Archive for June, 2008

Just to prove that the 5,5mm project is more than my online rambling and a few track plans, here is the start of the railcar, put together last weekend. Progress hasn’t been helped by me trying to make two of everything. I’m working on the theory that if I do this, I can wait until another similar chassis comes up on Ebay or similar, and then make a twin for this one, which of course will look better as I’ll make all my mistakes on the first one.

Alternatively it may just enable me to make two different sets of mistakes.

Hopefully there will be more progress over the weekend. In the meantine I’m using the old class 33 body that came with the chassis as a dust cover, which gives the slightly surreal impression of a locomotive wearint a tutu.

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Plan A

The 5,5mm Association 2008 Layout design competition -which I’m hoping to enter- stipulates that entries should be “…55cm x 27.5cm, and adds: “…This gives a reasonable size for you to build a small working layout.”

Okay: here goes with ‘Dachsburg’ Plan A:

I’m assuming this would represent part of a bigger maintenance and stabling area for the Körschtalbahn. The location is assumed to be Dachsburg, which is where the overhead wires would end, and it is common practice locally for stabling and maintenance sheds to be at the country end of branch lines. It would probably also offer more space than the congested and steep hills of Wildberg, where the KÖB would meet with the standard gauge. (If that sounds thoroughly incomprehensible, theres a map of the KÖB here).

I thought the car park over the fiddle yard could be a cunning way of keeping the controller and electrical gubbins on the model but hidden away from view and not taking up too much space. I wondered about a cassette system underneath to avoid handling the locos too much. To add variety I’d probably say the siding in front of the shed is a fuel point for diesels.

Which is all well and good, but I’m aware that October is coming fast, and happens to be one of the busiest times of the year at work, and I’m pretty busy already: it’s taken five days of off-and-on writing to get this blog entry ready between meetings and assignments. On top of that I’m building almost everything from scratch. I already started on the railcar (pictures to come ASAP) but I’m wondering if a complete model may be expecting too much by then. But if I’m not joining the competition, maybe it’s time to dust off the shelves and make a slightly longer model…

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On Being Eccentric

It has been said (Although I’m not sure where) that Geography is a subject for people fascinated with anything. I think that may be true: In the 10 years since I finished studying, I seem to have collected a mass of random images, much to the bemusement of onlookers who say things like: “Er… why is an ISO container/factory door/Rusty heap of machienery worth photographing?”
“I may want to make a model of it one day” seems to kill conversations.

Whilst we were in the UK last month, we had a family holiday in Nefyn, North Wales. It’s the sort of place the postcard industry dreams of: wide beach, rugged scenery and characterful buildings snuggled into the hillside out of the wind, but as usual, I’ve come back home with the camera memory card full of pictures of rusty old bits and pieces, which may turn up as models some day, but in any case, I’m going to inflict some on you now.

Grotty Hut

One the postcard makers spurned, I expect, but just the sort of thing I had in mind to cover the point lever on Westerooge. Oddly enough my companions -apart from my dad, who shares my affliction- didn’t share my enthusiasm for the subject and passed by without a second glance. We made up for it however, and there are now several pictures of this humble construction on our files.

Boat Dump

Nefyn seems to be a cross between a harbour and boat dump with many vessels in differing states of repair littering the area behind the harbour wall. Assuming that the road on Westerooge goes down to the sea, and that the water is just off the front of the model, there could feasibly be several small boats and other bits and bobs dragged up out of the reach of the waves. Most of the boats were upside down like those in the background, presumably to keep the rain out, which would make them easier to model. And yes, that is a bread bag in front, and no, I didn’t notice it until someone asked why I had taken a picture of it. I won’t be making a 1:43 version though.

Drying nets

Drying nets and boxes abounded. I’m wondering if a smaller version could be squeezed in somewhere on Westerooge, but then, I’m not sure how the Halig islanders would fish. More research needed methinks.

Rusty Stuff

This sort of stuff was everywhere: between boats, hanging off equally rusty anchors, or just dumped like it is here. The chain is okay, but I’ll have to think about the markers- jewelry beads perhaps?

Of course, after arriving back in Germany armed with several hundred pictures and a hundred and one ideas, I picked up a copy of the 5,5mm association rules and remembered that if I want to enter ‘Dachsburg: Körschtalbahn’ in their competioion, it’s got to be ready in a very short time…

Time to take some pictures of tram wires…

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Krokodil Foundations

At the end of he last post, I was apparently under the English channel, inbetween the UK and France. We did all get back on time, and the journey was reasonably stress free (Except in Brussels Midi which is a black hole for information, and it appears, trains) and we will probably do the same again, finances permitting. Maybe next time we can catch a sleeper train…

Now we are back and work has hit with a vengance, which is the reason or the lack of posts. About the only thing I’ve succeded in doing is wiring up these two aged Hornby chassis together. I wanted to see how they run with a view to making either a pair of permanantly coupled heavy shunters, or maybe even a Krokodil.

