Wood Family Carnival Float blog for 2011

UPDATED 12th June 2011

(scroll down for latest news)

A new year and a new challenge to build a fun float with the family for the village carnival!

Welcome to the 2011 WOOD FAMILY FLOAT blog.

You can see previous years’ attempts here.

This blog charts the progress of our family’s work to create a float for our village carnival.


We’ve entered a family float since 2002… mainly because we’ve been involved in so many local organisations that it was hard to choose which one to support.  Besides, we have great fun thinking up the project and building the bits as a family!


Check back here in mid February, when the theme will probably be announced and I’ll start updating this blog…  My guess at possible themes are: TV Shows, Royalty, Music…

7th February 2011

I was wrong.

Theme is officially… HEROES AND VILLAINS

Time for us to don our thinking trousers and see what we can come up with.

Keen on Wacky Races (Dastardly and Muttley, Penelope Pitstop etc…) – trouble is, will anyone under 30 know what this is?

Going to avoid Harry Potter and the very obvious Marvel/DC Comics Superheroes…

Watch this space!


Had lots of discussions over the past few weeks about the subject.  Decided that the obvious themes would be taken by the organisations, schools etc… things like Marvel Comic Superheroes… So we’re going to have a go at:


We had thought of ‘The Great Train Robbery first…  this meant that I could build a train, and we could all dress up as cops and robbers (heroes and villains, see?).  Trouble is, the train in THE great train robbery in the 1960s was a completely dull diesel train:

This would look very boring, so we’ve decided to expand it, use creative licence and be .Great Train Robberies. in general!

Emailed the organisers to register the float and started to plan…

Dismantled the Tardis that had been adorning the front garden since last June’s carnival… we’ll miss it!  It’s amazing it lasted intact through the winter – the timber inside was dry and perfect.  I planned to unscrew all the timber to build train body but, when I was dismantling it and put it on its side, it looked sort of suitable for a train…  (use your imagination please)


Did a rough sketch of what it might look like on the above frame…

(I did say ‘rough’.)  Will also probably have a bit behind him for the coal… if I have time!  Note the smoke – this is the main reason I want to build a steam train so I can get some effects.  With a diesel train, I would be limited to dripping black sludge around the village and making nasty smells.  Welcome to my world.

The wheels above will be non-working ones – the skateboard wheels will be re-used from last year and there’s probably be a black skirt to hide them.  Or not.

As for costumes…

Joshua and Daniel want to be robbers.  We’re thinking of white long-sleeved t-shirts with black horizontal stripes; black eye masks; Swag bags and coshes…

Tim will be a policeman, with four life-size additional policemen pictures of him on a yoke, similar to the Sound of Music float idea, only better.

Emma will probably be another robber, same costume as J&D, only possibly slightly larger size.

Oliver will be the train driver.

I will probably be a Police inspector with pork pie hat and long coat.

Cleared up the back room and introduced the older baby chickens to their new home in the garden to give me a bit of space for building the train.

Will need to move the heavy solid old base with wheels, and reconstruct the old bottom end of the Tardis, just to make is strong enough.  Will go to the Resource Centre next Saturday to see if they’ve got any materials, such as the fabric I used to cover the Tardis, plus possible funnel materials…  Must work out the pointy end so it is a rounded end – perhaps the resources centre has something… maybe a lid of a kids’ turtle sandpit…?

APRIL 11th

Lovely sunny weekend, but managed to do a few bits on the train.

During the week I covered the frame in thick white card (from a huge roll obtained free from the council’s Resource Centre).  Added an mdf board across the top where the chimney will sit.

Screwed a tin onto the boards, to hold the smoke pellets when I light them.

Since the tin is smaller than the chimney will be, I made a card funnel which is fixed to a sturdy card ring.  The chimney will slot over the ring – I cleverly spotted that when the chimney is on, it would get out of the back room, so it needs to be detatchable!

The Chimney was easy to make – the roll of card has silver printed onto one side, so the chimney is silver!  It slots over the inner ring perfectly and is very stable.  I thoughtfully cut a window in the front of the driver’s cab so Oliver can see out, and around the chimney. I cut a slot and created a closeable flap at the side into which I can pop the lit smoke pellets.

An added bonus is that he shouldn’t be blinded by smoke as the chminey is quite high up.  The secondary bulge thing seems to be a feature on steam trains and was made using an old waste bin with a mixing bowl on top.  Hope the paint sticks to it.

Started to add strips to cover the joins.  These a thin mdf wooden slats from an office blind I think – again, supplied free from the Resource Centre.  Got a large tin of yucky green paint from there too which will cover everything except the chimney.  Mind you, it’s 2.5 litres and a bespoke colour – if it runs out before it’s all painted I’m scuppered!

