Archive for the ‘Scratchbuilding’ Category


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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So, several weeks have gone without me deciding to start the railcar project again which at the moment is possibly some kind of record, although it has to be said I had a couple of false starts on the roof. Oh, and I had to redesign the ends to make it all work.

This is because I started out with the silly idea that the roof would be easy. I’m not sure why.

Some time ago I blithely scribbled a design that loosely resembled a Polish Mbxd2, at least viewed by a generous person with not much attention to detail on a dark night while wearing sunglasses. What I didn’t do was think about how I’d make this happen, so when I started to actually form the thing, I came to a grinding halt.

Eventually I decided to laminate several sheets of 0.75mm plasticard and file them down later. For some reason I suddenly decided that the luggage rack, which I’ve always drawn over the luggage compartment, would be much better in the middle of the roof. This would make the railcar look practical and hard working.

It didn’t work of course: it just looked strange, which most people could have told me without making the roof the wrong shape. In the end I cut one of the laminated slabs in half with a hacksaw and glued it to the other section. Observant readers will notice a remarkably indistinct line on the longer roof section.

Much filing and sanding of the sides later, it is passable. The sides aren’t exactly the same angle but I doubt anyone will notice unless they look closely with their head on the track and one eye right in front of the railcar.

And if I catch them doing that, I’ll run them over.

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I just couldn’t let it go, and made Underframe 3.0 on when I probably should have been preparing for the end of year exams.

As usual I’ve gone for the opposite extreme: great slabs of plastic, each one laminated from three sheets of 0.75mm plastic card. It even feels heavy.

There are several immediate improvements; I actually remembered to make it a bit narrower for one. This means I can make the sandwich arrangement I need to use for the windows.

Also the chassis has survived a week without turning into a banana, and the whole thing also manages to be perfectly level to the track, which was the cause of much rejoicing, even if it was by accident.

Unfortunately, even I can’t fill an entire blog post writing about a railcar underframe, so here’s another sketch to fill the space:


I posted this on the NGRM online forum some time ago and I don’t see why you should get away with not having to look at it. Besides, if I don’t push it online the drawing will disappear into my notebook because no-one here is interested in a sketch of a railway that doesn’t exist.

Artists always suffer.

This is a journey by the HBB’s works train, pulled by the original diesel (and never mind that this was actually built at 1:43 scale) into and through the parts of Wörnritzhausen that I’ll probably never get around to modelling, but which appear in sketches during the less exciting lectures at college.

Starting at the top left, the train passes through a gap in the fence alongside the old bypass and descends a very steep gradient to the town. The original plan was to have the line run on the route of the main road, but the Bürgermeister objected and was backed up by the Ministry of Roads who were determined not to give any territory to the railway, so the train runs along an embankment of wooden logs (picture 2) and around a spiral to drop down into the town.

The main picture is meeting the railcar in the town centre* where much shunting will happen, probably cluttering up the old market place, but there’s time enough until the afternoon school service comes along. This is the southern hill country known as the Schwäbisch Alb, and contrary to stereotypes people are generally pretty relaxed here.

After leaving the square the train will run through the city gate and new market (which is the bit that fits on the baseboard) and then veer off through the fields and across the main road again. It looks like I was in a hurry when I did that one.

The tear in the bottom is not due to a deranged art critic, but my daughter attempting to turn the page while sitting on the book…

*Yes, the old railcar design, but it’s all free…

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Much capacity in the remaining brain cells has  been taken up trying to make a working frame on which I can build the Höfelbachbahn Railcar. Having two bogies of entirely different dimensions seemed a cool kind of quirky idea at the time, but but they are a pain in the backside when it comes to making something that doesn’t look like a cliff railway car.

I stopped counting rebuilds after the fifth attempt, because then it finally dawned on the great brain that if I parked the bogies on the display plank, then used a slide rule to measure the height from the top of the press-stud on each unit to the bottom of the plank, then I’d have a reasonably accurate idea of how much height difference there was.


It came to 7.8mm, because nothing can be simple in this world.

I decided to build the chassis with 8mm difference between the two bogies: with all the mistakes I’m likely to make a gradient of 0.2mm is likely to be the least of my worries.

