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Pedrail Landship - The first ever tank…...well, nearly. Gorby gets seriously scratchy again.

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We all know what the first ever tank was, but it nearly wasn't.

In 1915 development started in the British Big Wheel Landship project, oddly enough proposed by the Royal Naval Air Service. There were two main designs, one had a wheeled chassis and the other had tracks. This is the design for the one with wheels:


Nope, I'm not building that. Other than a wooden mock-up, it didn't progress beyond the design phase.

The one with tracks actually got built (I like the idea that the Royal Naval Air Service proposed a big wheel landship which had tracks. Looks like the had less grip on sanity than me). It didn't help development when the design brief kept changing. It started off as a machine to transport troops and weapons across the battlefield. Then it became a mobile fort; then back to an armoured personnel carrier to transport a trench storming party of 50 troops; then they decided they wanted a fully gunned-up monster tank; at several points in this farce it was intended to be a mobile flamethrower ….and then they lost interest entirely. The design was getting too complex, the prototype wasn't preforming very well and by then Little Willie was showing the big boys how it should be done.


Initially the vehicle was intended to be 10 meters long and be in one single unit but when the designer, Colonel Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton (why don't we get names like that any more?) visited the battlefields, the Mk.II vehicle became two identical units hinged in the middle, although still ten meters long.

A prototype was built based on the Mk.I design:

1479819130_pedrail-landship-1.jpg    1479819124_pedrail-landship-2.jpg

I'm not building that either.

The tracks were a complicated affair. The English designer Bramah Joseph Diplock, rather than being the nutty fruit-cake that I'm normally drawn to, was a gifted inventor. He patented a design for tracks in 1899, intended for traction engines called 'Pedrail' which is what first attracted the attention of the War Office. The pedrail system looks quite complicated compared to the early caterpillar linked tracks, which was also part of the reason for the failure of the program.


What I am attempting to build is the fully gunned-up monster tank design:


As often with the things I build, I'm going to have to make stuff up assumptions as the designs and photos aren't very clear or detailed. For example, if you look at the illustration of the Pedrail tracks you can see that it doesn't have a drive wheel. But the design sketch for the Mk.I version clearly does, so it looks like the Pedrail design was changed in some way. Changing the design to allow for a drive wheel certainly changes the track linkages. On the original design each track section 'foot' is connected with one link. That doesn't work with a drive wheel:


Even two links per section doesn't work...unless the drive wheel isn't entirely round.


The illustration shows it round - increasing the links to three per section works, so that's what I'll go for.


I'm going to be making it in 1/48 and obviously being small the design maaaaaay be a tiny bit compromised….hopefully there aren't any rivet counters watching. :angry:

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1 hour ago, Gorby said:

..the designer, Colonel Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton (why don't we get names like that any more?)...

I can tell you why I'm thinking we don't get names like that now; kids are gits and he'd be mercilessly bullied at school.

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1 hour ago, Miggers said:

They also proposed flying aeroplanes off ships at sea too,mad impetuous fools that they were.

Land submarines has to be the way forward. Imagine the Mole as carried by Thunderbird 2 but crewed by Jolly Matelots [tm] and armed with tunneling torpedoes. Might be a bit of bother with the periscope, but that's a minor quibble. 


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This is all far too on-topic.

The battle tank was first described in a short story, "The Land Ironclads", by prolific prophet HG Wells. It is uncertain how much he was inspired by his friend and confidante, the soldier and budding aeronaut J W Dunne who, in the run-up to the story, wrote to Wells of his own vision of "big fat pedrail machines". Dunne would shortly be employed by the Royal Engineers' Balloon Factory (recently moved to a little place known as Farnborough) where, under Col. JE Capper, he worked on tailless biplanes. Stay with me. When the Balloon Factory's heavier-than-air activities were temporarily shut down a few years later, Dunne and Capper were both given their marching orders. Capper went on to play a senior role in the development of said land ironclads; he may well appear in some of those piccies posted above. He would surely have known of Wells' popular story, and he knew Dunne well enough to indulge in parlour games together at home in the evenings and to invest in his forthcoming aeroplane syndicate, but I have no idea if he knew of Dunne's ideas about battle tanks. Was it Dunne's idea for Wells that, through Capper, got the War Office interested in pedrails?

All right, you can get back to actually making one now.

Edited by steelpillow
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7 hours ago, Gorby said:

increasing the links to three per section works, so that's what I'll go for.

That looks like you could rob a bit of bike chain to make the base of your tracks. Or knowing you, you'll make it out of pieces of bic pen bodies and irn bru cans.


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Thanks for the comments. :thumbsup:

As always with a scratch jobbie I start with the bit I think is going to give me the most hassle. Obviously that's going to be the track thingies and the most difficult thing to make on those is likely to be the drive-wheel. When I posted this thread originally I'd already made the first two drive- wheels...otherwise this build wouldn't be happening. That's all I'd done though, I still had the rest of the Pedrail contraption to start.