Next challenge after painting will be adding the wheels in the right proportion.  Still looks a bit like the Tardis lying on its side… hopefully the painting and detailing I’ll eventually add will change that.  Have to find some sort of round thing to put on the front.  (Not a face though)

I know that most steam trains have rounded tanks but this was too tricky to do in the time and funding available… besides, simple research shows two real engines are just like my one!

If I get hold of some black paint, I’ll probably paint the chimney, leaving silver rings at top.  I will then need to build a small Royal Mail carriage for the train to pull.  This will be interesting as I’ll need to find some wheels.  I’ve got my eye on a wooden base with castors that’s been stuffed behind a Windsor shop’s rubbish bins for the past couple of months.  Now, do I try and find which shop they belong to and ask to have it or just assume it is are rubbish and liberate it?

APRIL 18th

Used my lovely waterproof paint from the Resource Centre (2.5 litres,) to paint the bodywork.  The colour is just right – a sort of murky, sooty green.

Trouble is, the front end does rather resemble the top of a Tardis that’s been turned on its side.

Decided to rip off the front and flatten it.  Looks better, but still something missing…

Painted the chimney black and left a silver ring around the top… looks really good I think… also painted the bobbly round thing behind it.  And the floor, much to Emma’s well-disguised delight.

APRIL 21st

Decided it needed the round shiny black front door thing, so used some black Fablon stuff (Resource Centre freebie again), stuck onto card.  Painted the underskirt ready for fixing the wheels and metallic tubing things on (a battle yet to come).

Then added a sticky-out thing on the front and two buffers (round black mousemats from the Resource Centre).  I will mount flags on this saying what our theme is.

Easter week coming up…  Plan to order the smoke pellets (just sold some rubbish on Ebay so have £45 in the float building kitty!); hopefully attach signage; sort out the wheels if possible.

I then need to build some sort of carriage (Royal Mail); plus sort out Tim’s policemen thing…

APRIL 26th

Busy family weekend, but managed to squeeze in some floatwork…  Started off with liberating a wooden base with castors from by the bins at the back of a shop in Windsor.  It’s been there since before Christmas as the binmen wouldn’t take it.  So I did.

Joshua helped me screw a wooden frame to it, to become the Royal Mail carriage.

This was covered with more card from the roll…  Moved the castors to the four corners to aid stability.

Daniel then helped to paint it black.

We left the middle bit as, instead of spending money on red paint, I found some large sheets of bright red paper (ex-Resource Centre) that I glued to the centre.  Will then have to add wheels and decorations, stripes, windows…

Back to the engine…  Added some signage…  looks 3D and metallic – the joy of Photoshop!

Must sort out those wheels now…

MAY 3rd

After enjoying the fabulous spectacle of the Royal Wedding, plus a generally busy weekend, I managed to sort out those wheels which look okay!  I found a good picture of a steam engine and edited down the wheel and printed out six of them.  Also printed out loads of smaller wheels for the carriage and the front/back bits of the train.

The smoke pellets arrived so I tried out my lighting device and tested the chimney – worked well.  I’d prefer thicker smoke but don’t think I can find more powerful smoke without affecting the spectators!

Decided against having a sound system this year.  No obvious music and SFX of trains are pretty inaudible and would be unrecognisable over the clatter of our wheels on the tarmac.  Will arm Oliver with a wooden train whistle instead.

Bank Holiday Monday… it’s all happening in the world, with the news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed.  Surprised me a bit as I didn’t think they took the Bins out on a Bank Holiday.  Assembled the carriage and train outside.  Looks lovely.  Emma also said it was brilliant, although I suspect she was referring to the fact that our back room was now empty.

Decided the view from the back, whilst largely obscured, looks rubbish.

…so put a sheet of reddish Resource Centre paper across the hole.

Decided the cab needed one of those steam whistle chimney things, so attached one to it.  Looks authentic.  Unless you’re a wife, in which case “why did you stick a telescope on the cab?” is the comment.  I still think it looks right, so do the boys.  Telescope was rescued from the Resource Centre of course.

Popped two flags saying ‘Great Train Robberies’ on the front (using two St George’s Day flag mounts bought for 5p each after we lost some footie match a year or two ago).  This will hopefully explain to watchers why there’s a steam train in a carnival parade about Heroes and Villains.

All that remains is to photograph Tim as a policeman and sort out his set-up…

16th MAY

Took Tim’s pic as two different cops… he’s going to be triplets, with one of these either side of him…

Used the brilliant http://www.blockposters.com to create large-scale versions which I printed out and glued (using spray-on carpet adhesive).  Then, a quick bit of jigsawing and I’ve got two life-size Tims… each as lovely as the original, and just as hairy.

I had taken rear-view pics too, but quickly realised how impossibly it would be to position these exactly!  Then realised that from the back it was all virtually solid black anyway, so after mounting the boards onto a wooden cross beam (to be affixed to Tim’s belt on the day), I will simply paint it all black!

