Posts Tagged ‘Germany’


It turns out that modern freight wagons are deceptively complicated

Having assembled the 192 tiny parts to make the uprights on this wagon, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself until someone on the NGRM Online forum pointed out that I now had to paint them all.

I really should think about these things more.

This is somewhat important on this stage, the ‘rust’ layer. Once everything visible is dark brown, I can probably get away with missing a gap or two when I add the ‘final’ colour by pretending it’s supposed to look that way. I can’t get away with that with light grey primer.

My plan was to do this in stages after work, but what you see took about 20-30 minutes of painting, rotating the wagon and trying to look at every section from any possible angle, then going back again when I inevitably found a bit I’d missed.

That’ll teach me to get all excited about a wagon in a photograph and start building with no plan whatsoever…



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This project seemed such a good idea at the time: it’s a flat wagon, with pointy bits on each side. That was it: dead simple. What could go wrong?

I never learn.

Remember the model is loosely based on this wagon. Very loosely, admittedly, but it still needs to have enough of the features of the real thing to be vaguely recognisable as the same type of wagon. This means I need to make some vague representation of those double uprights and the big bolts holding them in place.

So I made a sketch, and used this to build a ‘prototype’. It looked awful. I scrapped this and tried again, this time looking much more at the photographs as I worked.

This one was much better, the only problem was that having finished I realised I’d have sixteen parts for each upright. Sixteen. And 12 uprights.

I did some sums…

I repeated the sums because I’m rubbish at maths…

I gave up and did the sums on a calculator*: 16 x 12 = 192 little bits of plastic, which need to be the same, or at least close enough that they appear the same.

Something tells me I may end up putting this off for a while.

*Yes, really that rubbish, or out of practice. On the other hand I can design a quite complex project in my head and see it in 3d from any angle: swings and roundabouts.


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I really need to think up more original blog titles.

I wanted to double check some details on the wood wagon I’m building, and I remembered photographing the original in Breisach,on the German/French border.

The last time we went to Breisach was probably about 2012/13. This raises the question of why I can remember useless information like this for years but instantly forget important stuff like where I just put my boots.

Anyway, I not only remembered this, but even managed to find the pictures on the hard drive, so there.

These wagons are pretty well used. Looking at the load they were carrying and the loading methods, I can see why they look so hammered. This being Germany I could wander right up to the wagons and have a good look about, I suspect they figure no-one is about to walk off with one of those logs.

The locomotive is from the Südwest Eisenbahn Gruppe or South west railway group, who are owned by the state government. They own and/or operate a few local railways in this part of Germany, including the line from Breisach to Freiburg.


By a rather wonderful coincidence someone on the NGRM forum posted a link to the German railways wagon catalogue just as I was writing this entry, so I now know this is a type ‘Snps (typ179)’ heavy duty wagon for timber, pipes, and other thumping great big objects. They are equipped with Extra wide stanchions, and inbuilt ratchet systems with rollers in the stanchions themselves, so loads can be fastened down by one operator. The wagons have wooden bolsters for each pair of stanchions and extra slightly lower bolsters in between so the loads doesn’t sag while being carried.


Re-reading that last paragraph makes me realise why I’m rarely invited to parties.

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I’ve been out and about a bit this week and therefore away from my modelling bench but still managed to work a bit on some of my more ambitious ideas.

One is that the model of the Körschtalbahn will be at least partly electrified, because the one thing I need in my model making life is another layer of complication.

This week, finding myself at the local tram stop with time, & a camera, if not decent weather, I decided to take a couple of pictures of the wires there for ‘research’…

The trams in Stuttgart work using a a 750v DC system, which seems to have been pretty normal for German urban and rural tramways back in the day when AC electrification was newfangled technology requiring components as big as a house. As the KÖB would probably be classified as an ‘overland tram’ this is a likely system. So far so good.

