Well, well…*

More by luck than judgement, and with frankly rather more faffing about with tiny bits of plastic than I’d care to admit, the basic wagons are done. The ends are even a uniform height with the other flat wagons in what I laughingly call the “fleet”.

Some considerable detailing is needed now so they look at least vaguely like a rather battered railway wagon, and if I manage to be sufficiently self disciplined they will get some swap bodies carry backwards and forwards on the as yet thoroughly etherial railway. Current plans are to have an agricultural cooperative on the model which gives a lot off opportunities for cylindrical swap bodies carrying “animal feed” and possibly “sawdust” for pellets, and a few more rectangular boxes to deliver things like plywood and chipboard or finished products.

*I did warn you about this last time…

Unterlenningen railway station, (Standard Type IIa)

I’ve been feeling the need for some variety; wagons are very interesting but you can have too much of a good thing, and thoughts have turned to making a building.

I haven’t made any buildings for a while now; the tiny model railway I’m hoping to fit into my apartment doesn’t allow much space for such luxuries as townscapes, but I think I can get away with a smallish station. Fortunately there’s a common prototype from the region the Körschtalbahn is supposed to inhabit, snappily entitled the “Einheitsbahnhof (Württemberg) Typ IIa.” (“Standard railway station (Württemberg) Type IIa”).

Strangely, German railways didn’t really go for standardisation. Apart from anything else the first time the various states, duchies and in some cases, independent cities actually joined together in any meaningful way was at the start of the German Empire in 1871, and all the states had their own ways of running railways even after that. In Württemberg the state government took a break between revolutions in 1887 and decided they couldn’t just assume private companies would build railways to sparsely populated and hilly regions, so they started to plan and build their own.

Unusually for Germany they also decided that it would keep costs down if they used a set of standard station designs. According to Wikipedia there were three, a small single storey building for small stations (Einheitsbahnhof IIa), a slightly larger, two floored version for intermediate stations (IIb) with an apartment for the stationmaster, and a larger three storied version to grace the platforms of more important places, known as the IIc.

Einheitsbahnhof IIc in Owen, (Pronounced “Auen”, don’t ask me I just live here).

The entirely fictional Körschtalbahn is right on the edge of Württemberg and is pretty much the sort of enterprise that the phrase “minor railway” was invented for, so the only way it would exist is if the Württemberg State Railways built it. Having agreed to do so and probably regretting it the next day, the state would have sought to keep all costs down and the grandest of stations would be unlikely to have anything more than a type IIa building. At 8.5m by 7m (ca 27′ by 22′) this would be about 155mm by 127mm which I think I can fit on the baseboard, although I’ll have to assume the goods shed that is normally attached has been demolished or possibly built elsewhere.

Of course I’ll have to go and take more photographs of the real thing, which means another cycle tour to a few rural railway stations.

It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it…

Well made?

Do you see what I did there?*

The Körschtalbahn intermodal revolution continues. I finally got the proportions right on the swap body carriers, or at least close enough that no-one will notice that I fixed the rest of it by gluing on bits of plastic and filing them.

It would possibly have been a bit simpler if I could make the “deck” fit at the bottom of the frames, but it will probably need full access for unloading and also removing the swap bodies. This will teach me to get all excited about a design because I think it looks nice instead of thinking through the construction problems.

Theo other reason is that I needed to fit a small weight underneath the heavily laminated open deck. One of the ironies of this model is that I am trying to make it look as lightweight as possible while stuffing extra weights in every corner I can so it doesn’t jump off the track at the first opportunity.

*Bad puns are a hazard of this blog, usually when I’ve run out of ideas for vaguely original titles…

Making it up…

The next two wagons for the Entirely Random Arbitrary Goal that seemed such a good idea back in January will be low loader/well wagons for carrying containers and swap bodies, their European counterparts, because for a narrow gauge line the biggest problem was always the cost of transferring a load onto the standard gauge network, so anything that meant a whole load could be swapped over in a few seconds would help tip the economics in their favour.

Being a natural planner I started with drawings. This didn’t work. I still seem to draw things a bit big and the proportions didn’t work. I also realised that to make the models I’d designed would mean cutting lots of funny angles at exactly the same shape and size. Eventually I gave up and used trial and error, as shown in the not remotely posed picture.

The template was made by cutting the frame in a manner that looked about right, give or take, then adding bits and filing until I was satisfied, and scoring around it to make the other end. Once these were glued together in a manner approximating “straight” I used them as a template for the four “production models”.

Notice large label for the permanently disorganised.

Battered Wagons

The two wood wagons are finally complete, and I’m already thinking about what I want to change so they can carry different loads. I’d like to claim this is because the Körschtalbahn is becoming a living railway in my imagination and I’m already anticipating new traffic flows but we all know it’s because I didn’t plan and research enough before I starting gluing stuff together.

The main point I’ve been thinking about is the “twistlock” fittings, those pointy bits sticking up from the base of the wagons so they can take containers. Unfortunately I later realised that swap bodies, which are used a lot in domestic European transport, have slightly different spacing for twistlocks, so I’m now dithering about adding extras.

I’m also curious that I used the same method to make “rust” as on previous projects but the paint seemed to hold on rather better than usual.