Train all done; Tims all done just about; just got to do our costumes.

I ordered a Steam Train Whistle off some musical website (www.djmusic.com) – hope it arrives.

Sounds great – louder and better than toy wooden ones.  Listen to it here: http://www.djmmusic.com/mmDJM/Images/whistles/2_tone_143.mp3 – it’ll give Oliver something to do when he’s not negotiating the leaves on the line.

Found a new source of mega-lasting high density smoke capsules… may invest in some, with the proceeds from the roof-box we sold on eBay!

31 MAY

Got some fantastic new smoke pellets… last for 60 seconds and give off 5 times the volume of smoke – can’t wait to show it off!

Main float now complete.  Costumes left to finalise…

Ollie: Train driver… Found my genuine British Rail train driver’s hat, complete with brass badge from when I collected this sort of thing.  Also found my donkey jacket which completes his outfit.  He’ll be steering the train and blowing the brilliant Acme Train whistle so will be very busy.

Tim: Policemen… Currently bidding on some silver police buttons to replace back ones on a good black jacket of my dad’s I found in the loft.  Sorted out some epaulettes as well.  He’ll look great!

Robbers… Found three white t-shirts for Emma, Joshua and Daniel) in the loft and used black fabric dye to paint horizontal stripes on back and front.  These look perfect!  Also got 3 flat caps from my hat collection for them to wear.  Made three black fabric masks, mounted on card for rigidity.  Just got to add elastic and their costumes are sorted.

Detective (me)…  Got my long black smart raincoat and borrowing Tim’s new Fedora.  Easy really.

Two weeks to go… just about ready for action!  Received the Carnival programme and see we’re duly entered as a Family Float correctly.  Record number of floats this year which is great, as it was tailing off a bit recently.


Got up early to celebrate Joshua and Daniel’s 10th Birthdays…  Float is all ready…

Checked weather forecast and seems like the rain is not going to appear!

Now got to try and get the train out of the back room, through the dining room, through the front conservatory room  and into the trailer – Emma’s convinced it won’t go!  Time for coffee break first…

Watch this space for more news later this morning or after the carnival… or I’ll pop some pics on my Facebook page from the carnival itself.

Managed to get the train out of the house, with only a bit of furniture removal, and it fitted in the trailer just fine.  Dropped it and the in-laws at the start point and went home to collect the carriage and the boys.   Shoved Emma in the trailer to stop the carriage falling over. Got lots of strange glances en route… but, hay, it’s carnival day so everywhere’s full of strange people in strange outfits doing strange things.


Assembled everying with no hiccups, and had packed lunch while everybody else arrived on their lorries etc.  Great fun seeing all our friends on their various floats.

Great procession – weather beautiful and a fantastic array of floats from all of the village organisations, schools etc.

Our float drew lots of attention, especially the smoke.  One old chap tottered up to us before the start and said “you’ve even managed to get it smelling like a steam train!”  Our friendly local MP and family were most impressed, and his children loved the smoke and couldn’t believe that a steam train was going to be driving along the road!  J&D joined in the official collectors and got spectators to drop money into their swag bags… I would then race after them and tell the spectators off for giving their cash to robbers!  Most of them saw the joke.  Yes, J&D Did give the money in at the end!

Oliver did brilliantly driving the train – Emma had to help steer the carriage, as the wheels must’ve come from a Sainsbury’s trolley as they seemed to have a mind of their own.   When we passed the Post Office, the staff saw the Roayal Mail carriage, got very excited and rushed over and got us to stop for a photograph of them in front of  it!  Hopefully it was as a bit of fun, rather than an nimpending copyright infringement lawsuit.

Here’s a few pics of the event… ending with the one of us WINNING THE FAMILY TROPHY for the third year running (or walking!).  Nice to be presented with the trophy by our Neice, Helen, who was Carnival Queen’s Attendant (Deputy Carnival Queen really).

Emma’s pedometer at the end of the day said she’d walked 9 miles!

Wandered around the stalls etc then off home for birthday tea for Joshua and Daniel with family (My sister and her hubby came to join us)… then the six of us went later  to the Harvester down the road for birthday dinner…  Lovely ending for a lovely, tiring, day.

Now… next year… theme could be Queen diamond Jubilee or Olympics is my guess…  hmmmm…  any suggestion on what we could build gratefully received.  If Olympics, I’m tempted to line the trailer and turn it into a swimming pool…

Anyway, here are some pics…

Tim x 3 plus two robbers…

All of us ready for the start

Negotiating the speed humps...


One Response to “Wood Family Carnival Float blog for 2011”

  1. Adam Says:

    Good luck and good fun, look forward to reading all about it!

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