Other than that I’m trying to plan the next project. My aim was to make a micro again for the 5,5mm association competition, but I’m not at all confident that I can make a complete model plus stock by October- I mean, I could, but I would like to see my family as well, and this ‘work’ stuff keeps coming around too. And I keep getting distracted by detailing ideas for ‘Westerooge’…

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When you read this we will be on our way back from the UK to Germany, which is a good excuse to show one of the locomotives that made it possible for us to do this: Hunslet RA 36 1989 was one of a fleet of 144 locomotives running over the 180km network on the English side of the channel between 1987 and 1993. Hunslet made 20 of these 27 tonne Battery-Electric locomotives, and they bore the brunt of the work between May 1989 and June 1991, when they were replaced by diesels, which can’t have helped the air quality in the tunnels.

Actually it is technically only half a locomotive as it originally ran back-to back with another unit, but we can’t have everything. I’m a bit surprised that the National Railway Museum saved one: there are precious few pictures of the 900mm construction railway in operation, and when it retreated to make way for the standard gauge lines, all the stock was gradually returned to the hirer’s, and were presumably rehired or sold off.

The system delivered 7 million tonnes of building materials to the site and shifted 17 million tonnes of spoil out again, and was used for 11 million passenger journeys in the time of operation. It seems a bit of a shame to just forget about it, although that is often the fate of narrow gauge lines, being by definition unglamorous and workaday, they tend to be forgotten after they are no longer needed except for eccentrics like me who ramble about them in blogs.

But, to go on to a regular theme of this blog, this 900mm railway could shift 17million tonnes of spoil and carry 11 million passengers, Think about how many trucks and cars this could replace in a rural area. So why is narrow gauge so often dismissed as a thing of the past, and too small for economic use?

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One of my discoveries around Bedale station was Unit 10: White Rose Models. Their main output is baseboards -mostly spirals- which are advertised in the model press, but I found that they also have a small shop selling all the bits and pieces that German shops don’t, and a second hand section.

This is bad news for the modelmaking budget.

I’d been eyeing up a few prospective purchases there, but when we got back from the family holiday in Wales there was a big box of used American outline HO models, and they were calling my name. I tried to resist, but when I found an SD40 that ran like a tortiose on tranquilisers, and a motorised/dummy combination that was going for ten pounds, I succumbed and paid up before the sensible voice had time to argue.

I’ll tell you about the plans for these when I get them home. It’ll have to wait until my parents come in a few months: postage to Germany has skyrocketed to a level that makes me wonder if parcels now travel business class, and there is no room for more models in the suitcase -especially after I smuggle in the turntable.

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When we told our friends and family that we were planning to travel around the UK by public transport the main reaction was of disbelief. Kind souls would offer to pick us up at major stations some considerable distance from our destination, as if we couldn’t possibly manage to get there otherwise, certainly not within the week. We were given horror stories of missed connections and grumpy staff, and having to stand for hours on slow trains.

So far though, it has been pretty good.

I know what you’ll say: we were lucky, the odd trip can work out well on occasion, but considering that we’ve travelled from rural Wensleydale, (North Yorkshire) to Walsall, Manchester, and the Wilds of the Lleyn peninsula in north Wales, mostly by public transport or on foot, We’re pretty impressed at what we found. Trains were almost always on time, clean and comfortable, and staff were unfailingly friendly and helpful. We even got a seat, mostly.

There have been some real changes since we were in the UK too. Trans pennine don’t use class 47’s and Mark 2 coaches any more, which is a shame because they did have character, but they were never as fast as the new class 185’s that run now

Travelling by train means you travel a fair bit by bus as well, which is a bit different to Germany, not least because they put the door on the other side, and is is surprising how long it takes to get used to. On the whole, it seems bus travel has improved since I was bouncing along the road to Taunton every day to go to college. Then I had the choice of the rattling Leyland college service, and the regular ‘Bread Van’ Transit conversions which seated 15 rather intimately. According to the timetable these were supposed to come every fifteen minutes, but in practice this was taken as the average: you’d wait three quarters of an hour and then three would come at once. We never had anything like this.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind these in our village in Germany: at the moment the connection to the Ü-Bahn runs every twenty to thirty minutes using bigger buses like this Solaris in Esslingen. They are great but because the Ü-Bahn has a ten minute service you frequently arrive a few minutes after the bus has left, and in some cases, you even get to see it pull away, whereas a smaller fleet running more often could meet the tram every time. I can’t help feeling this would increase ridership.

Solaris Bus in Esslingen

On the other hand, a big bus has space for a buggy to just roll in, which I doubt would be the case here, so I guess it there is always a positive and negative side to the equation. And at least we have the door on the correct side of the bus.

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Posts are getting a bit sporadic at the moment here with all this travelling around the UK but I’m still planning and designing the next layout on backs of envelopes when I have a few minutes to spare.

I’ve got an idea, but I’m in need of a bit of information from those more expert than I. More people are reading and commenting since I moved to WordPress, so I figure I can ask a couple of questions here:

Firstly is there any case where a diesel fuel pump could be found on a line with overhead wires? I think I can guess the answer to this, especially as this is a main line operation, not a backwoods line, but you never know.

Second: Is it likely that the day-to-day stabling of diesels and electric locomotives would happen on the same site?

Third: To make operation more interesting I’m hoping to run locos through a fictional ‘maintenence plan’ where locos come in, get attention, and then return to run trains, this being their job. What would typical daily or weekly maintenance consist of, and what sort of equipment would it require?

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