kob_vt1_04Many modern railcars have a bewildering array of pipes and wires for brakes and communication when running in or with a train. Mine is loosely based on the RHB ABe4_4-II and as such needs more bits of metal hanging off the front than a south American dictators dress uniform. The number of people modelling modern German narrow gauge railways in 1:55 scale is quite small,* so it would be a long wait for any of the model making companies to come along and make handy detail packs. I dug up a set of guitar strings I’d scrounged from a friend several years ago and hoarded ever since, and made a sort of ‘impression’ of the original.

After all, woolly maths and guesswork has worked for me so far, why change now?

As far as I can tell, the pipes are for air brake systems, something electrical (possibly train heating) and the long one is a jumper cable for the control systems. Apparently the railcars were used for pushing the slowploughs and could be controlled from the snowplough cabs.

Right now it has enough almost gold metal that it really does resemble the uniform of a south American dictator, and it may stay that way for a while, as it is a bit of a faff setting everything up to prime models, so I plan to wait until I have several ready before I move further.

So now I need to make several more models. Life is hard.

*One, at the last count. Group meetings are quiet but easy to organise.

Brassed off

This could get confusing. I seem to have managed to end up building one railcar while designing another. unusually for me there also seems to be some remote chance of them being finished.
Just to make is clear, this railcar is the metre(ish) gauge model I’ve been working on for so long I may be able to auction it off for its antique value. The Elder son and I are adding details, which is to say, I’m adding details and he joins in when not concentrating on coursework/phone/girlfriend, although not usually in that order.

The railcar started out as a loose model of the MGB class Deh 4/4 II, because I’ve wanted to make one of these since I came across one in a book when I was about fourteen. It didn’t work out that way though, because I couldn’t get the angles on the front end to work so I changed direction and based the ends on the Rhaetian Railway ABe 4/4 II instead.  And then I realised that the door in the side couldn’t be an inset sliding door because there are air vents for large lumps of machinery on each side, so I had to add runners on the outside instead, and it is taking on a life of its own and becoming something completely different.

It’ll be interesting to find out what…

Railcar revision.

Railcar obsession continues. Notice that this has not resulted in any actual construction.


My excuse is that the motors haven’t arrived yet. And besides, look how well planned it’ll be when I actually build it. Of course we know it won’t work out like that, but I can dream.

The main problem mentioned last time was my complete lack of knowledge about internal combustion engines, or indeed any engines come to that. But the more I looked at this design, the more I realised that it couldn’t work. This is a nice little railcar for a metre gauge line, and would indeed look fine on the Körschtalbahn, on 500mm gauge it would fall over unless passegers spread themselves evenly on both sides so it stays balanced, rather like the Lartigue Monorail.

This clearly will not do.

Secondly, I’m building a “battery powered” version, for reasons that will become clear over time, and it needs to have a slightly more modern look about it than the design above. The reasons for that will be explained later as well.

Over the Christmas holidays, I had a look around places like Railfan Europe and Bahnbilder.de for ideas. In the story for this model the technology available is about the same as in the 1950’s and 60’s, so I started there to see what was used. I also had a look to see where narrow gauge railcar technology had been before and after the war.*


The result is a Frankenstein like mix with the internal layout of a Billard autorail, battery storage lockers of a DB class 515, and styling of a Polish MBxd2 giving it the aerodynamic properties of a house brick. As the maximum speed permitted would probably be about 30 Km/h (20mph) this last feature is unlikely to be a problem. Customers are less likely to ask about streamlining than where passengers can put their piglet.

I’d like the model to look like it is built using a metal frame with wooden cladding, Anyone who knows what this looks like in real life is welcome to make suggestions how to make this happen.

The row of doors on the side is for a stack of old school lead-acid batteries, as low as I can reasonably get them so the ride feels like a train and not a trip to the fun fair. We don’t want the piggies getting seasick, after all.

The drivers windscreen shouldn’t tilt forward. It just looks like that because the ‘artist’ wasn’t concentrating.

*It is remarkable what you can achieve if you don’t have a social life.


This may well qualify as the slowest model construction ever: the most recent blog entry I can find of the build is in summer 2011. Considering that it was supposed to be entered in a competition for the 5.5mm scale association in October of that year, I’m running a little behind.

Of course, in those five years I managed to start and graduate a cabinet makers course, take a supporting role in the birth of our fourth child, get diagnosed with Asthma and start an  Occupational Therapist course, but still.

Anyway, the elder son is showing an interest in making stuff; when he can fit it in around his social life that is, so this is going to be a starting project.

