Archive for the ‘pictures’ Category


Midday at Wörnritzhausen. The Railcars are recharged during the midday lull, one here and one at the junction with the standard gauge at Rietheim. Such passengers as there are at this time travel on the mixed train seen arriving behind the Krokodil. Today is a Thursday, so the mixed will be longer than usual as Thursday is market day.

This will cause all kinds of problems for the railcar crew later because the market is held right next to the track and inevitably spills out onto the railcar siding, frequently obliterating it completely under stalls, crowds and quite stubborn livestock. Pigs in particular tend to sit wherever they want to, and get quite upset at being prodded for something as trivial as a railway timetable. On the other hand passengers in the opposite railcar coming the other way dislike having to wait halfway down the line because of stubborn bacon.

What with this and the increased road traffic coming into the town, children running about the place in all directions, and the possibility of an extra van to shunt and pull, conscientious railcar crews have learned to start a good twenty minutes early to reach the main line in time for a punctual start up the valley.

Or to put it another way, I’ve got an exam this week and I don’t have any time for making things. Hopefully I’ll be able to recreate this scene on the model at some point. Don’t hold your breath though.

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Körschtalbahn railcar VT 4-4 03 in a siding just outside Spitzenwald waiting to form the afternoon school service to Dachsburg. Before leaving the railcar will pick up a van for return down the valley with the post from Spitzenwald and the surrounding villages. The van will then be attached to a Wildberg-bound train to arrive in the local sorting office by mid afternoon.

Okay, I’m making it up. This is what the railcar looked like before I had a go at it with the Gimp*:

A couple of weeks ago we inherited a super-duper, all singing and dancing printer from a friend which we were promised would print brilliant photo quality images the like of which we had never seen**, perfect in fact for making prints of wagon and carriage sides to make rolling stock construction easier.

So I decided to try doctoring a couple of pictures to get a bit of practice, and to try out some colour schemes.

Connecting the printer was the usual twenty minutes of swearing and trying to connect cables to discover what this particular printer will do instead of print as promised in the manual. It turns out that this printer specialised in very, very, faint printing. In pink.

I am not going to have a railway with pink railcars, I mean, come on.

So instead of designing my first printouts, I consoled myself with a quick repaint of the railcar.

There’s a lot of “what if’s” in this version: if the promoters of the proposed railway from Garve to Ullapool, on being unable to raise the capital for a standard gauge line, had instead built to three foot gauge like in Ireland? And what if this line had survived into BR days?

(Background image from here)

Okay, it’s a bit far fetched, but here we see 152 001 forming the morning Garve-Ullapool service. I’m assuming that the rail car was one of several ordered from Japan to replace some seriously elderly wooden bodied stock on this ‘socially necessary’ railway.

If you read it fast enough it is almost convincing.

Now, maybe British Rail Blue and grey, or something a bit more adventurous?

*very similar to Photoshop with the important difference that it is free.

** The printer, that is. Our friend was getting married and moving to North Germany, where I am reliably informed there are trolls.

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Sick camera

Our hard working camera which accompanied me on most journeys and provided 99% of the pictures on this blog suddenly expired a few weeks back. I’d hoped that by diligently protecting this camera I’d be able to make it survive a bit longer, but I think I probably have unrealistic expectations for the longevity of electronic equipment.
Our finances are looking a tad shaky after we emptied our bank account into the internet in exchange for flight tickets to Japan and although we could borrow a very nice camera which was donated second hand to our theatre organisation , it seems very cheeky to take that on a bike ride, and frankly I’d be leery of dropping it as it isn’t really ours.
On the other hand, there’s only so much of my prose that a sane person can take without something interesting to look at, and it would be nice to be able to get some pictures and videos of interesting goings on at a railcar depot near my in-laws house, so I’ve put a ‘camera fund’ widget in the margin. If you’ve been enjoying this blog and you’d like to help us get an inexpensive ‘entry level’ compact (or preferably get the existing one repaired -there must be some little shop in a back street in Japan) feel free to add to the fund. If you can’t or don’t want to*, no worries, we’ll gather loose change from behind the sofa cushions eventually, -I’ll check all the airline seats just in case- but you may have to put up with unbroken rambling for a bit longer.

*and let’s face it, there are more pressing needs around.

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I don’t usually listen to people saying I should get out more, but I was invited over by a friend who lives in a sylvian idyll over in the Allgäu, the eastern corner of Germany, just before you get to the Alps. The combination of a chance to visit a good friend and his besutiful family, and get a long ride on a train seemed far too good an opportunity to pass up.

