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Archive for the ‘Scratchbuilding’ Category

Sometimes I wish I could be like those people who stop bothering about making trains and build beautiful dioramas instead. I’d get all the fun of making something and adding lots of details without all that pesky electrical jiggerypokery with attendant swearing and surreptitious prodding to make things work. I can’t though: for me the railway is the reason for the rest: the thread that holds the story together. Besides, I couldn’t make dioramas that well so I need something to distract people.

This means a large chunk of model making time this week was used up testing out various second hand chassis of questionable heritage that I’ve been amassing over the last few years, to decide which one should go under the big diesel.

It would have been a bit faster if I hadn’t stolen some of the connectors from my test track to make wiring for “Wörnritzhausen”, probably because I’d lost the others, so I had to find the other one and fix everything back together. Then I had to dig up a 3.5mm jack socket which I was really quite startled to find. Once all this was together, I placed one of the chassis of questionable heritage -originally intended, I think for a HO model of an EMD F7– and turned on the power.

Nothing.

Out came the super-dooper all singing all dancing voltmeter. This showed nothing was getting through to the track.

I reached back to turn off the controller, and jogged the 3.5mm jack connection. The chassis shot towards the distant end of the track before being rugby tackled by Youngest Son.

Having established that the chassis could move under power, we spent a bit of time making sure it runs at more sensible speeds, which it managed remarkably well considering it’s languished in a box for several years.

Finally, to my rather great relief, we found that the railcar chassis works. I’m sure I’ve tested this before but I can’t remember doing it.

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I got fed up with the gate looking like the backdrop for a cheap Gothic novel and decided to brighten things up a bit. It went surprisingly quickly, just thirty minutes to make it look a bit more like weathered limestone, then 10 minutes to tone it down, and another 45 to get it back to how it was in the first place.

I’m not bad at painting, just really indecisive.

I’m generally happy now. The stones are highlighted using a method I learned many years ago in theatre: the top and left of the blocks are painted cream and the bottom ans right grey/brown to emphasise the depth. I fretted for a bit about it being cartoon-like but I worried about that when I weathered the Post Office and now I can hardly see the weathering so I’ll leave it as it is for now.

I’ll leave the panel for the crest as well, at least until I can think of an idiot-proof way of making the a crest that works. Wörnritzhausen is supposed to be near Münsingen, but I think it would have had its own crest representing the rivers or the trade that would have paid for the city wall. Will have to think about that.

It needs a roof as well. Unfortunately I forgot that with the thick walls the roof will come over the top of the windows, making shutters unlikely, so it will have to do without. Gutters and drainpipes will have to wait until I’ve worked out how the farmhouse next door should look.

Still, the trains now run onto the scene through a real gate. It looks like we are getting somewhere, slowly.

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Regular readers, assuming they have been following this blog with the care it deserves, will have noticed that most pretty well all of my projects need about half a dozen false starts as I make something, decide it could be done better/isn’t working, scrap it and start again. In a probably futile effort to avoid doing this yet again, I made a prototype for the cab ends on the not quite a Henschel diesel.

The Liquorice allsort appearance is because I made the corners out of black and white pieces of plasticard, the idea being that it helped me to see how deep and/or straight I was filing.

This worked but it  didn’t look so good, so in a fit of enthusiasm I primed it to see what it looked like.

Remarkably it wasn’t so bad. There were a few rough bits but nothing that I couldn’t deal with next time around. As it was just a prototype I took the lazy option and tried out a colour scheme.

The badge in the middle is was a random idea to try and break up the blank end. I doubt I’ll need this on the production model, because the locomotive is supposed to be a relief passenger locomotive so it will need to have the same connectors as the railcar hanging off the front, a lot of this blank space will be covered by Guitar strings pretending to be connector pipes.

Once again I’m making life more difficult for myself. Just as well I have lot of friends who are musicians…

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Fresh air, or not.

We live next to the town of Esslingen-am-Neckar. It’s an attractive city with lots of pretty old timber framed houses, the largest Roman built bridge north of the Alps, and a town hall designed like a wedding cake.

Last time I went I joined the camera carrying tourists, but when I looked at the images they mostly looked like this:

There is a perfectly good reason for this. I need a 1:55 scale air conditioner for the model, and I wanted to see what one looked like.

Stop looking at me like that.

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Just occasionally I manage to be moderately organised.

