Archive for the ‘Random Ideas’ Category

When I last wrote about the Big Diesel (aka ‘Moby Dick‘) I was dithering about how to make the ends, because as usual I was overthinking everything about the project, imagining a dozen different ways to make the curve on the nose and how they could all go horribly wrong.

Eventually I decided that it would be better to actually finish the model at some point and reverted to plan ‘A’.

The problem was that despite my early sketches of the loco I really wanted the distinctive chromed light clusters on the the Brohltalbahn’s D5 or its standard gauge cousin, the Deutsche Bahn type 218. It identifies the locomotive immediately and hopefully makes it clear that the model is in Germany as opposed to Austria or Switzerland. As this will be a somewhat unusual model I wanted to have as many of these visual cues as possible to set the scene quickly in viewers minds.

More to the point I really like the class 218.

For some reason I’d got stuck on the idea that if I didn’t make the nose curved I couldn’t have the 218 styled light bar because… um… Reasons. so I’d followed the idea down the rabbit hole and was looking at the headlight designs on the similar Bulgarian railways type 77 when I happened to come across a type 218 picture and noticed that it has flat ends. Of course it does. I’ve travelled behind class 218’s for hundreds of kilometres and every one of them had an absolute lack of curve on the ends. I’d just… missed it somehow.


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As expected, determined procrastination has ensured little progress on the Great White Whale so the focus has returned to the Cardboard Rocket, especially as I’d already come to the fun part where I get to add all kinds of bits and pieces which somehow make it look less like a few bits of milk carton gobbed together with superglue and more like a car. At least I think it does. Don’t mess up my reality.

So far the model has cost a grand total of nothing, unless you count superglue. Even the figure is recycled from a 1:48 scale kit, after your correspondent finally realised that the difference between 1:48 and 1:55 is so small that for the most part it’s invisible. The head is nominally 1:55 and white metal, a leftover from a pack of ‘female heads’. For model railway builders I should perhaps explain that these are sold for mounting on figures to make then ‘female’ the gender being less than obvious when the figure is in a uniform. It’s handy for those of us who don’t want our female combatants to have a biologically impossible figure.

Other ‘detail parts’ consist of old guitar strings, handles from a Chinese takeaway, brass offcuts (the over large buckle on the ‘strap’ wouldn’t have worked with steel), dressmakers pins, (side and rear lights), electrical wire, a filed down nail head, (radiator cap), a cut off picture nail head (fuel cap) and an exhaust from copier paper wrapped around some metal of unknown origin that’s been kicking about the workbench for years.

The general idea is that after painting this will all somehow fit together and look like it’s made of metal and leather instead of cardboard and oddments. We shall see…

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Over on the Lead Adventure Forum there are a number of people making very cool stuff out of cereal packets, cocktail sticks and assorted random odds and ends. This appeals to your correspondent, mainly because I am a tree-hugging bicycle riding hippy, and also because, being a tree-hugging bicycle riding hippy I’m generally short on money to fund any model making.

So when someone pointed me at a thread showing how to make a rather spiffy Fokker Trimotor from cornflake packets, handily in my scale of 1:55 or what tabletop gamers call ’28mm scale’, I got all enthusiastic about trying something like it.

Lacking the space for something as huge as an aeroplane, I decided to go for a 1930’s styled three-wheeled sports car. This could be useful in dashing tabletop adventures and would be exotic enough to appeal to my boys. At least that’s my excuse…

So far the ‘chassis’ is a cereal box card, with a piece of loo roll pretending to be a canvas radiator cover. The headlights gave me some trouble before I found that Middle Son had a bottle full of air gun pellets he thankfully wasn’t going to use, and was happy for me to take a handful. I drilled a hole in the pellets, superglued a pin in them, and sanded down the other side to make passable main lights. The sidelights are from round-headed dressmakers pins, treated the same way.

The wheels are made by sandwiching lots of bits of wire between several pieces of card, filing the result round and gluing a spliced piece of electrical wire insulation around it.

You can buy white metal castings for wheels. And having made two using my method I can see why…

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If I’m going to keep that Steampunk vibe going on our rather implausible steam powered tank then I need rivets, and lots of them. This is a new problem for me as I usually make models of modern(ish) trains, which are welded together.

While working out how to make putting off the rivets, I made some heavy duty doors, extra wide on the basis that anyone leaving this vehicle will likely want to do so fairly quickly, and most importantly for the younger member of the project team, made sure the ridiculously large seven-barelled gun would be appropriately hidden when not in use.

So far it seems to work. Below, gun port closed:

Sliding a cunningly placed “Pipe’ on the other end of the tank pushes the gun forwards, opening the hatch as it does:

I’d like to claim this was achieved by careful measurement and engineering, but as long term readers will already know, it was mostly guesswork, and as usual I’m not quite sure if I could make it work twice.

Having done this I couldn’t put of the rivets any longer, so I bought some short brass pins from a sewing shop, and after breaking two drill bits making holes for them, I spent a happy couple of evenings gluing them on to the tank.

With my usual speed of uptake, I also realised that the kit we’d bought for the caterpillar tracks had lots of interesting detail parts, and added as many of these I thought I could reasonably get away with.