So far we’ve braced the sides so they don’t look like they were made from damp cardboard, and added the roof and exhaust pipe. Astonishingly, with my track record of losing anything smaller than a bicycle if I put it down for more than ten minutes, I managed to keep the roof and exhaust in a place that was safe, and to remember where it was when I needed it, instead of having to remake the parts like I usually do.

There isn’t that much left to do: add pipes, handrails, glazing and a few other details, including a driver if we can work out how, and then paint it on the KÖB’s colour scheme. There are LED’s in there but for now they will remain unlit for a while as I’ve had enough of electronics in the last few weeks.

kreisbahn_55 Well this took long enough.

Building a scenic break across the model was always part of the plan. Actually the plan was for it to be a fairly quick job in summer, but I faffed about a lot because I didn’t have the tools to make it exactly how I wanted.

I wonder how many more projects I’d have finished by now if I wasn’t so fussy about doing things ‘exactly how I want it’?

Anyway, at my last training placement I finally got around to making a kit of parts to make the scenic break ready for the the Christmas holidays. It took thirty minutes.


I then carefully stacked all the parts on my desk. After a week or so I got fed up with all of the dowels getting in the way and put them in a safe place.

You’ve already guessed the next bit: A week before the holidays I completely failed to find any pieces of wood. I found some nice 1:55 scale figures, more wheelsets than I thought I owned, and my missing box of drill bits, but no wooden parts for a backscene.

So I finished the Krokodil instead.


While doing this, I needed wires for the air hoses, and while failing to find them, opened a drawer and noticed for the first time that it was full of wooden dowels.

So far I’m taking about twice as long to find lost parts as it took to make them.

Still, that job is now complete, I have a much better idea of what the railway should look like, and I can make a start on the buildings:


It shouldn’t take too long. I’ve got all the materials and I put them in a safe place…

So, having fixed the dodgy track, I can now think about Resolutions. Hmm…

1: Blog once a week,
It’s good for me to keep writing. Besides, I have to step away from college and breathe on occasion, so I’ll try to make sure there is an entry every week, in fact, every Saturday morning.  Anyone bored with this blog should find that my other one is updated weekly as well.

I occasionally use the same material, but hey, it’s free…

2: Build more models.
After all, I need more blogging material. Being an extreme introvert surrounded by people, I need to switch off to be able to breathe each day, and I find model making is excellent for this as a break before dealing with the family in the evening. I also want to use different materials: card wagons, for example, possibly with the finish printed on paper, or clay and wood for buildings.

3: Finish half built models.
Like the KÖB railcar (which could well rank as the slowest scratchbuilding project ever although it is much further on than this picture from 2011 suggests), or a rebuild of ‘Growler 1’ which has been languishing in a box for (yikes) ten years as it was far too big for 1:43 scale, let alone 1:55. I’d like it to run one day.

4: Maybe, just maybe, get Spitzenwald running.
I feel like I owe it to myself after the fight it took to build the baseboards.

So, there you are, I’ve cunningly generated a blog post out of no modelmaking progress whatsoever. Now we’ll have to see if I can achieve these things or if I’ll end up just cutting and pasting this next year…


Having finally managed to build a locomotive, my immediate priority was obviously to play with it, and to this end I spent a happy few minutes letting it trundle around the circuit while I planned vast fleets of further locomotives and cackled  megalomaniacaly, which isn’t even a word.

Then the locomotive suddenly stopped dead on a set of points. I pushed it back carefully. and let it run forward. It stopped dead again.

I cleaned the points with stiff paintbrush and it ran again. On the face of it, this was a good thing. In fact, it means that the electricity was running through the point rails, instead of the extra switch I had laboriously installed in summer. Points are rather delicate objects, and the idea was to have a backup system so that if a bit of dirt got in them, they’d still work and not just die on me.

As this one had done, in fact.

Still, the train was working, so I left well alone and let trundle around the track again. Until it stopped dead somewhere else.

This time I went through the full range of diagnostic and repair options available to the electrically challenged:

1: Push locomotive back in the hope the fault will magically work.

2: Repeat in the hope that doing it twice will somehow make a difference.

3: Use extensive range of Anglo Saxon vocabulary.

4: Put a post on the NGRM forum in the hope someone will answer my damnfool questions. Again.

After a lot of testing, more use of Anglo Saxon vocabulary, which although designed in a world that had no concept of electrical problems, seemed surprisingly appropriate, and a lot of helpful answers from the good folk of the NGRM forum, the problem was provisionally diagnosed as being the switch that provides power to the diamond.

I changed two switches and tentatively ran a train through the loop. It worked. I cackled megalomaniacaly and went back to planning vast fleets of locomotives…