Archive for the ‘Prototypes’ Category

On the farm

This is frankly a morale boosting exercise as much as anything.

I’m working on point control for the ‘Kreisbahn’, and although my soldering is improving slowly it still isn’t pretty. I don’t think electronics will become my favourite part of making a model railway. I also reckon a quantum physicist would have something to say about the goings on in some parts of the circuitry.

So to keep myself motivated, I had a look around for some prototype buildings I could model. With the murderous curves on the line, I wasn’t sure what to put in the ‘village’ side of the layout, as I hadn’t seen many curved buildings in villages. There is no shortage of them in cities where buildings tend to be tightly packed together and follow the line of the street, but I needed rural buildings, like farms.

This week The Elder Son and I went for a moderately epic bike ride up a valley we can see from our apartment to a village called Gutenberg. We turned around there because it is the last village before the road climbs  up into the hills, and I’m far to lazy to indulge in any of that climbing nonsense.


It occurred to me that Gutenberg is pretty well the sort of village that our railway would serve, so I confused the locals for a bit by wandering about taking pictures of vaguely interesting buildings.

After a couple of minutes of random wandering I came across this farm, squeezed into a curved patch of land between the river and a largish open space which probably was once a gathering point for more attractive vehicles than overdone compact cars.


Imagine a small narrow gauge railway running along the front of the building, with a loop and a siding, an you’ve pretty well got what I’m aiming for. It will need a fair bit of squeezing into the gap, of course, but I’ll work on that as I need to.

The half-wooden shed was interesting too. It was clearly home-made, but whoever built it clearly invested a lot of time and effort into making it neat and tidy. A low-relief version could well become a small industry or locomotive shed.

On the way we passed several station buildings that would be perfect for the Körschtalbahn and which I’ll write about in due course.

You’re excited, I can tell.

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Big green Krokodile

I apologise for the lateness of this blog post, but I had to go and take pictures of trains.

After ten years here I’m finally able to hear in advance when an unusual train is coming through our local station, and last week an occasionally updated website claimed there would be something to see on Sunday involving a class E94 electric locomotive and possibly a steam locomotive as well. Maybe. It was a big vague on that part.

We missed the morning trip -I’d blame the boys for this but they woke up before me- so at about six in the evening Eldest Son and I got on the bus and bounced our way to Esslingen, where we faffed about trying to guess which platform the train would come on, or if it would come at all.


If this was the UK, there would have been people all over the platform, on the bridges, and often on the track itself, but the place was deserted except for a handful of commuters. Eventually someone wandered down the platform with a massive camera, and shortly afterwards the train turned up, with E94 on the front, the steam locomotive having apparently failed somewhere between here and Ulm.

It was also hauling the most ramschackle coaches in Germany. I’m not sure how they managed to make it all the way from Ulm, or why anyone would pay good money to sit in them.E94_02

Being a nerd I was more interested in E94 than a steam train anyway, as this is one of the remaining ‘German Krokodiles’, electric locomotives with the traction motors in the nose and articulated on the centre section. This was probably easier than messing about with all that complicated business with bogies in the early days of electric locomotives.


The artuculated join between motors and body. Take heart all those who have had a big gap in their models…

After waiting in the station long enough for yours truly to get to the front and take another picture, the train ambled off into the sunset…

E94_06Blocking the fast line all the way into Stuttgart.


Three minutes later this came through on the way to Ulm. You can complain about how trains have less character now, but that is a far more comfortable way to travel.

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The slow train…


The end of year silliness is still upon us, so model making is stalling a bit. It doesn’t help that I’m trying to work out a method for getting point rodding to go around corners, and I still haven’t found the missing pushbutton switches.

To tide you over until next week and the summer holidays, here’s tram number two from the Esslingen-Nellingen-Denkendorf tramway, which used to run through the next village to us. The original tram is now resident in the tramway museum in Stuttgart, but sadly it is unlikely to run again as this tramway had a bigger loading gauge than Stuttgart so the clearances are too tight in the city.

Most people think of a tram as urban transport but this was nothing of the sort and even has compartments to transport animals to market.Unweaned piglets could be carried in cages provided by the tram company, but weaned pigs were not permitted.

Well, quite right too…

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This week we had a trip to the local park at Killisberg, just on the other side of Stuttgart, which amongst other undoubted attractions has a 15″ railway, run by the local tram company, of all people. We haven’t been here for nearly ten years. Here we can see the passenger train about half way around the circuit.



Sometimes I look at things like this and think: why can’t we do something more useful with this? For example, the main entrance and only station on the circuit are at the opposite end of the park from the main play area and petting zoo. Why can’t they do the same as other park railways, and carry push chairs, with an extra station at the playaground?


Judging by the numbers of families who come on the tram with push chairs, who then have to walk the length of the park to the play area, they would gain a fair few riders for very little change to the way the line operates.

Alas, as is so often the case, no-one asks my opinion, and the train just trundles around the park bringing people back to where they started.


This is the sort of style I’d like to make for our, as yet nameless model: track snaking through the woods, occasionally alongside/crossing the road.


