Running toy trains round a circle of track is only exciting for so long, so this week I finally got on with making the first building for the model railway.

In my fevered imagination, this side of the model will look like a fairly typical village with a cluster of buildings and a narrow gauge railway that happens to run along the main road. It all works very well in my head, as long as I ignore my complete ignorance about how I was going to make them.

Optimism is a wonderful thing, and denial of the facts can look almost as good if you squint.

I decided to make a start on the Post Office. The original plan was for it to be parallel to the track but this lasted until the moment I put it on the model and realised it would mess up just about everything else in that corner. Some bodging later it looked like this:

I’m not entirely happy with this new position but I’ve convinced myself it will work a bit better when the other buildings are added. Hopefully.

The ‘city gate’ will probably follow the line of the post office wall, so it isn’t perfectly in line with the track. Hopefully this will give the impression that the railway came much later than the buildings, and the train is running onto the scene from another part of the village, rather than trundling around in endless circles…

Some kind person posted this on the NGRM Forum. It features one of the many narrow gauge railways that used to serve small towns all over Germany.

The Plettenberger Kleinbahn, was a freight and passenger carrying tramway in Plettenberg in the North West of the country. Its purpose was to get products from the factories of Plettenberg for a few kilometres to the standard gauge line, and it expanded up the valley as industry increased, eventually having an impressive 71 connections to factories

By the time this video as made in 1962 a standard gauge railway parallel to the line had reduced services and the increased road traffic was getting in the way. As usual politicians blamed the railway and refused to renew the company’s concession to operate it.

If I magine a red Krokodil running down those streets, I can tell myself the Höfelbachbahn is will have the same sort of atmosphere.

At the very least I can now justify the apallingly tight curves on my model.

The Sandman


HBB 5 at Hofelstetten, where the Höfelbachbahn meets its southern neighbour, the Ehninger Kreisbahn (EKB). The Kreis (county) of Ehningen adopted the idea of a railway later but more enthusiastically then the nothern villages, and electrified their railway from the start. Construction stalled at Hofelstetten because a line over the county border to link with the HBB would have to use part of the road for about two kilometres, including a 150m long tunnel, and the Ministry of Roads refused to allow this.

Rather surprisingly the solution came from the Bürgermeister of Wörnritzhausen, who got involved with a sand quarry scheme which would need rail transport south. Suddenly the railway went from ‘getting in the way of traffic’ to being ‘a vital transport link’ which “had to be completed for future prosperity”. The Ministry of Roads mysteriously dropped all objections, and a fleet of six bogie wagons like the ones seen above was ordered to keep the sand dry in transit.

Trains were hauled from the quarry by the HBB and handed over to an electric EKB Locomotive in Hofelstetten. The traffic flow didn’t last long as  the scheme collapsed within a year. There have been mutterings around the Stammtisch that the scheme was never in fact a serious proposition, although the Burgomeister has so far avoided legal proceedings.

He blames the failure of the scheme on the railway companies.

Once again this was drawn to survive a boring lecture. in fact it lasted several lectures while I messed about trying to get the perspective right. I tried to include more details to hint at the time and situation the railway is built in, rather than just focussing on locomotives. If I could achieve this with my modelmaking I’d probably have a more complete layout by now…

More exams loom. This has cut into modelmaking. This week we have ‘Rechtskunde’ or law. We need to know the law for working with people with disabilities/psychological issues/refugees/young offenders et c,, what rights they have, including extra rights to protect them, and how to deal with different situations.Of course to do this we need to have a working knowledge of the law for everyone else.

It is very boring.

The picture above is my attempt at making it a bit more interesting and rearranging the information to help me remember it.

German speakers: I know “Rectskunde” should be “Rechtskunde”. Pencils don’t have a spellchecker, and by the time I noticed I’d filled in all the gaps…


By dint of great effort I’ve managed to reach two weeks ago. Again. We have a set of new sides, laminated from three thicknesses of plasticard this time and two millimetres thick in total. In theory this means the sides are more solid than before and the gaps will mean I can slide glazing  into the body after I’m done painting. resulting in clean windows and a smug glow visible from space. We shall see.

The sides are not leaning because I can’t glue anything on straight but because they are currently held on with the local equivalent of Blu-tack while I find a way to clip body to chassis. I continue to think any model glued irreversibly together will immediately develop a fault that can only be repaired by the use of violence and extremely foul language. Much better to clip everything together and keep that smug glow. I’ve even managed to add the five doors for battery lockers on the side and a strip of beading just under the windows which I am assured is standard on such units where the panels for the bodyside meet. I’m also working on the theory that if I build it as an upside down box I can avoid embarrassing gaps between roof and sides, and clip the body onto the base when I’m finished with the interior.

On the subject of he interior, I now have a dozen seated figures from Preiser’s 1:50 range. These are actually intended for architects, which I assume is why they are actually three sets of the same people. Figures in my rather obscure scale of 1:55 are pretty hard to come by, so they will have to do. They are a bit too tall of course, but by the time I’ve cut them off at about the knees and painted them, that will be the least of their worries…

On the Level


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…


This is a railcar with issues. The sides are too flimsy and the construction wasn’t that well thought through. the glazing is a nightmare, and when I tried to glue the side in I found it has a twisted chassis.

Incidentally, “Twisted Chassis” would be a stonking good name for a heavy metal group*.

Apart from that there were all kinds of little bodges to cover up for my lack of planning, so this week I’ll be starting again; again, which seems to have become a sort of tradition for my model making. I’ll be starting with a chassis that has more strength than a deflated balloon, and this time I’ll try to remember to make it narrow enough to avoid Tubby Railcar Syndrome. The thicker sides are partly for strength and partly because I’m incapable of painting around windows that neatly, so I prefer to make a sandwich with gaps in the middle and put all the clear bits in after I’ve finish ed slopping paint about.

I still have the spare sides: they survived being dropped, buried, lost under a laptop for two days and found by Beautiful Daughter who being two years old naturally used them as a camera. At least having them ready saves me some time as I can use those for the inside with a little work, and make a new set (with doors attached this time) for the outer skin, meaning that I may be able to catch up with myself faster than usual and fool people into thinking I know what I’m doing as well.

I’ll admit the last goal is a little optimistic.

*Which would of course be a support band…