Archive for the ‘Buildings’ Category

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.

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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.

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Running toy trains round a circle of track is only exciting for so long, so this week I finally got on with making the first building for the model railway.

In my fevered imagination, this side of the model will look like a fairly typical village with a cluster of buildings and a narrow gauge railway that happens to run along the main road. It all works very well in my head, as long as I ignore my complete ignorance about how I was going to make them.

Optimism is a wonderful thing, and denial of the facts can look almost as good if you squint.

I decided to make a start on the Post Office. The original plan was for it to be parallel to the track but this lasted until the moment I put it on the model and realised it would mess up just about everything else in that corner. Some bodging later it looked like this:

I’m not entirely happy with this new position but I’ve convinced myself it will work a bit better when the other buildings are added. Hopefully.

The ‘city gate’ will probably follow the line of the post office wall, so it isn’t perfectly in line with the track. Hopefully this will give the impression that the railway came much later than the buildings, and the train is running onto the scene from another part of the village, rather than trundling around in endless circles…

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Last month we found a village a few kilometres away that isn’t there any more. There’s a reference on an old map, but no evidence except a mill that shares the name. No-one even knows where the village was supposed to be: a place where several generations lived, had children, and died, seems to have vanished without trace.

Or maybe a map maker got bored.

Either way, I’m taking the name, so  welcome to Wörnitzhausen, population one. And he isn’t very talkative.

As you can see, the planning committee has been to visit.


The challenge is to make this flat bit of cork into a convincing german village with railway accessories, and incidentally hide the fact it’s a circle of out of scale track. To start with I needed to get a feel for how big a building is, and in 1:55 scale you can’t exactly go out and get a ready to plonk building.

Further along from the alleged site of Wörnitshausen We passed this farm, now surrounded by foul and ugly buildings:

I’m quite aware that this isn’t the best picture, but I only had my little ‘point and hope’ camera with me and I was struggling to keep up with the Elder Son as it was.

German doors are usually two metres tall, and I took that as my starting point and worked out the rest by eye, then Youngest Son and I cut up some paper to make the version in the top picture. I don’t intend to use this as a design for the layout, just to see how big a ‘typical’ farmhouse would be.

The scenic break will be a city gate. Because I like city gates.

Baeckertor_Landsberg-2(Image source: Wikipedia)

This is the Bäckertor or ‘Bakers gate’ in Landsberg am Lech in Bavaria, which was once our local big town. I’ll make my own version but it shows that city gates can be fairly small. I’ve occasionally come across villages near here which have the remains of a wall so I don’t think it will look out of place.

The paper model to the right of my gate is supposed to be a garage, repurposed as a maintenance shed for the railway. I’ll need to work on that one; I wanted something modern and unsympathetic to its surroundings, but you can have too much ugly.

I’ve had a few more ideas since then, but first I needed to get the track ballasted and painted, a job I was frankly terrified of, but I manned up and went to the local chemist to get a syringe to put the glue down with. I did ask for the biggest one they had, but I wasn’t quite expecting this.


I’ve used something similar, but only administering medicines to farm animals.

If you know what sort of human ailments require such a thing for treatment, please keep it to yourself…

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Not like it used to be.

After one ‘interesting’ road journey (ever tried crossing a suspension bridge in a typhoon?), a remarkably punctual flight to from Nagoya to Helsinki, and an almost comically delayed flight from Helsinki to Stuttgart, we are back where we started five weeks ago, although there will be a couple more posts about Japan to hide my lack of modelmaking progress…

We found another railway museum. This time it was in Kyoto, which we were visiting by happy coincidence, so my beautiful wife agreed to visit it*.

The Kyoto Steam Museum is built in a former roundhouse in a triangle of major railway lines which radiate from Kyoto station. To the south is the Shinkansen line to Osaka, to the west a large container terminal, and to the north south and east run commuter and intercity lines.

This makes it even more ironic that we had to get a taxi because there’s no rail service to the museum.

The entrance to the museum is through a former railway station which is a beautiful contrast to the concrete blocks we’d been traversing through for the last couple of weeks. I don’t understand why Japan Railways don’t make buildings like this any more. I wonder when someone high up in the Japan Railways firmament decided: “I’ve got an idea, let’s stop making beautiful buildings: from now on we’ll process everyone through ugly concrete slabs with barriers.**” And more to the point, how come they got away with it?

Yeah, I know: economics and all that.

I’m still not convinced.

I’ll talk more about the museum soon.

*For the boys. Of course.

**Or maybe: “Let’s have our stations designed by plumbers

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Some of you already know this, but we don’t have a car and thus travel rather a lot by bicycle. I have another blog where I mutter about the lack of cycle infrastructure in our town, but I will say this for them: they’ve made sure that there’s a comprehensive network of signs for cyclists. Of course, because I live here I know my way around so they are of limited use, whereas in unfamiliar places where I need signs, like I did in Bempflingen* last year, there often aren’t any. On the other hand, getting lost did enable me to see this water mill which would make an excellent prototype for an industry in Spitzenwald.

The mill itself is a combined wood and flour mill, which makes sense: when it was built the only source of power would have been the river so it made obvious sense to use that power for two things instead of one.  This being Germany, it’s not a surprise that the mill is still working instead of being an art gallery or antique shop. What is startling is that they haven’t razed the whole site and replaced it with a corrugated metal and steel box, and they have a website with English-language pages and a whole gallery of pictures of the mill(s), mostly better than mine.

The mill would make a great model: it’s an attractive building and environment, looks reasonably ‘rural’ while still providing at least two forms of inward traffic (grain and logs) and outward (flour and cut wood) It’s also remarkably compact as I discovered when I tried to continue my journey and wound up about at the back of the same mill by the wood storage yard (above). I took a couple more pictures for the ‘Projects to do one day’ folder, and then went back to searching for a way to the next village.

*And who, just out of interest, decided ‘Bempflingen’ would be a snappy name for a village? And are they connected to the person who decreed the first road I crossed would be called ‘Sewage works street’?

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I’ve decided the idea to use polystyrene sandwiched between cardboard is going to work, or at least it will as soon as I can get a big pot of glue to hold it all together, which will have to wait until I next go to a DIY/Hardware type store. In the meantime, I’ve been fooling about with some track and bits I’ve built over the years. So that you can share the excitement I even moved the lot onto my work table where the anglepoise lamps are (note to self: I really need to get some decent lighting together in the loft)

The track plan is essentially a copy of my model of ‘Aysgarth’, which happened to be my last, and best layout before I started doing frivolous stuff like getting married. As such it’ll have a platform, a bay/freight unloading siding, and locomotive stabling siding opposite the platform. I’m wondering if I should have the platform at the front  (as seen above) or the back (as seen below). Having platform to front would mean I can’t model the station building, so there would be just a rock face at the back.

The plus to this is that I don’t have to make the station building. Having the platform at the back would give me more variety, but I’m leery of taking on the challenge to build the station. Sigh. I can always chicken out and go with ‘platform to front’ and then turn the model around when I feel up to finishing the job.

I’m still building over scale: the doors on the loco shed are way too far apart, so the gap between the platform road and loco siding is so wide the staff will have to communicate by telephone. The railcar will need rebuilding too. Still, that gives me more blog material.

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