I don’t think I’ll nake a model of this train though. the setup is a bit too fancy for my liking. A grubby working loco with a train of rusty wagons is more to my liking.


Still, it is good to see some real narow gauge trains for a change and get a few ideas together.

More modelmaking progress coming soon…

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The 750mm Ochsenhausen-Warthausen railway is a few kilometres from where I lived for about four years before coming to our current home. Typically, I didn’t go there when I lived close by.

The line was built in 1899 from Warthausen on the standard gauge main line between Ulm and Memmingen, to Ochsenhausen and then extended alongside the main line for a few kilometers to Biberach an der Riß. It crossed the main line on the level, like the Welsh Highland in Porthmadog, but that was removed after the war and the line now stops in Warthausen again, making it about 19km or 11.8 miles.

The line survived the war despite some bombing in Ochsenhausen and a severe accident on the crossing with the main line when a train travelling to Ulm ran through a signal set at danger and ploughed through the narrow gauge train at speed killing 12 and injuring a lot more.

The newly formed Deutsche Bahn took over in 1945 and did what they usually did with narrow gauge railways: ran down services while running busses in competition. To be fair this must have seemed a sensible option as the railway makes a large ‘U’ and the road was straight, but still. A preservation group took over in 1985, and had to close the line in 1991. A consortium of shareholders, mainly local governments and a bank, ran services again from 1996 until the line was closed by the transport ministry in 2000 because the track was such a mess. The local governments stepped in again, kicked the bankers out, and reopened in 2001, which shows the financial clout of local governments in Germany. In the UK it would be a cycleway by now.

The video shows 2-10-2 Class 99 tank locomotive number 99 788 bought in 2001 from Deutsche Bahn, who presumably were keeping it on the off-chance they might need it. Part two is here.

Information from Wikipedia Germany.

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Old Friends

I was off in civilisation last week and went for a quick lurk in Stuttgart station (before the powers that be mess it up completely). While I was there these came in on a train from Ulm:

These are from the class 218, Deutsche Bahn’s standard diesel mixed traffic and passenger locomotive since the sixties, when they replaced steam. A bit like the UK’s class 47 and once a very common sight all over west Germany.

There are still quite large areas of rural Germany where these are common, because DB still runs a lot of locomotive-hauled trains and shows no sign of changing to multiple units. They even gained some contracts on the basis of having diesel locomotives and push pull trains with a driving trailer at the back, which has given rise to all kinds of speculation about what may one day displace the 218 locomotives. The possibilities for ‘off-the-peg’ locomotives are varied, here they are in order of personal preference, subjectively based on what I think looks nice and a complete lack of understanding about the working bits inside:

Siemens Vectron: C-C. compact, simple lines and clean design. Would look nice in bright red. (More pictures)

Bombadier TRAXX: Another C-C locomotive. the diesel versions are a proven design, being used by a number of private operaters on passenger services in Germany. They are also simple and attractive but the bodyshell is like the electric class 146 which is the standard local passenger locomotive around here and you can get too much of a good thing.

Vossloh Euro 4000: Nice enough, although the area around the cab looks a bit odd. (More pictures)

Vossloh Eurolight: Apparently a lightweight version of the 4000, designed as a ‘go anywhere‘ locomotive for broad, standard and narrow gauge use (but unlikely to appear on the Körschtalbahn any time soon) Direct Rail Services in the UK have ordered a set of these as the Class 68, but I expect they’ll have to redesign them to fit the loading gauge. (As with the Siemens Desiro classic and the UK versions)

Vossloh G2000 BB: I’m sure these are a freight locomotive. Let’s keep it that way please. I mean, they’re fine on the front of a load of intermodal wagons but on a passenger train they’d look very odd, and they have the aerodynamics of a brick.

Voith Maxima: I don’t know what Voith were thinking of when they came up with this. After much searching I think I’ve found one possible prototype. Definitely of the dark side are these.

Speaking of the dark side and the evil empire, more news on Stuttgart 21 coming soon.

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I’ve mentioned before that my construction methods are a bit unusual. It’s the same with my photography. From what I can gather a proper railway photographer takes pictures of trains like this:

  • Organise trip to half a dozen locations.
  • Procure working timetables for each location for three years either side of proposed date.
  • Get hold of inside information as to which locomotives will be used for the trip, average speed, number of wagons in train, et c.
  • Get all tickets
  • Plan locations and angles, taking into account position of the sun, number of days to the solstice, atmospheric pressure and moon phases.
  • Arrive at least 24 hours before the event.
  • Set up an hour in advance.
  • Take 37 images which would not look out of place at a fine art exhibition.

As you’ll probably expect, it’s a bit different here. Any and all observations about the minutiae of the railway systems I’m traveling on are simply opportunistic picture grabs taken as and when we aren’t running for trains. The usual process is as follows:

  • While travelling on random train, spot something interesting coming along. Fast.
  • Get camera out.
  • Attract attention of Nearest Son who wants to see what is happening.
  • Nearest Son grabs hold of daddy, causing me to wobble.
  • Grab hold of Nearest Son and lift him with left arm, resulting in violent protest from left shoulder.
  • Show Nearest son what I’ve seen.
  • Point camera at what I’ve seen, which is a lot closer now.
  • Camera focuses somehow despite being held in one hand and aiming through a window.
  • And…

Which is why this picture of a Japan Railfreight EF200 and EF66 B-B-B unit in the outskirts of Nagoya is perhaps a bit below the standards of the Royal Photographic Society.