With the chassis level, the next big challenge was to get it around corners which I managed after some considerable hacking of plastic.  Thoughtful readers will consider the consequences of using stupidly tight curves on your model railway.

I have a feeling that I’ll make the sides quickly. The sheer ugliness of the chassis is quite enough motivation to make something to cover it…

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Now that the van is sitting on bogies I realised that second hand N-gauge undercarriage has disadvantages. The chassis the bogies came with* gets in the way of attempts to stop the wobble factor, so the van swings around corners like a drunk driver on a roundabout. The bogies are too small by half as well, but I’ll live with that.

Once I’d worked out how to add details like the strapping I found myself a lot more motivated. I also noticed that on the prototype vans, many have doors made from another material, probably sheet metal or possibly plywood.

This makes sense. If you have a large unwieldy object to move several times a day, you’ll naturally want it as light as possible.

As this also meant a lot less mucking about with thin bits of card I decided I approved of the idea and made two new doors, with runners above and below.

I thought I’d get away without making ventilation hatches, on the basis that they’d get in the way of the door, but I found a picture of a real van where the door opened over the hatches, so I had no excuse left.


You’ll notice the balcony has vanished: I tried to fit a safety rail out of a piece of metal rod, but it put me in mind of a hospital catering trolley, while attempts to make a brake handle out of metal failed miserably. So I got my knife out and ten minutes later I had a Minivan. Sort of.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll end up repainting the entire thing again, partly because it will be easier than trying to work around the existing colour, and partly because the only parts of the van where I was happy with the painting effects were the original doors.

Never mind, it’s all practice…

*Ironically under a tanker with ‘happy motoring’ on the side.


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Now that I’ve finished making a locomotive, it is probably a good idea to make something for it to pull, this being its purpose in life.

Long suffering readers will know of my fascination with card model making; ever since I got hold of a copy of this very old book on the subject, I’ve been wanting to try the ideas out, so this is my prototype or test bed where I learn things.

One things I’ve learned is that I very quickly get bored making prototypes.

On the other hand the Krokodil project had a couple of false starts while I worked out how to make the rather complex link mechanism work, and on a couple of other occasions I’ve proved that making a prototype makes for a good model, or possibly a less bad model, or at least a model that doesn’t fall off the track at random intervals which as far as I’m concerned is about the same thing.

My idea was for a bogie van with a sliding door, as found on various narrow gauge railways in varying states of repair all over Europe, and which will make a major part of the Hofelbachbahn’s rolling stock. Of course, as soon as I’d glued the sides together I realised that I chould have made the van a few millimetres longer, so it could take eight standard pallets, but that is why I’m making myself do a test, right? On the next version I’ll leave the balcony and make the body a few milimetres longer. A longer body plus balcony looks great, right up to the point it swipes a bit of the scenery.

On the other hand I found I can make a very nice effect with acrylic paint drybrushed onto the scored card. I personally think this makes the whole project worthwhile, as long as I can figure how to make it work again next time.

*Highly observant readers will remember this appearing very briefly in December. This simply proves my point: I really get bored stupidly easily on this sort of project.

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kob_vt1_04Many modern railcars have a bewildering array of pipes and wires for brakes and communication when running in or with a train. Mine is loosely based on the RHB ABe4_4-II and as such needs more bits of metal hanging off the front than a south American dictators dress uniform. The number of people modelling modern German narrow gauge railways in 1:55 scale is quite small,* so it would be a long wait for any of the model making companies to come along and make handy detail packs. I dug up a set of guitar strings I’d scrounged from a friend several years ago and hoarded ever since, and made a sort of ‘impression’ of the original.

After all, woolly maths and guesswork has worked for me so far, why change now?

As far as I can tell, the pipes are for air brake systems, something electrical (possibly train heating) and the long one is a jumper cable for the control systems. Apparently the railcars were used for pushing the slowploughs and could be controlled from the snowplough cabs.

Right now it has enough almost gold metal that it really does resemble the uniform of a south American dictator, and it may stay that way for a while, as it is a bit of a faff setting everything up to prime models, so I plan to wait until I have several ready before I move further.

So now I need to make several more models. Life is hard.

*One, at the last count. Group meetings are quiet but easy to organise.

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