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There have been sinister goings on up on the workbench shelf while your correspondent was innocently working on the overly complicated swap body; the two well wagons made a conspiracy to go all banana shaped. I’d wondered why the clearance above the rails was so small, until I looked lengthways and realised they were quietly turning into something that only Robin hood could find a use for.

It the bend above isn’t obvious, here’s a straight line in comparison:

It’s not just scraping the rails, it’s dragging along in the ballast…

Enquiries online revealed this was a common problem with well wagons. Now I think about it, there was a similar issue with the original wood wagon, but this was solved on the second incarnation by the addition of some truly massive side frames . The current issue is rather more serious and the general opinion seems to be that it is best solved with a brass rod along the inside of the lower part of the frame, glue, lots of clamps, and hope.

On the other hand, since I started building these wagons, more information has come in showing that not only are the originals considerably more substantial than I previously thought, but they are also somewhat longer, so I think it’s time to cut my losses and start again.

After some discussions with people that know what they are doing: this seems to be the way to go forward…

Here we go again…

As the title suggests, the swapbody is now in grey primer.

Try to contain* your excitement.

*See what I did there?

The Swap body prototype is now structurally complete, which has answered a few questions about the sizes and general dimensions, but opens a couple more such as “What will it carry?” and “Why on earth didn’t I just make something simple like a parcel container?”

I’m leaving the second question as it is impossible to answer, but the container will be a rather nondescript carrier of “diesel fuel” operated by a company contracted by the Körschtalbahn. Like a lot of German railways, he KÖB will have a small maintenance and fuel facility at the distant end of the line, rather than at the connection with the national network as was more common in the UK. This is because a lot of these lines are paid for by the local authorities which generally prefer to bring as much maintenance in house as possible, on the basis it brings employment and keeps money in circulation.

This means that this container will make occasional appearances when the shed needs a delivery, and will probably find itself probably tacked onto a regular freight or passenger train as required. Other than that it will be kept well hidden so as not to disturb the public…

Well loaded

There’s been (another) change of plan.

For some reason I kept thinking I’d got my sums wrong again, and the deck of the container wagon was too short, so I decided to make a couple of containers to make sure. As usual when faced with the choice of a simple square box and a complex round tank with a frame I went for the difficult option. The twisted logic behind this is that I tackle the most awkward project at the start when motivation is higher, and then when I finish that the success supplies more motivation to deal with the less complex boxes, as well as future projects; it makes sense in my world so don’t argue.

This of course is a “prototype” which is a polite way of saying it’s full of mistakes and I’m going to have to completely rethink the way I make them before trying for the others I want to build. In particular I’m going to have to find a method of embedding the frame into the tank sides that doesn’t involve hours of filling in ugly cracks caused by inaccurate sawing of plastic.

Still, it’s serving its purpose of proving that a swap body will fit on the wagon, and as swap bodies come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, I can probably get away with using it as long as I finish it to look like a fairly nondescript tank to bring the weekly diesel fuel delivery to the shed at Spitzenwald.

There, if you read it quickly it almost sounds plausible.

Well, well…*

More by luck than judgement, and with frankly rather more faffing about with tiny bits of plastic than I’d care to admit, the basic wagons are done. The ends are even a uniform height with the other flat wagons in what I laughingly call the “fleet”.

Some considerable detailing is needed now so they look at least vaguely like a rather battered railway wagon, and if I manage to be sufficiently self disciplined they will get some swap bodies carry backwards and forwards on the as yet thoroughly etherial railway. Current plans are to have an agricultural cooperative on the model which gives a lot off opportunities for cylindrical swap bodies carrying “animal feed” and possibly “sawdust” for pellets, and a few more rectangular boxes to deliver things like plywood and chipboard or finished products.

*I did warn you about this last time…

Unterlenningen railway station, (Standard Type IIa)

I’ve been feeling the need for some variety; wagons are very interesting but you can have too much of a good thing, and thoughts have turned to making a building.

I haven’t made any buildings for a while now; the tiny model railway I’m hoping to fit into my apartment doesn’t allow much space for such luxuries as townscapes, but I think I can get away with a smallish station. Fortunately there’s a common prototype from the region the Körschtalbahn is supposed to inhabit, snappily entitled the “Einheitsbahnhof (Württemberg) Typ IIa.” (“Standard railway station (Württemberg) Type IIa”).

Strangely, German railways didn’t really go for standardisation. Apart from anything else the first time the various states, duchies and in some cases, independent cities actually joined together in any meaningful way was at the start of the German Empire in 1871, and all the states had their own ways of running railways even after that. In Württemberg the state government took a break between revolutions in 1887 and decided they couldn’t just assume private companies would build railways to sparsely populated and hilly regions, so they started to plan and build their own.