Still, a few minutes with the Gimp and I got a halfway decent shot:

The EF210‘s are Japan Railfreights new B-B-B design and cam bomb along the track at a respectable 110km/h which compares well with the 140km/h of the UK’s class 92, which are the UK’s newest electric freight locomotives. The EF210’s are now replacing the venerable EF66 locomotives like the one parked next to it so I’m glad I got at least one picture of them while still in service.

It only took a week for my left shoulder to get back to normal.

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Blue Thunder

It’s been a busy week. unfortunately I didn’t spend it building anything for the Körschtalbahn, but as readers of the other blog already know, I’m trying to get a job and collecting vital ingredients for the garden. After five years here I’d forgotten how stressful job hunting is, so I turned to YouTube for a bit of light relief.

Japan Railways decided they needed a new heavy haul electric loco, so they ordered a fleet of articulated B-B-B-B units which they classified as the EH200, and also named the  ‘Blue Thunder’. I’m not sure why. We saw several EH200’s while travelling between Nagoya and Nagano in summer, unfortunately they were all flashing past the window of our train so I have to make do with someone else’s videos. It’s probably not for extreme steam fans:

The trains seem to be a bit short in this video: the longest train is 15 tankers. I’m guessing the wheel arrangement is more to do with keeping the axle weight down than maximum power in each unit.
I could make a diesel version of this for Spitzenwald, but I’d have to forget about having trains or a station and just turn the whole model into a locomotive shed, which would be a bit boring.

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Lack of progress on the Körschtalbahn is getting very frustrating so I was determined to make some progress on something. Baseboards seemed a good place to start: the polystyrene/cardboard sandwich hadn’t worked out, but that wasn’t going to stop me now. All it would take was a visit to the village carpenter* and I could move forward, definitely this time, I was determined…

Then I realised I couldn’t do much this week because we were visiting some good friends in Neuenburg in the Black Forest. Never mind, I’d do get the wood next week. Definitely. I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

As a bonus I had time to get some pictures. Neuenburg is on a branch of the Karlsruhe S-Bahn system which is based on the idea of running trams on normal railway. This means the trams are found far beyond where you’d normally expect a tram to go, which is why you get interesting pictures like this of a city tram in a very rural station. There are advantages for the local populace which go beyond interesting photo opportunities and I’ll go on about the system another time when I’ve not done enough  model making,

Neuenburg is remarkably like I imagine Spitzenwald to be, with a large rock face next to the station, and new platforms alongside a rather shabby station building. As the fictional Spitzenwald is a terminus it could well have had a building very much like this as well, but as it was a fairly impoverished narrow gauge line serving a small village I think a smaller one is more likely, besides I could never fit this one on my tiny baseboard. (Ignore the poor quality picture: our point-and-shoot camera doesn’t seem to like shadows)

I confused our friends by taking pictures of the rock face and goods shed as well. The back of Spitzenwald should basically be a rock face and I like the idea of putting netting over some bits to stop lumps falling on the track.

So I came home with lots of pictures, lots of ideas and determined to go straight to the carpenter and beg, borrow, buy, or scrounge some plywood…

Whereupon I discovered the carpenter has to go to Frankfurt for three weeks.

Well I’ve still got the LED’s to solder onto the railcar, and then in a couple of weeks, I’ll get the plywood. Definitely: I’m determined…

*who is also a model railway fan, so I may be able to scrounge something if I say it’s for a baseboard.

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Vista car

Back to Japan for a couple of posts while I try and get my act together on ‘Spitzenwald’ or indeed any form of model making in between some 1:1 scale privvy construction. Yes, I know how to live…

This is one of my favourite sights in Kyoto: the train back home*.

On this occasion the train was operated by the Kintetsu Corporation, who I’ve mentioned before before here and I’ll probably mention a couple more times before you get a reprieve.

The business plan for these railways was the same as for the interurban lines in the USA, or for that matter much of the London underground: build railways linking cities and green fields, buy green fields, sell small bits of green fields at huge profit for people to build houses on. Great. Just to be sure, add things like massive department stores above the major railway stations so people buy their house from you, and use your railway system to go shopping in your shops.

This is why many of the main Kintetsu termini look like multi-storey car parks: they’re directly under the department stores.

As an extra treat, we travelled through the mountains on the ‘Viata Car’: these have a raised passenger section, two small lounge areas on the bottom deck and a central entrance the size of a hotel lobby, complete with potted plants.** Goodness knows why they were built this way: they don’t carry more passengers than a normal coach. I have wondered if they were built like this to fit bigger traction motors into the coaches, or maybe as a way to win traffic back from road transport.

This of course is unimportant: the important question is: Could I justify a model of one for “Spitzenwald”?

Time to get back to reality, methinks…

*Or indeed any large urban area: I know cities have their uses but I haven’t found what they are yet.

**Plastic: you can’t have everything…

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