Archive for the ‘Random Ideas’ Category

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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In the last weeks before December our local church hosted an ‘N’-gauge ‘Freemo’ model railway as part of the Christmas market, I went with Eldest Son and we got to play trains for an afternoon.

‘Freemo’ is a very popular system for model railways in Germany, based on standardised, carefully engineered module ends so people from all over the country can meet up and build their modules into one big model railway system and it will all fit together perfectly.

Germans are good at this sort of thing.


I have to admit it is fun to play with trains that are scale length and don’t have to keep stopping to avoid crashing through the buffer stops: it took about five minutes to drive a train end to end of the model at scale speeds.


Each module had a ‘Theme’, including this one which was ‘Cornwall’, complete with UK Style overhead wires, a farm with a red phone box and a morris minor estate on the left hand side of he road. I waited until the most appropriate train went past before taking a picture.

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The plan was that this week I’d go and take lots of pictures of the ‘other railway’, the Kintetsu company which run an interurban-styled operation where we’re staying. But this plan relied on my having access to a bicycle, and enough discipline to go out when there was light for taking pictures which unfortunately coincides with the point in the day when we are all trying not to melt into the floor.

So instead here’s a niche audience blog: someone, somewhere must be trying to model Japanese Railways and is googling my title phrase right now. This level crossing is at the other end of the Ise city (Japan Railways) station. The line runs through the jumbled up housing of Eastern Ise here, before continuing along the coast to terminate in Toba.

By this time the Kintetsu has left the JR line, and turned south on a sharp curve and steep ramp to cross over it just to the east of this location. I will bore you with that one later.

Anyway, the crossing. This is a pretty typical example, the crossing booms are plastic, although they could be bamboo, and red flashing lights are shoehorned into place to be visible around buildings, utility poles, pipes and other miscellaneous items that infest Japanese streets.

One nice feature for people taking pictures, and for that matter for frustrated motorists, is the arrow showing which way the train is coming. There’s also a display on this crossing to show how many trains will approach from each direction. I don’t know what circumstances could lead to multiple trains running over this single line, so I suspect it’s an example of one standard design being cheaper for a large company.

There are sensors in little grey boxes like Star Wars lasers as pointing over the track as well, you can see one below the centre coupling of the train as it approaches the crossing. I’m still figuring out what they do.

We’re off visiting relatives this weekend and we’re travelling mostly by rail so hopefully I’ll have material for an entry next week. Pictures may be difficult as the big camera is a tad unwieldy when dealing with three small boys and luggage, but I’ll do my best…

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Experiment (02)

It seems there are two ways to scratchbuild a model. One is that favoured by people like this or this:

1: Get lots of bits of brass, whitemetal and similar.
2: Solder together creating something that could be polished and used as a trophy for minor sporting events.
3: Paint it with airbrush to the perfect tone for the prototype and then weather it as it was running on the 6th of june 1932, just after half past nine when the fireman spilt his tea down the cab side.
4: Finish in three days and move onto next project.

Now I admire these people, even aspire make models like theirs, one day, perhaps, but I reside firmly in the other end of the spectrum where methods are more along the lines of:

1: Spray odd collection of margarine pot and other miscellaneous bits with primer.
2: Paint dark grey undercoat.
3: Realise leaving paint for several months does not improve consistency, or finish.
4: Ignore and add orange top coat.
5: Discover orange top coat doesn’t cover poor finish of undercoat very well.
6: Add a second coat and hope for the best.
7: Decide to leave it a bit then add weathering.

That’ll work: a dark wash* to give vertical stains, followed by a couple of attacks of the dry brushing to bring out a few highlights and I’ll have a slightly menacing steam powered exploration tractor. Perhaps.

It would appear I’m the modelmaking equivalent of the kid in school sports who always trips over the football or kicks it into the wrong goal**, so it’s somewhat encouraging to note that even this person has less than successful days as well.

What unfinished models do you have lurking in the loft? Come on, own up.

*Probably not using the same paint as the undercoat, assuming I remember.
**come to think if it, that was me too…

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 As I hinted last week, I’ve been experimenting a bit. A while ago I fell over this video of a Steampunk robot make from the small yellow containers that come inside a brand of chocolate eggs in Germany, and it occurred to me that I could make something like that: it would be a chance to do some more relaxing model making which in turn would mean I could try some ideas without risking a disaster on a model I’d been working on since January.

The boys thought this was a great idea because they’d get loads of chocolate eggs, so when I used a cheese pot instead they were a bit disappointed, but such is life.

I’ve a vague idea of making this a sort of steam powered tractor, with the bottom half coming along sometime later. I didn’t want to have a military model so the story is that it is for exploration in places like Antarctica. I’ll try and paint it this week I’m not sure about the colour, but it’ll probably be a reddish orange: when you’re a Victorian explorer traversing the snowy wastes of Antarctica, you’ll need to be visible so your airship can locate you if you get into trouble.

The ides is that a secondary project will provide an antidote to my perfectionism and a way to build a bit of confidence before tackling things like fitting LED’s in the railcar. Once this is painted I fully intend to be ‘serious’ for a bit, and give you more railcar updates but if it all gets a bit much you’ll be hearing about how to make caterpillar tracks.

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One of the problems with working in small scale theatre is that everyone thinks it’s a terrific idea but considerably less people actually want to pay for it, so it’s time to look for alternative and preferably flexible work so we can afford to do what we want to do in the Very Smallholding as well as build a model railway when track costs how much? and splash out on other luxuries, like food. Writing in English is a bit of a non-starter when you aren’t in an English speaking country (if you know otherwise, do tell) but a chance conversation with another Brit on a train has revealed that translation is a possible money earner.

I’d always assumed that to translate you need some kind of state certificate and the ability to write flowing German prose, but apparently most people only translate from their second language into their first, and agencies will test you themselves by sending a text and a deadline to make sure really able to do the job. As I’ve done a fair bit of translation of varied subjects for various people, I should be more than up to the task. All I need to do is write an application letter, get it translated into formal business German (ironic I know) and send it off to various agencies to see what happens, which is where you lot come in.

I’m told I have a slight tendency towards pessimism, and one of the ways this shows up is that I put things off -the draft of the letter has been sitting on my desktop for a week now, for example- so I’m hoping that by writing my intentions here I’ll be a bit more motivated to get on with the application. If you don’t hear anything about this in the next couple of weeks, feel free to remind me.

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