Posts Tagged ‘model building’

After sides, the other feature people tend to expect on a van is a roof, so that was this weeks project.

As seems to be normal on this project, this proved to be complicated.

The clever designers of the original vans -presumably from the Complicated Sliding Van Door Department- had a problem. The sides have to slide right out of the way to give free access to the open side of the van and allow the loading of palettes with forklift trucks and other evil machines of global capitalism.

I’m guessing those clever designers solved this with a cunning dropping down sliding mechanism so the door can move away from the main body of the van, and then slide parallel to the other door. This is a very practical solution; the closed door is secure, watertight, and as these vans have been used by the Rhaetian Bahn in Switzerland since 1984, apparently robust.

Unfortunately they are a pain in the bottom to build in 1:55 scale.

It isn’t just the funky angle at the top of the door, it’s also that there’s supposed to be a large ‘gap’ between door and roof, which is essential to capture the character of the van, although I appreciate I could be going down a bit of a rabbit hole here.

So I came up with a plan: I’d make the roof in two 0.5mm layers, one smaller than the other. The inner roof will be covered by a slightly wider outer roof which will hide all my mistakes, strengthen the roof and create the impression of that thumping great gap. So far the van just has the inner roof -don’t ask about the fun and games and bits of plastic I ended up adding there to make it straight, I really need a better way of making formers.

Unfortunately things like real life got in the way after that, so I’m going to have to see if this works as well as I’m hoping next week…

Remind me again how a creative hobby is good for reducing stress levels and getting yourself into a more relaxed state of mind?


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So having decided to build an unnecessarily complicated model, the first problem was how wide to build the chassis. This you’ll appreciate is rather important.

The problem is that those elaborate doors and associated strange shaped bits make this rather difficult. On this version of the van the original designer saw fit to make recess in the central pillar between the two doors, so instead of making a nice simple side with a couple of lines scored in the middle to suggest a join, I had to add all kinds of additional jiggerypokery with braces behind to hold it all together, and I needed to know how wide these were going to be before I made the chassis to fit.

This is  long way of explaining why I’m now making the sides and ends of a van, and not the bottom, like more sensible people would.

In a rare moment of practical forward planning I’ve even taken pictures of the construction process so I can remember how I made this model.

That way if I’m overcome by the desire to make a second version I’ll hopefully be able to do it slightly faster than a poorly motivated sloth.


[Some early risers may have seen this post last week. I tend to write posts a week or so ahead in case something comes up on the weekend, and I went and pressed the wrong button. Still, now you get to read it all again...]




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When I last wrote about the Big Diesel (aka ‘Moby Dick‘) I was dithering about how to make the ends, because as usual I was overthinking everything about the project, imagining a dozen different ways to make the curve on the nose and how they could all go horribly wrong.

Eventually I decided that it would be better to actually finish the model at some point and reverted to plan ‘A’.

The problem was that despite my early sketches of the loco I really wanted the distinctive chromed light clusters on the the Brohltalbahn’s D5 or its standard gauge cousin, the Deutsche Bahn type 218. It identifies the locomotive immediately and hopefully makes it clear that the model is in Germany as opposed to Austria or Switzerland. As this will be a somewhat unusual model I wanted to have as many of these visual cues as possible to set the scene quickly in viewers minds.

More to the point I really like the class 218.

For some reason I’d got stuck on the idea that if I didn’t make the nose curved I couldn’t have the 218 styled light bar because… um… Reasons. so I’d followed the idea down the rabbit hole and was looking at the headlight designs on the similar Bulgarian railways type 77 when I happened to come across a type 218 picture and noticed that it has flat ends. Of course it does. I’ve travelled behind class 218’s for hundreds of kilometres and every one of them had an absolute lack of curve on the ends. I’d just… missed it somehow.

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A big part of making the downscaled locomotive was trying out those distinctly awkward angles on the ends, where the sloping windscreen had to match up with the sloping sides at an angle hitherto unknown to geometry.

After wondering briefly why I do this sort of thing in my spare time instead of something more sensible like amateur quantum physics, I decided that instead of trying to figure the angle out mathematically and then messing about putting it right when that didn’t work, I’d go straight to the messing about stage and do it by eye: it’d save time in the long run.

So far it seems to have worked, taking ‘worked’ to mean “close enough that I could hide the problems with a fair bit of bodging.”

*The ‘Amazing Shrinking Loco‘.

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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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So here’s this week’s progress on interior decoration for the farmhouse which will take centre stage on Wörnritzhausen. This will be almost entirely hidden when the model is complete, which is why I’m making you look at a picture of it now.

I don’t mind the ‘models’ looking a bit crude because they are only there to give some kind of feature behind the dark windows if someone is daft enough to try and look through them. The ‘hallway’ in the middle is behind the front door, which will have tiny windows so it doesn’t need any detailing. The same goes for the rooms out the back.

I was pretty pleased with this already, when this morning my son came in, declared it was “cool” and went and got his brother to show him. Said brother agreed on the general ‘coolness’ and asked if I’d bought it.

There is no higher complement from a teenager.

I added a double bed to go in one of the attic rooms before realising there was no way it would be seen in the gloom. As the prototype house was used for student accommodation I figured an unmade bed was pretty realistic.

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Finally got myself into gear to finish the railcar, or at least finish it to a point where I can start the next project with a clear conscience. There’s a couple of things will need doing at some point but I’ll worry about them if they annoy me. I’m not building for a museum here.

I’m generally pleased with the model, although I am a bit annoyed with those handrails on the front, as they took ages to fix and they are still wonky. I can’t think how to get them off without damaging the model now so I just patched up the paint and weathered the lot with chalk pastels, the bodgers friend. I’ll probably just leave them off in future or maybe not try and make such a complex shape without a jig.

On the other hand. the method of stippling rust really works well especially combined with drybrushing, so I’ll be repeating those, and the railcar generally has the feel I imagined, of a heavily used hand-me-down that has seen better days and really, really needs some paint. Or a clean at least.


In my slightly overactive imagination, the railcar was inherited from the Reutlinger Kreisbahn which rather sensibly upgraded from 600mm gauge to metre gauge fairly quickly,  leaving local lines with less enthusiastic local governments to pick up the now surplus stock on the cheap. This type of railcar was built as a cheap short-term solution in the first place and is already working beyond the makers intended lifespan, but the Höfelbachbahn was desperate and the Bürgermeister is still convinced the railway will not be needed in a few years so he vetoed anything more expensive. The railcar will probably rattle along the Höfelbach valley until it expires, or until the other towns finally persuade the Bürgermeister at Wornritzhausen that it needs replacing.

At some point I’ll probably add windscreen wipers -mirrors will have to wait for a layout with less curves or bigger clearances- and I really need to sort out the glazing in the centre windows which seems to have slipped downwards, but it works,  looks the part, and doesn’t fall off the track, so I’m happy.

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