Wagon Train has a unique place in this hobby. Airfix always maintained that the mould for this set was damaged a long time ago, and since this set went out of production quite early on, it became extremely rare. For a long time it was the only 1:72 scale plastic wagon available, and since every war up to and including World War II used horse-drawn wagons, this made it very desirable. Airfix have now reissued this set, and the plastic on the originals is often very brittle with age, but it still finds a place in the affections of many collectors. However, how does this over 50-year-old set measure up to the competition today?
With no more than two examples of any pose, this has an impressive array of figures. All are basically civilians, and have been depicted in very nice 'domestic' situations. One man is walking with a small animal carried over his shoulder, presumably bound for the cooking pot, while another stands with a mug in his hand. Another is some sort of artisan, wearing an apron and carrying a bottle or bag. The man lying on his side looks like he is relaxing round a camp fire, and is certainly an unusual pose, while the man sitting on a box eating from a plate could well be by the fire also.
Wagon trains were all about moving families west, and there are some family figures in this set. The woman wears the full-length skirt of the day, and has her hair in a bun in a no-nonsense working kind of attitude. The two children, a boy and a girl, seem to our eyes to be simply miniature adults, but that is exactly how children were dressed in those days. One mounted cowboy, who also appears in the Cowboys set, is included as a scout. Finally, a seated man and woman are included to sit on the wagon itself, the centrepiece of the set.
Airfix described the wagon as a prairie schooner, though it is a rather small example. Detail is not extensive, with no attempt to engrave wooden surfaces or folds in the canvas hood. It also seems rather tall compared to the figures. Structurally it seems reasonable, with the separate hood allowing it to be covered or open as desired. The four-horse team attaches in the same way as all other Airfix sets, by pegs going directly into the horses' sides. This is simple, but hardly accurate. To complete the set a number of boxes, sacks and barrels are also included, which is a nice touch.
This is one of the old school of Airfix sets, with relatively poor detail. Hands are just blobs with no fingers etc., and items such as firearms are featureless strips of plastic. Clearly it shows its age, and to be honest it does not compare well with today's production, but its unusual subject matter will ensure it is always fondly regarded by many.