Unusually for Germany they also decided that it would keep costs down if they used a set of standard station designs. According to Wikipedia there were three, a small single storey building for small stations (Einheitsbahnhof IIa), a slightly larger, two floored version for intermediate stations (IIb) with an apartment for the stationmaster, and a larger three storied version to grace the platforms of more important places, known as the IIc.

Einheitsbahnhof IIc in Owen, (Pronounced “Auen”, don’t ask me I just live here).

The entirely fictional Körschtalbahn is right on the edge of Württemberg and is pretty much the sort of enterprise that the phrase “minor railway” was invented for, so the only way it would exist is if the Württemberg State Railways built it. Having agreed to do so and probably regretting it the next day, the state would have sought to keep all costs down and the grandest of stations would be unlikely to have anything more than a type IIa building. At 8.5m by 7m (ca 27′ by 22′) this would be about 155mm by 127mm which I think I can fit on the baseboard, although I’ll have to assume the goods shed that is normally attached has been demolished or possibly built elsewhere.

Of course I’ll have to go and take more photographs of the real thing, which means another cycle tour to a few rural railway stations.

It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it…

Well made?

Do you see what I did there?*

The Körschtalbahn intermodal revolution continues. I finally got the proportions right on the swap body carriers, or at least close enough that no-one will notice that I fixed the rest of it by gluing on bits of plastic and filing them.

It would possibly have been a bit simpler if I could make the “deck” fit at the bottom of the frames, but it will probably need full access for unloading and also removing the swap bodies. This will teach me to get all excited about a design because I think it looks nice instead of thinking through the construction problems.

Theo other reason is that I needed to fit a small weight underneath the heavily laminated open deck. One of the ironies of this model is that I am trying to make it look as lightweight as possible while stuffing extra weights in every corner I can so it doesn’t jump off the track at the first opportunity.

*Bad puns are a hazard of this blog, usually when I’ve run out of ideas for vaguely original titles…

Making it up…

The next two wagons for the Entirely Random Arbitrary Goal that seemed such a good idea back in January will be low loader/well wagons for carrying containers and swap bodies, their European counterparts, because for a narrow gauge line the biggest problem was always the cost of transferring a load onto the standard gauge network, so anything that meant a whole load could be swapped over in a few seconds would help tip the economics in their favour.

Being a natural planner I started with drawings. This didn’t work. I still seem to draw things a bit big and the proportions didn’t work. I also realised that to make the models I’d designed would mean cutting lots of funny angles at exactly the same shape and size. Eventually I gave up and used trial and error, as shown in the not remotely posed picture.

The template was made by cutting the frame in a manner that looked about right, give or take, then adding bits and filing until I was satisfied, and scoring around it to make the other end. Once these were glued together in a manner approximating “straight” I used them as a template for the four “production models”.

Notice large label for the permanently disorganised.

Battered Wagons

The two wood wagons are finally complete, and I’m already thinking about what I want to change so they can carry different loads. I’d like to claim this is because the Körschtalbahn is becoming a living railway in my imagination and I’m already anticipating new traffic flows but we all know it’s because I didn’t plan and research enough before I starting gluing stuff together.

The main point I’ve been thinking about is the “twistlock” fittings, those pointy bits sticking up from the base of the wagons so they can take containers. Unfortunately I later realised that swap bodies, which are used a lot in domestic European transport, have slightly different spacing for twistlocks, so I’m now dithering about adding extras.

I’m also curious that I used the same method to make “rust” as on previous projects but the paint seemed to hold on rather better than usual.

I’m wondering if there’s a more reliable method: I know some people prime over the “rust” layer then use sandpaper and cocktail sticks to scrape the paint off, and I’ve also found some ways of making real rust to apply to the more exposed parts of the wagon where dirt and dampness would collect and corrode the paint, so more experimentation is likely.

Am I getting obsessive about this? Tell me if I’m getting obsessive…

And suddenly…

After last week’s trial run I got all enthusiastic again and finished the vans off in a succession of evening sessions. The weather wasn’t really on my side; there was just enough light to spray the models but not enough to get a decent picture, so you’re spared the constant step by step updates, and we’re jumping to the finished models.

I did wonder if I’d overdone the weathering a bit on the ‘advertising’ livery, and at least one of the smears isn’t quite vertical so I’ll have to work on that. On the other hand this isn’t a nice museum where the rolling stock is tucked into bed in a nice warm shed each night: these vans will be out in all weathers either moving or dumped in a siding somewhere, so they’ll get pretty grubby and probably only get cleaned when someone from management happens to see them and makes a bit of a fuss.

Also, this is a milestone because it means there are now four freight wagons complete out of the eight I planned in the Entirely Random Arbitrary Goal that I want to reach before I start building baseboards. How quickly this will mean I can build a model is another matter as my contract at work comes to an end in a few months: I’m already in conversation with another local employer but it all depends on a certain flu-like virus not gumming things up for too long; we shall see…