I’m wondering if there’s a more reliable method: I know some people prime over the “rust” layer then use sandpaper and cocktail sticks to scrape the paint off, and I’ve also found some ways of making real rust to apply to the more exposed parts of the wagon where dirt and dampness would collect and corrode the paint, so more experimentation is likely.

Am I getting obsessive about this? Tell me if I’m getting obsessive…

And suddenly…

After last week’s trial run I got all enthusiastic again and finished the vans off in a succession of evening sessions. The weather wasn’t really on my side; there was just enough light to spray the models but not enough to get a decent picture, so you’re spared the constant step by step updates, and we’re jumping to the finished models.

I did wonder if I’d overdone the weathering a bit on the ‘advertising’ livery, and at least one of the smears isn’t quite vertical so I’ll have to work on that. On the other hand this isn’t a nice museum where the rolling stock is tucked into bed in a nice warm shed each night: these vans will be out in all weathers either moving or dumped in a siding somewhere, so they’ll get pretty grubby and probably only get cleaned when someone from management happens to see them and makes a bit of a fuss.

Also, this is a milestone because it means there are now four freight wagons complete out of the eight I planned in the Entirely Random Arbitrary Goal that I want to reach before I start building baseboards. How quickly this will mean I can build a model is another matter as my contract at work comes to an end in a few months: I’m already in conversation with another local employer but it all depends on a certain flu-like virus not gumming things up for too long; we shall see…


The wood wagons take on colour: Wagon #1 getting a liberal coat of hairspray.

I can’t guarantee it will be realistic, but it smells lovely.

Travelling from Freiburg to visit the family in Stuttgart this week, I found myself with an hour spare in Karlsruhe. Sensible people would at this point go and look at the historic buildings in the city, gardens, zoo or any one of the other tourist attractions within a short ride from the station.

However, I am a nerd.

Faced with several hundred years of central European history only a few minutes away, your correspondent went in search of the railway yards to the south of the station, and after a couple of wrong turnings found a nice pedestrian bridge with a good view of a rather busy yard.

First thing to pass was this Swiss railways class 421, looking surprisingly good in modern livery for a loco built at least three decades ago. The advertising reads “Zürich – Munich 6x daily in 3.5 hours” which I’m assuming means trains rather than just this locomotive rattling back and forth, because that would be expensive and a little bit silly.

Also, if it is going from Munich to Zürich then it’s taken a wrong turning as well.

Loco stabling point with a stack of DB class 185 locomotives, SBB Vectron on the front of an intermodal train in the main yards, and another SBB Class 185 sneaking around the back of the signal box.

That turned out to be a Chemical train running across the yard on its way south.

By this time my hour was half over and I was aware I didn’t really know the way back to the city, so I set off towards some big buildings, which had a tram line running alongside them; following tram lines is generally a good way to find the railway station in a European city…

…And so it proved here.

Useless information department: the Karlsruhe system was the original “tram/train” system and now reaches deep into the Black Forest. The system has been copied by a number of other countries and these trams are the same as the new units coming into service in Sheffield.

Now I’ve explored a bit I know where to go next time.

I won’t spoil the story by mentioning that I was only pootling about Karlsruhe for an hour because the DB train from the south had been late and made me miss my connection, again…

Getting ideas (again)

As mentioned previously, if there’s a low tech way to achieve something, I’ll generally go for it. This is why I tend to make models out of cornflake packets and clay even though there are far more advanced methods out there.

So it will probably be of no surprise to either of my readers that after making a paper mock-up a couple of weeks ago for the van sides, I started wondering if I could take it a step further and use paper on the final model. There is some logic to this: the transfers for the van sides will have to cover the whole of the van, partly because I want white writing which can be hard to achieve with transfers, and partly because of those big pictures on one of them. Transfers that big could get a bit unwieldy but a piece of paper would hold its shape much better, and it would be cheaper. Also, as I don’t currently have a printer at my apartment, it wouldn’t risk gumming up the one at work.

On the other hand, would they be realistic, or would they look like a piece of paper stuck on a plastic model?

To answer this question I made a mock-up of the van sides with all the features of the final model like the “gaps” in the doors and the holes for the handles, cut one of the door “sides”, applied glue and stuck it down. When this failed to cause an apocalypse I tried weathering powder which promptly stuck in the grain of the paper and looked a mess. I thought a bit, then sprayed the lot with matt varnish, and after a slight panic as the paper bubbled up in the wet varnish, weathered it again and added a final layer of varnish to seal it.

It looks okay, I just need to paint the ends and details first, and remember to glue on the paper, varnish it, and then apply weathering to the whole wagon…

Ghost train

Here’s a tip: don’t plan to spray things outside without checking the weather, and especially wind direction, first. Still, it was a learning experience and fortunately I was wearing a grey top anyway.

Now the fun can start. The vans will be different along variations of the styles seen in the mock up. I’m having second thoughts about the “photo” finish: it may be a bit too garish although I remain hopeful I can reduce that with sufficient weathering.

The wood wagons will go through a more complex process than the vans because they would get a proper beating in life, so they’ll get a base coat of brown to represent “rust” and then successive layers of matt varnish, hair spray and finally the top colour; and as one of the wagons is supposed to be “refurbished” it will probably be green instead of the usual dark grey.

This should give the impression the Körschtalbahn has a maintenance programme. Or at least had a maintenance programme at some point in its history…