Saturday, February 16, 2013

Steampunk Trains

Chris Walas' unique locomotive: The Jules Verne.

Ever hear of steampunk? Me neither, until recently. What about Steampunk trains? Same answer.

But then I was idly Googling the other day and came across a fantastical version of a locomotive that made me shake my head in disbelief and admiration . . . but before I get too far into the story, we first better talk about steampunk.

Steampunk is a literary subgenre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery from the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in a post-apocalyptic future—a time when steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.

(For an example, think of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies by director Guy Ritchie, which are filled with large, noisy, steam-powered machines, along with fantastic gadgets and inventions.)

But what about trains? That’s where Chris Walas comes in. 

The Captain Nemo.

As John Brownlee noted in Wired, “when steampunk crashes in head-on collision with model train enthusiasm, you get Chris Walas’ rusty, corroded and incredible creations.”

And what incredible creations they are! Walas’ unique large scale locomotives and rolling stock exist in a fictional world he calls Rogue County. It's a place where, as Brownlee notes, “19th century Americana meets the super-science villains, protagonists and inventions of Victorian literature.”

Armoured car.

For Walas, making steampunk-style model trains seems to be an extension of his working life; he’s a special effects designer and make-up artist in Hollywood, having worked on science fiction and adventure movies such as The Fly and Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

To make the locomotives, Walas uses various ready-to-find materials, combining them with model railroad items. 

The Tortoise.

For example, Captain Nemo's Seafood and Saltwater Salvage Railroad—which features a submersible locomotive—was made using the boiler from a Bachmann ten-wheeler, an Aristo-craft motor block, plastic Easter eggs, brass anchor, drinking straw and a seashell, among other things. (Click here to see more photos and learn how he made the Nemo.)

Riding in style!

For the Jules Verne, he used a USA Trains GP30 chassis, PVC pipe and gutters. (Click here for photos and a how-to.) A passenger car was made from a USA Trains four-bay hopper.

In addition to making steampunk-style trains, Walas also sometimes just follows his whimsy, making fantastical creations for his garden railroad—like the Crimson Herring pirate train, the Count Trackula Hallowe'en train, and Captain Delmar's Steam Tug locomotive.

The Crimson Herring 

The Captain Delmar.

Count Trackula.

Walas also makes more usual version of model railroad prototypes. But, as he points out, they end up being freelance interpretations because he "can't follow plans and need to make everything up as I go. That's just the way I work."

A more conventional locomotive.

It should be noted that Walas himself doesn't call his creations steampunk; it's others that are making the connection.But whether or not that's the intention, he certainly has created some fantastic steampunk-like models.

About his modelling, Walas says: “I finally realized that after years of fooling around in the hobby, what I really enjoy is adding some creative whimsy to the crowd . . . The best I seem to be able to do is to make ‘something like’ what really existed; but I still have more fun designing and creating silly stuff!”

To see more of the amazing and inventive work of Chris Walas, visit his website. 

The Racket.

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