Archive for July, 2018

This week the theatre/social enterprise I work for was part of a big summer festival in our part of the city, which meant Saturday was full of loud music, crowds, lights, more loud music, and more crowds. Pretty much the standard town festival formula really. Oh, and it ran to midnight and after that we had to tidy everything up. And someone decided it would be a great idea to put the 5’3″ (168cm) Brit on the rota for the stage door bouncer.

When not trying to keep people on the public side of the stage door by sheer force of personality and a step, I wasn’t needed for anything else and could lurk in the relative peace of the office and draw sketches of models.

This particular sketch is of the Höfelbachbahn, the entirely fictional railway that briefly existed as a rather unsuccessful circular model until I decided that being able to run a train round and round was only an advantage if it didn’t keep falling off the track because it hit a building. This is an attempt to take most of what I liked about the original and rebuild it in a way that trains could go in and out of the station without smacking into the scenery.

The idea is generally the same, a small remote village in the hills served by a narrow gauge railway despite the best efforts of the local government. The line follows the local roads and enters the town through two city gates, with this station between them. Having two city gates like this isn’t unknown where towns expanded but still needed the protection and authority a wall gives. The gate on the left would be the existing one from the previous model, and the one on the right would be a newer version, probably a bit more attractive and showy. This is where trains coming up the steep hill are organised to be taken to the terminus in the old town, and also delivered to local industries like the post office (which I’ve already built) and an expended farmers cooperative and/or carpenter to hide the backstage area.

The big question of course is if it is worth allowing a small fiddle yard through the ‘old’ city gate. This would mean I could run trains into the station and use the ‘old city’ a a destination for any wagon I couldn’t otherwise find an excuse to use on the model.

When I make plans like this I can almost convince myself I can get away with making it in the living room. “Sure” I tell myself. “I could make this on a small shelf in the living room with track running along the wall. No-one would notice.”


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Attempts at self discipline continue. This weeks project is an endeavour to kick start some freight wagons for the Körschtalbahn, on the basis that the big diesel really should have something to pull. Admittedly I don’t have a diesel as yet, nor do I have a layout for this hypothetical train to run along, but hey, never let facts get in the way of an interesting project.

The mythical and somewhat optimistic traffic flows of the Körschtalbahn which I will bore you with at some point will require vans to keep the products carried safe and dry in transit. To be viable they will need to be high capacity vans which can take standard Euro palettes and be loaded and unloaded with a forklift truck to keep costs down, so we’re talking large capacity vans with big sliding doors. These are pretty commonplace on modern European railways and fortunately I even found that the metre gauge Rhaetian Railway have a fleet. Readers with a long memory and an extremely high boredom threshold will recall that in the early years of this blog I tried to make a 1:43 scale model of one of these, which shows just how very slowly I work.

The RHB have two types of van at the moment. I’m building the more complex one, less because I have ideas of genius in the model making department, more because the more complex vans are an older batch, so I have a bit more leeway to hide my mistakes by weathering the dodgy bits.

Which is all very well, but we are currently in one of the busiest seasons at work, as we are taking part in a big summer festival this weekend so work may well be even slower than normal. Still, that design is completed, which is the really tough bit finished: after all, the rest is just cutting bits out and sticking them together…

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Most of what passes for scale modelmaking here takes place on an A4 sized cutting mat in a cupboard in our living room. This has the advantage that I can close the doors and hide the disaster zone that my workbench inevitably becomes after a few sessions.

It also has some drawbacks, especially as I tend to buy materials from art wholesalers and architecture supply shops, as I have yet to find a local model shop that sells anything other than boxes of hideously expensive trains. The local art wholesaler in particular tends to object to selling card in sheets less than about 2m long so when I decided to work on a project that meant I’d need to use this card, there was no option but the floor.

I like to think this gives me a mystical bond with Japanese craftsmen who worked in this way for centuries, but realistically they would be unlikely to be constructing a set of small buildings for a rather silly tabletop game.

The buildings are supposed to have a vaguely generic military feel, so we can make a sort of low budget bond villain base for our characters to play in. Hopefully they will be generic enough to take on other roles as it seems tabletop games are a bit like film sets and you need to make new scenes fairly frequently.

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All this trying stuff out is very important and useful, but if I don’t get moving on the main model there isn’t going to be one, so I’ve been trying to get myself focused. The arrival of this package is another step in that direction.

For people with a normal life I should explain that this is a ‘simulator’ controller, which is designed to operate like a real train: when you turn the electricity on it starts the train gently, accelerates to the set speed, and then slows it down with momentum like a real train. Of course you can make it look like a real train to other people, but this way you have to learn how to drive the train into the platform or stop at signals etc, which is obviously much cooler.

I’ve liked simulator controllers ever since I saw one as a child, so much, in fact that I saved my pocket money for a Gaugemaster unit (“With Brake”) in the 1990’s which turned out to be everything I’d hoped for, just not in combination with the ‘pancake’ motors in models at the time. Frequently the train would sulk in the platform for several seconds then lurch forward at high speed and, because mine was rather short model, crash into the buffers about three seconds later. On at least one occasion the train went clean off the end in a dramatic recreation of the Montparnasse derailment.

I also managed to find the least ergonomic position on the model I was building and give myself a repetitive strain injury using it, although I notice the company has since changed designs so it may not have just been me.

Twenty years later and modern motors have flywheels and weight, and the ability to stop, go, and pull the skin off’f a rice pudding. When I got the chance to buy a used panel mounted unit for a very low price I sent an offer before the owner changed their mind, and this week the unit arrived.

Now I need to find a transformer and build a case, which shouldn’t be difficult, and may even get me back into making things out of wood again.

The seller had brought the controller with him on holiday to northern Germany and packaged it in a newspaper at his hotel, so I even had an instructive five minutes reading the Bad Doberan Advertiser. I am now up to date on the goings on of the East Coast Sailing club and the summer theatre scene on the Baltic coast.

So there, bilingualism pays.

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