Peopled out

I am a pretty extreme introvert who works with people all the time, so come this weekend I really needed a little down time.

Ironic then, that I spent a chunk of it painting some 1:50 scale  people.

This motley crew got their primer coat back in August of last year and I have managed to put off the next stage ever since, partly because I didn’t really know how to even start painting figures, but I realised that the post office needed a customer or two so I found this method which I reckoned even I couldn’t entirely mess up, and set to work…

After painting everything (everyone?) black all over with artists acrylics, I left them to dry overnight. This morning, before any of my family were awake, I attacked the figures with white paint and a manky brush.

After this I concentrated on the postmaster and his solitary customer, on the basis that they will be inside the post office and therefore most of my mistakes will hopefully be hidden.

The reason the postman is apparently sinking into the ground is that he had to be cut to fit behind the post office counter, which is cunningly hiding the switch for the points outside.

His customer is a bit more fortunate, if you can call being glued permanently into a cardboard box ‘fortunate’.

After a couple of attempts and some rather rigorous cleaning with an old paintbrush and some alcohol, (someone needs to explain to the makers of “Acrylic Matt Varnish” that ‘Matt’ generally doesn’t reflect light like a chrome hub cap…) this is the result.

Now all I need to do is finish the rest of the interior…

Basket case?


Your opinion, dear reader, is required.

Obviously, as you are reading this blog, you are a person of exquisite aesthetic taste and style and I require some feedback on the latest addition to the HBB’s railcar, namely the luggage rack on the roof.

The idea is that this gives some much needed overflow to the luggage compartment on peak services, especially on market days, when customers have a tendency to bring purchases on board that try to move of their own accord, so the Hofelbachbahn (or more accurately, the company that bought the railcar in the first place, decided it wasn’t big enough and sold it to the Hofelbachbahn, it makes sense to me so don’t argue) ordered the version with the extra rack.

Trouble is, now I’ve come to actually fit the rack, it looks a bit big and obtrusive. I can’t work out if this is because I’m used to seeing a dip in the roof or because it just doesn’t work.

And if it doesn’t work, why not? Is it too high, too wide?


From track level it doesn’t look that far out of place, so maybe I just need to get used to it.

What do you think?

German builders think a roof isn’t properly made unless it weighs almost as much as the house it is covering: our apartment building has a tree trunk forming the roof ridge line, supported by solid beams of rough cut pine. This is because a roof here must withstand not just sun and rain, but also hailstones the size of golf balls, lightning strikes, high winds, and up to three metres of snow; sometimes all on the same day.

And that’s in summer. In winter it gets really bad.

So, I needed to make a solid roof on my model. I’m making the building out of card, because it has a more natural feel than Plasticard, and is biodegradable too, which appeals to my inner hippy. It also doesn’t need spray primer and I can get the stuff free from cornflake packets if need be.

As my work ethic is pretty well non existent after 5pm, I quickly decided that individual tiles seemed far too difficult, so I made strips of card 10mm wide and cut slits into them about 7mm deep at 5mm intervals. Having done some pretty exhaustive research, mostly consisting of leaning out of the bathroom skylight with a tape measure, I know these are pretty close to scale size. The ridge tiles are card folded over at one end and then wrapped around the tip of a small ‘da Vinchi Hobbyist’ paintbrush handle*.

Of course, curvy interlocking pantiles are more typical of this area than flat tiles, but there are enough of both styles about that I’m not going to worry too much, and I’m sure anyone offended by it will be more than happy to make me a 1:55 scale mould so I can use the correct form in future.

The gap in the tiles is to fit the ‘extension’ which should fit neatly against the building and across the roof. For once I actually managed to plan ahead instead of trying to fit things together after the event.

*Other paintbrush handles are available.

Tram train…


Railcar on a test run along the future Wörnritzhausen high street. Hopefully.

To my rather great surprise the railcar actually managed to explore the whole of the layout without falling off the track, hitting anything, comically trying to go two ways at once or stopping for no apparent reason.

It did however, make it clear this is a railcar with an identity crisis.

For reasons which now escape me but undoubtedly seemed very important at the time, I built the motorised bogie some distance back under the body. I think it was to allow some space to make a reliably tough connection for the coupling, which meant shoving the front of the bogie back to fit it behind the cowling, and this meant the pivot disappeared somewhere below the luggage compartment.

That’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, this makes the motorised end run around corners like a Blackpool tram, with a big overhang on the curves. I suspect this is why a lot of European trams taper at the ends, to avoid taking chunks off ancient monuments whose medieval builders inexplicably neglected to take tramways into consideration.

