Archive for January, 2011


Look, a tin of Shellac.

You’re excited, I can tell.

Shellac is apparently a very useful substance if you’re making things out of card: it is absorbed into paper based things and stops them from warping if they get damp or wet. I’ve been told this several times by various people including Dave Etheridge and E Rankine Grey anongst many others, so I’m taking a chance these people may be right.

I’m nearly done making the baseboard for Spitzenwald, and as I didn’t want the whole thing to turn into a rather gooey mess as as soon as I started making things on it, I duly ordered some Shellac and applied same to the surface and sides. Of course this is completely not obvious from a picture of the baseboard, so you’ll have to believe me. It’s also why I took a picture of the tin. I have at least half a tin left which will come in handy for future rolling stock projects.

Wikipedia says that shellac is secreted by bugs. So there. Now you’ve learnt something.


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2010 in review

What with Christmas, family holidays, and other matters, I haven’t had time to post about the statistics I got from WordPress over new year. According to the email they sent:

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

There followed a lot of nice comments, and statistics. Apparently I made 50 new posts: where did I find the time? They also claim that I had 6,800 visits, which is a lot considering this is really a nerdy model train blog. My thanks to you all for taking the time. Some would argue that the time taken to write fifty new blog entries would be better used building a railway, but the encouragement here has kept me building.

Thanks also to Fairlight works and Michael’s model railways for your links: apparently you sent quite a few people into this little corner of the railway blogging world. I hope those who came here after typing Stuttgart 21, fiddle yard, dg couplings, multicar, fiddleyard, and bw ticket into search engines, found something useful.

So, here’s to 2011. I’ve a few resolutions, mostly to do with finishing things, and I’ll tell you about those when I’ve worked out a realistic timescale, and as  I’ve already, number one is to have a shiny new, and preferably coherent  blog post up every Saturday morning, to give me more motivation when I’m tired and watching another YouTube video seems more attractive than making some models.

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On the Humber valley and Simcoe Railway blog, Ron Wm. Hurlbut writes:

As if you don’t have enough on your plate, how about getting a Siku Mercedes Unimog U 1500 and converting it to a High-Railer?

I have indeed considered making a ‘high-railer’ (Known as a road-railer here). I even added to my village idiot status by taking photographs of Maxicar trucks used by the local authority with a view to possibly making a model of them. Or, with my skill level, a more realistic aspiration would be to make something vaguely resembling them, when viewed at a distance, in a dark room.

Ron suggested I use the Siku Unimog as a basis, like the one used by the Stuttgart metro network. This would make life easier and set me off thinking about fitting rail wheels to one with a motor in a ‘tool van’ permanently coupled to it. Then while I was idly watching trams in Freiburg while the family was doing something called ‘shopping’* This came along the metre gauge tracks…

…stopped briefly in the middle of the wandering shoppers, allowing me to make this unfortunately blurred image of the undergubbins. Note that the front wheels seem to be unconnected with the rail wheels:

before trundling through the city gate for the outer suburbs.

This is definitely a road-railer, and not some crude way of making a track cleaner: I saw it driving along another road earlier. Ron suggests a narrow gauge road-railer would use a form of friction drive, but this one seems to have a completely separate drive unit which lifts the entire machine off the ground. I could make one with a Siku Mercedes Atego and a motor unit and make one of these fairly easily.

I will now put this idea it in the ‘ideas book’ with plans like making a snowplough or a rail-based fire truck or extensions to the as yet un-built Spitzenwald.

If I spent half as much time building as I do imagining, I’d get a lot more done.

As an aside, I’m joining the WordPress ‘Blog a week’ challenge for 2011. and adapting some of their post ideas for this blog. The idea being that if I have an extra motivation to blog weekly, it will give me more motivation to build things so I have material to post. In theory this means there will be a post each Saturday. But then in theory I was going to get the Railcar built last year…

*Surely this could be a selling point for cities with light rapid transit: Wives can go shopping and leave their menfolk watching the trams.

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Cross country

Bicycle carrying coach.

We were invited to stay at a friends apartment near Freiburg over the new year, so naturally we went by train. People are generally used to our eccentric car-free habits but when we go for longish journeys by train someone will still react like we’ve announced our intention to mount an expedition to the north pole. Especially when we’re taking our bikes. And this was new year when the timetables change, and according to legend, trains disappear without trace leaving stranded travellers cursing their decision not to use a car. And the morningwe were supposed to be going to Freiburg it had been snowing for several days. Very heavily.

Unfortunately for the sake of interesting stories, it went entirely smoothly. Trains were arriving in Stuttgart looking like the queen of the snow goblins, but they were doing it on time. We had three changes (the flip side of cheap and cheerful travel) but that can be a blessing when you’ve got three excited energetic boys in tow. And we got to travel on the top deck of the double deck trains which is something I find more exciting that most people of my age should. There was even a cavern of a space on all the trains for bicycles. In Freiburg there was a comprehensive cycle infrastructure and even out in our village we had cycle routes marked out, and very little snow.

Which made it all the more annoying that we’d listened to the pessimists and decided bringing our bikes would be too difficult.

‘Be more optimistic’ should probably be on my list of resolutions. Still we got more train rides because of this…

Snow covered train in Karlsruhe

Changing trains


The sort of public transport I used to dream about in the UK: bus actually meeting train. Buses in this town seem to be names after poets: the one that came in after this was called ‘Goethe’.

Tip for travelers to Germany: always use the toilet when you have one. The next train may not have one. Like this one, for example, although it did have space for bikes so I suppose I shouldn’t complain…

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And I’m not talking about me finishing a model railway.

Every now and again when I’m rambling on about my model of the Körschtalbahn, and how it is intended to show that Narrow Gauge railways could still have a role in rural transport,* someone will smile and say something like “but a modern narrow gauge railway couldn’t really happen, you know.”

If you’re wondering, this is the Zillertalbahn, a 760mm gauge line which runs from Jenbach to Mayrhofen in Austria. The new locomotives aren’t exactly pretty but they seem to be working well. It seems the new locomotives and coaches are compatible with the old railcar coaches and driving car, which is sensible because it allows disabled access on all passenger trains.

I know it’s probably subsidized by the villages it serves, but then so are roads. Which would you prefer running past your house?

*fortunately for my social life, I don’t do this very often. Just so you know.

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