The train to Lindau is usually formed of double deck coaches, pulled by a class 146 locomotive, the way trains ought to be. The railway follows the valley of the Neckar, home of Mercedes and one of the most important wine-growing regions of Germany. It must be the only place where you can stand in a medieval vineyard and look down on a factory. If that’s your idea of a good time.
After half an hour we’re past the industrial strip and passing through a wide valley flanked by steep snowy hills. Forests stand on the slopes like three day old stubble. A TGV flashes past on a service from Münich. The valley closes in, and the hilltops sprout castles as we approach the pass in the hills at Geislingen an der Steige (‘Geislingen on the hill’). We lumber up the pass, the cliffs loom ever closer, the valley floor is far below, railway and road grasp onto the cliffside and just as there seems to be no space left for both we pop out of the pass and into friendly rolling hills as if the looming dramatic cliffs were never there.

After a bit more of the rolling hills the scenery goes all dramatic again, although this time it’s because we’re descending into Ulm. The Cathedral is much celebrated for having being the tallest spire in the world. Unfortunately by an accident of geography it makes an ignominious entrance from behind a brewery, but it’s no less impressive for all that.

In Ulm station the engine disappears and goes off around the corner in a huff. This is a little disconcerting for some tourists, but all is well: a few minutes later another locomotive appears, and not just any old loco either, one of my favourite Br 218’s. From here on we’re going into diesel territory into the less heavily populated and rather lumpy south. I appreciate that having a favourite diesel locomotive marks me out as a Very Boring Person: I also don’t care.

Aulendorf. The Lindau train looking like a long-distance train should.

So… which train to I get on. This nice clean Br650 from the Hollenzollnerische Landesbahn?

Or this classy version of the same unit belonging to the Bodensee-Oberschwaben Bahn?

Nope, I end up on an aging DB Br 328, which was last refitted in the seventies. On the plus side the first class section is declassed to second, and the reclining seat reclines. It then stays reclined despite all efforts to make it more upright.

We’re following the Württembergische Allgäubahn. It’s a local railway in every sense of the word with a winding single track route from Aulendorf into the Allgäu: a large, quite remote and very lumpy region calculated to break a railway promoters heart -and budget.

We make a mellow run through ever more dramatic and snowy hills, pass another train in into Kißlegg,  The train reverses here, and I hunt for another facing seat: it’s that or see my breakfast again. I know: I’m getting old.

This seat doesn’t recline at all.

The approach to Wangen involves bursting out of a forest onto a high viaduct, promising baroque buildings and onion domes. Wangen has all these things -it’s one of the prototypes for the fictional Obermettingen- but unfortunately the railway station seems to be in the back yard of a run-down farmers cooperative, which doesn’t quite fit the image.

My friend meets me in the car park and takes me to his family home: an old wooden building in the side of the hills with the mountains rising steeply in the distance.

He does his winter commutes on cross-country skis.  This is the view from his living room.

It’s enough to make you regret having a return ticket, but at least I was able to go home on a real train.

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I can’t quite believe I live in a place where 700 year old gates are a normal part of the scenery. This is the Wolfstor, (Wolf gate), built in 1220 and one of several around the city of Esslingen, I assumed the name was to record some grim episode  involving snow and hungry carnivorous canines, but apparently it’s just because the two carved lions on the outside of the gate are heavily weathered by centuries of rain and their faces look like a wolf. It’s my favourite gate in the city but a real pain to photograph because of all those 300 year old timbered buildings getting in the way. Fortunately a real photographer with a real camera went along and took a far better image than I managed.

Stephan and I had an idea about making the outside outside of a city gate.  As with most city gates the outside of the Wolfstor looks a lot more grim, as it’s built to stop heavily armed hordes and rather large rocks.

The Wolfstor is a bit big for a 1:35 scale railway, so in search of a smaller subject I looked up the the Bäckertor (Baker’s Gate) in Landsberg am Lech. To my shame I walked through this gate several hundred times when I lived there and not once did I think to take photograph of it. This would still be pretty massive so I’ll have to shrink it as well, but it’s more what I’m after:  an everyday working gate for trade and defence, rather than a grand entrance to impress visiting dignitaries.

I still like the Wolfstor though, so I expect we’ll have a sort of mix of the two, with an archway conveniently sized for a 600mm railway to run through. At the moment I’m thinking of having a small townscape with an agricultural cooperative, a mill and the outside of a city gate as a scenic break. Any thoughts or ideas appreciated, as always…

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Before Christmas I went to a conference in Würzburg, which essentially meant I got to ride on a train for a couple of hours to a beautiful city I haven’t seen before, go to a very interesting conference with some incredible people talking about what they were doing, have lots of conversations with said people, and have a train ride home. It’s a tough life.

Anyway, amongst its other charms, Würzburg has trans, and metre gauge, no less. so while I was walking through the city I took pictures as I could. Unfortunately the mix of strong sunlight and deep shadow made for tough photographic conditions, but here’s a few that worked out.

Type GT-N, currently the newest type of tram in Würzburg, delivered from 1996 and largely low-floor. design (in other words, only a small step up from the street platforms)

And an example of a platform in the centre. Look carefully to see where the tram stop is. I had to wait a while for people to stop wandering along the track for this picture. Notice that this drops people off right next to the shops. Drivers have to park outside of this area or underground, which makes driving into the city less convenient and attractive.