On the other end, I have a fairly normal Kato bogie, a good ten millimetres closer to the buffer beam, which gives a much more conventional movement. Like a train, in fact.

The overall effect is quite unusual, rather like a design committee couldn’t make their mind up on what they wanted. It looks a lot less silly than I feared, but I think the MkII version may well be slightly different in this area.

First thing to remember for next time: When adding 5mm of clay to a building, this makes it a bigger building. By about 5mm in each direction. How did I not think of this? fortunately I think I got away with it, and I’m sure you won’t tell anyone.

Apart from this things went reasonably well. Next time I’ll let the clay dry out a bit longer before cutting out the windows, and there needs to be a lot more bracing on the card carcass, but nothing broke too much, and what did was fixable. I added a bit of texture by pressing the building into some 120 grit sandpaper, an operation that would have worked better if I hadn’t had a very inquisitive two year old on my knee at the time. Two year old children, incidentally,  are magnetically attracted to damp clay: this applies even if they are in a different room of the building when you start work. They also don’t understand why boring grown ups insist on keeping the clay in one place.

Anyway, after we’d scraped the clay fingerprints off the furniture, I tried painting the model. Most buildings locally are a sort of off-white colour, which looks strange in model form, so I went looking for buildings that showed a bit more ‘character, or to put it another way, ‘dirt’, like this old farm in the centre of our village.

Time and weather and probably a lot of road dirt, have left their mark:

Recreating this in model form took some experimentation, and the discovery that washes of colour don’t really work on such a porous surface. At one point I thought I was about to add a couple more millimetres in paint, but after a considerable amount of time drybrushing I eventually ran out of mistakes to make and got something presentable, so I claimed that was the effect I was aiming for all the time.

The building should look a bit tatty as: it was part of a garage until a few years ago and hasn’t had a lot of maintenance since, but I’m still not sure if I’ve overdone it a bit.

We shall see after I’ve added a bit more detail.


So, several weeks have gone without me deciding to start the railcar project again which at the moment is possibly some kind of record, although it has to be said I had a couple of false starts on the roof. Oh, and I had to redesign the ends to make it all work.

This is because I started out with the silly idea that the roof would be easy. I’m not sure why.

Some time ago I blithely scribbled a design that loosely resembled a Polish Mbxd2, at least viewed by a generous person with not much attention to detail on a dark night while wearing sunglasses. What I didn’t do was think about how I’d make this happen, so when I started to actually form the thing, I came to a grinding halt.

Eventually I decided to laminate several sheets of 0.75mm plasticard and file them down later. For some reason I suddenly decided that the luggage rack, which I’ve always drawn over the luggage compartment, would be much better in the middle of the roof. This would make the railcar look practical and hard working.

It didn’t work of course: it just looked strange, which most people could have told me without making the roof the wrong shape. In the end I cut one of the laminated slabs in half with a hacksaw and glued it to the other section. Observant readers will notice a remarkably indistinct line on the longer roof section.

Much filing and sanding of the sides later, it is passable. The sides aren’t exactly the same angle but I doubt anyone will notice unless they look closely with their head on the track and one eye right in front of the railcar.

And if I catch them doing that, I’ll run them over.

or: Further attempts to get my boys away from a computer….

I was looking through some videos on making walls for my buildings -I’ve never seen any reason not to get ideas from other modelmaking hobbies for use on the railway- and came across this one showing how to make stonework on wargaming boards. Now I’m wondering if this could be a way to get the boys interested in creative building.

At the moment they’re a bit daunted by the scope of model railways: the Eldest Son is interested in stuff like painting and weathering, but finds the whole creative building from scratch a bit overpowering, especially with electrical challenges added. The other two are strategists but could probably get interested in the creative side if the have an idea of what they are doing.

All three love playing strategy games online, and are variously interested in military things, steampunk and anime. Being boys this partly comes with the territory.

For obvious reasons, in a British/Japanese family in Germany, it seems a bit tasteless to do either of the World Wars, so I’ve cut a deal that we could try Napoleonic or Steampunk, or some kind of self-made scenario like Bavaria attacking Württemberg, or possibly something involving orcs.

I have done some wargaming in the past, and my idea was to try skirmish style wargaming using 28mm figures (so I can use them and any scenic materials for 1:55 scale railways if they lose interest) on small boards like the ones suggested towards the end of the video above. This way there’s painting and weathering but not too much, and we can quickly have strategy for the two more interested in gaming.

Now, where do we start? there seem to be books of rules and all kinds of opportunities to spend money. We’ll decline most of these as we can build them, but I’m guessing some people here know what the essentials are, or at least know the right questions to work it out.

Any thoughts welcome…