On the other hand, every now and again something like this happens:

That’s some serious knitting right there. Those lumpy black cables are power supply to the overhead. Clever types who understand electricity have tried to explain why this and I got as far as understanding that DC systems have pretty rapid voltage drop unless you make the cables the size of drain pipes, so you need to keep boosting the power. According to my entirely unscientific survey,in this case this happens every twelve masts or so.

Which is all well and good but it’ll be a bit awkward to make models of.

At this point sensible people point out that really, no-one will notice if I don’t have the extra details,in fact a lot of model makers take the pragmatic approach of leaving overhead wires off their models altogether and just having uprights, pointing out that wires are obvious to us because we see them silhouetted against the sky, and from above they’re pretty invisible. Either way, I could ignore the need for the power supply.

Well, possibly.

As the Körschtalbahn currently consists of a railcar, still in primer, a van and an as yet unfinished diesel, this is not going to be a decision I need to take for a while anyway.

Probably should spend more time building models and less running about taking pictures…

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This is the bit in a project where a proper model maker would add all the details, the exact details mark you,after looking at every available image or designers drawing that can be found, sometimes specific to an individual item of rolling stock.

I tend to take a slightly more pragmatic approach. I have pictures of what I’m building of course, but quite often I (whisper it) make things up a bit besides.

My excuse is that as the fictional Körschtalbahn would be an independent railway, it follows that the needs of this line would be different and the locomotives, carriages and wagons would be built or adapted to reflect that need.

OF course the real reason is often a combination of laziness, lack of skill and a need to move interesting details to hide mistakes I made earlier.

For example, the original vans on the Rhaetian Railway have a different railing to the one I’ve used, but until I get around to learning to solder properly and drill and bend wire much more accurately, I’ll have to keep using plastic and superglue, and add little extra sections to make sure it stays straight, or at least that a casual viewer doesn’t notice that it’s a bit wonky.

Anyway, I’m trying to be a bit more disciplined on projects so I had a good look at the tubes and flexible bits hanging off the end of the prototype vans, and this week I spent a bit of time cutting up old guitar strings and bits of brass to make reproductions of them here.

To be honest I’m not entirely sure about that long cable nearest the camera is supposed to be. It looks like an electrical cable, but I’m not sure why the wagon needs one: the doors seem to be manually operated, and there aren’t any obvious marker lights in the bodywork. I know the RHB often run wagons as part of passenger trains so I’m wondering if it is a through cable to allow the locomotive to power or communicate with the carriages… Any thoughts?

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Remarkably, the project to shorten the Big Diesel seems to have worked out with minimal problems requiring the use of swearing. One of the window frames in the cab windows vanished mysteriously, and the sides are a little bendy, but overall they’re as square as anything else I’ve made and they’re the right shape to fit the chassis, so I’m calling that a positive result.

First lessons learned with the amazing shrinking loco (which will reappear at some point, rest assured) is that a locomotive with sloping sides needs tough bracing to keep it from warping and similar mischief, so I wasn’t sure the original chassis I’d built was going to be up to the job of holding the recently butchered sides straight, so the next job was making a fresh frame. This time I followed the Brick Privvy school of model making and built up the base and sides from laminated plastic card until they were several millimetres thick. In a rare flash of forward planning I even remembered to make the ends angled ready to hold the ends in place.

It may be too much to hope that I actually got the angle right, but allow me some smugness for actually managing to think slightly ahead anyway.

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Panel surrounds on locomotives: is there any reason for them? This is the eighth attempt at making a straight surround to match the one I’d already cemented to the side of the big diesel. A few earlier attempts can be seen in the background of the not at all set up photo…

The trouble is it becomes addictive, like pulling the lever on a slot machine: I think I’ll just have one more try, because after all I was so close last time, it was nearly there and this time I’m sure I’ll get that edge just right… and then five minutes later I look up and realise it’s nearly midnight and I’ve got a cutting mat covered with bent plastic squares.

Sensible people would have given up, bought an etched brass version, or possibly have made both frames together.

At the very least they wouldn’t have glued the first frame onto the model so they had no alternative but to make three more…

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