a minimal budget, and so far, in the period 1946-1947, the maintenance on the hastily built railway is concentrated near the railheads and high traffic areas in Thailand and Burma. The border region that I am modeling is on the list but at the bottom. So the bridge can be described as neglected, and I have weathered it, as it would have been in either world in 1946 or 1947.


A note on construction


In the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway, the wooden bridges, ties (sleepers) and telegraph poles were made from local insect resistant tropical hardwoods, mainly teak. At least during the
period of the Second World War, creosote was not available and not used. That means the traditional methods of staining or painting both the wooden trestle and the ties do not apply on this railway. Teak and other hardwoods were used, usually untreated, for many years after the Second World War across Southeast Asia. Later various forms of anti-insect treatments were used. Today it is more common to use metal and/or concrete for bridges and poles.


The model

The original model is made from two Kato N Scale deck plate bridges with Kato pylons. There is a close resemblance to the original Apalon bridge



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The pylons

I came upon a method of creating neglected or decaying concrete purely by accident. I was testing
Krylon All Purpose White Primer #41315 on some scrap styrene. The result was a powdery cracked white, not all suitable a primer, but perfect for crumbling or neglected concrete.

First I sprayed the three pylons with Krylon primer. Once it was dry, I applied a wash of Polyscale Concrete, allowed it to dry and then applied two more washes.

The level of the Kwai Noi varies from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour. Flooding is frequent during the rainy season. So how to create flood/mud stains on the pylons? So I tried an experiment, I created a bath of artists acrylics (raw umber and raw sienna), and mixed it so it actually had a consistency of mud. I left the three pylons outside in the sun, which reduced the bath and left a stain, then transferred the pylons to my work bench, where the remainder of the paint bath evaporated over three days, leaving an authentic looking stain.

After the mud stains were dry, I applied artists pastel chalks, first some raw umber followed, in the tropical environment with a bright Phthalo Green, an Olive Green and then a mixture of the two. The
final chalks were Black, Mouse Grey and a mixture of both. The final step was a Krylon matte spray to fix the chalks and remove any sheen.

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The track I have already run experiments with spare Kato Unitrack and Atlas Snaptrack. Both have ties that are too dark to match tropical hardwoods. As is widely recommended, I coated the
rails with oil before each painting step.

What worked best was Krylon Satin Almond spray #42327, which creates a dull grey-brown finish. The second step was also an experiment. I had successfully tested Home Hardware Teak wood stain on bass and balsa wood prior to building the trestle bridges.

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So I brushed the ties with the teak wood stain”and that worked, bringing out the details of the ties and adding a teak-brown tone to the grey from the spray.

However, this technique works best on track without a built-in roadbed, since the stain tends to bleed into roadbed. (I am working on a couple of other techniques with the Unitrack) I then painted individual ties with a variety of washes from Polyscale D&RGW Building Brown, Depot Buff and Mud, adding a smidgen of Box Car Red now and again. The guardrail and the sides of
the rails were painted with Polyscale Rust.

I added a wash of rust on the central walkway. It was chalk pastels that made all the difference. First was for rust, Caput Mortuum Red, Indian Red, Permanent Red Deep and Raw Umber (and mixtures of those shades). There were several different shades of Raw Umber in Curry’s Artists Supplies in Toronto, so I used those to add a general aged appearance. As with the pylons, I used my selection of green to add some hint of the jungle, followed by greys and blacks.

 Kato calls the colour of the deck plate grey. But it was actually a grey green that was perfect for my needs since it closely resembled camouflage paints, likely the only paint available in the
region at the time anyway. I used a small sculpturer’s pick to distress parts of the bridge, weakening some of the side rails and poking some small holes, which could have come either from allied
strafing or just general wear and tear. Again I started with wash of Polyscale Rust, followed by a mixture of Rust and Building Brown, but largely left well enough alone.

The main step was a heavy application of pastel chalks, several of mixtures of a rusty orange, followed again by greens and finally by blacks.

Finishing

All the elements were sprayed with Krylon matte finish, to seal the chalks and to remove any remaining plastic shine. I gave the Kato unijoiners a thin wash of concrete, and added
a black gantry support in the middle, that I may use for a telegraph pole or just leave as is.

Next step The next step is
the first trestle bridge.

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