Ugly duckling

Much capacity in the remaining brain cells has  been taken up trying to make a working frame on which I can build the Höfelbachbahn Railcar. Having two bogies of entirely different dimensions seemed a cool kind of quirky idea at the time, but but they are a pain in the backside when it comes to making something that doesn’t look like a cliff railway car.

I stopped counting rebuilds after the fifth attempt, because then it finally dawned on the great brain that if I parked the bogies on the display plank, then used a slide rule to measure the height from the top of the press-stud on each unit to the bottom of the plank, then I’d have a reasonably accurate idea of how much height difference there was.


It came to 7.8mm, because nothing can be simple in this world.

I decided to build the chassis with 8mm difference between the two bogies: with all the mistakes I’m likely to make a gradient of 0.2mm is likely to be the least of my worries.

With the chassis level, the next big challenge was to get it around corners which I managed after some considerable hacking of plastic.  Thoughtful readers will consider the consequences of using stupidly tight curves on your model railway.

I have a feeling that I’ll make the sides quickly. The sheer ugliness of the chassis is quite enough motivation to make something to cover it…

Market day


Midday at Wörnritzhausen. The Railcars are recharged during the midday lull, one here and one at the junction with the standard gauge at Rietheim. Such passengers as there are at this time travel on the mixed train seen arriving behind the Krokodil. Today is a Thursday, so the mixed will be longer than usual as Thursday is market day.

This will cause all kinds of problems for the railcar crew later because the market is held right next to the track and inevitably spills out onto the railcar siding, frequently obliterating it completely under stalls, crowds and quite stubborn livestock. Pigs in particular tend to sit wherever they want to, and get quite upset at being prodded for something as trivial as a railway timetable. On the other hand passengers in the opposite railcar coming the other way dislike having to wait halfway down the line because of stubborn bacon.

What with this and the increased road traffic coming into the town, children running about the place in all directions, and the possibility of an extra van to shunt and pull, conscientious railcar crews have learned to start a good twenty minutes early to reach the main line in time for a punctual start up the valley.

Or to put it another way, I’ve got an exam this week and I don’t have any time for making things. Hopefully I’ll be able to recreate this scene on the model at some point. Don’t hold your breath though.


Being of a rather lazy disposition, I am reluctant to go to all the bother of getting out the spray box and paint, rattling a can for ages and going through the other faff involved in spraying on the cheap when it all results in a mere thirty seconds of painting, so the Prototype (mini)van has now joined the Railcar in the queue for the primer, and I’m carrying on with the next project. I’d have liked to start on a building but clay is a rather messy substance so I’ll need to wait until I have time to clean up the mess, and so the next project turned out to be the Railcar I’ve been designing for the Höfelbachbahn.

The first piece is shown above. Making the first piece for a model always feels a bit like laying a keel for a ship, as if it should be done with some kind of ceremony. I would have invited some dignitaries but I haven’t painted them yet*. Instead, Beautiful Daughter came and pulled my sleeve in an attempt to climb up to see what I was doing, turning the Ceremonial First Cut into the Ceremonial Dog-Leg, shortly followed by the Ceremonial Muttering Under The Breath and the Ceremonial Second Cut That Is Rather More Straight.

Notice the highly organised work space, with scale diagrams and everything. This lasted for almost five minutes.

After this I made the first attempt at a bogie. I’m not sure plastic press studs will do the job though. Will have to consider this.


This assumes I can coax the thing around the HBB’s murderous curves, so this week the test Chassis has priority.

* I knew there was another job to do. Ah well, too late now…


Big door


Now that the van is sitting on bogies I realised that second hand N-gauge undercarriage has disadvantages. The chassis the bogies came with* gets in the way of attempts to stop the wobble factor, so the van swings around corners like a drunk driver on a roundabout. The bogies are too small by half as well, but I’ll live with that.

Once I’d worked out how to add details like the strapping I found myself a lot more motivated. I also noticed that on the prototype vans, many have doors made from another material, probably sheet metal or possibly plywood.

This makes sense. If you have a large unwieldy object to move several times a day, you’ll naturally want it as light as possible.

As this also meant a lot less mucking about with thin bits of card I decided I approved of the idea and made two new doors, with runners above and below.

I thought I’d get away without making ventilation hatches, on the basis that they’d get in the way of the door, but I found a picture of a real van where the door opened over the hatches, so I had no excuse left.


You’ll notice the balcony has vanished: I tried to fit a safety rail out of a piece of metal rod, but it put me in mind of a hospital catering trolley, while attempts to make a brake handle out of metal failed miserably. So I got my knife out and ten minutes later I had a Minivan. Sort of.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll end up repainting the entire thing again, partly because it will be easier than trying to work around the existing colour, and partly because the only parts of the van where I was happy with the painting effects were the original doors.

Never mind, it’s all practice…

*Ironically under a tanker with ‘happy motoring’ on the side.


Card work*


Now that I’ve finished making a locomotive, it is probably a good idea to make something for it to pull, this being its purpose in life.

Long suffering readers will know of my fascination with card model making; ever since I got hold of a copy of this very old book on the subject, I’ve been wanting to try the ideas out, so this is my prototype or test bed where I learn things.

One things I’ve learned is that I very quickly get bored making prototypes.

On the other hand the Krokodil project had a couple of false starts while I worked out how to make the rather complex link mechanism work, and on a couple of other occasions I’ve proved that making a prototype makes for a good model, or possibly a less bad model, or at least a model that doesn’t fall off the track at random intervals which as far as I’m concerned is about the same thing.

My idea was for a bogie van with a sliding door, as found on various narrow gauge railways in varying states of repair all over Europe, and which will make a major part of the Hofelbachbahn’s rolling stock. Of course, as soon as I’d glued the sides together I realised that I chould have made the van a few millimetres longer, so it could take eight standard pallets, but that is why I’m making myself do a test, right? On the next version I’ll leave the balcony and make the body a few milimetres longer. A longer body plus balcony looks great, right up to the point it swipes a bit of the scenery.

On the other hand I found I can make a very nice effect with acrylic paint drybrushed onto the scored card. I personally think this makes the whole project worthwhile, as long as I can figure how to make it work again next time.

*Highly observant readers will remember this appearing very briefly in December. This simply proves my point: I really get bored stupidly easily on this sort of project.

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…