HMSW Centaur (1889)

Completed in May 2012.
Primarily plastic.
1/35th scale.

There's a few people out there who know that about a thousand years ago I used to write and play-test for some old pen-and-paper role-playing games. One of them was "Space:1889", an alternate-history Victorian Age space exploration game that had a lot of fabulously Steampunky technology and stiff-lipped Englishmen fighting Martians and all that. After being out of the writing scene for 20 years, I recently decided to try and scratch-build a Steampunk S:1889-style machine for the latest installment of the Prison Art Chronicles. To this end, I hereby present a 1/35th scale model of Her Majesty's Steam Walker Centaur.

I don't have any plans to work with, just going to wing it, so this might turn out to be a disaster, or it might be awesome, let's wait and see which one! I'm going for the look of an Imperial AT-ST two-legged scout walker as seen in Return of the Jedi, but Steampunk'd out, baby. Thanks to a certain Colonel O'Truth for inpiration as well, he's much better at this than I will ever be.

To keep the sizes correct during the building process, I've enlisted the help of Leftenant Chunky Chunkingsworth IV, Sergeant Pyle O'Clay, and Lance Corporal Lumpy MacBlobby, all of the Queen's Own Royal Martian Rifle Regiment. At 1/35th scale (2 inches tall), these three hearty soldiers will prove to be invaluable members of the construction team by standing next to stuff all day long and drinking tea. Once the Centaur is complete, they will bring it back to their regiment, hopefully in time for the Spring Offensive against the dreaded Hill Martians in the Electris Mountains. Must bring them Western Civilization, you know, whether they want it or not.

Some general notes on this entire project...

I'm going away from my usual paper and cardboard materials for this build and returning to plastic styrene, mostly because I hope to keep this one and plastic lasts longer and paints better. The majority of my plastic stock comes from some old scrap signage from the trash at work and a flexible plastic "For Sale" sign I bought for 97 cents at Lowe's. Once I cut all this up I will have a sufficient supply of plastic to use. Glues will be a variety of SuperGlues and the dreaded (but infinitely useful) E-6000 craft glue. I'll also be using some wood and bits of toys and such for various parts, maybe even some wire and clay. I even "borrowed" some of my kids' Lego blocks for a few purposes (don't tell!). The boxy body of the walker is made of cut up plastic signs, with some Lego blocks inside for support. The bottom is canted inward like a ship's hull and the nose is pointed and multi-faceted, better to ram Martian megafauna. Fitting tolerances are not my strong suit and gaps are common, but I was able to cover most of them up with strips of plastic.

The boiler is the cap off a bottle of Pantene hairspray that the wife was going to toss anyway and the funnel is the cap off a tube of Chapstick. Steam power is the hallmark of the Steampunk genre (obviously) and if I was doing this right there would be a lot of gauges and steam pipes and all that.

The 157 total rivets (also a requirement for Steampunk models) are actually sparkly iron-on plastic rhinestones affixed one at a time with superglue. Yes, me, a grown man, just spent three hours gluing rhinestones on to a model robot. That's a college education well spent...

The legs are modeled very loosely on those of the Imperial AT-ST walker from Star Wars and are made of those square plastic spoons you get when you order a McFlurry from McDonalds, with bits of plastic sourced from some scrap picture frame brackets and a broken kid's toy (one that I accidentally stepped on in the middle of the night). They are way, way too small and thin for the weight of the machine, but I do like the spindly look.

After some thought and some research online, I decided to add something cool to the walker in the form of a big-ass Gatling gun slung underneath the chassis. Mars, of course, is populated with all sorts of beasts and savage natives, and being able to introduce them to English culture and civilization via a barrage of 20mm cannon shells seems the proper Victorian thing to do. The design is a "creatively liberal interpretation" of an eight-barreled Colt Bulldog model from the 1870s, but with a belt-fed ammunition supply running up into that big box on top (which was originally just a cargo box but is now an ammo box). It's just a bundle of hollow coffee stir sticks glued to a chunk of dowel rod with a plastic back end and assorted Lego pieces for style.

And after adding a few bits and pieces here and there I think I'm done. I could spend a month adding/subtracting details to it but since it turned out to be not quite what I was expecting in the beginning, I think I will draw the line here. Before final assembly, I need to paint it all. I decided to use a modified Edwardian-era Royal Army earthtone tank paint scheme, just because it looks cool on any land machine. Paints are simple acrylics and weathering is done with dry-brushes and washes. Painting plastics is different than my usual paper and clay projects, but I enjoy a challenge.

And that's all! Total time to build was just about 12 hours or so, spread out over 9 days, a pretty easy pace. Total price was about 15 dollars, most of that spent on large Oreo Cookie McFlurries to get the spoons for the legs.

Below are the final pictures of Her Majesty's Steam Walker Centaur...

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