Archive for the ‘Scratchbuilding’ Category

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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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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