As I mentioned, I've no idea what the track assembly looked like so I took a 'Ten Minute Google Degree' in early tracks and I'm pleased to announce that I'm now an expert as I passed the test I set with distinction :smiling:. It's a proud day as I can take my place amongst the select group of five billion other Google experts. Unfortunately it looks like with early tracks, both the big wheelie things (stop me if I'm getting too technical) at both ends of the track had sprockets (damnit!) so I've got eight of the little buggers to make. When I say 'little' I mean very very small – 8mm diameter. I conjured up a design for the Pedrail system and the drive-wheel on Inkscape in a matter of moments – moments measured in days.

First print and stick on plasticard with PVA and mark where the holes will be.

P1070199.JPG     P1070200.JPG


Caaaaaaarefully drill holes (The 1.5mm won't fit in the pin vice so I have to improvise).



Then cut out. Simples! (Not really, this is the best of three).



After making two usable drive-wheels I can have a go at the rest of the track assembly. I find it easier to print a template for oddly shaped bits.



Then just peel off the template – the dot is to mark the front.



One problem is that I have to cut a lot of little bits, all at a reasonably accurate length and as square as I can manage. The small mitre box I have is much too big for this job so I made a tiny mitre box for use with my JLC razor saw. I know it's possible to buy a JLC mitre box but it costs more than I'd normally pay for a kit - £26 squid!!! :o Not on my watch. I got so carried away with saving money that I even fitted a new blade, impetuous fool that I am. This is the box being assembled with the old blade used as a spacer. Already thinking I might have been a bit rash throwing that perfectly good blade away.



It works surprisingly well. The little clamp is holing the adjustable depth stop.



Just as well as there is twenty 3mm diameter road wheels for each of the track assemblies. They'll be eighty in total. :|



One of the reasons I avoided tank kits is that I didn't want to do endless road wheels and I always seem to end up doing tanks which have more than their fair share of the little gits.

More on my Pedrail predicament soon.

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Excellent start Gorbs :thumbsup:

I'm always fascinated how neatly you work, When I start cutting things it looks like a pig's ear, and I'm having issues just building a flat bed of a truck!, but you do it like you actually know what you are doing :) 

And just btw..... You give Col a bollocking over how dirty his Cutting Mat is.... Ahem...

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15 minutes ago, Mad Steve said:

I'm always fascinated how neatly you work,

Thanks muchly matie. It mostly down to magnification - It's amazing how much it helps when I can actually see what I'm doing.

17 minutes ago, Mad Steve said:

And just btw..... You give Col a bollocking over how dirty his Cutting Mat is.... Ahem...

And I'll have you know that my cutting mat is well matured, not decomposing!

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23 minutes ago, Gorby said:

I'll have you know that my cutting mat is well matured, not decomposing!

Aged in oak barrels, by the look of it.

Mind you, my stack of old newspapers is running low. I may have to follow your example one of these days.

Edited by steelpillow
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Thanks for the comments, likes, whatever….

Right...not got a lot of time (I mean to relate this rather than an imminent mortality thing….hopefully :|) so I'm going to have to whiz though it.

First give the track assembly some depth as I'm not building the inside gubbins and hopefully you won't be able to see the back.



Fit road wheels after the first bit of track is stretched around.



Fit some treads to the track.



Then I needed to do the chain thingy around the front edge of the track. At first I was going to cut sections to make it neater.



Then I decided that I didn't want it neat. I want it to look like individual links. A lot more work but the end result looks better. The quickest way to get all the links the same length is to make a jig. There it is on the bottom right of the old (hopefully) credit card. Not my most complicated jig ever. :smiling:



To complete the links I need truck loads of 1.5mm circles. Now that's a boring job.



Now the 'feet'.



And stick 'em on.


No need to do any detailing in the middle because….



I did see one artist impression/profile illustration of one of the other variants of this vehicle and the armour covering the running gear was completely hiding everything inside the links, which would have been feasible as the pedrail system didn't have any suspension at all. I came to the conclusion that it would have made it much quicker to build the tanky thing but it would have been less interesting to make and less interesting as a finished model. You might ask why I made the entire drive-wheel as most of it is entirely hidden. It a secret….even from me. No idea why I went to the effort and don't think it was the usual 'because I know it's there' waffle because in a couple of weeks I'll probably have forgotten I did it. 

The armour is only held on with Blu Tack for the photo. It'll be a lot easier to paint everything without that stuck on.

Quite satisfied with the end result, although I've now got to make three more. Not looking forward to making the other six drive whee….oh look!


That'll save some time. :smile:

(incidentally, that's my little finger to show the scale.)

The nearest guess as to how many parts are in that one track assembly wins.....absolutely nothing. :harhar:

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