In the centre of the city, looking from in front of the Cathedral. Bearing in mind that my fictional geography for the Körschtalbahn includes street running in Wildberg before the railway reaches the terminus, it could look a lot like this.

Another GT-N. They look pretty comfortable. I wonder if I could make a model for the Körschtalbahn?

Julispromenade in the evening. My fictional  Wildberg (stadt) station could well look like this. In my imagination at least. As with many German cities cars have been shoved firmly out of the way which brings certain advantages like clean air and the ability to take a photograph from this position without being run over.

Tram pulling out of the Julispromenade. Picture included for no other reason than that I was so pleased it came out so well.

The older generation of trains is the GTE. I couldn’t get a picture of these high-floor trams (about three or four steps from the ground). These have been adapted with a big low-floor vestibule and a ramp for people not able to deal with steps. I’ve seen low-floor sections on trams before, but not this commodious and not with step free access to the rest of the tram. I’ll get a picture next time I’m there. You’re excited, I can tell.

I don’t understand why more cities don’t use metre gauge trams. They could provide a quality service for less than the cost of a standard-gauge system, and as the pictures show, with less visual impact on the urban environment, and with diesel engines they could run local services in rural areas as well (they’ve been doing this in the Harz for some time), but alas, no-one asks my advice in these matters.

I have an appointment few weeks, which means another train journey, this time to the  Allgäu,  the alpine foothills. It’s hard, but I think I can manage it. I may even force myself to take pictures.

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Room with a view…

By popular demand, here’s the view from our future apartment over the roof of the house opposite… While it’s not exactly the Swiss Alps, compared with the street we currently live in (The truck in this picture is about one metre from our living room window) it’s a major step up, so we’re happy. You can just see the hills in the distance, even though the weather wasn’t so great on this day… As well as the move I’m looking for work, as although the current job isn’t in danger, working freelance in media and theatre is looking very shaky in the current economic situation, so I’m running about getting applications ready and making arrangements for interviews. If all goes well, I could be commuting soon.

All of this at once, and trying to do it in German and get used to the German system for seeking work and getting training and things, is taking a lot of time and is a tad stressful, so I’ve not a lot of energy left over to build anything or write about it, but I’ll keep posting when I have a break in the clouds…

Incidentally, that door on the right in the top picture leads here. I’ve seen smaller modelling sheds…

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Out with the old. About time...

Out with the old. About time...

On my first visit to Germany I stayed at Esslingen-Am-Neckar, in the valley of the Neckar river. At the time, the town was still pretty car-dominated: The bus and rail stations exuded shabbiness: the station in particular was a rather dingy hole: my main memory of it was the darkness cast by an ugly canopy grafted onto the formerly grand building. The station was fronted by a busy road, so pedestrians and cyclists had to scuttle across as and when they could. The bus station was in a similar state, and likewise cut off from the town, while people driving could park under the centre, which gave a clear message about the value of people who came by public transport. On the other hand the bus and trains ran on time and were integrated with through ticketing, and a large part of the old city was pedestrianised, which put the town many years ahead of the UK at the time.

Soon this will be an open space

Main road will soon go to the extreme left of this picture.

Since then vehicles have been largely banned from the high street and several side roads have been blocked and turned into mostly pedestrianised areas. Now the gradual improvement has reached the railway station. The road which currently blights the front of the station will be moved between the building and the railway track ie: out of the way, leaving the was clear for people and bikes to get to the network of pedestrianised roads in the centre. Obviously this will make a lot of space available, and this will become a large square (ie: space for people) with a new bus station.

Future open space/bus station.

Bad picture of future open space/bus station.

In the first week of January, the diggers were already at work demolishing the old buildings, and to my lasting satisfaction, the canopy has been partially removed which has made a dramatic difference to the station building, and it’s made some detailed stonework visible for the first time in about 40 years.

It would in fact make a lovely model, were it not for the fact a 1:55 scale version would be several metres long…

By the way, contrary to appearances some modelmaking has taken place since Christmas. I’ll post about it ASAP…

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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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Field Trip

I went to my parents local Station in Bedale the other day, just to see what was there. The line is currently seeing services between Leeming and Redmire on Tuesdays and Weekends run by the Wensleydale Railway Company, who aim to reopen it from Northallerton on the East coast Main line to the Settle and Carlisle at Garsdale.

NER Signal Box on the Crossing

View from the platform, the edge curves away from the track along the old loading bay

Station buildings from the platform

Station from the road side

Thing is, I’ve had an idea about a ‘might have been’ narrow gauge model since I first saw the place: I could just imagine it with a couple of sidings, raised trackbed in the station and a narrow gauge block freight rumbling over the crossing, perhaps double headed by freightliner liveried narrow gauge locomotives…

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