I’ve got a couple of projects coming along that mean I need to know how to make rust and weathering effects. Some concerted googling brought up a lot of sites and YouTube tutorials but most assume the use of airbrushes or quite smelly chemicals, neither of which are a good idea when making models in our living room.

Eventually I found some ideas how to get usable results that I could try without inadvertently redecorating the wall or causing an evacuation of the apartment, and these can be seen above. I’m not going to detail everything you can see on the basis that although I’m not paid to write it, neither are you paid to read it, so there are limits to even how boring I can be on here.

The main methods are pastels, drybrushing and the ‘Hairspray method’ which was a new one to me, but which I was astonished to find actually works even though I wasn’t using the ‘proper’ materials. I’m sure I’m the very last person in the model making world to hear about this one, but in case I’m not, the trick is to paint a rust coloured base coat, let it dry and spray hairspray over the top, return the hairspray to the bathroom before anyone misses it and leave the model to dry overnight. The next morning you paint over the hairspray with acrylics, and when that has dried, scrub away at the surface with a wet brush, and hey presto the top colour rubs off and leaves a realistic chipped rust finish. I got a bit overenthusiastic and ended up going down to the primer, but the principle works. There are expensive model makers sprays for this, but hairspray works just as well, costs a fraction of the price, and leaves you smelling better.

The other rust was made using a variation of this method I found on YouTube:

Don’t worry too much about the bits where he’s painting on black plasticard: I just watched where he is working on the railings themselves.

I also have no idea where to get hold of the paint he is using, but normal artists acrylics worked perfectly well for me.

You can also ignore the labels on my test sheet: it seems I’m still not organised enough to match the labels to the methods I was actually using in the squares.

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A combination of conveniently warm weather and the HBB railcar looking vaguely finished had me getting all motivated to spray primer on the backlog of projects. This is a pain to set up as I have to use the balcony, but I found the spray box, bought some fresh primer -I’ve been building one of these models for at least eight years so I don’t want to muck up the finish- and got everything together for the weekend.

On Saturday we had wind, heavy rain, and quite unnecessarily, snow.

Sometimes being badly organised is an advantage: I’d forgotten that the KÖB railcar needed a beefed up central block between bogies. Nothing drastic, just a bit more of a lump to suggest things like a fuel tank and other vital undergubbins that I don’t really know anything about. This is probably why I was ignoring its absence, but I figured that making something was better than sitting on my hands while the wind howled outside, so I measured the existing box on the original chassis and made another box to fit around it. Then made another one as I’d managed to measure it wrongly. And measured that one wrongly too.

It eventually took three attempts and a fair bit of bodging to make a box that fitted. I’m not sure why, but it was probably being distracted by conversations/train videos/shiny things. As usual.

Anyway. A couple of evenings and I had something presentable. I’m quite pleased with the steps although it would have been nice if they’d aligned better with the ‘step’ in the bodywork. I’m not sure that the ‘fuel tank’ is really big enough though. Perhaps it extends behind the steps and locker. Yes, that sounds good.

That, you’d think, was that, but then I decided I wanted sand boxes. Our local trams pour so much sand onto the track that by the time spring comes you could play beach volleyball on the steeper sections. The Körschtalbahn is higher than where I live so I imagine it would be very icy in winter.

Now that’s ready, I just have to add all the bits I forgot on the other railcar…

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hbb_railcar_16

Railcar on a test run along the future Wörnritzhausen high street. Hopefully.

To my rather great surprise the railcar actually managed to explore the whole of the layout without falling off the track, hitting anything, comically trying to go two ways at once or stopping for no apparent reason.

It did however, make it clear this is a railcar with an identity crisis.

For reasons which now escape me but undoubtedly seemed very important at the time, I built the motorised bogie some distance back under the body. I think it was to allow some space to make a reliably tough connection for the coupling, which meant shoving the front of the bogie back to fit it behind the cowling, and this meant the pivot disappeared somewhere below the luggage compartment.

That’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, this makes the motorised end run around corners like a Blackpool tram, with a big overhang on the curves. I suspect this is why a lot of European trams taper at the ends, to avoid taking chunks off ancient monuments whose medieval builders inexplicably neglected to take tramways into consideration.

On the other end, I have a fairly normal Kato bogie, a good ten millimetres closer to the buffer beam, which gives a much more conventional movement. Like a train, in fact.

The overall effect is quite unusual, rather like a design committee couldn’t make their mind up on what they wanted. It looks a lot less silly than I feared, but I think the MkII version may well be slightly different in this area.

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