I’m guessing the cables were carried in case a tank broke down in the field, and I decided these would be essential. On an an engineering disaster like this I think it’s a bit optimistic hanging them on the back instead of the front…

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It seems to be a time of making odd projects. This is partly because I’m using most of the spare brain capacity -a resource at a premium at the best of times- for getting through exams so I was after a less challenging set of projects, and also because I’m still trying to find projects that will get my boys enthusiastic about something other than smart phones.

Hence the current crop of kits and figures found on the model making desk.

Amongst other things I persuaded Middle Son to join me on a project to go with the Younger son’s model figures by drawing a suitably over the top suggestion:

To my rather great surprise he liked the idea, so we made a start with a 1:48 tank kit from a well known online auction site.

After carefully photographing the extra cross bracing we got carried away and forgot to take any more pictures until we got to this stage:

We’re making as much of the tank as possible from ‘found things’ (ie:junk) and to start this, the main part of the ‘Boiler’ was until recently the top of a milk carton. (and then briefly a mixing cup for an acrylic wash)

After searching for a turret we found a bottle of ear wash that was the perfect shape. A small amount of violence on the bottle revealed a number of useful parts. As the ear wash was utterly useless it’s comforting to know we get something for the cost…

Meanwhile, Middle Son put forth the opinion that “We should have a seven barrelled gun, that is hidden until we want to use it”. He wanted a rotating carriage that swung out the side but I persuaded him that a sliding version will be easier to make.

Of course, at that point I didn’t actually know how I was going to make either…

Anyway, Here’s the planned ordinance, largely held on with the German version of Blu-Tak:

After this I got to work on the boiler area. I don’t think there’s any real excuse for having two chimneys unless some crazed professor has found a cunning way to improve steaming with them, but I prefer the look of a pair. This is about the level of most of my decisions, I’m afraid: engineering and realism can go hang if I think it looks about right.

In keeping with the ‘make everything from junk ethos, I found some handles from a Chinese takeaway box to make some of the pipes.

At the dangerous end (assuming we can refer to that dodgy boiler as the ‘safe’ part) the  gun in the turret is is made from a bit of tube that came from the same bottle as the ‘turret’. To strengthen it I pushed a bit of brass inside and said it was a machine gun with a coolant casing. I know machine guns from this time period would usually have had the barrel lower down in the casing, but life is far too short.

I might try and be sensible for a bit now. We’ll see…

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I had a bit of time to think over Christmas. Wörnritzhausen is running into lots of problems, mostly related to the fact this is my first layout in ages so I’m having to (re)learn all kinds of things.

Wörnritzhausen was really an opportunistic spur of the moment idea, throwing together some leftover plywood to see what would happen, which ended up developing further because the boys wanted a roundy-roundy and to be honest I enjoy letting the trains trundle round in circles. Unfortunately, the model is bulky and awkward to store while being too small to even have two trains on the model at once without them tripping over each other sooner or later.

Putting stuff on the track*  is fiddly with the stupidly tight curves and mahoosive great overhangs. Building seriously pudgy locomotives and wagons didn’t help, of course. It is getting to the point where I have to redesign the rolling stock, track, or buildings; possibly all three.

Meanwhile life continues to race onward and the exams which were on the distant horizon when I started the model are now a matter of months away, so I’m unlikely to be able to make a new model railway from scratch for a while. I can salvage pretty well everything worth using so eventually Wörnritzhausen will reappear in a slightly better planned version. In the meantime I can use the current variation it to learn a few more things, and run the occasional train round in circles. It’s a bit like having a three-dimensional screen saver on the coffee table.

What are you thoughts? What is the point where you decide to leave a model and take what is learned to the next project?

*and then putting it back on after it has collided with another train or a building.

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A while back I mentioned having a rather fun day playing with someone else’s trains at our local church. The people concerned used the FREEMO system of putting modules together which I’ve explained in a previous entry here.


The idea has stuck in my head a bit since, possibly because I realised this as the nearest I’ve been to playing on my own model railway since Westerooge became too unreliable, and partly because I’ve reached a point in my carpentry apprenticeship where I’d be able to make a baseboard complete with a box to keep it in like the FREEMO ones below.


We have no spare space in our 96m² (1000 sq ft) apartment for a railway, so the box would have to be just the right size to go in the loft or nice enough to be used as a normal piece of furniture as well as a model railway box. The second idea seems better as I’m not keen on dragging things in and out of the loft all the time. I’m not sure what sort of furniture can hide a model railway though.

I’ve got a design for ‘Spitzenwald’ that could just about fit in a box like those, if I split it in two, but Eldest Son does very much want a model we can build together as well, so I think that would be first on any list.

On the other hand, one of the things about being a carpenter is that people come with ‘suggestions’ for things to make. I’ve just finished a pine bed for Youngest Son, and Beautiful Wife has pointed out that several pieces of ‘Furniture’ are still cardboard boxes with sheets over them, so it may yet be a while before the model railway box makes it to the top of the jobs list.


Perhaps I could solve both at once: “It’s a new coffee table for the living room. What? the bit that opens into a conveniently model-railway-sized flat board? You know, I never thought of it like that, but as you mention it, I do remember some designs that may fit…”

Does anyone else have problems of needing to ‘hide’ your model railway when it isn’t in use? How do you deal with it?

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